Silly Symphonies

film 58 of 61

Farmyard Symphony

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

I love this one! Beautiful backgrounds, lots of nice business up front. The rooster keeps things moving, but the incidental or secondary action is just as pleasing, even more so. This is a whole, complex location, and with it you also get the sense of an organic, interacting community of creatures. That’s further emphasized when Beethoven comes up on the soundtrack, thus kind of prefiguring the otherwise dire 6th symphony episode from Fantasia. Those mythical figures were, for all their otherwise awfulness, a collective protagonist. That vivid sense of community is completely realized in this film.

It’s interesting that the animals here are not too terribly anthropomorphized. There’s some pig frankness here, and it’s kind of nice—direct and unashamed, like a little child might be.

This Rossini cue really brings the music to our attention. Wagner, and that Wagner cue, follows. Here, at this late date in the series, is an actual advance, Disney-specifically, and in film generally. Film music studies refer to a handmaiden model (I’m remembering that the idea, or at least the phrase, originated with Kurt London, 1936). Classical film music is absolutely involved in trying to manipulate audience members. But it must never give itself away as it does so.

If you want to be grumpy about it, commercial films have too much furtiveness about them, too much sneakiness and emotional blackmail. But the cues and quotations and transformations in Farmyard Symphony jump right out in front, encouraging you to be aware of, to think about, to really interact with what’s unfolding before you. Modernism—making as much of the telling of the story as of the story itself. Modernism, or maybe good pedagogy, or courteous and committed interaction with your audience. Anyway, this one has the freedom and confidence and joy of a really good Warner Brothers cartoon.