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The Busy Beavers

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : June 30, 1931

Running Time : 7:07

Synopsis

A cheerful tribe of musical beavers puts up an elaborate dam which, alas, is destined to be destroyed in a spectacular flood.

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Rodolfo "Rudy" Zamora
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Joe D'Igalo
Jack Cutting
Dick Lundy
Tom Palmer
George Lane
Charlie Byrne
Harry Reeves
Jack King
Charles Couch
Hardie Gramatky
Ben Sharpsteen
Marvin Woodward
Backgrounds
Carlos Manriquez
Emil Flohri
Music
Frank Churchill

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 53: Silly Symphonies at the Zoo
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 47
The Mickey Mouse Club : December 6, 1955

Technical Specification

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

Released by Columbia Pictures, Inc.

Comments

    • Announced release; June 30, 1931
    • Copyright date: June 22, 1931

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I’m not really sure what to say about Busy Beavers. It’s a Silly Symphony, to be sure, but it’s just not that appealing to me. It really opens up a larger discussion about the way things are going in 1931 for the Disney company.

1930 was a transition year, no doubt, for the Disney Studios. Losing Ub Iwerks and Carl Stalling was a big blow, and required a change to the production schedule. In rushing to fulfill their contract, the Disney animators put out some subpar work, although they managed to squeeze in some gems in the first few months of 1930. Eventually, though, they got their sea legs, and were cranking out very solid films towards the end of the year. Shorts like The Picnic, Midnite in a Toy Shop and more gave us some memorable moments.

But so far in 1931, the shorts have had a rather disjointed feel. Busy Beavers continues that. While Mother Goose Melodies and Traffic Troubles are standouts in early 1931, the rest of the 1931 shorts are nowhere near as good. This inconsistency is strange, and it continues in Busy Beavers.

This is a classic Silly Symphony, in that it features a lot of silly gags of the beavers building their dams, set to a lively tune, without much of a plot. To the extent that there is a plot, it centers on a small beaver that manages to save the valley from a large flood. His heroics are the real fun part of the short.

However, the overall feel of Busy Beavers is a loose collection of characters that all look the same. For me, the design of the beavers was not good. That’s just my opinion, but they are not appealing, and they don’t have any idiosyncrasies that make them stand out. If you’re going to have a short with such a lack of recognizable or individual characters, you need the gags to really stand out, and they do not do so here.

The best animation in the short is really the flooding scene, where a cloud opens up and dumps rain into the valley where the beavers have built their dam. The animation of the water rushing through, coming straight at the camera, is quite good.

Mostly, though, we just get scene after scene of the beavers doing work, building their dam. Sure, there are some inventive ways that they do so, like loading up their tails with lumber, skiing downhill on a tree, or sharpening logs into spikes that they pound into the riverbed. But there’s no character here for the audience to take up with or follow, so it makes the short less than it could be.


From Mac : It's interesting reading your comments to see how different people can get different levels of enjoyment from the same piece of entertainment. For me this stands out not just as a another good, fun Disney cartoon, but as an absolutely excellent one that I just love to watch.

I just find it massively the entertaining – the almost relentless musical action and constantly clever, fast-paced synchronization as the beavers tirelessly work, dance and bark. For me, it just fits together perfectly. Of the 1931 shorts we've watched so far, I agree that Traffic Troubles and Mother Goose Melodies are excellent, but I hold The China Plate and The Busy Beavers in the same high regard.


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I guess it follows that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, eh? The China Plate I would agree is quite good, and I neglected to mention it.

However, Busy Beavers to me is just not as clever or well done. I was called out on this in the Mickey Steps Out thread, but not being a "animation historian," I don't recognize the genius in how things are drawn, etc. I judge a lot of it on simply the entertainment I get from it upon viewing.

I do wonder, though, if these shorts bear repeated viewings. I usually watch them two times before posting. If I watch them on a day when I'm having a bad day, does that affect the review? I'm not really sure, but I may go back to some of these and try to see if there's a difference.


From Mac : Although things like tiredness and mood can affect the enjoyment of entertainment, I think that here it's just case of different people liking different things. There's a few Disney cartoons which are very popular with fans that I just don't care for. This one, however, I like and have watched it lots of times without getting tired of it.

I do think it is quite an impressive short. There's a lot of detail with sometimes dozens of characters on screen at one time. Also it's beautifully worked out with ingenious synchronization. The tunes are fast and yet every beat perfectly fits a bark, a dance or industrial action as the beavers build their dam. For me it's enormously catchy and I just can't help bouncing along!

One other note about this cartoon is the scene where the little beaver is hit by the falling tree. The cartoon doesn't treat it seriously, but for a brief moment the music goes a bit sad, as the fate of the animal is unclear. Although not treated seriously here, a sad moment, where a character may be dead, is a device that will be used again (over-used in fact) in Disney films.


From Rod Bennett : The flood scene here really is very impressive for the time, prefiguring similar water effects in the later features "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia."
From Jerry Edwards : A group of beavers are shown using inventive ways of working to build a dam. When a storm causes a flood and the debris destroy the dam, a clever little beaver saves the day when he topples a large tree, which forms a new dam and blocks the flood. A short that doesn't have much to it as individual scenes, but a fun little cartoon as a whole. It helps that beavers are among my favorite animals. Disney's live action featurette Beaver Valley is among my favorite nature films.
From Kevin Whitmore : What a delightful production! The beavers are so cheerful and industrious - it is impossible not to love them. The music is engaging, even the disaster is cute!
From Gijs Grob : Quite an uninteresting cartoon about beavers. The film starts with rather dull gags of beavers building to music. Only after four minutes a "story" develops of a little beaver who saves the whole population from a terrible flood. The beavers completely lack personality and even the brashy little one fails to impress. One of the weaker Silly Symphonies.
From Fredrik J : I really like this one. The music is catchy and upbeat, the sound effects work with the music rather than disrupting it, the animation matches the music wonderfully, and the gags are both cute and funny. A perfect example of how to make a true "Silly Symphony" in every meaning of the word.

Story? We don't need no stinkin' story.


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