Disney By The Numbers: Make Mine Music (1946)

One Man, One Woman, Eight Decades of Disney Animated Features watched in order, and the overly complex system they invented to grade them. These are our thoughts, rants, and observations.

This is Disney By The Numbers.

makeminemusic


Like most of the package films, I saw Make Mine Music before I saw Make Mine Music. Because the film consists of a group of animated shorts, my first exposure to them was just as that, animated shorts. I’d seen’ Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet’, ‘Peter and the Wolf’, and ‘The Whale That Wanted To Sing At The Met’ through various Disney channel presentations or videos of compiled Disney shorts. However, I’d never seen it through from beginning to end.

It was only with our rewatch through Disney that either my wife or I finally did so. How did it stack up? How do you rate an opera-singing Whale? The numbers will tell.

Storytelling

  • Theme 0
  • Tightness of Script 1
  • Dialogue 1
  • Use of Comedy 1
  • Use of Drama 1

Like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros before it, Make Mine Music presents us with another anthology, but with a key difference. And no, it isn’t the lack of mind melting imagery; that would only make it different from one of these movies and not both. Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros both had framing devices used to set up each individual segment. Make Mine Music does away with this entirely and simply plays one short after another.

A true double edged sword.

While it avoids the occasionally boring narration of Saludos Amigos, it misses the cohesive and entertaining structure (at least at first) of The Three Caballeros. In the end, it winds up being a film that just sort of happens, but otherwise doesn’t really feel like it has much of a point.

This is only made worse because a handful of the shorts are simply music set to animation with no words and minimal story. Which makes the film feel like Fantasia’s Left Overs, and meals just never taste as good once they’ve had a chance to grow cold and sit on a shelf while the storytellers fight Nazis.

HARRISON FORD
Pictured: Disney Animator coming up with ideas for Make Mine Music (circ 1944, colorized)

Ultimately, most the shorts are fine.  However, none of them are especially funny, dramatic, or clever. Disney once sought to make men weep during their movies, now they barely put in the effort to make them care.

Total: 4/15

Music

  • Lyrics 1
  • Score 3
  • Number of Songs 2
  • Notoriety of Songs 1.5

I don’t want to dial up the snark level too high here, but a movie called Make Mine Music should probably have some music in it. And it does indeed, just not a lot of music your average Disney fan knows. Which isn’t to say any of the music is bad or obscure. The Opera Singing Whale has an entire number where he belts out ‘Largo Al Factotum’, one of the most recognizable opera  songs out there (It’s the ‘Figaro, Figaro’ for us uncultured types).  So it’s not as though the music is a no show.

I’d even argue that ‘Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet’ is a gorgeous underappreciated classic; maybe not as highly rated as something like ‘Part Of Your World’, or ‘Friend Like Me’, but still up there.

That said, most of the music is fairly forgettable, and actually a step down from previous efforts, even if The Three Caballeros was complete bonker balls.

Total: 7.5/15

 

Animation

  • Quality of Animation 1.5
  • Use Of Color 2
  • House Style2
  • Character Design 2
  • Breaks New Ground 0

It’s fine.   It’s just fine. It’s not breaking any new ground, it’s not aiming to be anything better than a Silly Symphony. When I first watched The Three Caballeros, not joking here, it made me angry with how over the top and crazy it was. But the more I’ve reflected on it, and the more times I’ve rewatched it, the more I appreciate it for the risks it took. They didn’t always pay off but it was at least interesting.

It just makes the animation in Make Mine Music seem really passe by comparison.

And I wish I could leave it at that but… there is one thing they do in this movie that I have to just… look. I have an issue with a certain form of animation. For the most part I’m not too picky about styles, the only reason “House Style” is even a category is because that Disney “look” is vital for that Disney feeling.

But this isn’t an issue with the film not meeting the usual Disney House Style. No, this is a much more serious issue.

It’s an issue with Rotoscoping.

It shows up in a short called Two Silhouettes and it’s… well it’s this…

makeminemusicrotoscop2

Just so we’re all on the same page, rotoscoping is a practice where an animator films a live actor, then trace over each frame. The result is an animation that just moves… wrong. There’s a fluidity and smoothness that just feels off. It’s often used as a cost cutting measure and it’s one Disney had already previously employed in Snow White.

The difference is that the animators in Snow White worked their darndest to mask it and used it very sparingly.

makeminemusicrotoscop

Snow White is the only character rotoscoped in the gif above, note that she moves seamlessly with the dwarfs. This is rotoscoping done right and one of the few times it was ever done.

Just for context here’s what rotoscoping often looks like in other productions

makeminemusicrotoscop1
“Take On Me…”

I’m not going to sit here and bash this movie, but just want to show that there is a scale on rotoscoping and generally speaking, the less noticeable it is, the better.

Why go on this little tangent? Because Make Mine Music contains an entire segment where the only animation is rotoscoped, done so in a way to make sure you notice it. This alone would make me want to trash the entire film but luckily for Make Mine Music,  it has a segment with an opera singing whale, so it sort of balances out.

Total: 7.5/15

Love Story

  • Character Interaction 1
  • Importance To Overall Plot 3
  • Complexity 1
  • Pulls At Heartstrings 0
  • Overcomes Obstacles 1

Think of the great romantic couples in Disney History:  Ariel and Eric, Belle and the Beast, Flynn and Rapunzel, Lady and the Tramp, Pongo and Perdita,  or Robin and Marion (wow, they were killing it with the canines for a while there). You’ll notice that I didn’t include any of the early princesses, that’s because none of them really had great romantic love stories. So, with that in mind, let me introduce you the to the original Disney Cinematic couple.

makeminemusichats
Can you feel the love tonight?

Yeah, they’re a couple of hats.

Specifically they’re Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet.

And let me tell you, in terms of wanting a couple to get together… they kind of rank pretty high. The short consists of a song detailing their romance and separation when they’re purchased by different owners. You legitimately feel for Johnny whenever he hears Alice’s refrain urging him to not give up hope; which is good for the final pay off.

So yeah, they’re just a couple of hats, but then again, there are plenty of terrible Disney couples that are full-on humans.

makeminemusicpocahontas
Tale as old as time, English colonist sent to kill Native Americans and the stacked 13 year old he fell in love with.

Total: 6/15

Hero

  • Sidekick 1
  • Charm 2
  • Goodness 1
  • Emotional Transformation 0
  • Comedy 1

Johnny Fedora is nice enough, but he’s just a hat and not a very active protagonist, and Willie the Whale is fun and entertaining… but there’s really no depth to him, he’s a whale, and he sings opera. Casey, from Casey at the bat is… an egotist who oozes unearned confidence… but he’s also a dolt.

That’s the problem with these package films, without a central protagonist, there really isn’t much time to develop a great hero. The last two films benefited from having Goofy and Donald subbing in and helping in that category, but this movie… this movie just suffers a bit from that lack…

Total 5/10

Villain

  • Evilness 0
  • Comedy 0
  • Sophistication 0
  • Henchmen 1
  • Poses A Threat 2.5

… but not as much as it does in the villain category! The only character that really fits in the villain role is Tetti-Tatti, an opera producer that mistakenly thinks Willie has swallowed an opera singer. He mounts a crew to harpoon Willie and… shenanigans ensue.

makeminemusicharpoon
See? Fun!

Interestingly enough, while Make Mine Music has our first real romantic couple, it also has another first in Disney Films. So not to spoil a movie that debuted over 70 years ago but that harpoon you’re seeing in the gif? That’s not just for show. Tetti-Tatti kills Willie in the end, making the producer one of the most successful Disney Villains of all time and making Willie the first Disney hero to actually full-on die, no take backs, in all of Disney History. Oh sure, they try to pave it over with a denouement about Willie singing in heaven, but he’s still completely dead by the end of the film, leaving it kind of a downer… and I know what’s about to happen is blasphemous but it must be done.

makeminemusicopera

Total 3.5/10

Supporting Characters

  • Comedy 1
  • Inventiveness 1
  • Clear Help Or Hindrance 1
  • Strength of Relationship with Main Character 1

Welcome to a relative rarity, especially this early on. Typically the secondary characters bolster a film, one could even argue that they have a tendency to overshadow the main characters. But here in Make Mine Music? Not so much. The supporting characters that stand out the most are member of Peter’s troupe, but none of them have speaking parts and don’t leave that strong an impression.

Total : 4/10

Disney Magic and Legacy

  • Theme Park Presence 0
  • Timelessness 1
  • Impact On Culture 0
  • Scope of Audience 1
  • Disney Feels (Or Did It Make us Cry?) 0

It’s impossible to say that Make Mine Music has left no footprint at all. When it comes right down to it, most Disney fans have seen at least parts of it. And those parts are largely good. But other’s are the very definition of forgettable. Blue Bayou disappears from your memory before it’s even over, same goes for After you’re gone, and Two Silhouettes (in spite of the rotoscope).

The over all effect is that Make Mine Music is more memorable for its parts rather than a whole, and when you’re judging a feature animation, that’s an important detail to have missing. There’s also nothing in the theme parks even hinting at this movie having ever happened, another first.

It is a shame in a lot of ways that Main Street’s entire aesthetic is essentially the backdrop of Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet.  The park could easily have a display of them in the same store where you buy all the mouse ears.

makeminemusicmainstreet
It’s this one.

But until Disney eventually reads this blog and hires me for all my great ideas (you know it’s going to happen) the parks won’t be making anyone’s music.

Total: 2/10


Grand Total: 39.5

 

Mickey Mouse had been the key to surviving the Great Depression back in the thirties.  Animators were hired at such a pace that Walt had to send many of them to night classes so they could get the skills necessary to do the work. This was all thanks to the innovation, attention to quality, and storytelling at the heart of the Disney method.

World War II hadn’t been so kind.

While America emerged as a new superpower, Walt Disney Productions struggled and sputtered under the weight of its financial pressures, labor disputes, and workforce being drafted.

Projects such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan were put on hold while others like adaptations of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were suspended indefinitely. Disney just didn’t have the staff or the budget to do high concept animated features.

And that’s how we got movies like this Make Mine Music.

And it isn’t a bad little movie. When it’s actually telling stories, they’re charming enough and memorable. But the musical sections just wind up feeling like Fantasia’s leftovers and for as nice as parts of it can be, it’s just not as inspiring as these films once were.

But perhaps, somewhere on the horizon, something will change. Some hero will step up to raise one of these package films up from the quagmire they’ve sunk into. One that might be able to do it without making you want to purell your brain afterwards. But who? Who could possibly save Disney by the Numbers? Well it’s not Mickey but he might make things a bit better?

makeminemusicmickey
Who indeed?

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