Oh goody. Another segmented music piece. At least we’re away from the lecherous Donald for now.
Make Mine Music has a distinct Fantasia feel to it, yet I don’t know many people that are even familiar with the movie. Why was Fantasia so popular and Make Mine Music such an unknown? I’m not sure, but I suspect it might have something to do with the choice in music. Fantasia used many famous scores, whereas Make Mine Music tended more towards popular music of the time.
Indeed, the first segment, “The Martins and the Coys” was done by a popular music group of the day and depicts a pair of rival hillbilly households who kill one another down to the last man…. and woman. Inevitably, the two are smitten with one another and lay down their guns in exchange for wedding bands. This of course goes awry when they’re married and begin fighting again.
This segment is interesting for its depiction of the female character. Of all the Disney movies I’ve watched thus far, she’s in many ways the strongest female character to date: She’s comfortable with a gun and holds her own against the male. When they start fighting later, instead of becoming a wilting flower, she tosses him out leaving him flat on his face. Definitely no damsel in distress.
But there’s a secondary point that does weaken the character somewhat: She’s the only reasonably attractive character anywhere in the short. While everyone else is a toothless hick, she’s full figured and idealized. While strong, she’s still an obvious sexual object. Additionally, as this article points out, in pieces around that era, the beautiful women, while objectified, did at least tend to get the hot guy. Their hero would “be a Clark Gable or Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart – so it wasn’t all bad.” Yet in this short, the male interest is a goofy looking redneck (no offense to Goofy). In modern movies, the previously mentioned article explains why this happens: The goofy, awkward male is the audience stand in (and of course Hollywood is pandering to their main, sexist demographic). But if that’s the case, then what does that say about the intended audience of the time? They’re a bunch of hillbillies? Hmm….
The next segment, Blue Bayou, is set to tranquil music in some wetlands with some storks. For the first minute and a half, there is absolutely no cell shaded animation. Instead, it’s all panning around of the painted backdrops. This is very similar to the opening of Bambi which, while we were watching it, I’d commented that such things are a quick way to “pay your animators less”. Sarah misinterpreted it and assumed I meant it was a waste of budget. Not at all. It’s actually a way to save budget since panning around a still image is far easier than having to animate objects frame by frame. This technique is very frequently used in Japanese anime, which was originally inspired by American animation (especially Betty Boop). What makes it work is that it provides something to look at without having to have your animators do much work.
To be fair, there is some motion: It’s the relative motion of nearby objects to farther away ones due to parallax. But what this really meant was that there were just several layers of static images that were being panned around. During the intro on the Bambi DVD, there’s a brief note that they used a new piece of technology for the first time in that film that made doing such things relatively simple, hence, I can see what it was somewhat abused for awhile.
The third segment, All the Cats Join In, is perhaps the best example of pop music being brought in: It’s a story told to swing music about some teens going to a malt shop to dance. It’s an interesting segment because an animated pencil draws in various elements as the story progresses. At one point, a single boy is shown and the pencil sketches in a girl with a rather large derriere, which would no doubt be popular by today’s standards, but instead of accepting the body type, the boy yawns, forcing the animator to remove some rump, at which point the boy immediately accept her. The message: Better appeal to the male gaze if you want to join in with the cool cats.
The fourth segment was short. Much like Blue Bayou, it was emotional music set to video. The song is about a person missing a past lover, reminiscing about them through the letters they sent. It begins with a dreary scene of rain on a window, looking out into a willow near a river. At the end of the song, the skies clear and the willow becomes an ephemeral castle. I’ll leave you to figure out the message.
Casey at the Bat is the fifth segment. It’s the story of a big shot baseball player that, despite receiving several favorable pitches, waited for his third strike to swing whereupon he struck out.
Ballet is sixth. The segment is a silhouette of two dancers. Fun, if you like that sort of thing, I guess.
Seventh is an animated retelling of Peter and the Wolf. This piece sticks out to me because I remember it from elementary school where it was used to illustrate using various instruments for different purposes: Each character gets its own instrument. In the story, Peter wants to go hunt a big bad wolf with nothing more than a cork gun. Grandpa thinks it’s a bad idea since Peter can’t tell the difference between a wolf and a shadow. Regardless, Peter sneaks out, meeting a bird, a duck, and a cat along the way. Still, Peter and his anthropomorphized companions still manage to capture the wolf.
Another highly stylized piece is next. The title of the piece is “After You’ve Gone” and is a jazzy piece with animated instruments dancing around. This piece didn’t annoy me as much as many of the similar pieces. I think it’s because the color choices aren’t quite so retro.
Next up was the story of Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, two hats that were separated when purchased: Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. After being separated, Johnny searches for Alice. After fleeing his owner, he’s picked up by a hoodlum who starts a fight in a bar and Johnny is abandoned again only to be picked up by a carriage driver who plops him on one of his horse’s heads…. right next to Alice. Dawww.
The last segment is about Willie the Operatic Whale. Of all the things that stick out in my mind it’s obviously one tiny piece that almost no one would pay attention to: A quick picture of a whale skeleton. What jumped out with me as soon as I saw this was the vestigial hind legs.
What’s important about these? They’re a clue to the whale’s evolutionary history. Notice the limbs don’t even protrude from the body. They’re 100% vestigial. But what they are is legs. Or what’s left of them. Whales, as I think most people know, are mammals, not fish. But mammals evolved on land. As such, its should be no surprise that they have these legs as well as lungs (as opposed to gills).
It’s these bitty bones that are powerful evidence for whale evolution and in turn, evolution in general which is important given that a large percentage of the American population seems to think that changes as large as terrestrial mammals to whales can’t happen.
So that’s it for this week. Next week is Melody Time!