Silly Symphonies

film 29 of 61

The Night Before Christmas

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 6, 2015

Here I am again. The less melodramatic, cartoon-lengthening conflict, the better. Here’s another very pretty establishing shot. I say that a lot, but it’s because they do that a lot. Details: there’s a diaper hanging on the mantel along with all those stockings.

This one really is for kids, not only broadly/vaguely, but in the particulars of the setting, of characterization, of the material, and the way it’s presented. There’s a source, obviously, but non-textual elaboration is one of the best things about the film. It comes in the form of a great digression in which we see terrifically imagined and executed toys playing around. (Including a few product-placement Mickey Mouses!) In 1933, when most audiences are still depression-ravaged, this probably provides a welcome bit of cave-of-wonders wish fulfillment. As such, Santa’s kindly generosity when confronted with the stocking with the hole at the bottom is quite sweet. (He inverts an umbrella, opens it, and starts pouring it on.) Still Arabian Nights, but now it’s not the morbid fantasy of the poor, but a warm hint of divine grace. You will doubtless notice this blackface joke.