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Western Animation / A Symposium On Popular Songs

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"A Symposium on Popular Songs" is a 1962 animated short film (19 minutes) from Disney, directed by Bill Justice.

It is a wholly fictional lecture about the history of popular music, delivered by Professor Ludwig von Drake, Donald Duck's uncle. Ludwig the duck, addressing the viewer directly, claims to have himself invented every genre of 20th century popular music, starting with ragtime, and then going through 1920s jazz, 1930s big band numbers, 1940s crooners, boogie woogie, doo-wop, and 1950s rock. Each of these genres is illustrated by a song supposedly written by Ludwig.

This marks the only theatrical appearance of Von Drake.


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Tropes:

  • Art Shift: The segments with Ludwig are done in typical Disney hand-drawn style of the era, but all the musical numbers are done in Stop Motion.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: "Puppy Love Is Here To Stay" features a tall, thin lead singer, with a backup singer who is round and squat and barely gets to the tall guy's knees. The joke is that the tall guy sings in a high tenor while the little guy backs him up with a deep bass.
  • Blatant Lies: Besides claiming to have invented all of 20th century pop music, Ludwig says a lot of other nonsense. The opening shot has the camera gliding over the grounds of Ludwig's vast estate, with expansive grounds, a pool, and a lavish mansion. Ludwig opens the door to the viewer and says "Hello there! Welcome to my humble home!"
  • Exact Words
    Ludwig: They don't call me Pops von Drake for nothin'. Gotta pay me!
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  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: "I'm Blue for You, Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo" features the Bing Crosbyesque singer himself bouncing over the words of the title as they appear onscreen.
  • Genre Anthology: A sampling of pop music genres from the 1920s to the 1960s, presented in the form of original songs written In the Style of... various genres.
  • In the Style of...: Each song is an original composition performed in the style of a specific genre. Specific artists saluted include Helen Kane (1920s jazz in number "Charleston Charlie"), Al Sherman (songwriter for 1930s jazz and big band, as demonstrated in "Although I Dropped $100,000"), Bing Crosby (1940s crooners, in "I'm Blue for You, Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo-Boo"), The Andrews Sisters ("The Boogie Woogie Bakery Man" is a direct lift from "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"), 1950s pop ("Puppy Love Is Here To Stay" is based off of Paul Anka tune "Puppy Love"), and 1950s-early 1960s rock ("Rock, Rumble and Roar" is an obvious Shout-Out to "Shake, Rattle and Roll").
  • Match Cut: The 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression is shown by a businessman in a fancy suit reviewing the stock market ticker; cut to the same businessman in shabby clothes standing in a bread line.
  • No Fourth Wall: The whole cartoon involves Professor Ludwig addressing the viewer directly and talking about his supposed career in music.
  • Pauper Patches: Ludwig talks about how he lost everything in the Great Depression, saying "I was dressed in rags all the time. Even my clothes was in rags!" At that line Pauper Patches suddenly appear on his clothes, before disappearing.
  • Stop Motion: All the musical numbers are done with figurines in stop motion. This is a rare example of stop motion from in-house Disney animation. Director Bill Justice also made Noah's Ark, a wholly stop-motion Disney short.
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