Make Mine Music

1946, Movie, NR, 74 mins

Review

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The first of Walt Disney's so-called "package films," MAKE MINE MUSIC is an uneven, but generally well done and entertaining, potpourri of 10 cartoons set to disparate musical styles, ranging from jazz to classical, and performed by such artists as Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters, Dinah Shore, and Nelson Eddy.

The first short is "The Martins and the Coys" (subtitled "A Rustic Ballad"), about a feud between two hillbilly families. Next up is "Blue Bayou" ("A Tone Poem"), sung by The Ken Darby Chorus and set to animation of egrets flying over a moonlit bayou. Benny Goodman provides the music for "All the Cats Join In" ("A Jazz Interlude"), featuring pencil sketches of teenage bobby-soxers jitterbugging at a malt shop. "Without You" ("A Ballad in Blue"), sung by Andy Russell, is an abstract piece with rain pouring down a windowpane which is reflecting changing colors. Jerry Colonna narrates the story of "Casey at the Bat" ("A Musical Recitation"), the famous poem about the mighty baseball player who strikes out. Dinah Shore sings "Two Silhouettes" ("Ballade Ballet") in which Tatiana Riabouchinska and David Lichine of the Ballet Russe perform. Sterling Holloway narrates the tale of "Peter and the Wolf" ("A Fairy Tale with Music"), accompanied by the classic Prokofiev score. "After You've Gone" is a visualization of the Benny Goodman number, with various musical instruments engaged in a dueling jam session. The Andrews Sisters sing the story of "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet" ("A Love Story"), about two hats in a store window who fall in love and try to reunite after being bought and separated. The closing segment is "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" ("Opera Pathetique"), with Nelson Eddy providing all of the voices for this story of a giant whale with an incredible singing voice who aspires to perform at the opera.

MAKE MINE MUSIC is subtitled "A Musical Fantasy in Ten Parts," which is a pretty good description of the film--a sort of pop version of Disney's FANTASIA (1940)--in that it utilizes animation in every way imaginable, in an attempt to illustrate music. The 10 segments vary wildly in quality, from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the overall result is quite enjoyable, and even at its worst, it's miles ahead of contemporary animation. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is how the styles of animation change in the individual segments, depending on the musical accompaniment and the tone of the story, demonstrating the range and versatility of the Disney artists. "The Martins and the Coys," "Casey at the Bat," and "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet" have a caricatured, exaggeratedly comical Tex Avery-like style; while "Without You," "Blue Bayou," and "Two Silhouettes" are intentionally, if not always successfully, arty, in a manner that's quite similar to FANTASIA.

The film's highlights are undoubtedly the two Benny Goodman pieces, "All the Cats Join In" and "After You've Gone." The former is a snappy, compulsively rhythmic number done in an innovative pencil-sketch style; while the latter is a stunning example of freeform surrealism, as trumpets, clarinets, pianos, and other instruments dance, and fingers on a keyboard turn into legs, and the piano keys soar through the sky. The finale is also quite amusing, with Nelson Eddy doing an excellent job as the voice of Willie the Whale, simultaneously singing tenor, baritone, and bass, in excerpts from "Shortnin' Bread," "The Barber of Seville," "Tristan und Isolde," and others. It's a tour de force performance, backed by some delightful animation--Willie wearing a giant clown's nose as Pagliacci, or breathing fire in "The Devil's Song" from "Mephistopholes." Although MAKE MINE MUSIC has never been re-released in its original form, its individual sequences were shown frequently as short subjects on Disney's various TV shows, with the Willie the Whale number proving to be so popular with children that it was issued separately on a Disney homevideo cartoon collection. leave a comment --Michael Scheinfeld

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