Friday, April 3, 2009

Cartoon: The Band Concert (1935, Wilfred Jackson)

The Band Concert (1935)
USA, 9 min
Directed by: Wilfred Jackson
Starring: Clarence Nash (voice)

Mickey Mouse's first official outing in Technicolor {after Parade of the Award Nominees (1932), which wasn't intended for public release} was The Band Concert (1935), directed by the ever-reliable Wilfred Jackson. Like many of Mickey's cartoons, this one is basically a Silly Symphony featuring Disney's most popular character, with relative newcomer Donald Duck (voiced by Clarence Nash) having a few lines of dialogue. Being a cartoon built around an already-existing piece of classical music – Gioachino Rossini's "William Tell" overture, in this case – The Band Concert might be viewed as another important step towards the achievements of Fantasia (1940). Mickey plays the irritable conductor of a country band, who is determined to finish his song against all odds. His dedicated band of performers (including Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Peter Pig) continue playing despite the disruptions of Donald – who briefly confuses them into performing "Turkey in the Straw" – a mischievous bee, and a particularly violent tornado.

Donald is amusing, and the bee gags feel a little tired, but The Band Concert reaches full stride in its final act, when a performance of "Storm" from the overture seemingly conjures a real-life tornado. Building upon his work in the Silly Symphony The Ugly Duckling (1931), Jackson somehow turns this meteorological event into something operatic and almost apocalyptic. From the moment Mickey and his band commence this section of the overture, the mood of the cartoon subtly begins to change. Leaves begin to the whirl behind the musicians; the colours are slowly drained from the screen. With Mickey continuing feverishly to conduct the band, even with all this chaos being orchestrated around him, it almost seems as though he's also conducting the weather, suggesting the seeds of the "Sorceror's Apprentice" segment in Fantasia. In 1994, The Band Concert was rated the #3 American cartoon of all time, the highest-rated Disney release. For me, it doesn't beat The Old Mill (1937), but is still a very worthy effort.

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