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Ink & Paint
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE DISNEY ANIMATED CLASSICS
Ink & Paint is a podcast journey through the Disney animated classics! Each week, host Daniel Lammin and a special guest will look at each film in the official Disney animated canon, and talk about their artistic, historical and social context. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss an episode! Have comments or questions for Ink & Paint? Record a message for Daniel right from your phone, and we'll try to use it in our next episode!

Episode 2: Early Disney Shorts Part 2 - Flowers and Trees, Three Little Pigs, The Old Mill
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Daniel and Melbourne-based director and producer Nicholas Colla continue with their look at the early Disney shorts with an Oscar-winning trio of Silly Symphonies, ‘Flowers and Trees’, ‘Three Little Pigs’ and ‘The Old Mill’, and how they would influence the feature films that followed them.

Host
Daniel Lammin
Guest
Nicholas Colla - Co-Founder, LateNite Films

Credits
Producer/Editor ∷ Alex Amster
Music ∷ Sam Porter
Show Artwork ∷ Nikolaos Pirounakis
Episode Artwork ∷ Lily Meek

Show Notes
In our first two episodes, we are looking at five of the animated shorts released by Walt Disney Productions before the release of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' in 1937. If you haven’t heard the first episode, make sure you go back and have a listen as we talk about the early days of the company, the debut of Mickey Mouse in 'Steamboat Willie' and the first of the Silly Symphonies, 'The Skeleton Dance'.

For our second episode, we’re continuing with three of the most important Silly Symphonies, significant for their commercial and critical success, and their groundbreaking technological achievements.

FLOWERS AND TREES (1932)
Two trees fight for the affection of a female tree, but when the ugly, gnarly tree loses, he sets the forest on fire. The flowers and plants try to put it out, but the birds eventually poke holes in the clouds and make it rain. The two trees in love get married.

'Flowers and Trees' was the 29th Silly Symphony, but was also the first commercially-released film produced in full-colour, three-strip Technicolor. It was originally developed as a black-and-white short, but when Disney was approached by Herbert Kalmus, the inventor of Technicolor, to test out the three-strip colour process with animation, he decided to have the film reshot.

The short was directed by Burt Gillett, who directed 15 of the Silly Symphonies and won two Oscars. It went wildly over-budget after the transition to colour and threatened to ruin the studio, but was an enormous success and afterwards, all Silly Symphonies were produced in colour (though it would be many years before the other Disney shorts would also be in colour). It also received the inaugural award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) at the 1932 Academy Awards.

Available on Disney+, on the two-disc Blu-ray Diamond Edition of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', and the very rare DVD release of Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies (2001).

THREE LITTLE PIGS (1933)
The story of the Three Little Pigs, who build houses out of straw, sticks and bricks, and how they escape the Big Bad Wolf.

'Three Little Pigs' was the 36th Silly Symphony short, and also directed by Burt Gillett, for which he earned his second Oscar. It was released at the height of the Great Depression and was a huge financial and cultural success. Its title song, 'Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?', composed by Frank Churchill (who would compose the music for many of the first feature-length animated films) was a hit single and became an unexpected anthem during the Depression. It also garnered admiration and attention for its well-developed plot and characters, and led to the formation of the story department, which would become integral to the animation process.

FURTHER NOTES ON THE MAKING OF THE FILM
  • Released at the height of the Great Depression, making $250,000 off a reported $22,000 budget.
  • Winner: Best Short Subject (Cartoon), Academy Awards, 1934.
  • A number of sequels were produced, but none were as successful. There was a seven-month story run in the Silly Symphony comic in 1936.
  • Entered into the U.S. National Film Registry in 2007.

CENSORSHIP
In its original version, the Wolf knocks on the door of the third pig dressed as a Jewish Peddler in an obvious racial stereotype. It was later reanimated and re-recorded with the Wolf as a Fuller Brush Man (a door-to-door salesman), being changed further for home video release to clarify the outdated reference.


Original ‘Jewish Peddler’ animation vs ‘Fuller Brush Man’ animation © Disney.

In years to come, the Jewish Peddler moment would be used in arguments that Disney was anti-Semitic, though many of his staff of Jewish backgrounds refuted this claim. The PAL release of the Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphony compilation retains the original Jewish Peddler animation.

Available on Disney+ and the very rare DVD release of Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies (2001).

THE OLD MILL (1937)
Animals living in and around an old mill must find safety when the mill threatens to collapse during a storm.

The Oscar-winning short 'The Old Mill' was the 68th Silly Symphony, released in 1937, and was directed by Wilfred Jackson, who would go on as a sequence director on the early feature films. Its purpose was to test and demonstrate the newly-developed multiplane camera process, a groundbreaking tool that changed the texture and visual scope of animation and would be used to great effect in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. Rather than risking the technology not working in the ambitious feature, Disney used the short to see if the process would have the effect he desired.

FURTHER NOTES ON THE MAKING OF THE FILM

  • Released a month before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
  • First Silly Symphony distributed by R.K.O. Radio Pictures, and to use a new Silly Symphony logo and titles design.
  • Winner: Best Short Subject (Cartoon), Academy Awards, 1937.
  • Incorporates realistic depictions of animal behaviour, complex lighting and colour effects, depictions of wind, rain, lightning, ripples, splashes and reflections, three-dimensional rotation of detailed objects, and the use of timing to produce specific dramatic and emotional effects.
  • Hayao Miyazaki has referred to it as his favourite Disney film.

Available on Disney+, on the Blu-ray Diamond Editions of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' and 'Bambi', and the very rare DVD release of Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies (2001).

THE MULTIPLANE CAMERA
The multiplane camera is a motion-picture camera used in the animation process, where pieces of artwork on transparent layers move past the camera at varying speeds and distances, giving a sense of depth.

An early version of the process was used in The Adventures of Prince Achmed by director Lotte Reiniger in 1926, and later developed further by Ub Iwerks for Disney in 1933. The process first tested in 'The Old Mill' was developed by William Garity, and used seven layers of artwork painted in oil on glass shot by a vertical and moveable camera. 'The Little Mermaid' (1989) was the last Disney film to use the process.

ON THE NEXT EPISODE
We begin our journey into the animated classics with the first feature-length animated film, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'.
RESOURCES

1Early Disney Shorts Part 1 - Steamboat Willie, The Skeleton Dance
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs3
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