Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Springtime - October 24, 1929

The 3rd Silly Symphony cartoon is actually the first in a series of four toons focusing on the four seasons. Springtime is a playful musical film which acts as a true showcase of the amazing synchronization skills of the Disney studio.

The film opens on a forest scene with flowers and trees dancing playfully. It's hard not to compare the opening to that of Flowers and Trees, which also features nature dancing about. According to Daniel Goldmark, author of the book Tunes for 'Toons , the music used for the opening sequence is "Morning Mood", the popular tune from the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.

As the flowers dance, one flower steps towards the camera to reveal bugs dancing on its petals.

Next we see a caterpillar dancing along the ground. His animation is very well done, and the gag of his body splitting is a good one. But of course this is nature, and soon the tasty caterpillar is gobbled up by a hungry bird.

The action then focuses on the bird and his family, including his wife and four children. As the bird dances about, his body stretches and squashes in very cartoonish ways. This is interesting because the Mickey Mouse cartoons started in this fashion, but had begun to move away from this technique. It did exist here and there in some cartoons, but for the most part Mickey was presented without the "rubber hose" effect.

What is interesting is that even though there are numerous animals in Springtime, only the mother and father birds wear any sort of clothing.

Being spring, rain is always just around the corner. A great gag is shown here as a lightning bolt screws a hole in a storm cloud and creates a deluge of water.

One older tree definitely enjoys his shower time, though being hit by lightning is not always the best feeling...

Once the rain has died down, the forest creatures start to come out from their hiding places. These grasshoppers enjoy dancing in the grass, so much so that they dance right into the open mouth of a hungry frog.

Longtime Disney animator Ub Iwerks worked on many Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies cartoons. His animation style is evident in this frog which bears a remarkable resemblance to Flip the Frog, a later character of Ub Iwerks.

The Silly Symphonies were used regularly as an experiment testing ground for new ways to use animation. A great example of this is the awesome water reflections created for the pond frog.

A great technique that is in much of Iwerks' animation is a character zooming into the camera in order to create depth. It's almost like an extremely primitive version of 3D.

This spider with one tooth appears here in this film for the first time. The character is used in future Silly Symphonies such as 1930's Midnite in a Toy Shop.

Soon the music wakes a crane up from its nap, and by the look of things it is on the prowl for lunch.

Meanwhile, the pond frogs begin to dance about on their log. The animation is strange to watch, as the frogs wear blank faces. This animation definitely is a reminder of The Skeleton Dance.

Soon however the fun is spoiled by the hungry crane. A great gag is shown here as the frogs smallest to biggest jump into each other's mouths.

The chase is on as the crane runs after the last remaining frog. The crane throws the tasty frog up into the air...

...and each frog previously ingested comes out in the sky. Gravity soon kicks in, and all four frogs become a great lunch for the crane.

The toon ends as the crane runs off on an empty stomach. It falls into a puddle of water, and with a crash the camera goes dark.

The action in Springtime is by no means terribly exciting; in fact the film really has no story. Even though the toon does seem dull by today's standards, it is really the marriage of music and animation that would have been most interesting and even revolutionary to audiences back in 1929. With that in mind, Springtime surely excels in its purpose to both amaze and entertain.

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