Saturday, June 4, 2011

Disney's Make Mine Music

Released in 1946, Make Mine Music was the third of the "package films" that Disney released during the 40's. If Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were made as a goodwill gesture to Latin American countries, then whats with these next couple of "package films?" If you are familiar with the draft, it does not discriminate (for the most part) on who it drags into service. This was particularly true for the Disney artists. During World War II, many of the Disney artists were drafted, and the ones that weren't were commissioned by the government to make propaganda cartoons for the war effort. If you haven't seen one of Disney's propaganda cartoons then you are missing out. Entertaining but racist! I think I'll dedicate a whole post to those as they are incredibly interesting by themselves. Regardless, Disney, as you could imagine, was basically out of their main artists and had a bunch of unfinished ideas laying around. So, they decided to just make "package films" and just put music to cartoons, though not as elaborately as they did in Fantasia. All six of the "package films" are done that way except for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, which has songs, but they don't accompany most of the film.

So, Make Mine Music was purely a group of shorts that had music throughout. If you've seen any of the shorts, it's probably because they've been shown outside of the movie on TV at one time or another. Many artists and musicians lent a hand in this movie including King's Men, The Ken Darby Singers, the "King of Swing" Benny Goodman, Andy Russell, Jerry Colonna, and The Andrew Sisters. I know what you're thinking. Who?! These were big names however, back in the 40's.

There are three notable shorts in this movie that you've probably seen at some time or another: Casey at the Bat, The Martins and the Coys, and Peter and the Wolf. I know I saw all these a bunch of times on separate occasions in my childhood. In my opinion, these are the standouts in the movie, therefore I'm just going to mention them only.

Casey at the Bat:

Just watching this again brings back great memories. It tells the story of the overconfident Casey who has the chance to win it for the team at the bottom of the ninth with two outs. This is worth watching just for the 40's lingo you pick up on. While parts of the short are dated in terms of baseball, there are still a few things that will make you chuckle about how certain parts of baseball have not really changed at all in 70 years. SEXISM ALERT! Just listen to the opening song of the short. In all it's a classic short that still makes you laugh.

The Martins and the Coys:

A musical interlude detailing the classic tale of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Though they change the names of the families, the tale plays out the same. You have two families feuding, shooting each other, and generally not being nice to each other. It doesn't go into the stolen pig that started the feud in real life, but you really don't need a reason to see hillbillies fight each other. After all the Martins and Coys kill each other, a Romeo and Juliet story starts up. The two from the different families fall in love and get married, but lets just say that the feud lives on through them. This is another one of my old favorites from my childhood. Unfortunately, if you ever decide to buy the DVD of Make Mine Music, you will notice that this short is missing. Why you ask? Too much gun violence and such. Can't let the kids see cartoons with guns (I'm looking at you Elmer Fudd)! So, if you really want to see the short, you have to resort to YouTube. I took the liberty of posting the link above.

Peter and the Wolf:

Peter and the Wolf is one of the more interesting segments. There is no dialog by the characters; instead they are represented by certain instruments like strings, flutes, clarinets, and oboes. Any movie aficionado will recognize the music for the wolf as being the same used in The Christmas Story, in the parts where Scut Farkus (Farkus being Hungarian for wolf) bullies Ralphie and his brother. This segment is the highlight of the movie and tells the Russian fairy tale of Peter and the Wolf. Peter, accompanied by a cat, a duck, and a bird, take on the wolf. This is essential if only for the music by Sergei Prokofiev. Another fun fact about this short is the narrator, who is voiced by Sterling Holloway, best known for voicing the first incarnation of Winnie the Pooh. Holloway voiced many other classic Disney characters and his voice is unmistakable.

A last fun fact about the whole movie is that it was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in 1946 and received best Animation Design. Check out the whole movie if you want some classic Disney musical shorts.

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