10 Silly Symphonies To Watch
We've talked about theatrical and SparkShorts Pixar shorts and non-theatrical Pixar shorts. So, today we'll talk about 10 Silly Symphonies you should watch. After the advent of sound with Mickey Mouse's first cartoon Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney became interested in producing more shorts that were, as Carl Stalling suggested, "musical novelty." These cartoons, developed between 1929 and 1939, were also the breeding ground for Walt's first animated feature - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All of these are available on Disney+ for you to enjoy!
Three Little Pigs
Three Little Pigs is, perhaps, the most famous of the Silly Symphonies. It is also the first fairy tale Disney produced. The short tells the story of three pigs, two of which are frivolous and the other hard working. When the wolf comes to their door, the two frivolous pigs find their houses blown down and they have to seek shelter in the practical pig's home. Together, they sing "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" which became Disney's first hit song. Three Little Pigs also went on to receive an Academy Award.
The Goddess of Spring
If there was ever a breeding ground for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was The Goddess of Spring. They wanted to see if they could animated a young woman realistically for the big screen. The story is based on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. Persephone, the Goddess of Spring, is kidnapped by Hades, Lord of the Underworld, to be his bride. When she is taken to the Underworld, the Earth above starts to die in the cold. She begs Hades to let her go and he agrees as long as she returns for half of the year. And, this is why we get winter.
The Wise Little Hen
The Wise Little Hen is unique in that it features two characters from the world of Mickey Mouse. We see both Peter Pig and Donald Duck in this short about a chicken who needs help planting her corn. She goes to Peter and Donald, but they feign stomach aches and the hen has to do everything herself. In the end, she tricks the two by offering them castor oil instead of corn. This short was actually the first appearance of Donald Duck, so we owe this short for one of Disney's most beloved characters!
The Grasshopper and the Ants
The Grasshopper and the Ants is based on an Aesop fable. In this short, the Grasshopper makes fun of the hard working ants getting ready for the winter. He believes that God will provide and he doesn't have to worry. But, when winter does come around, Grasshopper finds himself starving. Thankfully, the kindly ants take him in and take care of him. And the Grasshopper learns his lesson. This cartoon showed the Grasshopper turn from green to blue which was a feat in the early days of Technicolor.
Three Blind Mousekteers
This short is based on the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice. In this tale, Captain Katt, a mean old cat, sets traps for the mice every night, but the mice are too smart for him and they always win. It's a simple tale featuring more Warner Brothery zany cartoon action than most Disney films.
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Tortoise and the Hare is also based on one of Aesop's Fables. It tells the tale of a Toby Tortoise and a Max Hare are in the race. Max is cocky knowing he is fast and he taunts the Toby who is slow. During the race, Max takes a moment to take a nap. That allows Toby to surpass him. Several obstacle get in their way. Max always gets caught up in them while Toby ignores them and keeps going. Eventually, he wins the race. The moral is that slow and steady wins the race. The interesting thing about this Silly Symphony is that Max Hare is said to be an inspiration for Bugs Bunny.
The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is based on Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale. It is about a young "duckling" that ends up in the wrong nest. The family rejects him as he is too ugly and awkward. The poor dejected duckling soon learns his secret. He is actually a swan and finds a family. He is happy in the end. The film was actually a remake of a black and white version from 1931. This film won an Academy Award and ended up being the very last Silly Symphony.
Flowers and Trees
Flowers and Trees tells the story of living trees. Two trees vie for the affection of a beautiful female tree. One of the trees, a mean old hollow tree, gets jealous and burns the forest down. But, thankfully, thanks to the birds who poke holes in the trees to make it rain, the forest is saved...except for the hollow tree that burns in the fire. The other younger tree then wins the affection of the beautiful tree. This was Disney's first color cartoon and it also ended up winning an Academy Award.
Elmer Elephant is a story about why you should not bully people for their differences. Elmer Elephant is invited to the birthday party of Tillie Tiger. When Tillie steps out, the other animals tease Elmer because of his trunk. Dejected, Elmer leaves the party. He comes across a giraffe who tells him that he also had been bullied for his neck and that he didn't let it get him down. When a fire breaks out at Tillie's party, Elmer uses his trunk to spray water and douses the fire. Elmer saves the day and the respect of the other animals while Tillie gives him a kiss. This was one of the rare Silly Symphonies where the characters spoke in regular speaking voices rather than singing to a tune the entire short.
Babes In The Woods
Babes In The Woods was a strange amalgam of Hansel and Gretel by the Grimm Brothers with a little Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods and they come across a bunch of elves who befriend them. A witch, though, kidnaps them and takes them to her gingerbread house. She is cruel and turns Hansel into a spider and tries to turn Gretel into a rat. But, the elves come to the rescue and Hansel and Gretel free the other children from the witch's grip. In the end, the witch is turned into stone in her own cauldron. It's a cute little tale. Hansel and Gretel has always been one of my favorite fairy tales.