Silly Symphony Cartoons part 9 – 1938: a smaller, expensive season of cartoon classics

in Disney, Movies

They predate Disney’s foray into full length animated feature films by eight years. Looking back at the 75 various Silly Symphony cartoons, they could be considered an experimental medium – a way to test new applications, style, story type and color. However they’re spun, Silly Symphonies represent some of the best examples of Disney ingenuity.

While the name “Silly Symphony” can describe comic books and children’s books, for purposes of this series, we’ll dive into the animated incarnation of this series of entertainment from Walt Disney.

Expenses and cut backs and cameos.

Due in part to work on Disney’s first full length animated movie, “Snow White,” this second to last year of Silly Symphony cartoon shorts saw fewer releases. Only five features found their way into theaters.

Donald Duck joins a host of familiar Hollywood faces in 1938’s final film, “Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood,” which cost nearly $70,000 to produce. The cartoon was nominated for “Best Animated Short Film,” but lost to another Disney animated release (“Ferdinand the Bull”).

 “Moth and the Flame” (4/1/1938)

Bugs are back, and quite hungry. Sticky spider webs and fate tempting flames create chaos for several moths after they wing their way into a costume shop to consume it’s tasty, tempting threads. Albert Hay Malotte’s music accentuated Burt Gillett direction of this 8-minute mini movie.

“Wynken, Blynken and Nod” (05/27/1938)

As their wooden clog shaped ship floats through the skies, a trio of tots (Wynken, Blyken & Nod) manage midnight maritime mayhem and mishaps in this 7:58 minute Silly Symphony cartoon.  Dreamily directed by Graham Hand, with music captained by Leigh Harline, Eugine Field’s poem of the same name inspires 1938’s first entry of the year.

 “Farmyard Symphony” (10/14/1938)

Perhaps as a precursor, or inspiration to the 1940 film “Fantasia,” “Farmyard Symphony” relies on classical music to reveal daily farm life.  Watch for the rooster’s rousing rally cry in this 8-minute, Jack Cutting directed cartoon.  Musical direction was provided by Leigh Harline.

“Merbabies” (12/9/1938)

Run by redheaded cherub-like mermaids, sea creature circus performances enchant the ocean’s floor for this nine-minute Silly Symphony cartoon.   “Merbabies” was outsourced to Harman-Ising studios under the co-direction of Rudolph Ising and Vernon Stallings (with music directed by Scott Bradley).

“Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood” (12/23/1938)

Featuring clever caricatures resembling popular Tinsel town icons of the time, “Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood” is packed with parody and pop culture cross-references.  Some representations, while acceptable in 1938, would not fly today.  Along with a who’s who of Hollywood, Donald Duck also appears in the 8-minute movie.  Edward H. Plumb provided musical magic while Wilfred Jackson directed this very expensive ($69,307) short cartoon.

Two volumes of “Walt Disney Treasures” DVD set featuring the Silly Symphony cartoons and can still be found online for purchase today (albeit with a bit of digging and deep wallet).

In this second to last season of Silly Symphony cartoons Disney magic materialized with a shorter season of selections. 1938’s five films featured returns of Donald Duck and Mother Goose, both in their costly cartoon filled with caricature collections of Hollywood icons.  Production of Disney’s first full length animated feature, “Snow White,” brought assistance from an additional animation studio (Harman-Ising).

Stay “tooned” for the final installment, part ten (the cartoons of 1939) in ITM’s series on this wonderful animation gold mine known as the Silly Symphony cartoons.

Source and images: IMDb, Wikipedia, YouTube

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