Make Mine Music - Disney Films Project
We just watched another feature in our Disney Films Project and we are smack-dab in the middle of a bunch of compilation films. These are a little more difficult to review because they are several shorts that are all put together for a full length presentation. Make Mine Music is all over the map with a pieces ranging from Casey at Bat to Peter and the Wolf.
If you are wondering why all of these compilation projects exist, the Wikipedia entry for Make Mine Music does a great job of explaining the reason.
During the Second World War, much of Walt Disney's staff was drafted into the army, and those that remained were called upon by the U.S. government to make training and propaganda films. As a result, the studio was littered with unfinished story ideas. In order to keep the feature film division alive during this difficult time, the studio released six package films including this one, made up of various unrelated segments set to music.
This film has ten segments:
The Martins and the Coys (edited out in most versions so we didn't see this)
This segment featured popular radio vocal group, King's Men singing the story of a Hatfields and McCoys-style feud in the mountains broken up when two young people from each side fell in love.
This segment featured animation originally intended for Fantasia using the Claude Debussy musical composition Clair de Lune from Suite bergamasque. It featured two egrets flying through the Everglades on a moonlit night. However, by the time Make Mine Music was released Clair de Lune was replaced by the new song Blue Bayou, performed by the Ken Darby Singers.
All the Cats Join In
This segment was one of two sections in which Benny Goodman and his Orchestra contributed the soundtrack to visuals drawn by a pencil as the action was happening, and in which 1940s teens were swept away by popular music.
This segment was a ballad of lost love, sung by Andy Russell.
Casey at the Bat
This segment featured Jerry Colonna, reciting the poem also titled "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer, about the arrogant ballplayer whose cockiness was his undoing.
This segment featured two live-action ballet dancers, David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya, moving in silhouette with animated backgrounds and characters. Dinah Shore sang the title song.
Peter and the Wolf
This segment was an animated dramatization of the 1936 musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev, with narration by actor Sterling Holloway. A Russian boy named Peter sets off into the forest to hunt the wolf with his animal friends: a bird named Sasha, a duck named Sonia, and a cat named Ivan. Each character is represented with a specific musical accompaniment: Peter by the String Quartet, Sasha the Bird by the Flute, Sonia the Duck Oboe, Ivan the Cat by the Clarinet, Grandpa by the Bassoon, Gunfire from hunters' by the Kettledrums, and the evil Wolf primarily by horns and cymbals.
After You've Gone
This segment again featured Benny Goodman and The Goodman Octet as eight anthropomorphized instruments (Piano, Bass, Drums, Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax) who paraded through a musical playground.
Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet
This segment told the romantic story of two hats who fell in love in a department store window. When Alice was sold, Johnnie devoted himself to finding her again. They eventually, by pure chance, meet up again and live happily ever after together, side by side. The Andrews Sisters provided the vocals.
The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met
The bittersweet finale about a Sperm Whale with incredible musical talent and his dreams of singing Grand Opera. In the end, Willie was harpooned and killed, but the narrator then explains that Willy's voice will sing on in Heaven. Nelson Eddy narrated and performed all the voices in this segment. As Willie the Whale, Eddy sang all three male voices in the first part of the Sextet from Donizetti's opera, Lucia di Lammermoor.
Once I understood why these compilation movies were put together, it did help me become more forgiving of the hodge-podge feeling of a bunch of random pieces being packaged as one feature. I found that the majority of the pieces felt a little slow (and boring) to me and that they would clearly be more appreciated in the time that they were written (the 1940s). I though Casey at the Bat was a clever short and I've always loved Peter and the Wolf. I think I must have had a record of that as a child because I remember listening to the music and the story narrated by Sterling Holloway. Alex refused to watch the last piece of the whale singing at the Met because he remembered it as being very depressing. After I watched it, I had to agree. Too sad!
If I was rating only Peter and the Wolf, I would give this very high marks. However, as a whole, Make Mine Music gets 4 out of 10 Mickey Ears from me.
Second opinion with Alex
Make Mine Music is advertised as a "Happy Comedy Musical" Aside from the end segment, which is murder on the heartstrings, this is an apt analogy. Still, some segments are more introspective, making things out of alignment This is the most upbeat of the package films so far. 4/10 Mickey Ears (This reviewer will not be covering the whale segment, which will be covered by his fellow reviewers.)
I will give this show 4 stars for 4 reasons. Reason number one is the story of Casey at the Bat. This is a classic story that is a childhood favorite of mine. Story is a great lesson on humility, something that Casey lacks. Star number two is earned for me in Peter and the Wolf, what a great introduction to music for kids. I love this segment. The last two stars were earned in Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. This cartoon is awesome and gosh dang it, it made me almost cry! I love this love story!! Great three segments, and the rest I will ignore.
Interestingly, this is the first movie that all three of us have rated the same!
The Make Mine Music seem to be largely forgotten in the current Disney culture, but there are a few appearances in some Disney Parks:
- Peter and the Wolf is featured as part of the Disneyland Paris version of the Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Casey at the Bat is represented in the parks with Casey's Corner on Main Street, U.S.A. in various parks and one of the Boardwalk games at Disney California Adventure
- Willie the Whale appears in a queue poster at Mickey's PhilharMagic.
If you enjoy the music from Peter and the Wolf, you will love watching this rare video of PROKOFIEV & WALT DISNEY.