Wilfred Jackson (1937)

Happy Halloween!

Hobo Moon Cartoons aims to preserve the beloved Halloween classics of yesteryear for future generations to enjoy!

The Old Mill is a 1937 Silly Symphony cartoon produced by Walt Disney, directed by Wilfred Jackson, scored by Leigh Harline, and released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on November 5, 1937. The film depicts the natural community of animals populating an old abandoned windmill in the country, and how they deal with a severe summer thunderstorm that nearly destroys their habitat. It incorporates the song One Day When We Were Young from Johann Strauss II’s operetta The Gypsy Baron.

Like many of the later Silly SymphoniesThe Old Mill was a testing ground for advanced animation techniques. Marking the first use of Disney’s multiplane camera, the film also incorporates realistic depictions of animal behavior, complex lighting and color effects, depictions of rain, wind, lightning, ripples, splashes and reflections, three-dimensional rotation of detailed objects, and the use of timing to produce specific dramatic and emotional effects. All of the lessons learned from making The Old Mill would subsequently be incorporated into Disney’s feature-length animated films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was released a month later, as well as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942).

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

I hope you enjoy The Old Mill as much as I do!

Bob Clampett (1943)

A Corny Concerto is a 1943 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies directed by Bob Clampett. The short was released on September 25, 1943, and stars Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck. They perform a parody of Disney’s Silly Symphony cartoon series and specifically his 1940 feature Fantasia. The film uses two of Johann Strauss’ best known waltzes, “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and “The Blue Danube”.

Fantasia was marketed to highbrow music fans; the Looney Tunes staff responded by violating the ivory tower of classical music and concert hall culture. A Corny Concerto parodies Fantasia’s Silly Symphonies-derived balletic approach to storytelling. Elmer Fudd stands in for Deems Taylor, and in an anti-highbrow gag, his starched shirtfront keeps erupting from his shirt to hit him on the face.

Salvador DalĂ­ & Walt Disney (1945/2003)

Destino is an animated short film released in 2003 by Walt Disney. Destino is unique in that its production originally began in 1945, 58 years before its eventual completion. The project was originally a collaboration between Walt Disney and Spanish surrealist painter Salvador DalĂ­, and features music written by Mexican songwriter Armando DomĂ­nguez and performed by Mexican singer Dora Luz. It was included in the Animation Show of Shows in 2003.

The short was intended to be one of the segments for the proposed but never completed third Fantasia film.

Destino was storyboarded by Disney studio artist John Hench and artist Salvador DalĂ­ for eight months in late 1945 and 1946. However, production ceased not long after. Walt Disney Studios was plagued by many financial woes in the World War II era. Hench compiled a short animation test of about 17 seconds in the hopes of rekindling Disney’s interest in the project, but the production was no longer deemed financially viable and put on indefinite hiatus.

In 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney, while working on Fantasia 2000, unearthed the dormant project and decided to bring it back to life. Bette Midler’s host sequence for The Steadfast Tin Soldier also makes mention of Destino. Disney Studios France, the company’s small Parisian production department, was brought on board to complete the project. The short was produced by Baker Bloodworth and directed by French animator Dominique MonfrĂ©y in his first directorial role. A team of approximately 25 animators deciphered DalĂ­ and Hench’s cryptic storyboards (with a little help from the journals of DalĂ­’s wife, Gala DalĂ­ and guidance from Hench himself), and finished Destino‘s production. The end result is mostly traditional animation, including Hench’s original footage, but it also contains some computer animation.

Walt Disney (1957)

The multiplane camera is a motion-picture camera used in the traditional animation process that moves a number of pieces of artwork past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another. This creates a sense of parallax or depth.

An early form of the multiplane camera was used by Lotte Reiniger for her animated feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).

In 1933, former Walt Disney Studios animator/director Ub Iwerks invented the first multiplane camera using movable layers of flat artwork in front of a horizontal camera using parts from an old Chevrolet automobile.

Various parts of the artwork layers are left transparent to allow other layers to be seen behind them. The movements are calculated and photographed frame by frame, with the result being an illusion of depth by having several layers of artwork moving at different speeds: the further away from the camera, the slower the speed. The multiplane effect is sometimes referred to as a parallax process.

An interesting variation is to have the background and foreground move in opposite directions. This creates an effect of rotation. An early example is the scene in Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the Evil Queen drinks her potion, and the surroundings appear to spin around her.

The most famous multiplane camera was invented by William Garity for the Walt Disney Studios to be used in the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The camera was completed in early 1937 and tested in a Silly Symphony called The Old Mill, which won the 1937 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Disney’s multiplane camera, which used up to seven layers of artwork shot under a vertical and moveable camera, and was used prominently in Disney films such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book.

The Little Mermaid was the final Disney film to use a multiplane camera, though the work was done by an outside facility as Disney’s cameras were not functional at the time. The process was made obsolete by the implementation of a “digital multiplane camera”. Three original Disney multiplane cameras survive: one at The Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California, one at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and one in the Art of Disney Animation attraction at Walt Disney Studios Park in Disneyland Paris.

Oskar Fischenger (1940)

In Disney’s mind, the success of Snow White and the Mickey Mouse cartoons had purchased for the studio the artistic and financial freedom to take their art to new heights — and to take the risk of venturing into abstraction. “The abstractions that were done in Toccata and Fugue,” he explained, “were no sudden idea. Rather, they were something that we had nursed along for several years but we never had a chance to try.”

German-American animator Oskar Fischinger, whose Optical Poem (1938) had been set to music by Liszt, was regarded as the world’s finest creator of abstract animation.

Disney called on Fischinger to design visuals for the Bach animation — but when Disney insisted on adapting Fischinger’s work to a degree Fischinger found excessive, he quit and did not receive credit for his work.

By 1940, abstraction in art wasn’t new or shocking. Was the world ready, though, for dark, dense abstraction in an animated family feature? That was what Walt Disney was ready to find out when he brought his new film Fantasia to debut in New York City, which had been rocked 27 years earlier by Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

Opening Fantasia with the Bach animation was a very deliberate choice. Not only did the challenging segment establish from the outset that this would be a very different sort of film than Snow White or Pinocchio, it served as a bridge between the orchestra and the screen.

With Fantasia, Disney aimed not only to explore new frontiers in the medium of animation, but to help a mass audience unlock the layers of complex classical music such as Bach’s organ composition.

“There are things in this music that the general public will not understand until they see the things on the screen representing that music,” Disney said in a Fantasia story conference. “Our object is to reach the very people who have walked out on this Toccata and Fugue because they didn’t understand it. I am one of those people; but when I understand it, I like it.”

-Jay Gabler