Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Band Concert

Puistokonsertti / Mikki ja orkesteri / Den stora konserten / Muntra musikanter / Konserten. US © 1935 Walt Disney Productions. P: Walt Disney. D: Wilfred Jackson. 1,37:1, Technicolor. M: Leigh Harline. - Ferdinand Hérold: Zampa. - Gioachino Rossini: Guillaume Tell: Ouverture / William Tell Overture ("Dawn", "Storm", "Ranz des Vaches", "Finale: March of the Swiss Soldiers"). - "Turkey In The Straw" (trad.). AN: Johnny Cannon, Les Clark (Mickey Mouse), Ugo D'Orsi, Frenchy DeTremaudan, Clyde Geronimi, Hugh Hennesy, Huszti Horvath, Dick Huemer, Jack Kinney, Wolfgang Reitherman, Archie Robin, Louie Schmitt, Terrell Stapp, Dick Williams, Roy Williams, Cy Young, Ferdinand Horvath. Voice talent: Clarence Nash (Donald Duck). S: mono, RCA Sound Recording. US premiere: 23 Feb 1935 - VET 49881 - S - 270 m / 9 min
    The band: Mickey Mouse (conductor), Goofy (clarinet), unnamed dog (trombone), Clarabelle Cow (flute), Horace Horsecollar (percussion), Peter Pig (trumpet), Paddy Pig (tuba). - In the poster, Gideon Goat plays the trumpet but is replaced in the film by a dog trombonist. - Donald Duck is the flute-playing lemonade, popcorn and ice cream vendor who crashes the concert.
    There is no dialogue in this musical animation.
    Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (History of the Cinema: early Technicolor, centenary of Technicolor) (pre-programme to Cocoanuts [1929, early sound]), 5 Dec 2015

Revisited Mickey Mouse's first colour film, the third film with Donald Duck, one of the most highly acclaimed Walt Disney shorts.

This early classic Walt Disney Technicolor animation belongs to the Mickey Mouse series but could equally be one of the Silly Symphonies.

Already the first shot is amazing: a distant shot of the park band and its audience, with many funny figures with simultaneous distinct movement patterns synchronized. We are invited to a world full of life.

Music was essential to Walt Disney from the start. Already many of his silents were based on a dance-like choreography, the rhythm of the movement synchronized by metronome. Playing instruments and dancing are fundamental activities of Disney's animated characters.

Mickey Mouse the conductor with the outsized coat and sleeves is able to manage his crazy band, but along comes the obnoxious Donald Duck the lemonade vendor who insists in playing "Turkey in the Straw" so persistently that the band is distracted.

The film is based on a twin conflict: Donald Duck vs. Mickey Mouse - and both of them vs. the tornado.

The main concept is a magnificent hyperbole: the outdoors park orchestra plays the "Storm" sequence of Rossini's William Tell Overture with such inspiration and abandon that an actual tornado materializes.

First we see leaves flying in the air, then giant clouds appear on the horizon. The twister emerges all of a sudden, devouring everything, even sucking some of the firm-looking ground. The park band audience is caught unaware, disappearing into the vortex.

Also the band is absorbed and jerked into the sky, but they keep playing without missing a beat, as if both conducting and being conducted by the formidable cyclone.

The rhythm of the sequence is based on Rossini's "Storm" part of the Overture, with a new gag at every beat. It is an avalanche of absurd and surreal inventions appearing so fast that the film needs to be seen many times to appreciate them all. Park benches move like horses. Three trees are palmed together with Donald Duck squeezed in between. When the tornado disappears and the musicians fall from the sky they land on the branches of a huge, crazy tree where they bring the "Storm" sequence to the conclusion. The only remaining audience member is the indestructible Donald Duck still eager to play his annoying flute.

The Band Concert is a beautiful expression of the profoundly animistic and magical essence of animation. The spirit of life is conjured in a way only available to animation.

Beautiful colour in this 1988 Mickey Mouse 60th anniversary re-release print.

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