Well, we’re back to start off the new year with a few reviews of some of last year’s new physical media releases. And I’m going to start by branching out into an animated Disney film, something I haven’t done before (mostly because I think everybody has some knowledge of the animated Disney classics and I don’t have much else to say on the subject). I definitely wanted to do today’s film, though, since it features the vocal talents of Nelson Eddy, half of my Screen Team Of The Month! That, of course, makes it the 1946 package film Make Mine Music, which also features the talents of Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Andy Russell, Sterling Holloway, Tania Riabouchinskaya and David Lichine, the Pied Pipers, the King’s Men and the Ken Darby Chorus. Of course, due to the nature of the film, I’ll throw in a Table of Contents to help get to the various sections quicker, if you so choose!
Table Of Contents
- Theatrical Shorts
- The Main Feature
- My Overall Impression
Coming Up Shorts! with… Readin’ And Writin’ (1932)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)
Brisbane (Kendell McComas) doesn’t want to go to school, so he tries to get himself expelled. This one didn’t have a huge amount of plot to it, but it certainly was fun, with all the antics that Brisbane tried in order to get himself expelled. Admittedly, it’s not too original, sharing some similarities to earlier entries in the series with the kids’ answers and Miss Crabtree’s (June Marlowe) double-takes, plus the attempts to play pranks on her (that end up backfiring). Still, original or not, it’s a lot of fun (even if it is, from everything I’ve read, June Marlowe’s last appearance as Miss Crabtree)!
Coming Up Shorts! with… The Band Concert (1935)
(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)
(Length: 9 minutes,18 seconds)
Mickey and his friends are trying to hold a band concert in the park, but have to deal with the interruptions of ice cream vendor Donald Duck and a tornado. Essentially the first Mickey Mouse short done in Technicolor, this also helped Donald Duck on his way to becoming a star at Disney. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this one, but I can’t deny that it’s still a good one! Watching Donald as he tries to start playing “Turkey In The Straw” on his flute (and, in the process, dragging the rest of the band away from the William Tell Overture, which is what they were supposed to be playing) is a lot of fun! Of course, the relationship between him and Mickey is a bit more antagonistic, but that provides a lot of the humor here (as does the tornado which wreaks havoc on everything, but can’t stop the band from playing the song even as they get swept away). It’s an oldie, but a goodie!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Farmyard Symphony (1938)
(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)
(Length: 8 minutes, 13 seconds)
On the farm, all the animals wake up and start the day when the rooster crows. This Silly Symphony cartoon really has no plot, just an emphasis on music. Honestly, this is one of the few Disney cartoons I’m not overly familiar with. I’ve seen it a handful of times, but I recognize the footage that was reused in the later 1951 Chip ‘n’ Dale short Chicken In The Rough. I much prefer that later short with its humor (and particularly Chip ‘n’ Dale), but this one is fairly entertaining.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Music Land (1935)
(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)
(Length: 9 minutes, 36 seconds)
A war breaks out between the Isle Of Jazz and the Land Of Symphony when a princess violin (from the Land Of Symphony) falls for a saxophone prince (from the Isle Of Jazz). This is a fun cartoon, one that I’ve seen many times over the years. The music certainly helps set the tone here, with the more classical music for one group, and the jazzy music for the other. The methods of “war,” with the rulers essentially leading orchestras that shoot the music at each other is quite memorable. Again, I have a soft spot for this cartoon, and I know I always enjoy seeing it again!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Initially, Walt Disney started out with plans for a follow-up to Fantasia, which would have included some of the music that ended up in Make Mine Music. His plans were put on hold due to World War II, as well as much of his staff being drafted into the army/enlisted to help with training and propaganda films. As a result, he found himself with various ideas and stories that were either too long for theatrical shorts, or too short to be full-length features. So he decided to put these various ideas together into a package film of different segments with varying lengths. The movie itself was fairly well-received by audiences, although its initial theatrical run would be its only time in theaters. Some of the different segments were later reissued as individual shorts instead of getting a wide theatrical reissue for the whole film.
Due to the nature of this film, with its shorter sections, I will in some respects be treating them like my normal Coming Up Shorts! comments on theatrical shorts.
The Martins And The Coys
The King’s Men narrate this tale of a pair of feuding hillbilly families, the Martins and the Coys. The feud starts with a member of the Coy family stealing some eggs (and the Martins retaliating), and quickly almost all members of both families are killed off. Only one member of each family remains (Henry Coy and Grace Martin), and they fall in love with each other, much to the consternation of their deceased relatives watching from the clouds above. This one was new to me, and I will admit that I found the music to be fun, as was the story. Maybe not the absolute best part of this movie, but entertaining enough. This one admittedly has fallen prey to being censored by Disney, as they have removed it completely from the movie on home video in recent years. Most of what I read says it is about the gun violence (which is somewhat ridiculous, in my opinion, as I would say that the short’s ending with its domestic violence would seem more objectionable). Still, that does make it harder to see.
In this segment, the Ken Darby Chorus sings the song “Blue Bayou” as we watch a pair of egrets in the Everglades. Nothing really happens here, outside of watching one egret walking through (with the water rippling outward where it walks), so this one might be tougher to enjoy for those who prefer an actual plot or something happening. Apparently, this section was originally created to be part of Fantasia (or any of its originally planned future versions), with the Claude Debussy song “Claire de Lune” recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski’s direction. The animation stayed for Make Mine Music, but the recording of “Blue Bayou” was substituted in by the time of the film’s release. Not the most remarkable segment, but the animation is still beautiful to watch.
All The Cats Join In
In this segment, Benny Goodman and his orchestra provide the music for the song “All The Cats Join In.” The story has a group of teens that decide to get together at a malt shop and dance to the music from the jukebox. This one was quite entertaining, especially with some of the various characters, vehicles and places being “drawn” as the story continues to happen (with the kids driving off in their jalopy before the “artist” is even done drawing the car). The song is fun, and this is one of the better segments. Like The Martins And The Coys, it has run afoul of being censored by Disney (although in this case, it’s mainly some mild female nudity that’s been edited out, as opposed to the whole segment).
This segment features Andy Russell singing a tune as we see nature through a window during and after a rainstorm. Like the earlier Blue Bayou short, this one really doesn’t have any action going on. The animation is interesting, especially as we see nature through the rain falling down the window. That’s honestly the only redeemable part of it, as the song itself is rather forgettable (but mercifully short).
Casey At The Bat
This segment tells the story of “Casey At The Bat” from the poem by Ernest Thayer. Jerry Colonna narrates, as we see the people of Mudville cheer on their baseball star, Casey, hoping he will bring their team victory. I’ve seen this segment separated as a short on TV many times over the years, and it’s one I’ve always found fun (even more so after I saw Jerry Colonna in a few live action movies, like his appearances alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in a few of the Road movies). The story (even if completely true to the original poem) is entertaining and humorous, and as much a warning about being too cocky as anything. One I certainly love to see again and again (and therefore, one of this film’s better segments)!
For this segment, Dinah Shore sings the song “Two Silhouettes.” Onscreen, we have a ballet dance from David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya, who are animated via rotoscoping. It’s fascinating to watch this dance, even if it feels a little too simple compared to what other screen dancers could do with live action. But, I suspect, that is the problem, since the animators would have had to trace over everything, and so, to a degree, the simpler, the better for them. The title song is decent, and the combination of dancing and animation works pretty well. At least this one was more substantial than some of the earlier shorts in the film like Blue Bayou and Without You.
Peter And The Wolf
Sterling Holloway narrates this story of a little boy named Peter who goes out to hunt a wolf with some of his animal friends. I’ve seen this segment many a time (as its own separate short), and it’s always a lot of fun! The way they use the different musical instruments as part of the score to denote the various characters makes this one quite entertaining! Of course, Sterling Holloway’s narration is quite fun, too, especially as he tries to interact with the characters (not that they seem to hear him, anyways). Like I said, this segment is one I know I enjoy, and love to come back to every now and then!
After You’ve Gone
This segment features Benny Goodman and the Goodman Quartet playing the music. Onscreen, we see various musical instruments (led, in particular, by a clarinet) as they go through a musical environment. This is another one without much of a plot, and that’s a bit of a strike against it. The animation is fun to watch, especially when we have a pair of hands (which then turn into a pair of legs) play on piano keys. The music itself is fun, which adds to this segment’s charm. It’s still not a great one, but it’s entertaining enough for a few minutes.
Johnnie Fedora And Alice Bluebonnet
The Andrews Sisters sing a tale about two different hats. Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet are a pair of hats in a department store window who have fallen in love (until Alice is sold to a customer). When Johnnie has been purchased, he tries to find Alice, but keeps managing to miss her. I’ve seen this segment before via some of the various programs containing Disney shorts over the years. Until this viewing, I don’t think it sank in that it was the Andrews Sisters narrating, and their presence makes this fun short even better. It’s an entertaining little love story, with good animation and a lot of heart behind it. I know I still like it after all these years!
The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met
Ah, the moment I’ve been waiting for (and, as it’s the reason I’m including this movie as part of my Screen Team Of The Month blogathon for January 2022, it will take at least two paragraphs to talk about it). A whale is heard singing opera out in the ocean, making the headlines of newspapers and causing a lot of debate over whether it is really possible for a whale to sing. Opera impresario Tetti Tatti thinks that the whale has swallowed an opera singer, and sets out with a schooner and a harpooner to “rescue the opera singer.” The whale, Willie, actually can sing, and tries to audition for Tetti Tatti when he hears that the impresario is seeking him out. The schooner’s harpooners find themselves enjoying Willie’s singing, as he dreams of what it would be like for him to sing at the Met.
This is another segment that I’ve seen many a time since I was a kid (although it was the individual short, which had been retitled Willie The Operatic Whale, which I saw on a VHS). Even though it didn’t exactly have a happy ending, I will admit that I liked it as a child, and, seeing it again as an adult, I have even more respect for it! As a kid, I couldn’t have told you who Nelson Eddy was, and I certainly wouldn’t have known that all the whale’s singing was done by him. Now I know, which is what makes this short even better for me! I find it very impressive how they were able to use technology (some of which Nelson Eddy had been fiddling around with on his own) to allow him to sing in different voices, from bass through soprano. I’ll admit, seeing Willie the Whale as Mephistopheles was somewhat scary as a little kid (albeit not in a traumatic way, thankfully), and still is a little scary, even as an adult. Still, it’s an entertaining short that I’m glad to be able to see again!
My Overall Impression
This is probably one of the few animated Disney classics that I hadn’t really seen in its entirety until recently. Mostly, I had seen a few of the shorts through the likes of VHS and TV programs, but never in this form. For me, it’s easy to say that the shorts I was previously acquainted with are the ones that stick with me, especially Casey At The Bat, Peter And The Wolf, Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met. In particular, Willie The Whale is the one that I have the fondest memories of (to the extent that, even after many years of not seeing it, the music still easily gets stuck in my head, even after one viewing), and helps raise my opinion of the overall film completely on its own. Amongst those that I hadn’t seen before in their entirety, All The Cats Join In was the most memorable, with its fun little story and music. It’s a very inconsistent film in terms of its quality (hard not to be when it is comprised solely of various shorts not all done by the same people), but I still think it is worth seeing and enjoying!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney. The Blu-ray release is available exclusively through the Disney Movie Club (or, for those who can’t become members, it can also be found through other sellers on eBay and other sites). The pros about the Blu-ray: the transfer looks quite good, in my opinion, and, as indicated above, it has three classic shorts included as extras (a new thing for Disney Movie Club exclusives). The con: it’s the edited version of the film, missing the Martins And The Coys segment and the edited out moments from All The Cats Join In. This is particularly frustrating, as being a Disney Movie Club exclusive makes it that much harder to purchase, and is therefore going to appeal mainly to collectors (who would mostly prefer to have the entire, UNCUT film). As a result, the version of the movie included runs about one hour, eight minutes in length. It’s got the main parts that I like and enjoy, but I can’t deny that I would scoop up the full version if the release were fixed (and I hope it does somewhere down the line).
(Full) Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collection
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Dinah Shore
Remember The Night (1940) – Sterling Holloway
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