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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Make Mine Music: The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met" [10 of 10] (1946) - Director's Sketch of Mephistopheles

I'm still trying to figure out how to best set up a series of items on a single topic. So, here is another stab at it.

Introduction to "Make Mine Music" (1946). 1o Postings.

During the Second World War, much of Walt Disney's staff was drafted into the army, and those that remained were called upon by the U.S. government to make training and propaganda films. As a result, the studio was littered with unfinished story ideas. In order to keep the feature film division alive during this difficult time, the studio released four package films including this one, made up of various unrelated segments set to music.
Ten shorts are combined in a tuneful compilation. Disney's first postwar "package" picture, produced as shorts because financial problems prevented Walt from finding enough money to create a full animated feature. By tying a group of shorts together, he was able to get the production into theaters sooner.

Animation World Magazine, 4/1999:
It is a record of a studio struggling to come to terms with the post-war period, with the need to produce a feature in a hurry, using a mixture of style, design, animation and music, interpreted by an equally varied range of talents from Benny Goodman to Nelson Eddy via the Andrews Sisters and Dinah Shore. While the major Hollywood studios were flourishing, with output and attendance reaching all-time peaks, Disney was struggling, and Make Mine Music reflects that struggle. Make Mine Music was not particularly successful. It was too disjointed; audiences were already looking forward to more features with a single story line; and it was too witty. In an ARI survey conducted for Disney, 20% of those surveyed thought it "just average in enjoyment while 33% enjoyed it somewhat more than the average picture." It lacked "heart." Reviewers, like audiences, wanted their Disney traditional, and were not comfortable with the package format with its uneven sections of variable musical quality. The Los Angeles Times said, "The picture is not epochal, except in an incidental way, but at least it is a completely refreshing experience," while Time commented, "Even Walt Disney's best films -- barring his wonderful slapstick -- have suffered from sticky taste; in this effort to be just plain folksy, that stickiness pretty thoroughly gums up the works." Bosley Crowther in The New York Times said, "It is an unblushing patchwork assortment of ten different animated `shorts,' put together with no rhyme nor reason, but like the acts in a musical revue. Some are delightful Disney fancies and some are elaborate junk. Watching it is an experience in precipitate ups and downs." One of the more perceptive British critics, Alexander Shaw, writing in The Spectator, said, "I found the robust approach a great change. (Disney) shows in Make Mine Music that he is not afraid of being influenced by other people's work, and this may well give a new impetus to a talent that was becoming more notable for ingenuity than for anything else."
At the first ever Disney retrospective at The National Film Theatre, London, in 1970, the curator David Rider wrote, "This film has been, perhaps unfairly, described as `the poor man's Fantasia'...Of the ten sequences, seven are perfectly satisfactory...and in some cases they are quite excellent...Personally I think that Disney's would be well advised to consider re-issue of the entire feature." Disney was again honored in 1989 with a major retrospective at London's National Film Theatre. One of the curators Brian Sibley commented that "genuine and quite breathtaking beauty is achieved in 'Blue Bayou'...and for sheer inventiveness, the animation plaudits go to the two Goodman numbers...But perhaps the most memorable sequence is 'The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met.'"

This is the last (or first one that you might read) posting on Willie the Whale...

Like the previous posting, I found two very similar pencils of Willie as Mephistopheles. The first sketch was purchased and framed in 1990. I put it in a fantastic, heavy frame. It really looks fantastic. In 2000, I came across the Director's sketch of the scene (below) that is an amazing, "in your face" piece. The look on Willie's face is totally unlike Willie, but absolutely in character. [Sorry about the scan's color. When I first started scanning I just put the piece in the scanner and didn't realize that the paper was thin enough to let the black show through. Later, I realized that putting a big sheet of white between the sketch and the scanner cover would make the image look better.]

Director's Sketch of Willie as Mephistopheles

----- DATABASE NOTES -----

From “Make Mine Music: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” (1946). A director's drawing of Willie the Whale as Mephistopheles. Voice by Nelson Eddy. "The Whale..." is considered to be one of Disney's best films. Seller wrote: "This drawing is Willie the Whale as Mephistopheles from opera Faust at least I think it's Faust. Note that its a directors drawing." In a phone call, the seller said that this character (Mephistopheles) is less frequently seen than the clown. On the sheet: red for shadows, "40--52" "40" [Unframed Item: 15.5"W x 12.5"H] Acquired 2000. SeqID-0690 8/15/2005

From “Make Mine Music: The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” (1946). Willie dressed up as Mephistopheles. Large, stately image. Evil smile. Voice by Nelson Eddy. "The Whale..." is considered to be one of Disney's best films. [Image: 14-1/16"W x 11-1/8"H. Frame: 25-1/8"W x 22-1/8"H] Acquired 1990. SeqID-0076 8/3/2005

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