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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Sinister and Silly

Author: Squonk from Denver, CO
5 January 1999

The Skeleton Dance is simply one of the most entertaining and imaginative animation shorts ever made. It features an amazing mix of both haunting and hilarious visuals. When the skeletons first appear you can somewhat see why in 1929 some people thought this was too gruesome for a cartoon. The fact that it is in black and white enhances the eerie graveyard setting. The animation of Ub Iwerks and music of Carl Stalling are a perfect mix. This should be required viewing for any fan of animation.n/x-comwu

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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Maybe the first great work of animation and probably one of the first important sound films

Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
25 December 2001

Every second of those six minutes is perfect. What a creative little cartoon! This is Disney gold! Four skeletons awake from their graves and dance around, scaring black cats and owls alike. They turn each other into xylophones and do the Charleston! These are six of the most important minutes of film history! 10/10.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

The First Silly Symphony Cartoon

Author: Ron Oliver ( from Forest Ranch, CA
11 September 2000

A Walt Disney SILLY SYMPHONY Cartoon Short.

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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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:


Author: Jeremy J (FesterW) from North Hollywood, California, USA
6 November 2000

I was lucky enough to see a 35mm print of this on the "big screen". For Halloween 2000, El Capitan theatre in Hollywood ran "The Skeleton Dance" as the short before 1993's "The Nightmare Before Christmas". It's really nice to see some classic Disney shorts theatrically, rather than video or 16mm. This, being the first Silly Symphony, definitely shows us what was to come from Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. At the time of its release, sync-sound was only a couple of years old, it's fun to watch (through old films) the progression of sound as the field became more explored and perfected through the years.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A landmark of animation!

Author: José Luis Rivera Mendoza (jluis1984) from Mexico
10 December 2007

It was in 1928 when sound entered the realm of motion pictures and with it a new age arrived to the young medium and the conventions of an art form were changed forever. This new technology, that allowed movies to be able to have their own musical score independent of the theater's orchestra, entered the mind of a young film director and animator named Walt Disney, who had been producing short animated films with the help of the brilliant cartoonist Ub Iwerks. Disney decided to take advantage of the novelty of sound and create a series of short musical animations to distribute along their Mickey Mouse cartoons (which also began to be produced with sound), in which they would be able to experiment with new techniques, characters and ideas. He named the series, "Silly Symphonies", and the very first one of them, 1929's "The Skeleton Dance", would revolutionize animation forever.

In "The Skeleton Dance", the action is set on an abandoned graveyard during a windy night under the full moon. It is the perfect night for the creatures of the night, and so the bats fly from the belfry, the spiders go out for a walk, and an owl watches scared the action that's about to begin: the dead rise from their graves, and they are ready to dance. A skeleton comes out first, scaring a couple of cats who were fighting, and then he calls his friends, other skeletons who are willing to play some music and celebrate. Using their bones as musical instruments, the Skeletons play a haunting tune, dance to the music, and even dance Ring Around the Rosie, having fun until the moon hides and the new day begins, because as soon as the rooster appears to announce that it's morning, the Skeletons must return to their graves, and prepare themselves for the next time.

Created by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, "The Skeleton Dance" is, as its tag-line says, a talking picture novelty in which audiences where able to witness a good song accompanied by an animated film, pretty much similar to what we now know as a musical video. What makes the movie amazing is the way it perfectly mixes the horror atmosphere of its setting with the whimsical comedy that made Walt Disney Productions' short films so popular with the audiences. Skulls, bats, cats and spiders make an apparition in the movie, in what could be the perfect scenario for a horror film, but this time the skeletons only want to have fun. Carl W. Stalling, composer of the film's song (and another influential figure in the history of animation), creates in "The Skeleton Dance" one of the best Disney tunes ever, perfectly putting in his music that mix of horror and humor that the short film embodies.

Ub Iwerks' art shines through the film, and Disney makes sure to take the most advantage of his friend's talent. As written above, they saw the "Silly Symphonies" as a way to experiment, and "The Skeleton Dance" showcases Iwerks and his team making a highly dynamic film, as well as creating pretty impressive sequences where perspective is put to great use. It's also very imaginative the many things they do with their skeletons, specially when they made them use the things found in the cemetery as musical instruments (including cats, and later, their own bones). The choreography of the Skeleton dance is very funny, and one gets the feeling that this group of young animators were truly having fun when making this little film. In many ways, "The Skeleton Dance" was way ahead of its time, and includes elements that years later would be part of the horror genre.

Among Disney's early films, "The Skeleton Dance" is one of enormous importance, as thanks to its big success Disney was able to produce more cartoons of his established characters. It also produced many imitators (WB's "Merry Melodies" and MGM's "Happy Harmonies" being the best of them) and a completely new style of short animations. Sadly, the friendship between Disney and Iwerks would be broken and Iwerks abandoned Disney in 1930 to open his own studio and later to work at Columbia Pictures (where in 1937 he remade "The Skeleton Dance" in color, under the name of "Skeleton Frolics"). While he never found the same success he had with Disney, Ub Iwerks' work proved to be among the most influential in the history of animation, becoming the teacher of other masters like Chuck Jones, and even now, animators today study the magic of Ub Iwerks and his dancing skeletons.


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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

by far the best of the Silly Symphonies

Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
5 February 2007

This short film was the first of the Silly Symphony series, which ran under the Disney banner from a decade from 1929 and proved to be an excellent training ground for animation techniques which would become the springboard into Snow White and the later features.

Even though the distributor at the time dismissed 'The Skeleton Dance' with the terse telegram 'More Mice' (a reference to the Mickey cartoons which had just started a few months before), this film is inventive, extremely funny, marries action and sound perfectly (and remember, this was when talkies were still very much in their infancy), and is an absolute hoot even after all these years.

So what's it about? Well, it is about skeletons dancing. And that's about it. But you can see the influence this film had on later animators (there is a sequence in Monty Python for example which references this film quite closely) and there is no doubt that it is a lot of fun.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

plot-less, bizarre, scary, hilarious

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
3 September 2015

The Skeleton Dance was made over 85 years ago, but if you put it on at a Halloween party, not only will it make for some awesome ambiance, people will very likely stop what they're doing and watch it. This is Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, with assist from musician Carl W. Stalling, putting on something extremely simple, you might even say, ahem, bare-bones: what happens in a cemetery at night?

The movie has that truly awesome feeling, seeing it today, of the animators going 'hey, here's something we can try that has never been done before - skeletons dancing to spooky music (and the occasional Owl, who opens the short film in a great way by its eyes). There are some gags here and there; at the end, as the skeletons have to pack themselves back in their crypt, the little feet on one body has been left behind and they kick and kick at the crypt to let them back in.

But in reality, this is a fun-but-spooky little movie. It's amazing to see how much times have changed, as this was originally not allowed in a good many theaters as exhibitors thought it was "too gruesome". Today it almost carries some kind of profundity that I'm sure hipsters will latch on to. Take it on its own terms, in the context, and see how extraordinary it is: images repeated, real technique going on (mediums and close-ups, varied to create a spectacular effect), and an attempt to evoke a place and moment in the middle of the night. Or to put it another way, this is like Thriller's grandfather.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

bone call

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
12 November 2012

The first Silly Symphony ever might also be called the first music video ever. "The Skeleton Dance" features a group of skeletons who emerge from their graves and make merry. On-screen sound was still in its relative infancy in 1929, and so you can imagine how this stuff must have looked to moviegoers back then!

My favorite scene was always the part where one skeleton uses another as a xylophone (although at the end of the scene the first skeleton turns out to be kind of a jerk). It's some pretty cool stuff, and I'm even saying that as someone who doesn't tend to think too highly of Disney's output. It's definitely a fun cartoon.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

I find all the other things in this short less creepy than the skeletons!

Author: Mightyzebra from Scotland
17 June 2008

This is a very old cartoon, only one year older than the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. It was made with sound, but not colour (the first colour cartoon would not appear for roughly three more years).

I personally quite like this cartoon, although it is surprisingly disturbing. Walt Disney seemed happy enough producing spooky cartoons like this. I like the music, the animation and the theme of the episode is quite clever and the makers present it well.

In this short, a bunch of skeletons dance around in fun ways, with a slight Disney touch. I note that at the beginning, to put you in the mood of the short, there are a few animals beside a graveyard such as an owl and two cats. Personally I think these animals at the beginning are more spooky than the skeletons, who are supposed (as it seems) to be the spookiest thing in the cartoon.

I recommend this to people who like weird and spooky Halloween cartoons and to people who are interested in finding out about historical cartoons. Enjoy! :-)

P.S ***WARNING***: Anyone under the age of 12 watching this are very likely to be scared stiff, as well as people who are scared by anything, really.

7 and a half out of ten.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Skeletons Were Scary

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
27 December 2015

So much animation; so many skeletons. This is a film about what happens at midnight when all the skeletons of the dead pop up and start to have a good time. They create multi legged creatures. The do hoop rolls. They play the old xylophone thing with the spine of someone. This, of course, has been done a million times. The neat thing here is that this is very cleverly done with all kinds of creativity. There is still something eerie about the fact that what we are seeing is inside each of us. This also has a fun soundtrack that allows the skeletons to do dance routines and participate in the making of the music. A very well done early cartoon that has been copied a number of times.

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