The first of the Classic Disney Shorts series Silly Symphonies, "The Skeleton Dance", first appearing in 1929, —is certainly one of the earliest of the macabre type of toon. Did we mention it's also very catchy? It is noteworthy for being one of the earliest, if not the first, cartoon to be entirely musically themed and timed, with no dialogue whatsoever.
While many theaters refused to show it in its heyday, the short ultimately paved the way for future hits in the series, and the cartoon still holds up to this day. The animation was almost entirely done by Disney's then-right hand man Ub Iwerks, save for the xylophone bone bit that was done by Les Clark, as well as the Rooster that was animated by Wilfred Jackson, with the music composed by Carl Stalling (who suggested the idea of a fully musical cartoon to Walt) who would go on to compose for Iwerks in his own studio, and later on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of shorts.
The film would be remade in color by Iwerks for Columbia Cartoons in 1937 as "Skeleton Frolic." Though not a Shot-for-Shot Remake, as several new gags are incorporated and the character design is made considerably less creepy (not to mention the toon's entirely new soundtrack), the general structure is the same and much of the original animation is closely imitated.
Tropes Used By This Short:
- Animation Bump: Early on when the first Skeleton leaps at the "camera", and during the song when the teeth chattering skeleton zooms in at the camera.
- Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: One of the skeletons throws its skull at an owl and another pulls a stray cat by the tail so it can play said tail like a violin.
- Body Horror: A case where this happens with just bones: in their hurry to make it back into their graves at sunrise, the skeletons collide and morph together in a bizarre multi-limbed composite thing.
- Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: A rooster crowing tells the skeletons that it's time to be back underground.
- Dark Is Not Evil: These skeletons look scary but they aren't truly evil — one of them is even frightened by an owl.
- The Dead Can Dance: It's right there in the title.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a short about a bunch of skeletons who dance.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: After scaring the cats, one skeleton makes a skull and crossbones icon using his body while repeatedly biting the air, and then LEAPS AT THE CAMERA AND EATS IT.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the remake, there's a scene in which one skeleton gives another double middle fingers... three or four times.
- Instantly Defeathered Bird: One skeleton throws his head at the owl that spooked him. The impact causes the owl to lose all his feathers, except the ones on his head.
- Jerkass: They may not be evil, but a few of them are pretty mean. One throws its head at an owl that spooked it and another captures a stray cat and plays its tail like a violin.
- Jump Scare: Literally when the first skeleton jumps at the audience.
- Oh, Crap!: When the rooster crows, thus signifying that morning is coming, the skeletons freak out and rush back to their graves in a panic.
- Ominous Owl: One of them frightens the first skeleton... so it throws its head at the bird, knocking off all its feathers.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: At the end, the skeletons accidentally combine into a bizarre, Cyriak-esque bone creature with four heads stacked on top of each other.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: The short is based on the very real danse macabre in which people would dress as skeletons on a dark stage, making it seem as if actual skeletons were dancing.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Part of Carl Stalling's music is based on the staple Danse Macabre music cue and Edvard Grieg's "March of the Dwarfs." The rest of it, such as the part where the Skeletons dance together, is custom made music composed by Stalling himself.
- Rubber Hose Limbs: Even though they're bones. Rule of Funny and all that.
- Skeletal Musician: Using each other as instruments, even.
- Xylophones for Walking Bones: The skeletons dance to March of the Dwarfs by Edvard Grieg, which features xylophone in some parts. As seen in the trope's page image, one skeleton even uses another's vertebrae as a xylophone!