Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Symphony Hour Part 2

This cartoon is built on two conflicting musical styles. The first is based on broadcasts of symphony orchestras, the most notable of the time being Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC orchestra. The second style is that of Spike Jones and His City Slickers, who were popular in Los Angeles prior to the release of this film. Spike Jones has a couple of other connections to animation; he later recorded the theme from the Disney cartoon Der Fuehrer's Face, which became a #2 selling record. At one point, Tex Avery was writing gags for Jones' TV appearances.

I didn't realize it until I did the mosaic, but this is the last appearance of Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Clara Cluck in Disney shorts. Clara only appears during the audition segment and disappears during the actual radio broadcast. There is some confusion as to how to treat the old designs now that Mickey has been updated. At times, Horace has white in his eyes and other times a flesh colour. Clarabelle only has flesh colour in her eye region.

While the story has a straightforward structure, the supporting characters are not really in character. Goofy really doesn't do anything goofy except for smashing through closed elevator doors. Donald never utters a word during the cartoon and while he clearly gets annoyed, he never explodes. Mickey goes overboard by pulling a gun. Is there another cartoon hero (as opposed to villain) who was featured with a gun as often as Mickey? It's odd that one of the mildest of characters was so often seen with a weapon.

I know Leonard Maltin from when we both lived in N.Y. and have enormous respect for him, but I do have to admit that some of his disclaimers for Disney cartoons leave me puzzled. For this one, he makes excuses for Billy Bletcher's Italian accent for Pete. However, there's no comment on the visual gags which turn Donald into stereotype Chinese and Indian characters and nothing about Mickey pointing a gun in Donald's face. Leonard does disavow the cat's attempted suicide in Plutopia, so I guess that it's all right to threaten people with a gun so long as you don't turn it on yourself. I often wonder if these disclaimers don't create more problems than they solve, but if they're the price we pay for getting these cartoons released on DVD, I'm happy to pay it.


Thad said...

A running joke with some of my friends and I is that Leonard Maltin makes more appearances on Mickey Mouse in Living Color Vol. 2 than Mickey Mouse does!

- Thad

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Mr. Mayerson,

I really appreciate your animation breakdowns on the Disney cartoons. Especially the ones from 1935 to 1942; I think this era contains the best animation in the Disney cartoons.

Boris Hiestand said...

Another great post!

Those dvd's are priceless, but my god was I annoyed by Maltin's commentary in front of so many of them.
Does Disney really have to apologize for the Donald Duck indian chief gag, or ANY of them fot that matter? Racist?!?!!
Boils my water...