Silly Symphonies

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Introduction to Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 31, 2015

The Silly Symphonies were a series of 75 short cartoons produced and distributed by Walt Disney and his collaborators between 1929 and 1939. Their ostensible purpose was to celebrate the Coming of Sound to Hollywood, and to explore ways that it could be more thoroughly and effectively integrated into an entirely new mode of production. In this they were extremely successful, for all that they were a mixed bag in terms of ethics and entertainment value.

A lot of people tend to idealize Disney, in part because we swallow the line that they try to feed us. It’s to their financial benefit if we make them a one stop shopping destination for all of our family media needs. But you might not want to do that! (Are you sure those Disney channel movies will really improve the behaviour of your burgeoning teenagers?)

You might not want to do it exclusively, anyway. However, when we start to think of films as being more than just entertainment, or means by which we can indoctrinate our children, Disney, and these films particularly, start to reveal themselves in all of their rich contradiction, their contradictory richness. Following are a few perspectives on a lot of these films. See what you think. Counter-think too, and pull the kids in while you do so. Don’t let Disney win! Insist that they participate though …

Let’s communicate commercially for a minute. Disney will be glad that we’ve done so. You can buy these things! Here:, and here: As with so many Disney dvds, you are tempted to abandon hope the minute you enter in. Such a dizzying vortex of Disneying menus, an endless array of cross-fitness, horizontally integrated advertisements, urged with a brazen insistence that borders on the whorish …

Well look at that. I’ve gotten all carried away. But boy are their dvd menus annoying! The Silly Symphony dvds are chock full of terrific things, but there are some navigational longueurs, and it can seem that the often and otherwise excellent Leonard Maltin will just not go away. But popular culture afficionados and fun-seeking families alike will find much to enjoy and appreciate in these collections.