A Symposium on Popular Songs (1962) Poster

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10/10
Music History As Told Only By Prof. Von Drake.
Dawalk-118 May 2009
I'd never seen this Disney special cartoon in its entirety until coming across it at Youtube less than a year ago. Before then, I'd only seen one of the musical segments featured here, "I'm Blue For You (Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo)" on my copy of the "Disney Sing-Along Songs Vol. 5: Fun With Music" VHS. I've enjoyed it ever since and it's now among my most favorites of the Disney rarities. I think this has most definitely got to be one of the best and most interesting Disney shorts ever. Because for one thing, this is one of the earliest projects that the Sherman brothers had worked on and I believe it's among their best (suitable for them and sensible, considering they are veteran songwriters). Plus, we get to see them do their thing here by bringing their tunes to film and what it would be like if they wrote compositions for not only the soundtracks of various Disney movies and other film studios/companies, but also if they had branched out and actually wrote for performers in various genres/sub- genres. Who knows how far they could've gone had they really composed material for recording artists in the music industry as well. I'm so glad that this got made and didn't fall into the trap of the Disney shorts that never were and fade into oblivion. The Sherman brothers have always been at the very top of their game, they are indeed one of the finest song-writing duos in music and have to be my most favorite of those kind of writers who wrote for Disney.

I have no idea what one of the other reviewers here was talking about nor what was wrong with him when he typed that Ludwig Von Drake here was like nails on a chalkboard. Other reviewers from the Disney shorts site and I don't see what the reviewer who complained about Von Drake's presence in this presentation that way and we have no qualms. Von Drake is one of my favorite Disney characters and he isn't grating at all here, he's just as enjoyable here as in anything else. His presence may have been constant, but not constant to the point where we don't get to see/hear any musical numbers at all. The part of which the reviewer here wished there were more time and attention focused on the music and much less Von Drake, he wished that this were longer and so do I actually and that more music genres/sub- genres were covered. But I think he was just exaggerating about the professor taking up a lot of screen time.

I liked this so much I bought and have owned a copy of Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities for what is soon to be going on for three months now, for this short mainly. Recommended, it's great for anybody who is a music lover, has eclectic taste and has a great fascination with music history, as well as an appreciation for real music. The songs in this are by far, no doubt, much better than those coming from the mainstream/commercial side this decade and after the 21st century arrived. From ragtime to old-time rock-'n'-roll, it's a blast journeying through these varieties of music as Ludwig does a superb job at explaining to the audience the developments, inspirations and associations of these as he claims he created. I like how the old-fashioned, traditionally hand-drawn, 2-D animation with Von Drake and cut-out stop-motion animation with the performers of the musical numbers switch back and forth with each other. Everything about this is spectacular, from the well-written tunes to both animation styles to the original voice actor's, the late Paul Frees' portrayal of Prof. Von Drake, especially towards the end in which the professor takes his cues from the zaniness of the WB/Looney Tunes cartoons. This whole thing is simply well-put together and I can't wait till the Sherman brothers documentary comes to DVD.
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10/10
The Professor Sings
Ron Oliver15 September 2003
A Walt Disney LUDWIG VON DRAKE Short Subject.

The renowned Professor performs a few of his own compositions which together comprise A SYMPOSIUM ON POPULAR SONGS.

Disney uses the zany Professor and six wacky songs by the Sherman Brothers to illustrate the musical styles in America during the first half of the 20th Century. In quick succession everything from ragtime to rock 'n' roll is spoofed. This is all done in a spirit of fun - absolutely no attempt is given to actually discuss or compare the various genres. Amusing stop motion animation helps to punctuate the selections. The inimitable Paul Frees provided the voice for the Professor.

Walt Disney (1901-1966) was always intrigued by pictures & drawings. As a lad in Marceline, Missouri, he sketched farm animals on scraps of paper; later, as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War, he drew comic figures on the sides of his vehicle. Back in Kansas City, along with artist Ub Iwerks, Walt developed a primitive animation studio that provided animated commercials and tiny cartoons for the local movie theaters. Always the innovator, his ALICE IN CARTOONLAND series broke ground in placing a live figure in a cartoon universe. Business reversals sent Disney & Iwerks to Hollywood in 1923, where Walt's older brother Roy became his lifelong business manager & counselor. When a mildly successful series with Oswald The Lucky Rabbit was snatched away by the distributor, the character of Mickey Mouse sprung into Walt's imagination, ensuring Disney's immortality. The happy arrival of sound technology made Mickey's screen debut, STEAMBOAT WILLIE (1928), a tremendous audience success with its use of synchronized music. The SILLY SYMPHONIES soon appeared, and Walt's growing crew of marvelously talented animators were quickly conquering new territory with full color, illusions of depth and radical advancements in personality development, an arena in which Walt's genius was unbeatable. Mickey's feisty, naughty behavior had captured millions of fans, but he was soon to be joined by other animated companions: temperamental Donald Duck, intellectually-challenged Goofy and energetic Pluto. All this was in preparation for Walt's grandest dream - feature length animated films. Against a storm of naysayers, Walt persevered and over the next decades delighted children of all ages with the adventures of Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi & Peter Pan. Walt never forgot that his fortunes were all started by a mouse, or that childlike simplicity of message and lots of hard work always pay off.
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4/10
Did not really appeal to me Warning: Spoilers
"A Symposium on Popular Songs" is an American English-language cartoon from 1962, so this one is already over half a century old. The name of writer Xavier Atencio is not really one you'd associate with Disney animation, but this should not discredit him, on the contrary, it shows that he was a man of many talents, especially when it comes to music. I have to write "was" sadly as he died not too long ago, but reached a really ancient age not too far away from 100. The writer Bill Justice reached an equally high age and he is very much known for some of Disney's old classics. You can find the exact titles on his profile page. But sadly their collaboration foe this 20-minute film did not result in something amazing, quite the opposite actually. It may be my bias partially because I never found Ludwig Von Drake a particularly inspired, let alone funny, character to be honest and the transition in very different animation styles from LvD's hosting and the stories he's telling is not exactly smooth either. The music... well, it could have been better, could have been worse. The Betty Boop ripoff was a bit embarrassing. I think the 50s and 60s have more to offer in terms of music than what is shown to us here. On another negative note, there are cartoons that feature the real Andrew Sisters for example, so voice acting the singers is not really the greatest idea. I am sure these ladies have tried their best, but they are not the Andrew Sisters. Reminds me of the Bye Bye Birdie scene about Ann-Margret from Mad Men. Back to this one here, it was Walt Disney's final short film nomination at the Oscars and he lost to the Hubley's that years. With nominees and winners like these, it certainly wasn't a great year for animated shorts. This one here gets a thumbs-down from me. Not recommended.
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10/10
The concept was great and the execution is even greater
TheLittleSongbird18 October 2014
Not sure whether it is among Disney's best, but it has quickly become one of my personal favourite Disney shorts. Not just because the concept is so unlike any other Disney short but because A Symposium on Popular Songs is so entertaining, especially those who love music(as music is practically my life A Symposium on Popular Songs appealed to me instantly). The stop-motion animation is colourful, smooth and very skilfully designed, nothing came across as cheap and it still holds up well now. It isn't particularly flashy or exactly challenging, neither is it simplistic, and it meshes with the music very well especially in the Rock, Rumble and Roar number. All the scenes are so much fun and while there's not an awful lot of history involved, you are likely to find yourselves- providing that this appeals to you, I know that there will people who find that the short doesn't work for them- learning a lot and in a way that felt fun and not in a talk-down-to-people way. The scene with the love note being revealed to Von Drake was hilarious and I just adored the zaniness of the script-writing. Von Drake is a great host, he is extremely funny and has a presence that feels inviting and makes you want to see more. To me he wasn't grating or used too much but at the end of the day it all comes down to personal taste. Paul Frees- one of the voice actor greats- voices him brilliantly although it is not the voice for the character that is the most familiar to me(that would be Corey Burton). But what makes A Symposium on Popular Songs is the music(some of the Sherman Brothers' most under-appreciated work), not only is it so catchy to listen to with melodies that are beautiful and stick in your head easily but the songs are stylistically diverse- which is to be appreciated- and is meshed really well with the visuals. The highlights are Rutabaga Rag and Rock, Rumble and Roar, I'm Blue for You was the one that comes off least personally in the memorability factor but it still works and is sung in a lovely Bing Crosby-like crooning style. All in all, great concept and even greater in the execution, it's not going to be for everyone but it is of now a personal favourite and deserves to be seen as more than a Disney rarity. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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6/10
This would have been helped greatly by less Ludwig and more music.
Robert Reynolds29 August 2001
This cartoon was nominated for an Oscar and the only reason that I can see is because it was released by Disney. It's at least 2-5 minutes too long, has not nearly enough music and too much Ludwig von Drake (a character I normally like, but here, for some reason, he's like fingernails on a chalkboard). Disney's done much better work in the same vein, like Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. Here, Drake's commentary is unfunny and excessive. Disney runs this during Vault Disney occasionally-not too often, though. Has it's moments. Probably worth seeing if you like Disney.
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3/10
Dry.
MartinHafer14 August 2012
This is a Ludwig Von Drake (Paul Frees) cartoon in which he gives a history of 20th century of music--all of which he claims to have invented. I didn't mind Ludwig's goofy delivery but what I really disliked were the musical sequences. Instead of being hand-drawn animation like Ludwig, the singing portions consisted of stop-motion paper cutouts or animated vegetables. And, there was absolutely nothing funny about the music. Kids would probably become suicidal watching it but I guess it is highly original. I see that another reviewer adored it. It just left me cold and wondering if I am in the minority or if others felt the same way.

By the way, the quality of the songs made for the sequences is high and were done by the Sherman Brothers. But the songs are not funny--and I thought cartoon shorts were supposed to be funny.
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