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Western Animation / Silly Symphonies

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"Actually, the Silly Symphonies were started as an experiment. We used them to test and perfect the color and animation techniques we employed later in full-length feature pictures like Cinderella, Snow White and Fantasia."

Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies were a hugely popular and influential series of Disney short subjects from The Golden Age of Animation, generally themed around music and lushly animated fairy tales. They were a very important part of Disney's history, pioneering many of their animation techniques, as well as giving animators preparation for work in the feature-length animated films that the studio would later become famous for. The series would have a massive impact on the animation industry, inspiring many imitators, some of which would later evolve into future competitors for Disney, such as the Looney Tunes franchise. It also won seven Oscars, a record matched only by Tom and Jerry.

In some ways, Fantasia and its sequel could be seen as the successors to these cartoons.

Silly Symphonies brought along many imitators, including the Warner Bros. cartoon series Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, Max Fleischer's Color Classics, Ub Iwerks' Comi Color Cartoons, Columbia's Color Rhapsodies, Van Beuren Studios Rainbow Parade, Walter Lantz's Cartune Classics, and MGM's Happy Harmonies from former Disney employees Harman and Ising. The television series House of Mouse used the Silly Symphonies title for some of its new cartoons, but unlike the original cartoons, these did feature continuing characters. Disney also produced comic strips and comic books with this title.

On December 3, 2001, Disney released "Silly Symphonies" as part of its DVD series "Walt Disney Treasures". On December 19, 2006, "More Silly Symphonies" was released, completing the collection and allowing the cartoons to be completely available to the public. They are now available to stream on Disney+.



  • The Skeleton Dance: August 22, 1929, Walt Disney: The first of the series. The bulk of the cartoon was animated by Ub Iwerks, with one part (with a Skeleton playing a rib-bone xylophone) animated by Les Clark. One of the 50 Greatest Cartoons.
  • El Terrible Toreador: September 7, 1929, Walt Disney
  • Springtime: October 24, 1929, Ub Iwerks
  • Hell's Bells: October 30, 1929 Ub Iwerks
  • The Merry Dwarfs: December 16, 1929, Walt Disney


  • Summer: January 6, 1930, Ub Iwerks
  • Autumn: February 13, 1930, Ub Iwerks
  • Cannibal Capers: March 13, 1930, Burt Gillett: The lion was animated by none other than Floyd Gottfredson!
  • Frolicking Fish: May 8, 1930, Burt Gillett: The first cartoon that introduced continuous movements or "overlapping action" in animation, instead of the old stop-and-go movements.
  • Arctic Antics: June 5, 1930
  • Midnight in a Toy Shop: July 3, 1930, Wilfred Jackson
  • Night: July 31, 1930, Walt Disney
  • Monkey Melodies: August 10, 1930, Burt Gillett
  • Winter: November 5, 1930, Burt Gillett
  • Playful Pan: December 28, 1930, Burt Gillett


  • Birds of a Feather: February 10, 1931, Burton Gillett
  • Mother Goose Melodies: April 17, 1931, Burton Gillett
  • The China Plate: May 25, 1931, Wilfred Jackson: A creative retelling of the Willoware legend.
  • The Busy Beavers June 22, 1931, Burton Gillett
  • The Cat's Out: July 28, 1931, Wilfred Jackson
  • Egyptian Melodies: August 21, 1931, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Clock Store: September 30, 1931, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Spider and the Fly: October 16, 1931, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Fox Hunt: November 18, 1931, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Ugly Duckling: December 16, 1931, Wilfred Jackson: Based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Featuring Clarabelle Cow. A much more comprehensive, colorized version would be made in 1939.


  • The Bird Store: January 16, 1932, Wilfred Jackson: The last Silly Symphony distributed by Columbia Pictures.
  • The Bears and the Bees: July 9, 1932, Wilfred Jackson: The first Silly Symphony distributed by United Artists.
  • Just Dogs: July 30, 1932, Burton Gillett: Featuring the first starring role of Pluto (Mickey Mouse does not appear).
  • Flowers and Trees: July 30, 1932, Burton Gillett: First cartoon produced in full-color three-strip Technicolor. First cartoon to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
  • King Neptune: September 10, 1932, Burton Gillett: Featuring Neptune (mythology) as the "King of the Sea".
  • Bugs in Love: October 1, 1932, Burton Gillett: Last Silly Symphony shot in black-and-white.
  • Babes in the Woods: November 19, 1932, Burton Gillett: Featuring Hansel and Gretel.
  • Santa's Workshop: December 10, 1932, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring Santa Claus.


  • Birds in the Spring: March 11, 1933, David Hand
  • Father Noah's Ark: April 8, 1933, Wilfred Jackson: The "building the ark" music is an adaptation of Beethoven's Contradanse in C Major, WoO 14 No. 1.
  • The Three Little Pigs May 27, 1933, Burton Gillett: Featuring the namesake characters and the Big Bad Wolf; includes the iconic song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. One of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
  • Old King Cole: July 29, 1933, David Hand
  • Lullaby Land: August 19, 1933, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Pied Piper: September 16, 1933, Wilfred Jackson: According to "Too Funny For Words", the short was a flop.
  • The Night Before Christmas: December 9, 1933, Wilfred Jackson: A follow up to "Santa's Workshop".


  • The China Shop: January 13, 1934, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Grasshopper and the Ants: February 10, 1934, Wilfred Jackson: Based on a fable by Aesop. Pinto Colvig (Goofy) provides the voice for the grasshopper.
  • Funny Little Bunnies: March 24, 1934, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring the Easter Bunnies.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: April 14, 1934, Burton Gillett: A follow up to The Three Little Pigs. Was considered a failure.
  • The Wise Little Hen: June 9, 1934, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring the debut of Donald Duck.
  • The Flying Mouse: July 14, 1934, David Hand
  • Peculiar Penguins: September 1, 1934, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Goddess of Spring: November 3, 1934, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring Persephone and a version of her uncle/husband Hades/Pluto, identified here with Satan. The Disney animators' first attempt to create visually realistic human characters, although the short was considered a flop.


  • The Tortoise and the Hare: January 5, 1935, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring Max Hare and Toby Tortoise. Won the 1935 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
  • The Golden Touch: March 22, 1935, Walt Disney: Featuring Midas and Goldie the elf. Also the last short Walt ever directed, due to how much he loathed it.
  • The Robber Kitten: April 13, 1935, David Hand: According to "Hollywood Cartoons", the short was considered a failure when released.
  • Water Babies: May 11, 1935, Wilfred Jackson
  • The Cookie Carnival: May 25, 1935, Ben Sharpsteen: A homage to the Atlantic City boardwalk parade and bathing beauty contest (what eventually became the Miss America pageant) of the 1920s and 30s. Pinto Colvis (Goofy) provides the voice for the gingerbread man.
  • Who Killed Cock Robin?: June 26, 1935, David Hand: Includes caricatures of Mae West (Jenny Wren), Bing Crosby (Cock Robin), Harpo Marx (the cuckoo, appropriately), and Stepin Fetchit (the blackbird). Named by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best films of the year. Academy award nominee.
  • Music Land: October 5, 1935, Wilfred Jackson
  • Three Orphan Kittens: October 26, 1935, David Hand: Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Cock o' the Walk: November 30, 1935, Ben Sharpsteen
  • Broken Toys: December 14, 1935, Ben Sharpsteen


  • Elmer Elephant: March 28, 1936, Wilfred Jackson
  • Three Little Wolves: April 18, 1936, David Hand: Another follow up to The Three Little Pigs. Another failure.
  • Toby Tortoise Returns: August 22, 1936, Wilfred Jackson: Featuring Max Hare and Toby Tortoise. It is a sequel to "The Tortoise and the Hare". It's also one of Disney's most cartoony short subjects, doing zany antics way earlier than in the Looney Tunes shorts that would make this style of cartoon famous.
  • Three Blind Mouseketeers: September 26, 1936, David Hand
  • The Country Cousin: October 31, 1936, David Hand: Won the 1936 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Mother Pluto: November 14, 1936, David Hand: Featuring Pluto the Pup mothering a number of newly-hatched chicks.
  • More Kittens: December 19, 1936, David Hand: A sequel to Three Orphan Kittens.


  • Woodland Café: March 13, 1937, Wilfred Jackson: Contains animator Ward Kimball's first animating assignment.
  • Little Hiawatha: May 15, 1937, David Hand: The last Silly Symphony distributed by United Artists.
  • The Old Mill: November 5, 1937, Wilfred Jackson: Disney's first use of the Multiplane Camera and the first Silly Symphony distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. Won the 1937 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.


  • Moth and the Flame: April 1, 1938, Burton Gillett
  • Wynken, Blynken, and Nod: May 27, 1938, Graham Heid
  • Farmyard Symphony: October 14, 1938, Jack Cutting
  • Merbabies: December 9, 1938, Rudolf Ising: Vernon Stallings Outsourced to Harman and Ising after the studio donated inkers and painters to the Disney studio to complete Snow White.
  • Mother Goose Goes Hollywood: December 23, 1938, Wilfred Jackson: Like Toby Tortoise Returns, this short is another Oddball in the Series, parodying the fairy tale stories of the series with caricatures of many Hollywood celebrities from the time period inserted into those classic stories. Academy award nominee.


  • The Ugly Duckling: April 7, 1939, Jack Cutting: Another cartoon version of the classical story, first animated in 1931, and the only Silly Symphony story to be made twice. Won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Tropes Related To The Series:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • The mother duck towards her Unfavorite in the 1939 version of "The Ugly Duckling".
      • The same could also apply to the mother hen in the 1931 version, although she later makes amends after the duckling rescues her chick babies from drowning.
    • After the boy mouse tries to fly with 2 leaves in "The Flying Mouse" 1934, he gets blown backwards and his rear end gets poked by the thorn. He then dives and falls in the bathtub and splashes his mouse mother and his mouse sister. After his sister's yellow dress shrinks. The boy mouse is embarrassed and tries to run away only to have his mother grab his tail and spank his exposed bare bottom until it turns red. Later on, when the mouse boy is granted bat wings, he flies down and knocks at the door only to have his mother mistake him for a bat and attack him with a mop and throw objects at him. After the boy mouse has the bat wings removed from him, he runs home, and his mother accepts him back. It's strange that the Mouse Boy's mother would suddenly love the boy mouse and hug him after spanking him earlier for ruining his sister's dress.
  • Accordion to Most Sailors: In the beginning of "King Neptune", a group of pirates was shown sailing across the seas and singing, before they notice a group of mermaids to kidnap. During their song, one of them was shown playing a concertina.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In Disney's version of the story, part of the Pied Piper's motivation to take the children away from Hamlin is to save them from growing up to be as selfish and corrupt as the adults who swindled him out of his reward money. Oh, and he doesn't leave out the crippled kid in this version either.
    • In the original story of "The Grasshopper and the Ants" the ants reminded the Grasshopper of his idle ways and left him to starve during the winter. In the Disney cartoon, the worker ants drop everything to care for the Grasshopper, and though the Queen Ant gives the same stern rebuke as in the original, she still offers shelter so long as he'll provide the music.
  • Alcohol Hic:
    • The jolly rum cookies in "The Cookie Carnival".
    • The country mouse, after drinking an entire cup of champagne
  • All Just a Dream: The ending of "Wynken, Blynken and Nod".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Elmer Elephant from the eponymous short is bullied by the other jungle animals for his big, goofy-looking trunk.
  • An Aesop: Due to the fairy-tale nature of many of the shorts, it was not uncommon to have morals attached to them.
  • Anachronism Stew: In "The Golden Touch"—it's very unlikely that they had hamburgers around in Medieval Europe.
  • Androcles' Lion: Hiawatha refusing to kill a rabbit saves his life later when a bear similarly tries to kill him, and the forest creatures who had witnessed his act of compassion come to his aid.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After the baby bird reunites with his mother in "Birds in the Spring" 1933, all is happy... then the baby bird is spanked to end the cartoon. To be fair, however, he kind of had it coming to him.
  • Animated Adaptation: Several shorts are based on pre-existing stories, including:
    • Mother Goose Melodies, Old King Cole and Mother Goose Goes Hollywood features a mashup of the numerous Mother Goose nursery rhymes, such as Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue, Little Jack Horner, Mother Goose, Old King Cole, and Simple Simon.
    • Playful Pan is loosely based on the myth of the Greek God Pan.
    • Birds of a Feather is derived from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme of the same name.
    • The China Plate is an animated retelling of the Willow Pattern Legend.
    • The Spider And The Fly: The title is based on John Heywood's poem "The Spider and the Fly" (1556), but the story is derived from the opening line of Mary Howitt's poem in ''Sketches of Natural History" (1834).
    • The Ugly Duckling: Notably adapted twice, first in 1931 and again in 1939 (although the latter is much more faithful to the original Hans Christian Andersen story).
    • Babes in the Woods: The title taken from the traditional English tale Babes in the Wood (or "The Children in the Wood", 1595), though the actual story of the cartoon is inspired by the Brothers Grimm's Hansel and Gretel.
    • King Neptune is loosely based on the myth of Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea.
    • Lullaby Land is based on several elements from the book "Love Songs of Childhood" (1894), later compiled into the omnibus "Lullaby Land Songs of Childhood" (1897).
    • The Night Before Christmas is based on the 1823 poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (AKA A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement Clarke Moore. Obviously, it and Santa's Workshop are based on the classic stories of Santa Claus.
    • Father Noah's Ark is based on the biblical flood in the Book of Genesis from The Bible (specifically, Genesis 6:13-8:14).
    • Three Little Pigs is based on the fable and fairy tale The Three Little Pigs (more specifically, Andrew Lang's take on the story for the "Green Fairy Book" (1892). The Big Bad Wolf is both a sequel to the previous short and an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault/Brothers Grimm. Three Little Wolves is partially inspired by Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
    • Water Babies is an adaptation of Charles Kingley's "The Water Babies" (1863).
    • The Pied Piper is based on the German folk tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
    • The Grasshopper and the Ants is based on the Aesop's Fables story The Ant and the Grasshopper.
    • The Wise Little Hen is a take on the Traditional story of The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat from A Child's Book of Stories (1911).
    • The Goddess of Spring is loosely based on the Greek Myth "Persophone and the Lord of the Underworld" in the Homeric Hymns.
    • The Flying Mouse is based on Jean De La Fontaine's "The Jay Dressed Up in the Peacocks Feathers" (1668), which was in turn inspired by Aesop's "The Bird in Borrowed Feathers".
    • Funny Little Bunnies is based on the story of the Easter Bunny, expanding the character into an entire colony of bunnies preparing eggs for Easter.
    • The Tortoise and the Hare is based on, obviously, the Aesop's Fable The Tortoise and the Hare.
    • The Golden Touch is based on the "Midas and the Golden Touch" Greek Myth from Ovid's The Metamorphoses.
    • Who Killed Cock Robin is a burlesque of the English nursery rhyme The Death and Burial of Cock Robin from Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (1744).
    • Three Little Kittens is based on Eliza Follen's 1856 nursery rhyme The Three Little Kittens.
    • Cock O The Walk is based on Jean de la Fontaine's "The Two Cocks" (1678).
    • Three Blind Mouseketeers is a mashup of the English nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice and the story The Three Musketeers.
    • The Country Cousin is based on The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Aesop.
    • Little Hiawatha is loosely inspired by The Song of Hiawatha.
    • Wynken, Blynken, and Nod is based on Eugene Field's 1889 childrens poem of the same name.
  • Animation Bump: Later installments of the series. After all, part of the modus operandi of making the cartoons was to pioneer animation techniques. More specific examples in the shorts are given below:
    • One scene in "Egyptian Melodies" has a background that moves in perspective—think the Dungeons from the first Phantasy Star, but fully animated. This footage was so impressive that Disney would reuse it for the Mickey Mouse cartoon "The Mad Doctor".
    • "Frolicking Fish" is a progressive example—during the making of the cartoon, animator Norm Ferguson accidentally discovered the principle of "Follow Through and Overlapping Action"—prior to this short, the characters started and stopped in a cyclish, machine-like way, but Norm animated it so that when the fish were stopping one action, they were already beginning another action, creating a very smooth, lifelike effect. You can see Norm's work on the trio of fish doing an old vaudeville soft-shoe dance in the short. Walt was so pleased by this that he had his animators study Norm's animation.
    • "Cock O' The Walk" is one of the most impressively-animated shorts in the series, featuring successful re-enactments of Broadway dance routines, tricky drawing angles, and LOTS of crowd scenes. The most notable work is by Bill Tytla, who animated virtually all of the scenes with the rooster and the pullet dancing.
    • "Three Orphan Kittens" has several backgrounds—complete with reflections in the floor tiles—that moved in perspective.
    • "The Old Mill" is the first cartoon to used the Multiplane camera for shots that depict depth, and boasts some of the most realistic character designs and effects animation yet devised.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: All the characters in The Cookie Carnival are, well, cookies.
  • Anti-Villain: King Midas from "The Golden Touch" arguably fits this category.
  • Art Evolution: The series initially started off with the standard-issue rubberhose limb art style of the time period, but life drawing classes gradually evolved the series into a more naturalistic, lively art style that would go on to define Disney.
  • Art Shift: A very mild example, but in the follow-ups to "The Three Little Pigs", animator Grim Natwick managed to bring some of the East Coast style of design into the shorts, as evident in the designs of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Wolves, which wouldn't look so out of place in a Fleischer cartoon. The girl from "Cookie Carnival" also has a Fleischer-esque look, due to her also being drawn by Grim.
  • Attempted Rape: In "King Neptune", the villainous pirates kidnap a mermaid and try to force themselves on her, but Neptune's sea creature minions intervene before anything can happen.
  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • Thrives in "Wynken, Blynken and Nod".
    • Played with in both the 1931 and 1939 versions of "The Ugly Duckling". The mother chicken in the 1931 version adores her chicken babies but is completely disgusted by the duckling whose egg somehow found its way into her nest. The 1939 version takes it even further when the ducklings hatch and the father is hugs and kisses all around, but then the Ugly Duckling hatches and his appearance alone is enough to cause a fiery marital spat between the duck parents.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: The mermaids in "King Neptune" are topless, but lack visible nipples.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Done in "Little Hiawatha" and earlier with the big vicious bear in "The Bears and Bees".
  • Beary Funny: The bear cubs in "The Bears and Bees".
  • Big Damn Heroes: Cupid pulls this in the end of "Who Killed Cock Robin"—an ironic example, as he was the one who kicked off the murder plot in the first place.
    • The dwarfs in "Babes in the Woods" pull this off in the nick of time, just before the Witch covered the girl in her transformation potion.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The end of "The Golden Touch". Sure, King Midas may have lost his entire kingdom and fortunes, but hey, at least he dosen't have the Golden Touch anymore so he can eat—AND he got his hamburger—with onions, no less!
    • "The Goddess of Spring" ends with Hades, who notices how visibly miserable Persephone is down in the underworld, compromising by allowing her to return to the above world for a good part of the year, in exchange for spending another part of the year down below from there on out (hence explaining why Spring only comes for part of a year).
  • Black-and-White Morality: Present in virtually all of the cartoons, as expected for Disney. The Golden Touch is the only one that seems to skirt away from this, due to its nobilist character being a smug, mischievous trickster who scares the greedy Midas into repentance.
  • Black Comedy: In the climax of "Who Killed Cock Robin?", when the three suspects are going to be hanged, the jury sings an eager ditty about hanging them, all to the tune of "The Farmer in the Tell".
  • Bowdlerise: Santa's workshop has two scenes removed from recent airings. The first one is the whole scene where he is testing dolls, due to featuring a black doll sayings "Mammy!", the second one is a jewish rabbi dancing in the toy parade.
  • The Boxing Episode: Two of them: "Cock o' the Walk" and, more obvious, "Toby Tortoise Returns".
  • Bragging Theme Tune: "The World Owes Me a Living" from "The Grasshopper and the Ants".
  • Breakout Character: Donald Duck, incidental character in "The Wise Little Hen", would become one of (if not THE) most famous and beloved characters in the Disney pantheon. And according to the book "Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories In Verse", Walt Disney even had the foresight to realize Donald could be his next big star, having press kits ready by the time "The Wise Little Hen" hit the theaters.
  • Broken Aesop: The moral of "The Flying Mouse" is to Be Yourself, but really the only reason the little mouse's wish didn't work out for him is that the fairy gave him bat-like wings that made him look scary to the other mice, instead of bird-like wings that he originally wished for.
  • The Cameo: Pluto (the character from "The Goddess of Spring") would make a cameo in a Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse comic, when Mickey was trying to call Pluto (the dog), who had been spirited away by a magic spell. This comic can be found in the book "Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories in Verse".
    • "Toby Tortoise Returns" has several cameos of characters from the Silly Symphonies series.
    • Some Silly Symphonies characters would also make cameos in the Mickey Mouse short "Mickey's Polo Team".
  • Camp Gay: Cupid from "Who Killed Cock Robin?", but only because of his exaggerated mannerisms, curly hair, beak modeled to resemble red lips, large eyelashes, effeminate voice, obsession with giggling, and making his entrance on a heart-shaped space formed by pink flowers. Aside from that, he barely qualifies.
  • Camp Straight: The angel food cakes in "The Cookie Carnival". Though their mannerisms are quite campy, they are competing for the affections of the Cookie Queen.
  • Captain Ersatz: It's quite possible that Tom and Jerry borrowed many elements of its shorts from "The Country Cousin", which features full pantomime action and slapstick, and its protagonist mouse bears a startling resemblence to Jerry in both appearance and personality. Also, Max Hare from "The Tortoise and the Hare" could be considered a prototype for the later Merrie Melodies character Bugs BunnyTex Avery even admitted that the idea for Bugs came from Max Hare.
    • Mammy Two-Shoes of Tom and Jerry also makes her first appearances in the short "Three Orphan Kittens" and its follow up "More Kittens".
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Babes in the Wood", the witch uses a potion to turn a child-turned-cat into stone. At the climax of the short, the creatures-turned-back-into-children use it to defeat her when she falls off her broom and into the cauldron containing it.
  • Child Hater: The witch in "Babes in the Wood" turns children into various animals and locks them up For the Evulz.
    "Lizards! Rats! Spiders! Bats! That's what I make of all little BRATS!"
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: From comments gathered from some sources, in old VHS releases of "Cock O' The Walk", the song used in the middle of the the short, "The Carioca", was dubbed out of those prints and replaced with a much more generic instrumental tune due to copyright issues. Fortunately, the original print and song was brought back for the Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies DVD set.
  • Cocky Rooster: "Cock o'the Walk" is about two roosters getting in a boxing match over a hen. One of them is the current page image.
  • Colorful Contrails: Perhaps the Trope Maker, the Silly Symphonies version of "The Tortoise and the Hare" has Max Hare leave a blue streak when he runs.
  • Country Mouse: Used in "The Country Cousin". Abner Mouse even provides the page image.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster for "The Moth and the Flame" depicts the flame as a ghostly and unpleasant-looking character. In the actual short, the flame is much more charismatic, taking the form of a man with a brilliant smile trying to seduce the female moth.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: In "The Goddess of Spring", Pluto (god of the underworld, not Mickey's dog) celebrates kidnapping Persephone by singing a jazzy Villain Song about how he'll make her "Queen of Hades". The song includes imagery such as a bunch of imps dancing around a pit of hellfire, and an imp gleefully playing an Ominous Pipe Organ.
  • Cuckoo Clock Gag: The 1931 short The Clock Store, being set in a clock store, naturally has a few gags involving cuckoo clocks.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Toby Tortoise is pretty much hopeless against beating Max Hare in "Toby Tortoise Returns"—it's only when Max Hare stuffs him full of fireworks and firecrackers and accidentally turns Toby into a makeshift rocket that the turtle finally gets the upper hand.
  • Damsel in Distress: A staple for the series. Such examples are in "The Moth and the Flame", "Elmer Elephant", "The China Plate", "The Flying Mouse", "Flowers and Trees", "Music Land", "Peculiar Penguins".
  • Dem Bones: "The Skeleton Dance", obviously.
  • The Determinator: The flame from "The Moth and the Flame".
  • Digital Destruction: A very mild example—in the Treasures sets, there are some mild hints of DVNR every now and again, but you usually have to look for it to notice. Also, the aforementioned VHS edit of "Cock O' The Walk".
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Arguably the entirety of "Wynken, Blynken and Nod".
  • Disney Death: Done in the end of "The Busy Beavers".
  • Disney Fication: The fairy tales presented are toned down from their source material. Justified, as Walt claimed in one interview that times and tastes were changing and the stories couldn't have been presented as they originally were.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Pied Piper, from the eponymous short, is so angered at being swindled out of his money, that he uses his music to take the town's children away forever.
    • It's not really disproportionate as his primary motivation was to spare the children from growing up to be as selfish and corrupt as the adults of Hamlin.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In Who Killed Cock Robin?, the crow (who is supposed to be a Stephen Fetchit caricature) is dragged out of the bar even though he said he didn’t do anything, hit with a billy club a whole bunch of times, and then hit even more when he says he didn’t see anything on the witness stand!
  • Double Entendre: In "Toby Tortoise Returns", when Toby is knocked out of the ring and falls onto Jenny Wren's lap and needs some, er, encouragement:
    "I like a man that takes his time."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Demonstrated in "The Golden Touch" (where King Midas is forced to give up his kingdom—castle and all—just for a hamburger) and the 1939 version of "The Ugly Duckling".
  • Easter Bunny: "Funny Little Bunnies" is a classic example of this.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: In a feat that would be echoed 63 years later by Disney, "The Goddess of Spring" flanderizes Pluto (the Roman god of the underworld, not Mickey's dog) from a merely fearsome but noble being into an ersatz for Satan, although despite this he's still good enough to let her to leave for half the year when he sees how unhappy she is.
  • Evil Living Flames:
    • In "Elmer Elephant", after being bullied for his unusual appearance, Elmer finds a good use for his trunk when Tillie Tiger's house catches fire. The flames chase Tillie and the other animals around, but are thwarted when Elmer arrives and shoots the flames with water, although one flame manages to dodge the blasts of water a few times before getting put out.
    • "Flowers and Trees": When the evil tree tries to burn down the forest out of jealousy over the protagonist tree getting the girl, the fire is represented as little impish flames chasing the forest's denizens around and setting things alight. They're put out when a flock of birds starts up a rainstorm, but not before the flames tackle the evil tree, killing him.
    • In "Moth and the Flame", a female moth sees a flame on a candle, which comes to life and tries to grab her. The flame soon sets fire to the costume shop, leading a male moth to try to put out the fire himself, then call in reinforcements when his efforts turn out to be futile.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: The short "Merbabies" has a circus parade scene where aquatic animals appear in the roles of typical circus animals. There are carriage-pulling seahorses, octopuses lumbering like elephants (with one tentacle acting as their trunk), crabs swinging in a cage like apes, and a catfish with black and orange stripes roaring like a tiger.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: The eponymous character of "Playful Pan" is a goat-legged satyr with a magical flute that can make animals, plants and even clouds and flames dance.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: As depicted in "Hell's Bells" and "The Goddess of Spring".
  • Food Porn: The feast the Wise Little Hen makes from her corn harvest. It's lampshaded in the sung narration.
  • Foot Bath Treatment: At the end of The Grasshopper and the Ants, the ants let the starving and freezing grasshopper into their home. They provide him three buckets of hot water, two for his legs and one for his abdomen.
  • Forced Transformation: "Babes in the Woods" has the witch use potions to turn her captive children into all sorts of assorted creatures. They get better in the end, thankfully.
  • Funny Background Event: In "Santa's Workshop", in the first minute or two, if you look in the background, you can see er...reindeer chocolate being scooped out of one of the stalls.
  • Garnishing the Story: Done in "King Neptune", with pirates.
  • Genial Giraffe: In "Elmer Elephant", the titular character befriends Joe Giraffe, an elderly giraffe who wears several collars. The elderly giraffe empathizes with Elmer for being teased by the other animals, as they used to tease him as well. He and the pelicans also assist Elmer in putting out a fire that breaks out at Tillie Tiger's house.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Practical Pig's lie detector works a little too well, as he learns the hard way when the contraption punishes the first two pigs for lying about them not swimming and he tells them, "This hurts me worse than it does you!"
  • Good Is Dumb: Toby Tortoise, although its arguable whether he's genuinely stupid or just slow to act.
  • The Grim Reaper: A golden version of him appears in the climax of "The Golden Touch".
  • Hammerspace: In "Toby Tortoise Returns", his small shell is demonstrated to be able to hold himself, a mouse-trap, dozens of fireworks and firecrackers, and a diving helmet.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: In "Elmer Elephant", the guests at Tilly Tiger's birthday party sing this song to her.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Hansel and Gretel (or their counterparts thereof) come across one in "Babes in the Wood".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Demonstrated in "Flowers and Trees", "Toby Tortoise Returns" and "The Practical Pig".
  • Inflating Body Gag: In "Peculiar Penguins", the female penguin swallows a pufferfish whole, then finds herself expanding uncontrollably as the fish puffs up inside her.
  • Instrument of Murder: In "Music Land" the Land of Symphony shoots weaponized musical notes out of giant cannon-like organ pipes and the Isle of Jazz does the same with brass and woodwind instruments. The notes impact like small cannon balls.
  • Ironic Echo: From "The Golden Touch", "Give me gold, not advice!" comes back to bite King Midas in the back towards the end of the short.
  • Karmic Trickster: Goldie the Elf from "The Golden Touch".
  • Latin Lover: Invoked in "The Moth and the Flame." The flame takes the form of a seductive man who tries to win over the female moth by dancing to some Latin-sounding music.
  • Like a Surgeon: Near the end of Broken Toys, a surgery situation plays out when the toys are sewing button eyes onto a blind doll.
  • Marry Them All: Suggested in "The Cookie Carnival" when the Cookie Queen is choosing her king from a wide pool of suitors and has rejected each one in turn.
    Judge 1: We've tried our very best to find a king for you.
    Judge 2: But you've said no to every one, what can we do?
    Judge 1: My advice would be, marry me!
    Judge 2: No, me!
    Judge 3: No, me-e-e-e-e!
    Judge 1: Perhaps you'd better marry all three!
  • Mickey Mousing: Part of why the series was made was to take the sound and animation mixing of Steamboat Willie one step further.
  • Misplaced Wildlife:
    • "Elmer Elephant" has African animals (a giraffe, a hippo) living together with Asian animals (tigers, bears). Elmer himself could be either an African or Asian elephant, but the design doesn't specify.
    • "Peculiar Penguins" features pufferfish, which swim mainly in tropical waters, in Antarctica.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: Featuring in a china figure of the three Good Little Monkeys (no relation) in "The China Shop".
  • Ms. Fanservice: Parodied with Jenny Wren from "Who Killed Cock Robin?".
  • Noah's Story Arc: "Father Noah's Ark", naturally. It shows Noah's family and the animals building the Ark, then riding out the flood.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Jenny Wren from "Who Killed Cock Robin?" is a shameless caricature of actress Mae West — but was such a successful caricature of her that Mae herself praised it! Cock Robin might be a caricature of the then-popular crooner Bing Crosby. The crow from the short is also a caricature of black actor Stepin Fetchit, and Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers is caricatured here as a cuckoo bird.
    • "Elmer Elephant" has a throwaway gag with three pelicans doing a Jimmy Durante impression.
    • "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" is build around caricaturing movie actors as nursery rhyme characters. Katharine Hepburn as Little Bo Peep, Laurel and Hardy as Simple Simon and the pieman, W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, and so on.
    • The King of the Isle of Jazz in "Music Land" is based on bandleader Paul Whiteman, known as the "King of Jazz".
    • "Broken Toys" has caricatures of Zazu Pitts, W.C. Fields and Ned Sparks as discarded toys.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The tribes people in Cannibal Capers aren’t actually cannibals. They only put one of their own in the pot because they thought he was a turtle.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: All right, many birds have a protruding breastbone, and sometimes Jenny Wren looks like that. Most of the time, though, she looks like, well, Mae West.
  • Officer O'Hara: Parodied in "Who Killed Cock Robin?" Also seen with the police doll in "Broken Toys".
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In "The Goddess of Spring", one part of the big Villain Song features a mook playing a pipe organ that floats on, and spews out, clouds of brimstone.
  • Ostrich Head Hiding: In The China Shop, an ostrich figurine sticks its head into the base it is standing on when the Satyr starts throwing dishes. Its exposed legs and neck are promptly sliced through by a plate and it reassembles into a shorter bird.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different:
    • "King Neptune" features a group of classic, "beautiful women above waist, fish below waist" type mermaids who playfully frolick and tease their King.
    • The Merbabies from the eponymous short are half-baby, half-fish with childlike personalities, who are apparently born from and turn to sea foam, and are friends with various sea creatures.
  • Palate Propping: Zig-zagged in "Peculiar Penguins". The penguin props open a killer shark's mouth with a stick—so the shark just swims after him with his mouth wide open, swallowing the penguin whole, and an entire school of fish with him. Then the shark stops swimming as he tries close his jaws again, but before he can break the stick, the penguin and all the fish just swim out his mouth to freedom.
  • Parental Bonus: In the 1939 remake of "The Ugly Duckling", the ugly duckling hatches and looks very different from the mother duck's other ducklings. The father duck and mother duck immediately start arguing in quacks while pointing at him, and the father duck eventually storms off in a huff, implying that he believed the ugly duckling to be the result of the mother duck cheating.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In "The Goddess of Spring", the Devil/Hades feels enough love/compassion towards the titular goddess to ask her what he could do to stop her crying.
    • At the end of "The Ugly Duckling" (the 1939 version), the mother duck appears to be happy that the "ugly duckling" found his family, and gives him a friendly wave goodbye.
  • Pets as a Present: At the end of "The Night Before Christmas", the blond toddler sees a gift tagged for "Junior" and excitedly opens it, revealing a Scottish terrier in a striped sweater.
  • Pint Sized Kids: All of the children in "Babes in the Wood".
  • Playing Sick: This is how Peter Pig and Donald Duck get out of helping the Wise Little Hen plant and harvest her corn.
  • Predators Are Mean:
    • The octopus in "Frolicking Fish", the hawk in "Birds Of A Feather", the titular spider in "The Spider And The Fly", the cat in "The Bird Store", the crow in "Bugs In Love", and the Big Bad Wolf in the "Three Little Pigs" series.
    • Averted in the original "The Ugly Duckling", where ducks eating a worm isn't portrayed negatively.
    • Crossed with Protagonist-Centered Morality in "Birds In The Spring" and "Peculiar Penguins", where the birds trying to eat their prey (a grasshopper and a fish, respectively) are portrayed sympathetically, while the predators trying to eat those same birds (a snake and a shark, respectively) are portrayed as the villains.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The figurines in "The China Shop" end up so wrecked by the end that the shopkeeper is aghast when he walks in. In a subversion, he chooses to market everything as "Rare Antiques" and double their prices instead of bothering to repair them.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack / Standard Snippet: Often featured in the cartoons. For example, the fish softshoe number in "Frolicking Fish" uses the song "Heinzelmännchen" (March of the Mountain Gnomes) by Richard Eilenberg.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: "Mother Pluto" is a Silly Symphony In Name Only. The music is there almost by compromise, it plays exactly like Pluto's previous appearances, and his official solo series launched the next year. Pluto had starred on his own, as the first time without Mickey Mouse, in another short in this series: Just Dogs.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: "Cock O' The Walk" is a collection of Broadway dance routines WITH CHICKENS!
  • Regal Ruff:
    • Amusingly, in the short The Golden Touch, King Midas' cat wears one, implying that Midas is so rich that he's able to afford such a fancy accessory for his pet!
    • In the Silly Symphony Music Land, the Queen of the Land of Symphony wears one. Fitting, as she is a rather strict, uptight ruler.
    • One is also worn by the Queen Ant in The Grasshopper and the Ants.
  • The Remake: "The Ugly Duckling", originally released in 1931, was a fun little action short, that had almost nothing to do with its inspirational source. Eight years later, the 1939 version completely revamped the art and the story to be both more believable and more faithful to the original tale; by being one of the most polished shorts, it effectively served as the series' Grand Finale.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Not uncommon in the shorts.
  • Rubberhose Limbs: Mostly in the early shorts.
  • Santa Claus: Gets two shorts to himself: "Santa's Workshop" and "The Night Before Christmas".
  • Satan: A very cartoony version of him appears in "Hell's Bells".
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In the climax of "Birds in the Spring".
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Plot!: So when Toby Tortoise was knocked out of the ring in "Toby Tortoise Returns", why didn't the match automatically go to Max Hare?
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The country mouse goes back home after being chased by the cat that lives on his city cousin's house and almost surviving the dangerous streets when fleeing it.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The "Nothin' But a Nothin'" song from "The Flying Mouse" demonstrates this:
    You're nothin' but a nothin', a nothin', a nothin', you're nothin' but a nothin', you're not a thing at all!
  • Shout-Out: In the shorts "Midnight in a Toy Shop", "Birds of a Feather", "Egyptian Melodies", "Santa's Workshop" and "Three Orphan Kittens", a character will shout "Mammy!" as a gag.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • In "The Cookie Carnival," the cookie queen picks the sweet gingerbread man over all the other cookies and cakes.
    • "Elmer Elephant": Tuffy Tiger and his gang are a bunch of jerks who make fun of the sweet-natured Elmer because of his long nose. Tillie Tiger, on the other hand, is first willing to kiss Elmer on the cheek for bringing her flowers for her birthday, and then kiss him on the lips for saving her life from a fire.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: The 1931 Ugly Duckling short is a Type 1 (In Name Only) adaptation, while the 1939 adaptation is a Type 4 (Near Identical Adaptation).
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Metaphorically depicted in "Music Land", with its feud between classical music and jazz. This was a case of Truth in Television for its time: in the 1930s, there were fans of classical music and fans of jazz, and they were often each disdainful of the other; classical fans viewed jazz fans as slobs, while the latter called the former snobs.
  • Standard Snippet: The parade scene in "Lullaby Land" uses "The Patriotic March" as its music.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: In "Music Land", the saxophone prince of the Isle of Jazz and the cello princess of the Land of Symphony are these.
  • Stock Footage: "Egyptian Melodies" has some animation of a hallway moving in perspective that would later be reused in the Mickey Mouse cartoon "The Mad Doctor".
  • Super-Speed: A trait of Max Hare from "The Tortoise and the Hare".
  • Ten Paces and Turn: Little Hiawatha tries this in order to work up the courage to shoot a rabbit with a bow and arrow, silently reasoning that it's because the rabbit isn't thusly armed to defend itself. The rabbit terrifiedly dropping his bow tells Hiawatha otherwise, and he abandons the attempt.
  • Tentacled Terror: In "Frolicking Fish", the antagonist is an octopus that tries to catch and eat the other, happy, dancing sea creatures.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivered to the mouse in "The Flying Mouse", although it's more of a Reason You Suck Song.
  • The Twelve Principles of Animation: The series was important in developing and refining these principles.
  • Threatening Shark: Seen in "Peculiar Penguins".
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: This happens with both furry and non-furry animals, including the following such as:
    • The Hobo Cookie from "The Cookie Carnival", who turns red in the face after kissing the Cookie Queen (who's now real and no longer a gingerbread), when he realizes they're being watched. He grabs a lollipop and they kiss once again while trying to hide behind it, but they can still be seen since the candy part is transparent and their literal heated passion causes it to melt at the end.
    • The grasshopper from "The Grasshopper and the Ants", who is blue from the wintry cold as he's caught in a blizzard and he trudges through the snow, seeking shelter.
  • The Unfavorite: In "The Ugly Duckling"...well, guess.
  • Anti-Villainous Breakdown: King Midas goes through this in "The Golden Touch" when he discovers everything he touches will turn to gold.
  • Villainous Crush: "The Goddess of Spring" revolves around this.
  • Villain Song:
    • "You're Nothin' But a Nothin'" from "The Flying Mouse", where the mean bats mock the titular mouse. This song is very short in the actual cartoon, but it was expanded into a full song and released on record. The full song is overall less malicious than the cartoon version, though. Most of the song is simply retelling the story of the cartoon. Even when it gets to the chorus, where the bat (just one bat in this version) mocks the mouse, he also says that being a bat is "a silly and a dumb thing," implying that even HE doesn't like himself the way he is.
    • "Hi-De-Hades" from "The Goddess of Spring", in which Pluto crowns Persephone "Queen of Hades", and he and his mooks celebrate.
    • In "Lullaby Land", the boogeymen sing a quick song about how they scare children.
  • Visual Pun: In "Cookie Carnival", we get a glimpse of two figures representing the Devil's Food cake—they being actual devil-like figures.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Usually played straight, but averted with the protagonist of "Egyptian Melodies", who is a spider. A innocent, rubber hose style spider, but still a far cry from the species' usual role of antagonist in other shorts.
  • Wheel o' Feet: A proto-example is featured in "The Tortoise and the Hare".
  • Wicked Witch: The primary antagonist of "Babes in the Woods".
  • Woodland Creatures: Would often pop up in the shorts.
  • Wraparound Background: Seen during the Toy Parade sequence of "Santa's Workshop".
  • You Dirty Rat!: The rats in "The Pied Piper".
    Rats! Rats! We gotta rid of the rats!
  • Zany Cartoon: "Toby Tortoise Returns", arguably one of the earliest examples, even predating Tex Avery's landmark short "Porky's Duck Hunt" by a year.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Silly Symphony


A Sweet Makeover (The Cookie Carnival)

The hobo cookie giving one of these to the cookie girl (who was already kind of cute) so she can enter in the parade with a presentable look.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheMakeover

Media sources: