Silly Symphony Celebration
A blast to the past
Do you remember those animated shorts that popped up on the Disney Channel when you were a kid? You know, the ones with little to no dialogue just symphony? There was actually quite a few of them but the series I’m specifically speaking of is Disney’s Silly Symphony. This series made Disney shorts like, Flowers and Trees, The Old Mill, The Ugly Duckling, and the unforgettable, The Skeleton Dance famous. Well, Disney brought them together for the D23 EXPO for a Silly Symphony Celebration. But, before I get into the deets, let’s look at why these films are so special.
Why Disney’s Silly Symphony Shorts are Special
There was something special about animation in the late 20’s into the 30’s. Emotion could transcend with just the sound of music. You not only completely understood the message of the film, but you felt it. Without musical scores, film as we know it would actually be pretty lacking. Shorts like the Silly Symphony series paved the way for epic cinematic soundtracks. And though we’ve come quite far since the 30’s with regard to well, everything, one thing I’ll never shake is the feeling I get when I watch these timeless classics. Not only do they take me back to the days when I visited my grandparents (who could afford the Disney Channel when it was by subscription only), but they remind me of one of my biggest inspirations in life, Mr. Walt Disney who, in the 1930’s was forging an epic career in animation, cartooning, acting and entrepreneurship. I as an entrepreneur myself often look to his legacy as many do for encouragement and motivation.
One of my favorite Walt Disney Quotes is,
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
So, when I was asked to join Disney at the Silly Symphony Celebration at the D23 EXPO I was pretty stoked. I hadn’t seen or heard the series in over 25 years and this was a live concert performance featuring a 32-piece orchestra to play the Silly Symphony music in its rare, true form. I mean just think on that. Not just from a musical perspective (which is detailed quite nicely here in this article from The Film Music Society). Think on it as an exclusive, rare event.
The Silly Symphony Celebration
Right away when I walked into the room I knew this was going to be a really cool show. The Silly Symphony graphic behind the orchestra illuminated the room from a digital screen. Film historian Leonard Maltin took to the podium to host the performance as music played in synchrony to digital screens that played timeless classics using high-quality, newly restored digital film masters.
You are the only people in the whole world experiencing this right now! -Leonard Maltin
The orchestra performed as it would have been recorded during those historic days at the Disney Studios on Hyperion Avenue in the 1920s and ’30s. They played to:
- The Three Little Pigs
- The Old Mill
- The Skeleton Dance
- Flowers and birds
- The Ugly Duckling
- and more
My Favorites from the Silly Symphony Celebration
My absolute favorites were The Old Mill, Flowers and Trees, The Skeleton Dance and The Ugly Duckling. So I searched YouTube for a few good videos of two of these shorts. That’s not to say I didn’t love every one of these because I do, but I couldn’t load them all onto this page.
You can watch The Old Mill here:
I loved The Old Mill because it makes your heart race. I remember during the performance I thought to myself,
This was the first scary film I ever saw.
To see it performed live was even more moving than ever before.
I loved Flowers and Trees because it is so joyful, so full of imagination, happiness, adventure and storytelling. You see the beginning play out all cheery and then the fire happens and it’s all dramatic. It’s just mind blowing how in tune our emotions are to music. Watching it totally made me feel like a little girl again.
Seeing The Skeleton Dance was totally a favorite too because, well, I’m into skeletons! And I have just the right amount of creepy in me to find comfort in bones (not to mention dancing ones). This was done before Disney started working with Technicolor and it really brings the nostalgic feels.
Still, the most moving and saddening of all the Silly Symphony shorts was The Ugly Duckling. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother now, because it never impacted me this way as a child, but this short was insanely riveting and heartbreaking. Watching a poor child be shunned by his momma was gut wrenching, and all through just the power of music.
You can watch The Ugly Duckling Here:
What’s pretty cool about all of this is Walt Disney Records is selling the Silly Symphony Collection box set, featuring the complete restored soundtracks from all 75 Silly Symphony shorts from 1929–1939, with over eight hours of music on 16 vinyl LPs. I think this is such a cool idea and would make a very special and unique gift. I’m saving my milk money for this collection myself along with their Legacy Collection of my favorite classics.
I would be lying through my teeth if I told you this performance didn’t get me teary eyed. You know you go through life being busy, evaporating time and just you know, doing life. It’s so easy to forget memories like this from our childhoods. Seriously, seeing and hearing the Silly Symphony Celebration warmed my heart for so many reasons. I will never forget seeing this performance. Ever.
A special thank you to Disney for sending me on an all expenses paid trip to the D23 EXPO where I saw this performance. This in no way shapes my opinion.
Do you have a favorite Silly Symphony or Disney short you’d like to share?