The night promises to be a scary one. Lightning flashes. The wind howls. A tree branch in the shape of a hand seems to grab for a frightened owl that spins its head around like a top. The clock on the church tower strikes midnight, sending the bats flying out of the belfry. Two cats on gravestones fight by pulling and stretching each other's noses like taffy. A skeleton rises from behind a gravestone, frightening the fur off the cats. But an owl's hooting scares it, and it retaliates by throwing its skull and knocking the bird's feathers off. It's time for the skeletons to dance; and they perform as no living creatures could. Written by
The powers of darkness are abroad one dark & stormy night. In a lonely churchyard, graves are opened and THE SKELETON DANCE is performed by four bony fellows who exhibit terpsichorean skills of the most sepulchral sort. The crowing of a cock signals the approach of daybreak and the ghastly hoofers hie themselves back into their grave.
Carl W. Stalling, Disney's music director in the early days, arranged Grieg's 'March Of The Dwarfs' as musical accompaniment to this first entry in the Symphonies series. With Ub Iwerks' masterful drawing, this black & white cartoon still packs a punch today. In 1929 it proved to be completely different from the Studio's Mickey Mouse productions. Indeed, some theater owners found it to be too macabre and refused to show it.
The SILLY SYMPHONIES, which Walt Disney produced for a ten year period beginning in 1929, are among the most interesting of series in the field of animation. Unlike the Mickey Mouse cartoons in which action was paramount, with the Symphonies the action was made to fit the music. There was little plot in the early Symphonies, which featured lively inanimate objects and anthropomorphic plants & animals, all moving frantically to the soundtrack. Gradually, however, the Symphonies became the school where Walt's animators learned to work with color and began to experiment with plot, characterization & photographic special effects. The pages of Fable & Fairy Tale, Myth & Mother Goose were all mined to provide story lines and even Hollywood's musicals & celebrities were effectively spoofed. It was from this rich soil that Disney's feature-length animation was to spring. In 1939, with SNOW WHITE successfully behind him and PINOCCHIO & FANTASIA on the near horizon, Walt phased out the SILLY SYMPHONIES; they had run their course & served their purpose.
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