A Corny Concerto

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 13, 2015

This has an interesting structure, and it’s quite unusual. There’s a concert frame, a couple of classical musical numbers, lots of hi jinx in each and not much coherence across or between them. Wait! It’s a Fantasia take-off of course, and not a very respectful one. It starts off with a Fantasia-like silhouette. Except that instead of Deems Taylor, this is Elmer Fudd. The script forces him to say a whole mess of “r” words.

Now we have a rendition of Strauss’ “Tales From the Vienna Woods,” to the visual accompaniment of Porky Pig, hunting. In 1971 the great musical anarchist Spike Jones released a compilation album called “Spike Jones is Murdering the Classics.” Same, here. Except maybe that’s not quite right. Films like A Corny Concerto may seem like Roll Over Beethoven, just as Fantasia was seen by some as being a vulgar presumption. (Beethoven? You’ve got me there. Ponchielli? No, and never!) But maybe this is more like Igor Stravinsky, in pastiche mode. Seriously. These guys know plenty about older forms, and in most all of the arts too. Further, they love all that stuff. But they’re confident, and no kow-towers, and they’ll use this august material in the way that they see fit!

Bugs’ amazing balletic entry in this episode echoes Charlie Chaplin, simultaneously the supreme dancer and fighter, (really!) violently dispatching his foes with utter grace. It’s 1943, and Bugs isn’t quite finished evolving. But this moment is one of those clear harbingers of the immortality up ahead. The part where they all think that the squirrel shot them is quite elaborate, and very funny. Bugs’ death is something else! Especially the topper, in which the chest wound that he’s covering, and which is so dramatically revealed, turns out to be a brassiere.

Part 2 isn’t as good. It’s Strauss again, this time “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” It accompanies the Ugly Duckling story. Fairy tales are pretty deep, and they can provide a profound mythological and ethical shorthand. And they’re certainly a pretty frequent set of sources for these cartoons. But as we’ve seen with a lot of the Silly Symphonies, these cartoons don’t always do quite right by them. So, here. The last joke is good though! It’s challenging, trying to find that balance between what you’re really good at, and trying new things.