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.

Fleischer Studios (1930)

A Bimbo cartoon (though he is still unnamed).

Bimbo is the hot dog vendor at an opera led by a Leopold Stokowski-like lion, with plenty of operatic mice. Includes a repeating gag of a hippo coming and going through the seats, displacing patrons.

Animated by Seymour Kneitel & Al Eugster

For the Fleischer brothers, the transition to sound was relatively easy. With the new contract with Paramount Pictures, and without the burden of Red Seal Pictures and Alfred Weiss, Max Fleischer was free to experiment with new, bold ideas. First he changed the name of the Ko-Ko Song Cartunes series to Screen Songs. Although the Screen Songs were successful, Fleischer felt that it wasn’t enough. Walt Disney also seemed to gain a great amount of fame through his sound cartoons. Max decided to work with his brother Dave on a new series of cartoons where the characters did more than just simply dance to the music of the “bouncing ball”. The name for the new series was to be Talkartoons. When the idea was pitched to Paramount, they leaped at the opportunity.

The Talkartoons started out as one-shot cartoons. The first entry in the series was Noah’s Lark, released on October 26, 1929. Although a Fleischer cartoon, it appeared to be patterned after the Aesop’s Film Fables of Paul Terry. In it, a Farmer Al Falfa-esque Noah allows the animals of his ark to visit Luna Park. When he brings them back into the ship, the weight is so heavy that it sinks. In the end, Noah chases topless mermaids throughout the ocean waters. Lark has very few gray tones, very much like the Screen Songs produced during the same time and the earlier Fleischer silent works. It also included copyright-free songs, mostly utilized from old 78-rpm’s.

The series began to take a new direction, however, with the arrival of Max and Dave’s brother, Lou Fleischer, whose skills in music and mathematics made a great impact at the studio. A dog named Bimbo gradually became the featured character of the series. The first cartoon that featured Bimbo was Hot Dog (1930), the first Fleischer cartoon to use a full range of greys. New animators such as Grim Natwick, Shamus Culhane, and Rudy Zamora began entering the Fleischer Studio, with new ideas that pushed the Talkartoons into a league of their own. Natwick especially had an off-beat style of animating that helped give the shorts more of a surreal quality. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Talkartoons series and the Fleischer Studio was the creation of Betty Boop with Dizzy Dishes in 1930.

By late 1931, Betty Boop dominated the series. Koko the Clown was brought out of retirement from the silent days as a third character to Betty and Bimbo. By 1932, the series was at an inevitable end and instead, Betty Boop would be given her own series, with Bimbo and Koko as secondary characters.

Les Clark (1958)

Paul Bunyan is a 1958 American animated musical short film produced by Walt Disney Productions. The short was based on the North American folk hero and lumberjack Paul Bunyan and was inspired after meeting with Les Kangas of Paul Bunyan Productions, who gave Disney the idea for the film.

Story by Lance Nolley & Ted Berman

Animation by John Sibley, George Nicholas, Bob Youngouist, George Goepper, Fred Kopietz, Ken Hultgren, Jerry Hathcock, Jack Parr, & Jack Boyd (effects animation)

Wilfred Jackson (1935)

Music Land is a Silly Symphony that debuted on October 5, 1935.

The lore of ancient fable has no equal to the jolly Land of Jazz,
Which lay within a wild, discordant sea, across the way from long-hair Land of Symphony.
Yet here you’ll find no mere Shakespearian sequel (though true folly still it has):
Our star-cross’d lovers bravely face adversity, and true love turns cacophony to harmony!

In an attempt to bridge the gap between classical music and jazz, the short features music from Beethoven’s Eroica and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, as well as various popular classical, jazz, and miscellaneous tunes. The film contains no actual speech, but has the characters instead communicate with musical tones, with each ‘speaking’ through use of the sound of the particular instrument upon which they are based.

Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising (1930)

Congo Jazz is a Looney Tunes cartoon starring Warner Bros.’ first cartoon star, Bosko. The cartoon was released in September 1930. It was distributed by Warner Bros. and The Vitaphone Corporation. Congo Jazz was the first cartoon to feature Bosko’s falsetto voice that he would use for the bulk of the series’ run. It has the earliest instance of a “trombone gobble” in animation.

In 1927, Harman and Ising were still working for the Walt Disney Studios on a series of live-action/animated short subjects known as the Alice Comedies. The two animators created Bosko in 1927 to capitalize on the new “talkie” craze that was sweeping the motion picture industry. They began thinking about making a sound cartoon with Bosko in 1927, before even leaving Walt Disney. Hugh Harman made drawings of the new character and registered it with the copyright office on 3 January 1928.

After leaving Walt Disney in early 1928, Harman and Ising went to work for Charles Mintz on Universal’s second-season Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. April 1929 found them moving on again, leaving Universal to market their new cartoon character. In May 1929, they produced a short pilot cartoon, similar to Max Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell cartoons, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid that showcased their ability to animate soundtrack-synchronized speech and dancing. The short, plotless cartoon opens with live action footage of Ising at a drafting table. After he draws Bosko on the page, the character springs to life, talks, sings, and dances. Ising returns Bosko to the inkwell, and the short ends. This short is a landmark in animation history as being the first cartoon to predominantly feature synchronized speech, though Fleischer Studios’ Song Car-Tune My Old Kentucky Home was the first cartoon to contain animated dialogue a few years earlier. This cartoon set Harman and Ising “apart from early Disney sound cartoons because it emphasized not music but dialogue.” The short was marketed to various people by Harman and Ising until Leon Schlesinger offered them a contract to produce a series of cartoons for the Warner Bros. It would not be seen by a wide audience until 71 years later, in 2000, as part of Cartoon Network’s special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons, a compilation special of rare material from the WB/Turner archives.

In his book, Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin states that this early version of Bosko:

“was in fact a cartoonized version of a young black boy… he spoke in a Southern Negro dialect… in subsequent films this characterization was eschewed, or perhaps forgotten. This could be called sloppiness on the part of Harman and Ising, but it also indicates the uncertain nature of the character itself.”

Ub Iwerks (1930)

Flip the Frog is the featured performer at an outdoor nightclub in the forest.
He entertains the woodland creatures with his dancing and piano-playing.

Animated by Ub Iwerks, Fred Kopietz, and Tony Pabian

Backgrounds by Fred Kopietz

Fiddlesticks is a 1930 Celebrity Producitons theatrical cartoon short directed and animated by Ub Iwerks, in his first cartoon since he departed from Walt Disney’s studio. The short features Iwerks’ character Flip the Frog. It is the first complete sound cartoon to be photographed in color.

Fiddlesticks was the first film in the Flip the Frog series. The sound system was Powers Cinephone, the same system used for Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928.

The unnamed mouse in the cartoon bears a striking resemblance to Mortimer Mouse, the original concept behind Mickey Mouse, both of whom were first animated by Ub Iwerks.

Jack Cutting & Clyde Geronimi (1939)

Originally by Hans Christian Andersen

The Ugly Duckling is the titular protagonist of Disney’s 1939 Silly Symphonies short film of the same name. Actually a cygnet (a baby swan), his egg somehow found its way into the nest of a duck family who mistook him for one of their own, and hatched him, only to immediately reject him for not looking the way a duckling should.

Ben Sharpsteen (1937)

Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto relax in sunny Hawaii in this classic 1937 Walt Disney cartoon!

Hawaiian Holiday is a 1937 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The cartoon stars an ensemble cast of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck, and Goofy while vacationing in Hawaii. The film was directed by Ben Sharpsteen, produced by John Sutherland and features the voices of Walt Disney as Mickey, Marcellite Garner as Minnie, Clarence Nash as Donald, and Pinto Colvig as Goofy and Pluto. It was Disney’s first film to be released by RKO, ending a five-year distributing partnership with United Artists.

Ub Iwerks (1931)

Flip the Frog is an animated cartoon character created by American animator Ub Iwerks. He starred in a series of cartoons produced by Celebrity Pictures and distributed through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1930 to 1933. The series had many recurring characters besides Flip; including Flip’s dog, the mule Orace, and a dizzy neighborhood spinster.

Flip was created by Ub Iwerks, animator for the Walt Disney Studios and a personal friend of Walt Disney in 1930, at the Iwerks Studios. After a series of disputes between the two, Iwerks left Disney and went on to accept an offer from Pat Powers to open a cartoon studio of his own and receive a salary of $300 a week, an offer that Disney was unable to match at the time. Iwerks was to produce new cartoons under Powers’ Celebrity Pictures auspices and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The first series he was to produce was to feature a character called Tony the Frog, but Iwerks disliked the name and it was subsequently changed to Flip.

Iwerks’ studio quickly began accumulating new talent, such as animators Fred Kopietz, Irv Spence, Grim Natwick, and Chuck Jones. After the first two cartoons, the appearance of Flip the Frog gradually became less froglike. This was done under the encouragement of MGM, who thought that the series would sell better if the character were more humanized. Flip’s major redesign is attributed to Grim Natwick, who made a name for himself at Fleischer Studios with the creation of Betty Boop. Natwick also had a hand in changing Flip’s girlfriend. In earlier films, she was consistently a cat, but Natwick made Flip’s new girlfriend, Fifi, a human who shared distinct similarities with Betty.

The frog’s personality also began to develop. As the series progressed, Flip became more of a down-and-out, Chaplin-esque character who always found himself in everyday conflicts surrounding the poverty-stricken atmosphere of the Great Depression. Owing to the influx of New York City animators to Iwerks’s studio, the shorts became increasingly risquĂ©.

The character eventually wore out his welcome at MGM. His final short was Soda Squirt, released in 1933. Subsequently, Iwerks replaced the series with a new one starring an imaginative liar named Willie Whopper. Flip became largely forgotten by the public in the ensuing years. However, the character would make a small comeback when animation enthusiasts and historians began digging up the old Iwerks shorts.

Paul Terry (1928)

Dinner Time was one of the first publicly shown sound-on-film cartoons and premiered in New York City in August 1928, three months before Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie, which premiered on November 18th, 1928. However, Dinner Time was unsuccessful and Disney’s film would go on to be widely touted as the first synchronized sound cartoon.

Dinner Time is an American animated short cartoon produced by Van Beuren Studios. The musical score was composed by Josiah Zuro. The film is part of a series entitled Aesop’s Fables and features the Paul Terry creation Farmer Al Falfa who works as a butcher, fending off a group of pesky dogs.

Fleischer Studios (1934)

Ha! Ha! Ha! is a 1934 Fleischer Studio Betty Boop animated short film featuring Koko the Clown.

This is a partial remake of the 1924 Koko animated short, The Cure. It’s also Koko’s last theatrical appearance.

Max Fleischer deployed a number of techniques in the service of his anarchic cinematic vision, among them rotoscoping, which he patented in 1917; integrating live action shots; and using still photographs as animation backgrounds to create the illusion of cartoon characters inhabiting a real-world space, as in the opening scene of the astounding Betty Boop short Ha! Ha! Ha! (1934). The most technologically ornate item in Fleischer’s toolbox was the setback camera.

The setback camera is often confused with Disney’s multiplane camera. Both systems evolved somewhat contemporaneously, and both create the illusion of dimensional depth, but functionally they have little in common. The setback rig consists of a forced-perspective, miniature set mounted on a turntable, serving as background to the cel art held in a vertical glass platen, and a horizontal animation camera. The turntable is rotated incrementally behind the cels, creating the effect of a “tracking shot” — the 2D animated character, in a side-view walk cycle, traverses a realistically proportioned (but still recognizably Fleischeresque) 3D environment which moves perspectivally across the background.

The setback camera.
The Fleischer brothers working on the setback camera.

Burt Gillett (1934)

The unofficial sequel to Walt Disney’s 1933 The Three Little Pigs.

The Big Bad Wolf is an animated short released on April 13, 1934 by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney, and directed by Burt Gillett as part of the Silly Symphony series. Acting partly as a sequel to the wildly successful adaptation of The Three Little Pigs of the previous year (maintaining the title characters as well as the villain), this film also acts as an adaptation of the fairy-tale Little Red Riding Hood, with the Big Bad Wolf from 1933’s Three Little Pigs acting as the adversary to Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.

Walt Disney (1928)

Hungry Hobos is a silent animated short released by Universal Studios in 1928. The short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Peg Leg Pete as the title characters.

Having been lost since before World War II, the short was rediscovered in 2011 in the Huntley Film Archives, and was later purchased by the Walt Disney Company. It was then restored and re-debuted at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2012 as part of a special animation shorts program presented by leading film historian and restoration expert Serge Bromberg. The restored version was officially released as a bonus feature in the release of the Walt Disney Signature Collection edition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on Blu-ray.

The history of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is that he was created by Walt Disney but had the rights of the character swept out from under his feet by producer Charles Mintz. However, never being one to give up easily, Disney went back to the drawing board and with help from animator Ub Iwerks created the ever-beloved cartoon character Mickey Mouse, which later became Disney’s signature character and helped him finally gain the recognition he had been after all along.

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 (1946)

The Story of Menstruation is a 1946 10-minute American animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions. It was commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company (now Kotex) and was shown in a non-theatrical release to approximately 105 million American students in health education classes. In 2015, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Wolfgang Reitherman (1967)

The Jungle Book is a 1967 American animated musical comedy film produced by Walt Disney Productions. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book of the same name, it is the 19th Disney animated feature film. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it was the last film to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production. The plot follows Mowgli, a feral child raised in the Indian jungle by wolves, as his friends Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear try to convince him to leave the jungle before the evil tiger Shere Khan arrives.

The early versions of both the screenplay and the soundtrack followed Kipling’s work more closely, with a dramatic, dark, and sinister tone which Disney did not want in his family film, leading to writer Bill Peet and songwriter Terry Gilkyson being replaced. The casting employed famous actors and musicians Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, and Louis Prima, as well as Disney regulars such as Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O’Malley, Verna Felton, and the director’s son Bruce Reitherman as Mowgli.

The Jungle Book was released on October 18, 1967, to positive reception, with acclaim for its soundtrack, featuring five songs by the Sherman Brothers and one by Gilkyson, The Bare Necessities. The film initially became Disney’s second-highest-grossing animated film in the United States and Canada, and was also successful during its re-releases.