After countering runaway costs on PINOCCHIO/’40 and BAMBI/’42 with DUMBO/’41 (magical and cost-effective), Disney tried to repeat the trick with this downsized animated potpourri, a sort of low-rent/Pop-oriented FANTASIA/’40. But lightning didn’t strike twice. The sole classical item, in the prestigious second to last spot, is Prokofiev’s PETER AND THE WOLF. Running twice the length of the preceding 7-minute segments, it’s unexpectedly dazzling in a faux Folk-Russian picture-book manner, but its story & famous score have been culturally Bowdlerized, neutered in Disney’s post-WWII family manner. (And dumbed-down with a cloying narration from Sterling Holloway to coax the kids along.*) The best piece comes early, as some clever animating pencils, along with Benny Goodman & his Band lead a gang of bobbysoxers & their Jitterbugging dates thru Alec Wilder’s ALL THE CATS JOIN IN. Nothing else in here matches it for style & spirit, not even a second number with Goodman playing in his quartet. The rest is pleasant enough, but tame, sorely missing the awe-inspiring risks & ambitions of Walt giving his full attention.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY-I: You can see the FANTASIA connection most clearly by comparing this film’s wan BLUE BAYOU fantasy with the splendiferous original conception (at double the length) that pairs it with Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ in Leopold Stokowski’s impossibly lush orchestration. (Disney keeps pulling links to this stunner off the internet, but it keeps popping back up. So give it a Google.)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY-II: CASEY AT THE BAT and THE WHALE WHO WANTED TO SING AT THE MET should both work better than they do. Swapping the vocal talents of CASEY’s big-mouth comic Jerry Colonna and WHALE’s operetta-inclined Nelson Eddy could have made all the diff.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY-III: The current DVD edition lops off the original opening short, a goofy hillbilly feud number called THE MARTINS & THE COYS, for elusive reasons. Too violent? Too low-brow? Too HEE-HAW?
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY-VI: *Giving and Taking Away Department: While the rude original segment has gone missing, the DVD does include a 1935 Disney masterpiece, THE BAND CONCERT with Mickey Mouse in early anarchic mode. This is the Disney that Prokofiev & Sergei Eisenstein were so excited to meet when they visited the studio in the early ‘30s. It’s Walt & Co. without the filters on as musical cues crash into each other like something out of Charles Ives** and gags that retain a crude, rude, lewd barnyard bluntness. Mickey actually takes a ‘dump’ of strawberry ice cream (gross!) and a couple of horny goat musicians accidentally ‘play’ each others’ flutes! Or is it clarinets? Even worse! **Ives would have loved the ‘Turkey in the Straw’ vs Rossini’s Wm. Tell‘ overture routine. And so might have Shostakovich who does something similar in his final Symphony (#15), tossing in bits of Rossini’s overture at odd moments. Dmitri did a fair share of film composition, even an animated feature. Had he seen this?
CONTEST: Nelson Eddy sings all the parts (male & female) in the Singing Whale segment, but there’s something obvious missing in his excerpt from LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. Spot it to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of any NetFlix DVD.