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Saturday Matinee

Saturday Matinee #133, Kelvin Week: "Music Land" (October 5, 1935)

Published July 20, 2013

by Albert Gutierrez

Music Land Silly Symphony

Happy Kelvin Week! We're coming up on the home stretch that's celebrated all things Kelvin, as we learned about a cleverly hidden Mickey within the musical spectacular "Mickey's Philharmagic" and the catchy theme song to his favorite game, "The D Show." In addition, Kelvin Week wouldn't be complete without some trips to Wonderland, courtesy of the Mad Hatter and Walt's earliest cartoon adventures, starring Virginia Davis as Alice. Of course, we also cannot forget the two rascals Jaq and Gus, who peer down at you from afar inside Cinderella's Royal Table. They look just about ready to pounce down, in a friendly way, of course. Truthfully, while everyone else has been enjoying Kelvin Week here at From Screen to Theme, yours truly has been struggling to find words that would best describe one of Kelvin's favorite animated shorts, "Music Land."

Then again, maybe words aren't the best way to describe Kelvin's favorite Silly Symphony. After all, no words are truly spoken. Perhaps I should just channel Dolores Gray (or, more recently, Seth MacFarlane) once more and sing with gusto the immortal lyrics:

Music is better than words

You break the spell when you start to speak

That technique is all wrong

Just forget about words and sing her a song

Actually, perhaps that's the key to this week's Saturday Matinee. Rather than tell a story, sing a song. After all, if it can be done on Sunday Brunch, surely we can make a weekend of it and do it on Saturday Matinee! Set your YouTube players to "Music Is Better Than Words" and sing that melody to these modified lyrics...

Music Land Silly Symphony

Symphony's better than Jazz

Classy and stylish and oh so chic

Jazz technique is all wrong

They forget their meter to improvise song

But Jazz was made for romance

He sings a sweet song to his Belov'd

And the Lover knows this

For the sweeter the song, the sweeter the kiss!

Silly Symphony Music Land

But when they're found out they cry

And poor Jazz turns to blues

Nothing will stop love, oh my

And their song is their own small way

To go out and say, "We're not amused!"

War and the fight go to waste

As the parents say "I love you"

Taking cue from their wards

Music is better than words!

War and the fight go to waste

As the parents say "I love you"

Taking cue from their wards

Music...

Music is better

Music is better than words!

Music Land Silly Symphony

"Music Land" epitomizes the entire intent of Walt's "Silly Symphonies" series. The experimental nature of the shorts often led to many pieces that looked pretty, but offered no story. After all, these shorts provided a training ground for what could be achieved in the actual art of animation. The oft-told tales would point to human movement getting guinea-pigged in "The Goddess of Spring," while "The Old Mill" showcases Walt's newest toy: the multi-plane camera. "Music Land," on the other hand, shows just how far music itself can go. Dialogue is not spoken, but played. Any words would come from the puns regarding music and the story: Land of Symphony, Sea of Discord, Isle of Jazz, Bridge of Harmony. These are all musical terms, with the latter providing some nice nods to the literal and musical meaning of bridge.

However, one of the reasons that "Music Land" works so well is not in its use of music, but in some of the intricately-designed backgrounds. The animators provide great attention to detail when designing both lands. They take every opportunity to show a musical note, whether it be petals on a flower, benches in a park, even patterns on the balcony. Such attention gets used in the characters' anthropomorphication. We don't just see a saxophone with appendages and eyes, we get a youthful boy in love, who just happens to be a saxophone. He looks most natural among the characters, despite such obvious instrumental designs.

Silly Symphony Music Land

"Music Land" also tackles the age-old conflict between generations. Classical music, as represented by the Land of Symphony, is shown to be structured, straight, but still grandiose. Their organ pipe cannons are all uniform, shooting strict black notes. Conversely, the Isle of Jazz represents the more modern movement of music of the time. Suddenly we get bright, colorful, and curved instruments, which shoot bright, colorful, and curved notes. The short portrays Jazz as a very free and flexible style, one which seems to relish the potential for music. Of course, there's room for both styles (and then some) to co-exist peacefully. But think about how some of your parents may hate your music, just as you may think some of theirs is extremely old-fashioned. Music evolves constantly, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Each generation has a style, an artist, a song, that defines them. Nobody should expect it to just stall and stay that way for the rest of all time. May things that we consider "timeless" become that way because they're not presented in such ways anymore.

Bridge of Harmony Disney

"Music Land" first appeared on DVD as a bonus short for the 1946 package film Make Mine Music, which received a "Gold Classic Collection" release in 2000. The following year, it appeared among the selection of "Silly Symphonies" in the Walt Disney Treasures set of the same name. The short's latest appearance would occur in 2005's "Classic Cartoon Favorites, Volume Six: Extreme Music Fun." Of the three, only Make Mine Music remains in print.

 

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