circa 1952:  American animator and director Walt Disney (1901-1966), whose name is synonymous all over the world with children's cartoon films, particularly those featuring Mickey Mouse, his first cartoon character. He is pictured during a visit to England for the filming of 'The Sword And The Rose'.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Silly Symphonies: The Oscar-Winning Disney Animation That The Studio Forgot
Testing grounds
The Walt Disney Company made history in the 1930s with the Silly Symphonies by giving the Hyperion animators a place to experiment in the medium and break new ground. Mickey and Minnie might have been the standout stars, but films like “Music Land” and “The Three Little Pigs” were brimming with creativity and passion.
Skeleton Dance
Following “Steamboat Willie,” Walt Disney began developing projects for Silly Symphonies and released its first film in the series: “The Skeleton Dance” by animator Ub Iwerks and composer Carl W. Stalling. Author Neal Gabler credits Stalling for the initial idea for doing the “Sillies” and the basic premise of this “musical novelty” full of fun innovations.
The backbone
A major shift occurred in the animation industry by the end of the ’20s, as its biggest players struggled to move from the silent era. Thanks to Iwerks’ skills and the new transition to sound, Disney would dominate ’30s animation, with “The Skeleton Dance” receiving an overwhelming response and proving the viability of the proposed musical series.
The Silly Symphonies’ pairing of visually stunning art with expressive orchestral scores won over audiences during this period of great uncertainty. Author Daniel Kothenschulte explained some worried about the loss of silent films and feared sound films would regress to theatrics, but he added, “Disney and his Silly Symphonies seemed like salvation.”
Power struggle
While Disney would prosper, it faced its share of internal issues once Walt began a partnership with Cinephone licensor Pat A. Powers after trying to arrange sound recordings for “Steamboat Willie” in 1928. Disney saw Powers as a “good-natured cuss,” but he was unaware of his duplicitous reputation and ignored the red flags of their partnership.