So after the grant was finished with Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros Walt Disney was left with a problem. The army took many of his artists into it’s service and much of the rest of his staff was busy making training videos and propaganda films for the US Government.
If Walt wanted his feature film division to stay in tact and be functional after the war he would have to do something to keep releasing films. That is why we get the next 4 short subject or package films. Anyone can tell these are scrapped projects picked up again, clumsily clobbered together to get as close to an hour of material as they could because that is literally what they are.
In some cases that produced hidden gems. In others boring segments that should have been kept in the scrap pile, but in many more cases it creates things truly bizarre, which never would have been produced in any other circumstances. I kind of like bizarre so 2 out of 3 of those outcomes works great for me!
So we get Make Mine Music. This is sold as a Fantasia with popular music of the 40’s. Released in 1946 some of the music feels dated which is something that will happen with popular music of any era but not as much with classical. A great symphony in 2014 will probably sound a lot like a great symphony in 1946.
Make Mine Music has 10 sets and like I said- some work, some don’t and some are just strange. Let’s dive in.
1. Martins and the Coys-
This was actually not part of my DVD. It was removed because people felt it was too violent and I can see why. It is a take on the Hatfield and McCoy feud (which do children even know about that? I didn’t until the miniseries last year…) and has a bluesgrass soundtrack accompanying it.
Basically you have 2 families who hate each other because one stole some chicken eggs. So they fight. And everyone dies…(Great message for kids!) but one from each family, Alice and Henry. They actually show the ghosts around the mountain.
So of course, Henry and Alice meet and fall in love so everything is right again, right? No! It turns out Alice is a real brute and beats Henry every night. The End…
Ok. I can see why they took that off the DVD. I can’t say it isn’t entertaining.
To watch it go to http://dai.ly/xrfryd
2. Blue Bayou-
This one is interesting because it was filmed originally with Clair de Lune for Fantasia but here it is with the Ken Darby Chorus and has a bayou poem that I couldn’t understand without the closed captions. Compare these I think you will agree the Clair de Lune is much better.
This one is good especially in original version
3. All the Cats Join In-
This is another strange one. It has Benny Goodman and his orchestra and is supposed to portray youth in the 40s. Everything looks like Archie and Veronica from the comics which was popular then so it very well could have been the influence.
As the music goes the pencil draws the teens.
There’s a surprising mixture of kids like you see a black couple dancing.
But then there is also a segment with a girl coming out of the shower and getting dressed which is strange for a Disney film in the 40s…
I would say this one is mildly entertaining to strange. I love big band and jazz music but for some reason most of the arrangements in this film just seem kind of boring.
There must have been an artist at the studio that loved Dali because every once in a while you see his influence creep in but not enough to figure it was a huge influence on the studio. The elephants in Dumbo, surrealist touches in Fantasia and all the clips moments have something but this is literally bright pink trees and then the scene melts away. To me that just screams Dali but not in an interesting compelling way.
I like Dali fine but this episode is kind of forgettable.
5. Casey at Bat-
This is another strange choice. First of all, the music is minimal but I remember it completely differently than it is . I thought Casey was a sympathetic guy. Turns out he is actually a pompous jerk. You are glad when he strikes out but the artists act like we should feel sad and that the whole town is sad. It’s a very strange message.
6. Two Silhouettes-
This is a simple short that has real live action ballet dancers as silhouettes with images and music. It’s not terrible but kind of blah. I think in an age when we didn’t have a million opportunities to watch dancing everyday on TV this must have felt more special.
7. Peter and the Wolf-
Probably the most memorable episode from this movie. As written by Sergei Prokofiev each animal in the story has a different instrument so the symphony gets to literally tell a story as it plays.
It is an enjoyable set. The only odd thing is the wolf seems to be out of another movie. It is so ferocious and mean and all the other characters like Sonia the Duck and Peter are all so cutesy and sweet.
I mean seriously look at these cute characters:
I mean give us a fair fight Disney! But that said it is a good number.
8. After You’ve Gone-
The Goodman Quartet plays while musical instruments dance across the screen. At one point they are boxing each other which is a strange choice. I think Mr Dali fan is putting his influence in once again!
So here’s my little spiel about art. Art should mean something or tell some kind of a story, even if it tells different stories to different people. Or it should be beautiful or upsetting or stir some other kind of emotion. When it is just randomly putting things together it leaves the viewer confused and unless that is a reaction you want than it should be avoided.
There is no reason to have a clarinet and a bass boxing and it doesn’t make any sense or have any kind of obvious deeper meaning to ponder. When Dali melted clocks there is clear things to ponder about time and life and the infinite. So, that’s what I think about art…
9. Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet-
This is another strange set. Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet are hats (yes hats) with eyes and a mouth that I guess isn’t visible to humans despite them kissing and starting fights. They are separated from each other and Johnnie is devastated and the piece is about him finding Alice and in the end they are both worn by horses which is strange.
The whole thing is strange. I can feel for ducks, mice, parrots but hats… The Andrews Sisters sing the story which is kind of fun and nostalgic to hear.
10. The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met-
This is probably my favorite because it is strange but in a ‘I can’t believe that exists’ way. It is about a whale that sings opera. He is heard by fisherman and then eventually trapped and sings at the Met with at one point fire coming out of his mouth.
Just having a whale talk in the middle of his body standing up looks so strange. I laugh whenever I see it.
Why have it in the middle of his body like that? Whales have mouths at the top of their body. It looks like a big shoe singing.
And then he dies for no real reason but to teach kids a lesson about whale heaven “Willie’s singing was a miracle and people aren’t used to miracles. And you faithful friend don’t be too sad because somewhere in whatever heaven is reserved for creatures of the deep Willie is still singing”
I find that such a baffling choice. Why kill him? Why not leave him singing his heart out to all the fans. Why end your cartoon with a message about how humanity isn’t used to miracles and silences them but in heaven everything is made better….’. I mean I guess they were in a time of war but wouldn’t it be better to teach kids about miracles and that humanity has it’s good sides?
The whole episode is just so bizarre I kind of love it.
Conclusion and Movie Review
So, that was a lot of work! I hope you found it entertaining and go check out Make Mine Music. It is one of the oddest sets of entertainment I’ve ever viewed. I really don’t know what to say. Some of the pieces are forgettable, some are good and most of them are strange or have strange moments. So on that level I recommend it but if you are looking for normal, easy to absorb family entertainment this is definitely not the one to pick.
A grade is almost impossible but I guess a C- (just on strangeness but if I’m really talking quality it would be lower)