Friday, February 24, 2012

1946 - Make Mine Music

1945 - Make Mine Music

Well, here we are with another anthology, this time conceived as “Kind of like Fantasia, only without all that froo-froo smart people music.” This, and the next few, are technically in the post-war era, but a lot of the development was during the war, hence the relative cheapness. I was reading something by an animation historian who said it’s unfair to judge these through modern eyes, a sentiment similar to those I’ve expressed here previously. But you know what? I’m going to stop feeling bad about that. Modern eyes are the only ones I have, and it’s not like all stuff from the 40s is automatically bad. It’s a Wonderful Life came out this same year, and while it’s not remotely ’timeless’, it’s still a hell of a good movie. So let’s see how this mix holds up, one by one.

THE MARTINS AND THE COYS - “A Rustic Ballad”, according to the title card, this hill person opus has actually been deleted from most rereleases of the movie. It’s a telling of the classic Hatfield and McCoy feud as sung by the tiresome 1940s vocal group The Kings’ Men. The stated reason for this being deleted is due to some incidents of comedic gunplay not sitting well, but I think the company may be having some Sunflower-style regrets over the portrayal of the clans as the most ridiculous barefoot, moonshine-swilling, inbred, gun-loving, woman-punching, toothless hillbillies you can imagine.

But, well, you know...

BLUE BAYOU - “A Tone Poem” this time around, sung by the Kim Darby chorus. Originally animated for Fantasia to be set to Clair de Lune, the end result is moody animation with a boring song that doesn’t quite fit, and with the deletion of the previous, far more lively number, a real crummy opening bit for the movie. Looks nice, though.

ALL THE CATS JOIN IN - “A Jazz Interlude” by Benny Goodman, says the title card, going on call it “A CariCATure”, which makes me wish I could reach through time and slap an animator. This is about a bunch of teenagers being teenagers and driving a car around and getting up to the kind of shenanigans middle aged animators thought teens got up to in 1946. The visual of a pencil drawing the sets and props as they go is nice, but it’s hampered by a heavy dose of sexism, with a sprinkling of anti-intellectualism that kept me crabby through the whole thing. Plus, Benny Goodman? Meh.

Cover your shame, you sinful, sinful ladies.

WITHOUT YOU - “A Ballad in Blue”, as we are informed by the (no joke) weeping title card. Ugh. Cheap animation of sad things accompanies a mopey-voiced guy singing a slow song about being dumped. Basically the worst.

CASEY AT THE BAT - “A Musical Recitation” of the classic poem. I was looking forward to this, because I love the poem, and I love the aesthetic of 1890s baseball, but it fell kinda flat. Interruptions for gags and non-poem dialogue killed the rhythm, and the narrator‘s attempt at an old-timey radio announcer voice was really tough to understand. Swing and a miss.

Prancing is an underestimated fundamental of the game.

TWO SILLHOUETTES - “Ballade Ballet” that is so dull I fell asleep twice watching it. We’re not on a good run here, folks.

PETER AND THE WOLF - “A Musical Fairy Tale”? Whatever you say, card. Hey, what can I tell you? It’s Peter and the Wolf. You get a decent narrator, and Prokofiev’s done most of your work for you. And the narrator is Sterling Holloway, which we’ve already established wins big points with me. Plus, the Russian language is spotlighted a few times, which is a nice added dash of culture.

AFTER YOU’VE GONE - Huh. No cutesy intro on the title card. Well, this is more Benny Goodman, but as a simple quartet, it works a lot better than the full band piece, and the visuals are cute, with anthropomorphic instruments dancing around various musical landscapes. Nothing big, but quite cute.

JOHNNY FEDORA AND ALICE BLUEBONNET - “A Love Story” sung by the Andrews Sisters, who should really stick to peppy songs, because slow ballady-type things are not their forte. Anyway, this is about two hats that fall in love, then get purchased, then the people who bought them meet and fall in love without noticing they have ambulatory hats on. Fun fact: I wrote that after watching the first 30 seconds of the short, and I was absolutely right, except for leaving out the part where the eventual owners are draft horses. But really, how could I have seen that coming?

Just focus on the music. Don't imagine what it smells like.

THE WHALE WHO WANTED TO SING AT THE MET - “Opera Pathetique”.  Which is not an actual term. Anyway, this one, the longest at 15 minutes or so, is fantastic. Nelson Eddy sings every character in this story of… Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? He gets harpooned in the end, because it’s an opera, so of course it’s sad. It’s also sad that we had to wait until the last short to get one that was really good. Eddy’s formidable range is used to its best effect, and the character animation on Willie the Whale and the impresario who hunts him down is top-notch.


* Perce Pearce has been replaced in my “weird name in the opening credits” affection by the new champion, story editor “T. Hee.”

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