This journal article deals mainly with the series of films entitled Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, and aims to address the cliche that when portions of the plays are removed in order to make the films, the works are simplified or "dumbed down" to the point where the quality is almost completely sacrificed. It suggests that a better way to analyze the films is to examine them as films, and not as literature, and therefore acknowledge the omissions but still treat the work as a whole. In addition, this reading sees these cuts as necessary to enhance the cinematographic needs of the medium, and the choice of animation brings these valuable and culturally significant stories to a new generation.
The article goes on to cite Walter Benjamin and Sergei Eisenstein's early writings that see animation as significant and important, and claim that it serves as the experimentation necessary for the progress of cinema as a whole. A primary example of Disney's experimentation with anti-realism, according to the article, is the "Silly Symphonies" series of short animated films. The author sees experimentation in various aspects of the film, including "self-reflexivity, technical innovativeness, violation of natural spatial-temporal rules, and violence," and cites other writings which claim that part of the influence of the films lay in their ambiguous target audiences. The films were "not just children's stuff, and certainly not sugar-sweet. Whether they were for adults or children was indeterminate." It was the animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that ended this era of experimentation for Disney, and proved that cartoons could be respectable, even "antiseptic." While Warner Brothers continued to be edgy, Disney was now mainstream and accepted by the Production Code.
This article helps me prove the foundation of my thesis, that the Silly Symphonies began as experimental works that allowed Disney and its animators to try new technologies and new forms. It also helps me show that this experimentation led directly to the development of elements, like narrative, character differentiation, and others, whose perfection made the production of an animated feature-length film possible.
This article focuses on the animated depictions of the First World War, and examines the changes in these depictions of the conflict with time. Before America joined, the cartoons showed the conflict as a setting for adventure and larger-than-life characters. After the US joined, cartoons attempted to present sanitized views of the war, often going without references to actual events at all, or instead acted as documentaries aimed at adult audiences. It was after the war, however, when animation provided the perfect medium for "recasting" the events of the war in imaginative ways which stretched reality. These changes from a real to fantastical and magical view of the world are what fueled the view, and eventual marketing, of cartoons as entertainment specifically for children.
Many of Warner Brothers' series launched around the time of the Silly Symphonies, possibly to compete with the series' success, were among the realistic depictions of the war. They included Felix Turns the Tide and Bosko the Doughboy. In the former, grim battle scenes and relatively graphic imagery conveyed the "damage, confusion, and carnage" of the conflict. In the latter, while Bosko has a relatively elastic body, this fantasy element cannot save him from injury, as compared to other, earlier cartoons that show war as "consequence-free.
This article could be useful in my thesis in supporting the view of the Silly Symphonies as moral, simple, and dream-like, as compared to the brashness of Warner Brothers animated shorts where the humor lay in obviousness and reality. It also provides extensive fuel for comparison of the Disney works of the time to those of Warner Brothers and other studios, and puts all of these films in the context of wartime media, examining the differing morals and tones with which these underlying messages were presented.
The animated short Three Little Pigs is the focus of this paper; the author claims that this short was significant first for epitomizing the quality of Disney films in the 1930s, whose popularity can't be conceived of today. In addition, the author sees the film as crucial in character animation, paving the way for the enduring characters of the next decade. The narrative, indirectly, and the commercial success, more directly, enabled Disney's first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The article also discusses the technical achievements of the film, such as the difficulty in animating such similar characters and the effective use of color. The latter innovation, color, was used most effectively by including subtle tone changes with purpose, such as to reinforce the exhaustion of the wolf after trying to blow down the brick house by changing the colors of his face. Finally, sound was key to the film's success and influence. Written to illustrate a song that became a hit, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", the music helps differentiate characters. The character development was further aided by focusing on four characters, instead of the huge undifferentiated masses often featured in earlier Silly Symphonies.
Finally, the article addresses the metaphor of the story as two-pronged. The popularity of the film suggests the dormant, hopeful message that hard work alone will allow men to prevail even in times of doubt; this was an appealing message in the Depression. Second, audiences saw Walt Disney as a role model. It's possible that simple plots, like that of this short, helped Disney films maintain popularity over competing Warner Brothers series which today seem more appealing.
This article is key to my argument; it helps provide evidence that Three Little Pigs paved the way for Snow White and the future Disney style of creating feature-length films with the same character development, simple plots and positive, moral underlying messages that appealed to audiences.
This article is a review and discussion of four newly released double-disc sets in the “Walt Disney Treasures” series. The discs contain Silly Symphonies, and the author discusses how Disney used technology to gain a competitive edge over the Fleischers. Disney took more care in music and sound editing and synching, using a technique which enabled animators to listen to already-recorded music and effects and animate in synch with these soundtracks, while the Fleischers’ sound seems more like improvisation. And Disney signed an exclusive contract, giving him the only rights to use a new three-color Technicolor process that gave his films a “visual pop” unlike any others available.
This article discusses the technical care and expertise put into Disney short films. The article argues that the color, shading, draftsmanship, depth techniques, and expressivity of movement eventually used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were first used in Silly Symphonies like The Goddess of Spring and Three Blind Mouseketeers. The author also discusses the differences between Walt Disney’s television persona and behind-the scenes “persistent dissatisfaction,” claiming that whichever one considers, Disney’s efforts edged the country towards “greater technological feats.”
This article, while it does not mention Three Little Pigs explicitly, helps fill in some information about how Disney managed to employ technology to his favor, and the details of some of that technology, especially color and sound. It also shows how the Silly Symphonies served in some cases as proving grounds for new techniques that eventually emerged in full-length animated features, and echoes an often-expressed belief in Walt Disney’s quest for perfection through bigger and better technology.
The author discusses and forms theories as to the rules of fairy tale adaptation at Disney, especially related to the role of the child and the view of adolescents or adults, in a few of the Sillies including Babes In The Woods. He discusses Three Little Pigs specifically, but more as a contradiction to many of these trends. The pigs are pre-pubescent children, and while they are old enough to be without parental figures and have pin-ups, they still sing with high voices and dress like toddlers (except, of course, Practical Pig, who has photos of his parents and wears pants). Therefore the short takes place in the “self-contained infant world of play,” a fact echoed by the presence of the lean, hairy, evil wolf.
This article would be useful for my paper as evidence of the direct trend of the Silly Symphonies from experimental, even “anarchy” in animation, to standardization in the portrayal of fairy tales. But it also codifies the aspects of the adaptation process which are distinctly Disney and American, and shows how these aspects fall into the categories of characterization especially. Sound and color are also mentioned as methods for advancing animation and increasing the potency of the stories told in these short films.
This website provides an index, in chronological order of release, of what looks like all of the Silly Symphonies shorts ever produced. Each entry includes the characters featured, the names of the director, producer, animator, and author, the run time of the short, the release date, and, for many, links to watch the original cartoons. Many also have summaries and information about the cartoon's production, often including original film posters and other pertinent images.
This resource would be key for watching each of the Silly Symphonies, especially Three Little Pigs but also those before and after it. Watching the films in order also helps develop a sense of the trends in style and other aspects, such as use of color, sound, animation quality, and narrative and cahracter development. With reference to Three Little Pigs, the site includes key information such as the fact that the film won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject in 1934, was animated by Fred Moore, Norm Ferguson, Art Babbitt, Dick Lundy, and Norman King, and was released on May 27, 1933.
This is a blog entry, but it seems to be of high enough quality for use. Its thesis is that the Republican reading of hard times in Three Little Pigs, both the Depression of the 1930s and even today's housing crisis, is "undercut by various elements of subversion." Characterization helps to differentiate between the lazy pigs and the responsible pig, and these personas are echoed not only in the pigs' actions but the objects they use to decorate their houses. But the author argues that the lazy pigs are so likeable that the message is somewhat obscured, and hypothesizes that much of the Wolf's animosity and the pigs' fear may resemble the corporate structure and relationship between Walt Disney and animators. The primitive use of color contributes to the dream-like quality of Disney, a "surreal," sometimes uncanny vibe which contrasts sharply with how Warner Brothers cartoons, especially today, appear "secular, straightforward, unpretentious, urban, and ethnic.”
This resource would be helpful for showing the effective use of characterization. Its specificity in mentioning how characters are differentiated, through their actions, attitudes, and possessions as well as through color, would be useful. A new look at the short film’s allegorical power, namely, its relevance in today's US economy, is also interesting, as is its comparison of the dreaminess of Disney as compared to the reality of Warner Brothers animated shorts.