Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SILLY SYMPHONIES - Revolutionizing the World of Animation

Revolutionizing the World of Animation

In 1929 composer Carl Stalling suggested an idea for a new cartoon series to Walt Disney, not based on a central character but on music. Walt seeing the potential of the idea jumped on it, and the Silly Symphonies were born. That were, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum, “more daring, quirkier and more diverse” than anything in the Mickey Mouse series. 

Silly Symphonies was a series of animated short films produced by Walt Disney Productions from 1929 to 1939. The original basis of the cartoons was musical novelty.

The series is mostly remembered as being a platform that Disney used to experiment with different processes, techniques, characters, stories and technologies for which the then-fledgling company could use to refine and perfect its animation style in order to further the art of animation; making the series a key part in aiding Walt Disney's efforts to expand into feature-length animated films.

Among the innovations developed and/or improved upon in the series are Technicolor (full-color) film making, true and believable character animation, special effects animation, and dramatic storytelling in animation. A total of 75 shorts were made between 1929 and 1939 while the studio was located at Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles.

Walt Disney once said,
“If I can help provide a place to develop the talent of the future,
I think I will have accomplished something.”


1. Independent characters
Unlike the Mickey Mouse series, to which it is a sister series, Silly Symphonies did not have recurring characters and each one was depicted as a stand alone production. Exception of The Three Little Pigs which had three sequels to their first cartoon, Donald Duck (The Wise Little Hen, 1934), and Pluto's first appearance without Mickey Mouse was also in a Silly Symphonies cartoon (Just Dogs, 1932). Characters such as Donald Duck were separated from the Silly Symphonies group to have their own cartoon series.

2. Disney’s animation platform
They did the first color cartoon, the first realistic human form, the multi-plane camera- the Silly Symphonies shorts were no platform for the company's famous recurring characters, but instead was all about experimenting with new techniques and styles of animation. Walt became fixated with using the newest technology for his films and doing it better than anyone else could, e.g. full-color Technicolor process, which would replace the previous, two-tone Technicolor process.

Despite this experimentation, this series proved to be very popular with audiences of the time, and soon most of the other animation studios produced a similar series... such as Warner Bros' "Merrie Melodies", MGMs' "Happy Harmonies" and Fleischers' "Screen Songs."

With the release of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 1937, this series had about run it's course for the Disney studios, and the series came to an end. But the technology and the techniques pioneered here are still in use today.

3. The best animated short films of all time
Over its ten-year run, the Silly Symphonies would go on to win Disney seven Academy Awards for best Animated Short Film and spawned numerous imitators, some of which (such as Warner Bros' Merrie Melodies) would go on to be major competitors with Disney.

4. Dramatic storytelling through synchronized music
Silly Symphonies theatrical cartoons are more than simply cartoons synchronized to music. The shorts relied heavily on music and synchronized sound was still a new and exciting development, that considered as highly artistic.

Flowers and Trees got Walt his first Academy Award in 1932. Flowers and Trees was also the first full-color cartoon. Silly Symphonies became Walt's testing grounds for new ideas. The multi-plane camera was first used in the Silly Symphony, The Old Mill. The techniques Disney, and his crew learned from the Silly Symphonies, were later put to use in, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

“We keep moving forward , opening up new doors, and doing new things...
And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney