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Western Animation / Adventures in Music Duology

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That's where the music comes from!

Two interesting short subjects made during the late years of The Golden Age of Animation (or the beginning years of The Dark Age of Animation, depending on one's point of view), the Adventures In Music duology — Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom — are two popular 1953 shorts in the Classic Disney Shorts lineup. While they feature none of the standard Disney cast, they are noteworthy for three reasons:

  1. Melody was the very first cartoon to take advantage of 3D glasses.
  2. Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom was the very first cartoon short subject to take advantage of the then-new widescreen CinemaScope process (Disney's first feature film to use it was Lady and the Tramp, however).
  3. Both have very stylized animation, obviously riding off the sharp, flat UPA fashion of the 1950s.

Both shorts are well remembered for their catchy music and their striking layout and character design. However, Walt Disney himself disliked the animation of the shorts. Allegedly, they were both made by Ward Kimball while Disney himself was off in Europe. After Disney won an Oscar for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, he went up to Kimball and told him, "No more of this UPA crap." (Note that Walt was suspicious of artsy people like the UPA, many of whose artists had been involved in a 1941 strike at his studio.)

Both shorts are included on the Fantasia 2000 DVD, as well as the Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities DVD set. And of course, they had a second life providing shell material for the long-running Disney Sing-Along Songs videos.

These cartoons provide examples of:

  • Anthropomorphic Animal: The primary cast are anthropomorphic birds, dressed in human clothes and just as capable of using their wings as arms as they are of using them to fly.
  • Berserk Button: Do not interrupt Professor Owl's lessons.
  • Big "NO!":
    Professor Owl: Today we're gonna study about...
    Comics bird: Ancient history?
    Suzy Sparrow: Love and mystery?
    Penelope Pinfeather: Mathematics?
    Sporty birds: Acrobatics?
    Boy bird: Readin'?
    Girl bird: Spellin'?
    Bertie Birdbrain: Storytellin'?
    Professor Owl: NO! NO! NO!
    • Also in Melody:
    Professor Owl: The subject for today is melody!
    Bertie Birdbrain: A malady? Like when you get sick?
    Professor Owl: NO!
  • Big "SHUT UP!": In Melody, Professor Owl yells at the chatty housewives to be quiet.
  • Bookworm: Penelope Pinfeather, complete with glasses. Near the end of Melody, she angrily comments about how we never...
    ♫ No, we never, ever sing about braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains! ♫
  • Demoted to Extra: Students who had more prominent roles in Melody, such as Penelope Pinfeather, Suzy Sparrow, and the Canary Sisters, have greatly diminished roles in Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The ending of Melody.
  • Dunce Cap: Bertie Birdbrain wears one of these. Professor Owl knocks it over his head in both of the shorts.
  • Fat and Skinny: The "Plunk" caveman is accompanied by a short fat one who plays with a bow after his original bow is transformed into a hybrid of a harp and a violin.
  • First Gray Hair: One of the "Steps of Life" in Melody involves a middle-aged man plucking a gray hair from the top of his head.
  • Late for School: The opening of Toot... begins with Professor Owl hurriedly flying over to the schoolhouse and crashing into his desk, accompanied by a drumroll and cymbal crash. (This is also the iconic opening shot in the theme for Disney Sing-Along Songs.)
  • Limited Animation: In both shorts, most character motion is achieved by only having their limbs move but keeping their bodies rigid, even if they are flipping upside-down. This was in emulation of what UPA was doing with their shorts, and Walt was none too keen about this, and essentially punished Kimball by demoting him back to animator. (Although, he was later put in charge of directing the Tomorrowland episodes of Disneyland and some of the animated sequences on Wonderful World of Color.)
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: In the "Steps of Life" sequence in Melody: "Here comes the bride..." (Bertie Birdbrain: And there goes the groom!")
  • Mickey Mousing: The "Steps of Life" sequence is accompanied by several traditional songs, including "Rock-a-Bye Baby", "The Alphabet Song", "Far Above Cayuga's Waters", "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes", "The Wedding Chorale" ("Here comes the bride... and there goes the groom") "Home Sweet Home", "Happy Birthday to You!", "Silver Threads Among the Gold", "The Old Grey Mare", "Auld Lang Syne", and "Oh Dem Golden Slippers".
  • Never Say "Die": The eventual death of a human being at the end of the "Steps of Life" sequence in Melody is referred to as "[going] to our great reward".
  • Offscreen Crash: Happens to a Roman charioteer with a ridiculously long trumpet in the "Toot" segment, leading to the discovery that the shape of the trumpet doesn't affect its sound.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: If your cartoon features a classroom of anthropomorphic birds, what other bird would you have as the wisdom-dispensing teacher but an owl?
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Professor Owl often teaches his lesson using rhymes, a trait carried over to his portrayal in the Disney Sing-Along Songs series.
  • Running Gag:
    • Professor Owl seems to always hit Bertie Birdbrain on the head with his pointer stick whenever excited or angry, covering his dunce cap over his whole body in the process.
    • The strings breaking during the "Plunk" section of Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, usually destroying the musicians' headwear in the process.
  • The Runt at the End: The last character to sit down in Melody is smaller than the rest.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: The Canary Sisters, who often sing jazzy close harmonies together in the style of the Andrews Sisters and other girl trios.
  • Simpleton Voice: Bertie Birdbrain, the dunce bird.
  • Spelling Song: Complete with placards, though they are held up in reverse order:
    ♫ M-E-L-O-D-Y Melody! The subject for today will be a mel-o-dy! ♫
  • Supermodel Strut: Suzy Sparrow walks this way in Melody when going up to the chalkboard to sing "Lemon Drop Moon".
  • Talking Animal: The primary cast of the shorts comprises talking and singing birds.
  • Teacher's Pet: Suzy Sparrow.
  • The Vamp: Suzy Sparrow is the prettiest girl in the class with a husky voice, and the Professor even bats his eyes at her when calling her name during attendance.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The Runt at the End in Melody is a bass, whereas the rest are sopranos and tenors.
  • Walk Like an Egyptian: The Egyptians and Professor Owl do this to Toot's tune in Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom.
  • You Don't Look Like You: In Toot..., both Suzy Sparrow and Penelope Pinfeather were recolored. Suzy, who was mainly yellow in Melody was recolored pink. Penelope, who was a lighter shade of yellow, was recolored a golden shade of yellow.