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A Second Look: Make Mine Music
In 1946, Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador, and Robert Cormack released the musical anthology film, Make Mine Music, the eighth animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon. Starring Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Sterling Holloway, Andy Russell, David Lichine, Tania Riabouchinskaya, The Kings Men, The Pied Pipers, and The Ken Darby Chorus, the film has an unknown box office gross. It was also entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded Best Animation Design. It was also the last film from Walt Disney’s lifetime to be released on home video.
The film is divided into 10 separate musical shorts, similar to Fantasia. Featured are “The Martins and the Coys,” about the feuding families, “Blue Bayou,” an unused Fantasia segment set to “Claire de Lune,” “All the Cats Join In,” following a group of teenagers dancing around, “Without You,” about lost love, “Casey at the Bat,” in a retelling of the well-known story, “Two Silhouettes,” showing live-action silhouettes dancing to ballet music, “Peter and the Wolf,” adapting the composition, “After You’ve Gone,” with dancing instruments, “Johnnie Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet,” featuring a story of two love-struck hats, and “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” about a whale named Willie who can sing opera.
The third of Disney’s wartime package films, made due to many animators being drafted and so the company could stay afloat, Make Mine Music is a great musical film that presents a diverse array of styles. There isn’t any frame story, such as the film before it, but the film doesn’t need it as the overall vibe it gives off is the air of an eclectic concert. The most memorable segment is the final one, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” as it contains everything from humor and tragedy to intense and heartwarming moments. It’s interesting to see all of Willie’s humorous fantasies concerning his dreams to sing juxtaposed with Tetti-Tatti who has severe tunnel vision driving his actions. It’s notable though, Tetti-Tatti isn’t exactly a villain, he’s just misinformed and believes Willie's talent are cries for help. He’s got it in his mind to save people and won’t listen to anyone until he does.
However, where that segment may be the best, “Peter and the Wolf” follows close behind it with its very entertaining rendition and representation of Tchaikovsky’s piece. What really makes the segment so memorable is the personalities given to each of the characters. Sasha is hyperactive, Sonia is oblivious, Ivan is fearful and Peter is foolhardy and brave. There’s also the jumpiness and randomness found in the three hunters, who fire wildly into the air when startled.
“Casey at the Bat” is also really good in its showing how much of a local hero Casey was, garnering hero worship and everything. But its taking what the town thinks of him and letting it get to his head that does him in the end, seeing as he dramatically decides to let the first two balls fly through before he fails at making a dramatic hit.
The film also has a technically great segment, found in “Two Silhouettes.” Where Disney decided to make its hybrid section in the previous film totally strange and bizarre, it made use of a similar idea here, having silhouettes of live action ballet dancers dance with animated backgrounds. It’s a great demonstration for its time in that it shows how pairing live action and animation didn’t have to be strange and weird, like the early Alice comedies or The Three Caballeros, but could be simple, heartfelt and beautiful.
What really makes this film succeed with all the other segments is that none of them feel out of place or give the film a bloated feel. “All the Cats Join In” is a fun inclusion that works perfectly with jazz as the pencil drawing the visuals on screen help it to come off as a scene that’s being improvised by the seat of the animator’s pants. “After You’ve Gone” is also really fun, seeing the crazy situations anthropomorphized musical instruments get themselves into, such as a clarinet and bass getting into a wrestling ring only to be interrupted by the drums. Both had great music from Benny Goodman and the Goodman Octet that complemented the visuals quite well.
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