JSTOR: Music Educators Journal: Vol. 32, No. 5, p. 18-19. April 1946
This article analyzes the use of music in animated cartoon movies, contrasting its use with that of live action films. Since animated movies are more exaggerated and are filled with constant motion, a composer needs to make his music do the same. Rodriguez begins by examining the role of music in movies more generally. He defines the difference between a screenplay with music and a musical by stating that screen plays use music to enhance the emotion of a scene or clarify a point to the viewer, but they keep the plot is still the central focus of the movie. In musicals, however, the plot can be completely swept to the side to make room for a musical number that has little to do with the actual story of the movie but is there for pure entertainment.
Because cartoons are by their nature based in fantasy rather than reality, Rodriguez states that a composer working on a score for an animated movie has a much greater task ahead of him than if he were working on a live action film. The actions of the animated characters are timed down to the frame, which is 1/24th of a second. In order to fit the action perfectly, then, a composer must change his frame of reference from the usual beats per measure approach to beats per frame. This argument seems to work for live action as well, since in the end everything is broken down into frames to be projected, but Rodriguez claims that synchronization of action with music in live action films is coincidental and unlikely while it is “almost a rule of life with animation composers.” (p. 19) The music must be constantly active and moving, simply because the characters are. A good composer must know how to make his music as humorous and exaggerated as Donald Duck of Goofy but also be able to convey the tenderness and emotion found in many animated films. Rodriguez specifically mentions Dumbo, Bambi, and Pinocchio in the latter category.
Although the subtitle of the article reads, “Will ‘Cartoon’ films have a place in music education?” the author only mentions music education in passing in his last paragraph. He laments that not enough researchers or critics are writing about how well cartoons can teach music to children. His idea of music instruction is creating an animation that is didactic in nature, instructing children about notes, musical structures, harmonies, and other complicated elements of music that are not easily explained otherwise. The fact that music can be added to animation would only serve to illustrate the different sounds that would be taught in the animation. In my opinion, his focus on education is quite limited to high level music theory and could be extended much further. Rodriguez mentions Fantasia in a reference to animation set to pre-composed music, but he failed to note how the animation visually conveyed the different elements and tones in the music, making the music’s qualities apparent both to the ear and to the eye.