Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hell's Bells - October 30, 1929

Hell's Bells is the fourth film in the Silly Symphonies series. It's an interesting, though rather macabre toon that shows great animation style.

Hell's Bells opens rather dramatically as fire engulfs the screen to reveal a chamber of Hell. From around the fire pit emerges a hooded Grim Reaper character, setting the scene for evil mischief.

The set design for this toon is very well done. The cave surrounding the outer edges of the screen adds an amount of depth that allows the film to look more thematically appealing. It's a great touch.

Along with many of the early Silly Symphonies, the animation for this film was supplied mainly by Ub Iwerks. A true trademark of Iwerks' animation technique is the tendency for his characters to pop out at the audience. Here a spider swings towards the camera, eats the audience, and swings back into the center of the screen.

We are also introduced the Devil's pet, a three-headed canine. This creature is based on the mythological creature Cerberus who lives in the underworld of Hades. This character will of course be revisited by Disney years later in 1997's Hercules.

A great gag is presented here as a bat is eaten by some sort of demonic snake. The snake at once sprouts wings and flies away.

Finally the audience meets the head honcho himself, the Devil. It seems the Devil enjoys having entertainment in his chambers, as evidenced by his demonic band.

There's some great animation here as the band gleefully plays their bone instruments with sinister smiles plastered on their faces.

During the music, the demons begin to dance around the chamber. There's a great segment here involving a demon and his large shadow cast upon the wall. The precise way in which the shadow follows all the movements of the demon's dance is a great piece of animation in these early years of the Disney studio.

Much like the cartoons before it, Hell's Bells also showcases interesting dances involving a trio of characters. This seems to be a trend in these early Silly Symphonies.

Soon the Devil grows tired of entertainment and hungry for dinner. He rings the dinner bell as his demon servants milk a nearby dragon for yummy fire.

Pleased with the speediness of his servants, the Devil quickly downs his entire pot of delicious and hot flame soup.

One thing about working for the Devil is that you never know what he'll do next. One unlucky demon is plucked up and thrown to Cerberus for lunch.

The Devil orders the remaining demon to receive his fate; however, this demon was clearly not born yesterday. He promptly runs in the opposite direction, and a chase ensues.

Hiding under a cliff, the demon manages to confuse the Devil until he is able to kick him over the edge and into the pits of Hell.

The Devil tumbles down into the pit, but is able to find a cliff to hold on to for dear afterlife. However, the fires of Hell are hungry, and soon they take the Devil down into the depths of the Underworld.

Hell's Bells is a little gem of a toon . It's interesting to note that this Silly Symphony is really the first one to have the beginnings of some sort of story. Although that story didn't begin until the toon was more than half over, as time goes on the Silly Symphonies are able to find a true balance between showcasing music and presenting an entertaining story.

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