When I was a kid, I always loved the “Wonderful World of Disney” show. It seemed that every show had the word “adventure” in the title. At Disneyland, Walt built a whole land around the concept of “adventure”. Today, I hope to be able to pass along to you a little of my excitement about early to mid 20th century music. I want it to be just as much fun as shooting hippos on the jungle cruise, so let’s all call it an Adventure!
Music has been a part of cartoons since before the dawn of sound. In 1925 Max Fleischer’s Bouncing Ball cartoons were the first to be animated to a musical beat. The action was syncronized so theater organists and audiences could play and sing along with the characters on the screen. The merging of animation and music was a smash hit, and soon all cartoons were timed to music.
Music shares an indescribable magic with animation. It’s hard to describe in words exactly why certain walk cycles or pantomime gags are so wonderful. Music is a source of non-verbal delight as well. The rhythms and pacing of cartoons often mirror the construction of popular music with a statement of theme followed by variations, culminating in a restatement of the theme and a big finish. If you think about it, the best cartoons are inseparable from music.
Below are links to the entire series of posts on this topic. Feel free to jump into the comments and join in the conversation.
I’m going to start out with a classic Disney animated short that attempts to outline the families of musical instruments with an emphasis on the importance of rhythm to music. They made a sequel to it called “Melody” a year later, but they never got around to making the logical third installment, “Harmony”. Maybe someday, someone will pick up where they left off and complete the trilogy.
Here is “Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom”…
ADVENTURES IN MUSIC
- 01 The Coolest Sound EVER!
- 02 Bakersfield Shines in a Nudie Suit
- 03 The Power To Create Emotion With Time
- 04 Rhythmic Innovations
- 05 A Scenester and a Square
- 06 Bluegrass, Beehives and Beautiful Ignorance
- 07 Superhuman Powers of Concentration
- 08 The Ambassador of Jazz Comes Marching In
- 09 Shirley and Buddy at the Codfish Ball
- 10 Bernstein on What Makes American Music American
- 11 A Priceless Fragment of American Folk Blues History
- 12 Jammin’ The Blues
- 13 Artists Communicating Without Words
- 14 The Importance of Skill
- 15: The Boffo Finish
- Coda: Remembering The Past
This series of posts originally appeared as part of my guest blogging stint on BoingBoing.
- Other Music Related Articles
- Leopold Stokowski: Artist of the Past, Artist of the Future
- Bill Evans on the Creative Process and Self Teaching
- Eric Larson on Music and the Animated Picture
I hope these articles inspire you to investigate new types of music and integrate what you discover into your film making. Music and animation are Siamese twins. Think of them as a team from the very start of planning your film. Adding music like wallpaper as the final step the way modern television animation is often scored is a total waste of a great opportunity.