Woodland Café (1937)

Woodland Café ReviewWoodland Café Review

Woodland Café is a 1937 Disney short film in the Silly Symphony series and an interesting, but flawed experiment.

It is basically set in a nightclub for bugs where they dance, play cards and flirt. The film is most evidently split into three acts and that is the problem. The transitions between the scenes do not feel smooth and the editing is truly to blame along with the direction. And even though the seduction scene is visually intriguing and interesting in its provocative moments, it still seemed too weird for Disney.

The first part sets it up just fine, if not in a great manner and I liked how it ended. In terms of storytelling, it could have been better, but in terms of originality, it is pretty solid as well as in world building as it creates this bug club wonderfully. I liked the score, but I didn’t love it. And the animation is most certainly the highlight as it is astonishing to behold at times with some pretty artistic scenery.

Woodland Café could have been better edited and scripted, but is wonderfully animated and unique in a way.

 My Rating – 3.3

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Mother Pluto (1936)

Mother Pluto ReviewMother Pluto  Review

Mother Pluto is a 1936 Disney short film in the Silly Symphony series and though it has its moments, it is a typical short.

Pluto cares for some chicks, that is the entire plot here basically. And it is definitely familiar and forgettable. I loved Pluto, but I found the hen to be weirdly presented here and even though the animation is pretty good and the film is well made, it is dull and too long for this simplistic premise.

Pluto is as adorable as ever, but this is far from his best cartoons. But watching him cry near the end was sad and watching him get reunited with the babies was sweet and him taking the role of a mother produced some heartwarming scenes. But it is otherwise such a slight entry in the Silly Symphony roster and I was never really engaged or charmed with it.

Mother Pluto definitely is heartwarming and Pluto is lovable, but the plot is typical and it is a forgettable short.

 My Rating – 3.3

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The Cookie Carnival (1935)

The Cookie Carnival ReviewThe Cookie Carnival Review

The Cookie Carnival is a 1935 Silly Symphony animated short that is solid in some areas, but weak in plot.

This short sounds very interesting on paper, but in execution, it is actually not as great and is mostly just serviceable. I guess that the story is an homage to beauty contests of the time, but that only makes it even more archaic than usual. The dialogue through singing is typical, the characters are forgettable and the overall storyline is never particularly inspired besides the idea in the first place which is solid. And I also liked the somewhat more progressive portrayal of women here in that the girl herself chose her husband which was a nice change in pace for its era.

What else is solid here? Well, the animation of course which is more than solid. It is pretty inspired at times with the character design particularly being superb and the colors being exciting and pleasing to the eye. The film is polished and very well made plus the score is solid. I only wish that it was stronger in substance.

The Cookie Carnival is exceptionally well animated, but weak in terms of storytelling and characterization.

 My Rating – 3.5

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The Flying Mouse (1934)

The Flying Mouse ReviewThe Flying Mouse Review

 The Flying Mouse is a 1934 Disney animated short film that is one of the finest Silly Symphonies of the time.

I absolutely loved this Silly Symphony. It is easily one of the best entries in the series as it represents everything I like the most about it – a film with great animation, good score, but most importantly filled with a wonderful, important message for children. And truly the message here resonates a lot. The mouse wants to fly and is granted that wish after saving a fairy butterfly, but eventually learns that he doesn’t fit in with either his family mice or other flying creatures such as birds and rats. And of course he gets to be the mouse again in a moving finale.

That message that you should respect who you are is excellent for children and it is a great warning about nature and how you can’t fight it. And the film is otherwise strong as well. The only problem here is that there are some scenes that feature recycled animation from previous Silly Symphonies. But other than that, it is mostly a very consistent film that is over nine minutes long but never feels overlong and it is beautifully animated as well with great character designs and some really cool backgrounds. The score is also terrific.

The Flying Mouse is a Silly Symphony that succeeds in spades with a terrific message, great animation, superb plot and a very moving ending.

 My Rating – 4.6

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The China Shop (1934)

The China Shop ReviewThe China Shop Review

The China Shop is a 1934 Disney short film in the Silly Symphony series. It is a visually arresting film.

The animation here is absolutely phenomenal. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is the best animated Silly Symphony up to this point in time. The character designs are fantastic as both the old man and those china antiques look detailed and realistic. The style is excellent and the highlight has to be its meticulous approach in the china antiques themselves as they for instance glister at some parts. That is so admirable.

In terms of storytelling, it is pretty solid, albeit far from inspired. I loved the beginning and that ending is just so clever and very funny, but everything that came in between wasn’t that great. Some action parts were excellent, but most of the fights and the conflict were expected. But it is overall well crafted and well told and those scenes such as its sophisticated ending help elevate the material a lot.

The China Shop is gorgeously animated, while also being mostly very well told with a very clever ending.

 My Rating – 4

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Lullaby Land (1933)

Lullaby Land ReviewLullaby Land Review

 Lullaby Land is a 1933 Disney Silly Symphony film. It is a solid and times very memorable film.

It follows a baby who is transported to the titular land where he is scared by boogey-men and assisted by Sandman. Now, I don’t understand why this land is filled only with household appliances, that was unexplained and odd to me. As for the story itself, it’s something that we’ve seen done before and after a lot and it can get a bit tiring.

However, the film is better than the similar in concept ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod‘ mostly because it is much more memorable in its imagery. Those boogey-men are very menacing and scary for children and I also really liked the use of Sandman. The film is exceptionally animated with imaginative world building and a polished look to it. The score is typical and sugar-coated, but the scenery is great and the film also has a good message for very small children.

Lullaby Land has its childish aspects, but it’s memorable in its imagery and very well animated.

 My Rating – 3.8

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The Bird Store (1932)

The Bird Store ReviewThe Bird Store Review

 The Bird Store is a 1932 Silly Symphony animated short film by Disney. It is one of the better entries of its time.

I really liked this Silly Symphony. Yes, it does start very slow and it’s filled with those repetitive musical movements, but what differentiates it from others of its time is definitely its second half which is very different from the first one. The film suddenly got substance there and it was very engaging and charming to watch.

When the cat bursts into the store and tries to catch a small bird, the other birds organize a rescue mission for the little one. That was very heartwarming, albeit totally unrealistic. I mention realism because the film is apparently quite realistic before that counterattack as the birds are portrayed to be quite clueless (that bird exploring doesn’t know anything about the objects surrounding him) and also music oriented (the bird parents teaching their little one how to sing is such a sweet scene). The animation of the cat is once again dated and odd looking, but the animation of the birds is excellent and I just loved that Marx brothers reference which was very funny.

The Bird Store is typical in its first half, but very good in its second half while also being very well animated and heartwarming.

 My Rating – 3.8

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Midnight in a Toy Shop (1930)

Midnight in a Toy Shop ReviewMidnight in a Toy Shop Review

Midnight in a Toy Shop is a 1930 Disney Silly Symphony film. It is such a typical for the time entry.

The spider wanders into the toy shop and starts to explore it, but is scared by the toys in the dark. Here we get another dance cartoon with dance sequences taking over the entire affair for too much of its running time. And needless to say, it was very boring to witness, only further affected by a pretty long running time. The premise is also typical, albeit the setting of a toy shop is intriguing and it had promise.

The spider in Midnight in a Toy Shop is the one which was later used in ‘Egyptian Melodies‘ which is a much better film than this one. I find the character designs to be too simplistic and definitely a product of its time, but what differentiates this from other silly Symphonies of the time such as for example ‘Frolicking Fish’ is an overall more polished animation meaning better movements and very well animated backgrounds.

Midnight in a Toy Shop is technically quite solid, but it’s sorely lacking in substance as it is again a dance obsessed cartoon typical of its time.

 My Rating – 3.1

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Mother Goose Melodies (1931)

Mother Goose Melodies ReviewMother Goose Melodies Review

 Mother Goose Melodies is a 1931 Disney Silly Symphony film. It’s a solid and sometimes inspired entry.

Mother Goose Melodies is a short that’s better than most of the other Silly Symphonies of the time, but it’s still flawed. It features various nursery rhyme characters and although their inclusion was interesting, only King Cole is even remotely memorable here. I just wish that the others were utilized as well as he was.

The film is again filled with song and dance sequences and that could get tiresome, especially its willingness for going into repetitive territory with some action which was quite annoying. But it is nonetheless so well animated and it is one of the best animated black-and-white Silly Symphonies for sure. Some moments here are pretty much inspired and I wish that the whole short was like that.

Mother Good Melodies is really well animated and an interesting experiment, but the one that is still too repetitive and musically oriented.

 My Rating – 3.4

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The Merry Dwarfs (1929)

The Merry Dwarfs ReviewThe Merry Dwarfs Review

 The Merry Dwarfs is a 1929 Disney short film in the Silly Symphony series. It is one of the weakest Silly Symphonies for sure.

There is little to enjoy in The Merry Dwarfs, a film that is representative of everything that was wrong with the earliest entries in the series – an overabundance of music and ugly character designs. And sure enough, the dwarfs’ look is rather unpleasant and the music is very annoying. The dance sequences here last for way too long and are just so repetitive and consist of basically the same movements repeated over and over again.

However, even the weakest Silly Symphonies are not bad and this one is no exception. The ending is pretty nice and the entire film has its charm. What is the best aspect in it has to be the animation (besides the character design) as the backgrounds in particular look simplistic, but very endearing and pleasant to look at. It is a somewhat charming and endearing film, but way too slight.

The Merry Dwarfs has its charm, but is way too repetitive, slight and weak otherwise.

 My Rating – 3

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