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El Terrible Toreador

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : September 7, 1929

Running Time : 6:13

Synopsis

The title character vies with a Mexican officer for the affections of a comely barmaid, all set to Latin themes from classical music.

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Music
Carl Stalling

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 24: Symphonic Silly Symphonies
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 18: A Bunch of Silly Symphonies

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono : Cinephone
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by Columbia Pictures, Inc.

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The Skeleton Dance was a tour de force of animation, and launched the Silly Symphonies series with a bang. El Terrible Toreador is the follow up, and it is none of the above. With animation not on par with the previous effort in the series, and a very weak musical/story connection, El Terrible Toreador is a noticeable departure from the quality you would expect in these early Disney shorts.

It’s not to say that this is a terrible cartoon, but it’s just not up to par with what the cartoons preceding it have done. The basics of the short are that a lovely barmaid, Carmen, is coveted by both a Mexican officer and bullfighter, or toreador. They first encounter Carmen in a cantina, and the toreador manages to help her fend off the officer’s advances. Then, the second half of the short shows the toreador in a bullfight, with the officer trying to sabotage him.

The two sections are not very well put together, which is just the start of the problems. The beginning is not held together with much of anything except the music, which is merely some redone classical music with Spanish influence. Carmen’s dancing and actions are very lacking in character animation. It’s mostly rubber hose style animation, with Carmen kicking the tray on her head, extending her arms as the officer kisses them and other similar actions.

When the toreador shows up, the crowd goes nuts, both in the cantina and in the arena where the bullfight is staged. That’s understandable, because he is really the only character in the short worth following. In his first appearance, when he confronts the Mexican officer, he steals the man’s beer with a swagger and style that makes him the instant hero of the piece. The character of the toreador comes through in that moment, but then the bullfight sequence undermines it.

The second half of the film, when the toreador is in the bullfight and the officer and Carmen are in the stands, is frankly baffling. After the confident figure shown in the cantina, the toreador switches to a prancing, dancing caricature in the bullfight, playing pattycake with the bull and even dancing a jig. It’s a sharp departure from the character established in the first part. Very different, and not in a good way.

The officer tries to derail the fight by putting pepper on the flowers that Carmen throws to the toreador, but it doesn’t work. After both he and the bull sniff the pepper, a real bullfight ensues. But it lasts only a few moments, when the toreador manages to reach down the bull’s throat and pull it inside out.

It’s hard to really say what the main problem is with El Terrible Toreador, and I’m sure that at the time it was probably better received than I’m giving it credit for here. There’s something just missing versus the Mickey shorts and it’s nowhere near as good as The Skeleton Dance. The characters are not that engaging, the music does not help the story along like in other shorts and there’s just not much for the viewer to latch on to.


From Mac : You're right that this short doesn't seem to quite hang together from the first sequence to the second. Plus, it doesn't do a great job of establishing the characters and their relationships before it cuts to the bull fight. However, it is an attempt to do something new again. This is the first time Disney has based a cartoon on an opera (though I suspect this cartoon relies on an audience familiarity with the Carmen story as a shortcut to establishing the characters). It is also an early attempt to so prominently feature human characters. Besides some scenes of Alice at a distance, I don't think we've seen any cartoon human in a Disney cartoon since the earliest, stiffly animated Laugh-O-Gram films. Although it's hardly the best cartoon of the era, Disney did take a risk and create another cartoon quite unlike anything he had done so far.

The other thing I have to bring up is the gross-out ending. I heard about it long before I saw it and was pretty shocked. Maybe I'd been jaded by that Hallowe'en Simpsons where they dance inside-out at the end, but when I saw it for myself it wasn't quite as disgusting or graphic as I expected. I think a lot of people may mistake the bull's inside-out legs for intestines!

However, this ending still upsets a whole lot of people and it's easy to see why. The bull is set up as a friendly character (he's introduced holding hands with the toreador!), but he ends up dead and in a total mess. A lot of people have mentioned this ending makes them uncomfortable and it even confuses some (I had an Italian friend who interpreted the ending as the bull being cut in half). After seeing the dead rise from their graves in The Skeleton Dance, it seems that there is one consistency between the first and second Silly Symphonies and that's the darker, more grisly themes and imagery!


From Jack Summer : The beginning of this short where the setting is a Cantina is very similar to the Mickey Mouse short, Gallopin Gaucho.
From Jerry Edwards : This cartoon is very aptly named in my opinion ... it is TERRIBLE! The human figures are poorly animated, even for this early era. The bull fight contains one of Disney's worst gross-outs - the matador literally pulling the bull inside-out at the end of the cartoon! Barf bags should have been issued at the theater for this one! I have always suspected that this was mainly animated by assistant animators, part of the reason for the poor animation.
From Ryan : This short was very similar to the Mickey short Gallopin Gaucho. I enjoyed the music such as the "Toreador Song" from the opera "Carmen." One part that a person would not expect to see in a cartoon of this era was where the toreador literally pulled a bull inside out, revealing its inner body organs.
From Nelson : If I had to say what is the "WORST" Disney cartoon ever made then my vote would go for El Terrible Toreador just for the simple fact that this cartoon is TERRIBLE. The animation is very sloppy for a Disney cartoon for that time,1929 to be exact and the sound is just out crude and awful and to think this was the second "Silly Symphonies" cartoon right after The Skeleton Dance. The ending where the bullfighter turns the bull inside out was of the earliest gross out gags at the time but couldn't save this cartoon. Thank Goodness the Disney Studio never made anymore crap like El Terrible Toreador after that.
From Milan Brandon : If Carmen ever looked like the waitress in this cartoon, Opera would be deader than it is right now. I agree with the other posters in saying this cartoon is among Disney's worst. I am almost apt to say that "Four Methods of Flush Riveting" is better animated.

As in most cartoons from the early Silly Symphonies, sight gags abound. I wonder if anyone laughed at the end of this cartoon. I gasped.


From DaVon : When film critic Leonard Maltin mentioned in the introduction of the More Silly Symphonies DVD set from Walt Disney Treasures that not all of those Disney shorts in that series were great or successes, or something to the effect, I can see this being one of them and why. It's not one of my favorites, I have other Silly Symphonies I prefer and I'd put ahead of or before this one, like The China Plate. But anyway, I found it to be so-so and was just fine with it regardless, until the part near the end, where the Toreador pulls out the bull's innards. That's possibly what's wrong with this particular Disney featurette the most in the sub-series: It was too freaky, repugnant and cringe-worthy, even a turn-off. That was a jacked-up moment right there. I second that with the other reviewer on here about Disney thankfully being wise enough not to try doing any more mess like that in the cartoons. Definitely one of (if not the only) Disney cartoons/Silly Symphonies that's at the bottom of the pile or barrel. And this is one (if not among others) Silly Symphony I'd watch less frequently and advise other viewers to do the same. Because once anyone else who hasn't seen it yet does, he'll/she'll be made to wonder just what possessed the writer(s)/ animators to think that up, why that particular scene was green-lit, and why anybody would think that'd be funny. It's not even the slightest amusing, at least I'm amongst those who don't find it to be. That was a rare too-out-there/left-field moment for the animation studio/company and what the audience expects of them typically. Out of ten stars, I give it half that amount or 4.
From Robert Hanbury-Sparrow : This short is really....weird. The end part is disgusting!

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