Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Short Subject: The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Welcome to a new idea for the blog where I’m taking a look at short films all on their own.  Today I’m looking at a short that is totally appropriate for this spooky season.

This short was the very first silly symphony the Disney Company ever produced.  And as a short set to music it works great.  The music is still good and the animation is timed well to match it.  I also love the spooky idea of having skeletons dancing in a graveyard as the subject of the piece.  It taps into that macabre area that Disney was very good at mining in its early years.  It’s both fun and creepy to watch at the same time.  Now certainly since this project was made almost a century ago the animation does show its age.  The rubber hose style of animation is everywhere in this short, the characters like the dog and the cats are very cartoonish, and the squash and stretch movement that Disney has perfected isn’t as well developed here as it will one day be.  Still there are areas of great ingenuity here too that show how Disney wanted to push the envelope as this art form, like the angle of the skeleton coming towards the camera, the combination of foreground characters moving along with leaves in the background so things look integrated together in the setting, and that great four headed creature the skeletons become when they all smash into each other and run back to the grave.  And there is obviously the cost and time saving measure of flipping and reusing the same animation to make all four skeletons move in sync. Also I have to give a big round of applause to Ub Iwerks for animating this thing by himself according to the credits.  The man had great skills and a ton of patience to be able to craft this so well.

Despite being around for almost a century this still stands up a good short that’s perfect for Halloween and a great glimpse into the budding ideas of the early Disney works that would lead the company on to become one of the great entertainment producers of the 20th century.

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