#8, Make Mine Music, or, How Disney (Sort of) Got Its Groove Back

Make Mine Music, 1946, 75 minutes (US home video release: 68 minutes)

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Man, Disney sure loves its finales. So far each of these package films ends with a drawn-out, longer scene that seems a bit more ridiculous than the short films that come before it. The segment in this case, is The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met.

The scene is much more detailed and lavish than anything in either of the two preceding films. Unlike the final segments of Amigos and Three Caballeros, however, The Whale is not the best part of Make Mine Music.

The film opens with a title song, the third in a row, as credits are displayed in various “theatrical” ways, such as on marquees, playbills, and as names on the towers of New York. Make Mine Music was entered into Cannes, and from the opening moments it is clear Disney is approaching it a bit more seriously than its two Donald-starring Spanish-themed films.

This is a fun film, but it is also a much more intentional and artistic affair. Quick note: home video releases in the US has edited out the film’s first sequence, Martins and the Coys, due to gun violence.

The Martins and the Coys is no more violent than the gunplay scenes we will see in Melody Time, but perhaps its cavalier attitude towards guns is what prompted Disney to take out the short. Either way, we’re not missing a whole lot. The short is entertaining, but its animation is simple, its music annoying, and tonally, it seems somehow too silly even for this movie. I fully believe that movies are best unedited, as my post about Star Wars will reinforce, and I think this movie should be available in a complete form, but I also realize that Disney was well-intentioned in erasing such a scene. If there is ever a better release of Make Mine Music, I would want the scene to be in the film for the sake of completeness, but for the time being, the current DVD of the movie will suffice. We’re not missing much.

Next up is Blue Bayou, which has beautiful, serene animation. The reason the animation is of such high quality is it was originally intended for Fantasia, but was cut, and set to Blue Bayou instead of the Debussy composition that was originally to accompany it. The short is a beautiful, though brief, trip through the Everglades. There’s not much substance, it’s more of a passage than a full story, but the scene is breathtaking, and the first time since Bambi I have felt lost in the beauty of a Disney film.

Without You is a ballad, and a sad little animation about a withering tree plays underneath it. It is a short segment, not particularly with too much of note, but it is a more abstract piece of animation compared to everything we’ve seen so far. Quite beautiful, though short, it is an interesting little piece that is completely unlike anything we’ve seen.

The film’s centerpiece is Peter and the Wolf, the brilliant adaptation of the wonderful Russian folktale. It is a tale about the innocence of childhood, and that the best way to shoot a wolf in the face, is to not use your popgun. Of course, any time Disney needs to show the innocence of childhood, they employ the talent of Sterling Holloway, who would go on to play Pooh, the biggest symbol of innocence that exists in all of fiction. The film is beautiful, and Holloway does a great job narrating. Like so much of the output in these features, it was eventually divorced from its parent film and released as a short subject.

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Peter and the Wolf brilliantly shows the composition’s intent as each character is represented by their own section of an orchestra, just the way Prokofiev wrote it to be. It is here that the film shows itself as a cut-rate version of Fantasia. It is beautiful, but in a more affordable, heavily stylized way. This is the best-known part of the film for a reason, it is certainly the highlight, with Holloway’s brilliant narration and Prokofiev’s gorgeous score playing throughout. Of course, the film ends with Disney’s signature censorship of the source material — the duck dies in the original story — but it is still great.

The other shorts before the finale are of less interest. Casey at the Bat is a good interpretation of the poem, but is ultimately toothless. There simply is not much of interest, and the animation is subpar compared to what else is in the film.

The interstitial shorts of All the Cats Join In, Two Silhouettes, and After You’ve Gone are also enjoyable, yet slight. Cats Join In and After You’ve Gone are both set to wonderful jazz pieces by Benny Goodman, and are animated in an Archie Comics-influenced 1940s cartoon style. They are a fun break of pace from the longer shorts, though they do not have much to say.

Two Silhouettes is a bit less charming. Maybe it is because I already generally dislike rotoscoping, animation that is traced, frame-by-frame, over live-action footage to give a more realistic look. While it is a neat effect, and can be used in a more interesting way, it simply falls flat here. It does add variety to the already wide array of animation styles, but it does not age well.

The last segment before our finale is Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, a lovely cartoon about two hats in a department store window who fall in love, only to be cruelly separated. They eventually meet again, by chance, and it has a lovely ending. The short is an amazing testament to Disney’s ability to tell memorable, affecting stories with even the silliest of pretenses. The short is not the best part of the film, that belongs to either Peter and the Wolf or Blue Bayou, but it is charming, creative, and the song by the one-and-only Andrews Sisters punctuates it perfectly.

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The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met is completely ridiculous, but its over-the-topness is refreshing compared to the prior shorts’ general humorlessness. Willie is a great singer, but as a water-bound creature, he cannot realize his dream. In an extended fantasy sequences, Willie becomes a wonderfully famous singer with plenty of accolades. Sadly, we see it is merely a dream as Willie finally gets harpooned, only then able to sing in heaven. It’s a completely insane scene, yet still incites a sad realization when it happens. This cartoon is a bit long, and while it does contain some great moments, they are too few and far between. A bit more editing would go along way with this short.

Make Mine Music is quite a bit better than both Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, and has a lot going for it. It is still a far cry from the company’s glory days, but it is a signal that we are going in the right direction after the previous two films. Several of the segments here are good, but there is not enough here of substance to recommend wholeheartedly. Still, it is an enjoyable musical revue, equally as entertaining as Fantasia, but this film fails to match its predecessor’s majesty and musical selection. Peter and the Wolf and Blue Bayou are essential, Johnnie Fedora is a delightful little segment, and everything else is certainly passable, if not exactly classic.

Grade: B-

Up next is Fun and Fancy Free

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One thought on “#8, Make Mine Music, or, How Disney (Sort of) Got Its Groove Back

  1. One notable part in the Peter and the wolf segment technically, is this one bit of animation where the duck wraps one of the wolfs jowels around its snout. I thought that was an interesting addition, again another good review, enjoy Fun and Fancy Free!

    Like

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