Watch Online

Monkey Melodies

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : September 26, 1930

Running Time : 6:56

Synopsis

Monkeys and apes swing through the trees to the usual mix of classical tunes and standards; including this time the recent vaudeville hit "Abba Dabba Dabba."

Credits

Director
Bert Gillett
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Dave Hand
Jack King
Norm Ferguson
Dick Lundy
Ben Sharpsteen
Les Clark
Wilfred Jackson
Tom Palmer
Backgrounds
Carlos Manriquez
Emil Flohri
Music
Bert Lewis

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 14 : Animal Tales

Laserdiscs

Cartoon Classics : Animal Tales

DVD

Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 24: Symphonic Silly Symphonies
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 2, 1956

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 : After Midnight in a Toy Shop, I wondered aloud whether there was going to be a movement in the Disney shorts, especially the Silly Symphonies, away from the song driven actions to more story based shorts. Monkey Melodies definitely is in the latter camp, offering a hero whose movements we follow through the majority of the cartoon, although not as completely as Midnight in a Toy Shop.

Before I go into that, however, I would be remiss if I did not send major kudos out to David Gerstein, who provides the DVD commentary for this short on the More Silly Symphonies Walt Disney Treasures DVD. The fact that David takes the time to frequently comment on this site is a source of pride for me, and his commentary is very illuminating. For example, did you know that there was an abundance of popular songs about monkeys around the turn of the century? That’s just one of the things I learned from David’s commentary.

Most of this short focuses on a monkey who is simply enjoying his day in the jungle with his sweetheart. The monkey moves through the jungle sharing a dance with his female companion, then splitting bananas and taking a stroll through the river. It’s the kind of aimless lovesick rambling that many of us would love to do from time to time, and is very effective as escapism.

One thing I noticed and David points out in the commentary, is that the design of the monkey leads changes frequently. Several different animators took the lead in various sequences throughout this short, so the monkeys were done by different hands. They vary from very cartoony goggle-eyed characters to loose limbed, extra furry monkeys within moments of each other. It’s somewhat jarring, even though each interpretation is well done.

The other thing I noticed was a great sense of depth in the animation. For example, the monkeys dance through the treetops, with background behind them and vines and foliage in front of them, providing a real depth to the shot that has not been seen in other shorts.

There’s also some great work with water effects here, such as an alligator pursuing the monkeys or the end scene that has the monkeys dangling over a pool of water, and the final kiss taking place in reflection. To me, this shows again the willingness of the animators to take more chances and push the boundaries in the Silly Symphonies.

Of course, the fine commentary also points out the use of several of these monkey-based pop songs. I’m sorry, just the thought alone makes me laugh, but it is one of the first times Disney used pop songs in the shorts. Songs like “Down in Jungle Town” or “At a Georgia Camp Meeting” are used to great effect in dancing sequences like the alligators before they start pursuing the monkeys.

Monkey Melodies, to be honest, is not a fantastic short, but it’s not too bad. The move towards a more story-based production is on full display, but is still a work in progress here. As things go along, we’ll see how the Silly Symphonies evolve into something new.


From Mac : This does seem to be something of a transitional Silly Symphony. In some ways it's pretty typical – lots of silly dances and moving to music (and in this respect it's a very good one, more fun than frolicking fish and arctic antics), but then there's that simple story with characters that are easily identifiable (despite their constantly changing appearance).

And yes, the backgrounds and effects are getting more detailed and three-dimensional. This jungle is much more lush than previous ones we've seen in Disney cartoons like Jungle Rhythm.


From Jerry Edwards : Monkees and birds dance, sing, and swing through the jungle. Romantic boy and girl monkeys have to escape snakes and crocodiles before the monkeys finally have time to themselves. One silly scene I enjoyed were two crocodiles doing a "Bob Hope/Bing Crosby" straw hat and cane dancing routine. A couple of interesting animation goofs - one leg of a monkey just disappears and a banana keeps reappearing (3 times) on a bunch of bananas after it is shown that the spot is empty after the monkey picked it.
From Jengel : Monkey Melodies is one of the better, but more obscure, of the early silly symphonies. Compared to The Skeleton Dance and others of the same era, this cartoon stands out for its use of lavish watercolor backgrounds of the jungle. (I have a matching key background and production cell from this short and the background detail is extraordinary.) The main characters are two monkeys and the cartoon traces their adventure in the jungle from the treetops to the river, dodging predators with every step. The monkeys are not by themselves exceptional except through their interaction with the other animals, with their environment, and with the soundtrack make this short particularly successful. This cartoon moves along quickly and the characters are sympathetic (cute). The rich tapestry of the jungle is what makes this a groundbreaking work.
From Ryan : I got to see this cartoon for the first time on DVD last December. The animation is pretty well done, but as mentioned in the commentary for the cartoon, the characters seem to change form from time to time. This was in the days before Walt gave his animators model sheets so that the characters would remain constant. Some parts of the cartoon I enjoy include the alligators dancing to the tune of "Georgia Camp Meeting" and when the male monkey uses his tail as a propeller on a log (much like Pluto did in the Mickey cartoon Fishin' Around.) I also enjoy the backgrounds.

Referenced Comments