An art museum, on a dark and stormy night. The statue of Nero comes to life and tries to burn the nearby painting of Rome but his matches go out. He tries to get a set of "hear no evil" ... See full summary »




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Uncredited cast:
Laughing Cavalier / Henry VII / Town Crier (voice) (uncredited)
The Rhythmettes ...
Vocalists (uncredited)
Kent Rogers ...
Ned Sparks character (voice) (uncredited)


An art museum, on a dark and stormy night. The statue of Nero comes to life and tries to burn the nearby painting of Rome but his matches go out. He tries to get a set of "hear no evil" monkeys to take the matches from a still life, but they refuse and he teases them. The other artworks come to their defense. Nero plays hurt, and gets the monkeys to help; after they stumble around in the still life for a while, they get drunk on lighter fluid and start breathing flames, which they combine with the fluid to act as a flamethrower. Soon, the museum is ablaze and all the paintings are either sounding the alarm or coming to fight the fire. Written by Jon Reeves <>

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Release Date:

13 May 1939 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

This stunning animation is a work of art in itself...
18 May 2013 | by (ukwitchcountry) – See all my reviews

..that just happens to be all about animated works of art! I loved every second, it's one of the very best cartoon shorts I've seen ever. I thought it was very similar to the Silly Symphony Moth and the Flame. I did enjoy this one a little better, though. It's tone is slightly operatic and there's a somewhat dark and ominous mood that runs throughout, although there's also a good mix of fun sight gags mixed in. I thought the animation of all the characters in the paintings was amazing-the way they had that flat look that the image on a real painting has, yet fluidly moved about without compromising the illusion, gave the pictures an almost 3d quality. I especially loved the Picasso type painting's effect. It was so different, the way the characters leaped out of one picture frame into another, and ran between them without appearing on the space in-between was such a cool effect, as if the paintings were little windows into another world or something. So impressive and it still looks great, especially considering that this is now 76 years old! ::: I thought the insane Nero statue was a great little villainous character, and arguably the centrepiece of this show. The brilliant use of shadows that backlight his maniacal visage as he glows red and roars "I'm burning Rome!" right at the audience is very intense! He's especially spooky as he merrily plays the fiddle for a second and plays up to the classic myth. He's a tiny bit like the Hades character from the terrible Hercules movie that Disney made many years down the line, although in design he was more similar to the comic relief gargoyles in that movie more than the aforementioned witty phantom. The inferno that Nero tricks the three monkeys into starting is a very strange kind of blaze that I didn't quite understand at first, as it's not "real fire", it only burns the images in the paintings, and leaves the rest of the gallery and even the frames completely untouched. And it's also interesting the way it burns them-rather than reducing everything to ashes, it burns away the existing scenes and characters, replacing them with twisted, darker versions. A dog is transformed into a barking hot dog on a bun, and in my favourite gag, which is actually one of those understandably offensive black stereotype jokes, but it's so funny and charming that I personally couldn't see it ever seriously aggravating anyone. It involves a trio of sweet little baby angels who turn into(just as cute) black cherubs as the flame passes over them, and their holy chorus becomes a jaunty "down by the river" type tune, so funny! Trivia alert! This cartoon, if you'll believe it, was almost banned at the time for daring to "portray African Americans as heavenly beings." Can you believe that? Now that's what I call offensive. ::: Something else about this fantastic animation that makes it distinct is its rather unsettling sombre ending. All the paintings are destroyed by the fire and the wicked cackling statue is utterly triumphant. Not exactly a happy ending, but I liked how it played out a little differently than you might have been expecting, and went in a whole other direction that doesn't necessarily aim to please the audience. I thought the other characters would have banded together and use some water picture to douse the fire...uh, nope! Things look quite grim for a moment, but then the short throws another curveball and the evil statue suddenly reverts to a plain old ordinary statue, and the ruined pictures return to normal-so it all comes to nothing and it seems as though there was never any harm done at all. So it's kind of a strange and poetic finale. This animation is simply spectacular, if it was an actual physical work of art, I think I'd like to frame it.

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