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Egyptian Melodies

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : August 27, 1931

Running Time : 6:20

Synopsis

An inquisitive spider explores the creepy interior of an Egyptian tomb, causing mummies and strange wall paintings to spring to life.

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Rodolfo "Rudy" Zamora
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Joe D'Igalo
Charlie Byrne
Dave Hand
Albert Hurter
Ben Sharpsteen
Daniel Tattingham
Cecil Surrey
Harry Reeves
Asst. Animator
Charles Couch
Backgrounds
Carlos Manriquez
Emil Flohri
Mique Nelson
Layout
Charles Philippi
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 38: Infested Silly Symphonies
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 21, 1956

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: August 14, 1931
    • Copyright date: August 27, 1931
    • California preview date: August 14, 1931

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The main thing that stands out to me from Egyptian Melodies, the latest Silly Symphony, is the amazing camera work and movement throughout the short. I could be wrong (I often am), but it seems as though this short is a definite departure in the way that the Disney shorts have been shot in the past.

There are several moments in the short that are different than what we have seen in previous shorts. The opening shot of the Sphinx pulls into a tight shot of a large spider outside the door. As the door opens, the spider turns to the viewer to beckon us in, inviting us to the party. That breaking of the fourth wall is something different for Disney.

The next thing that really struck me is the movement through the hallways of the Sphinx. I know it’s not a great comparison, but it struck me very much like the movement you would see in a video game, like Tomb Raider. The camera follows the spider in one long, continuous motion, around corners and down slopes. But the camera acts like a set of eyeballs, not making cuts or motions, instead flowing with the movements of the hallways. It’s a fascinating bit of work.

Once the spider arrives in the burial area, it’s not that much different than other Silly Symphonies. We get a nice scene of four mummies coming out of their sarcophagi to dance in the patented four wide sequence. Their dance is fairly straight forward, and probably the least compelling part of the short.

The next section, that takes up most of the rest of the film, features the drawings on the walls coming to life, to run throughout their strips on the wall. This is another sequence that stands out, because the temptation might be to have the characters come to life and leap off the wall to have more range of motion, but the animators chose instead to keep them two dimensional and flat on the wall.

Doing this allows for a more “realistic” depiction of the characters, and leads to great gags like the chariot race between the black and white characters. There’s even a gag where one of the marching soldiers marches right off of a corner, then has to correct himself and stick back to the wall.

The final dizzying shots of the spider reacting in horror to the motions of the wall figures is amazing. We get to see the spider at various angles, fading in and out of scenes, and swirling all around. It’s a chaotic symphony, that aptly accomplishes the sense of fear and insanity that is flowing all around the spider.

For me, Egyptian Melodies is a stand out. The amazing use of varying camera angles and the long tracking shot at the beginning of the short distinguishes it from the other Silly Symphonies. Combine that with the character of the spider and the fun of the mayhem in the tomb, and you’ve got a great short.


From Rod Bennett : This atypical Silly Symphony plays more like a Fleischer short of the same period; filled with technical gimmicks and inanimate objects rising up to join the fun. Very odd.
From Jerry Edwards : A spider's misadventures with mummies and moving hieroglyphics in a pyramid tomb frighten him away. The spider is shown playing a web like a harp. When the spider is surprised by some mummies, he does an Al Jolson-like routine "Mummy!" The spider then hides in an Egyptian urn as the hieroglyphics come to life. When the hieroglyphics figures start fighting and snakes appear on the hieroglyphics, the spider is frightened away, running into the desert. As with most animated spiders (Disney or non-Disney), this is a "handicapped" spider - only 6 legs instead of a spider's 8 legs. Of course, this is to give the animators less work to animate. This spider had shoes on 4 feet and gloves on 2 "hands." Backgrounds of tunnels in the tomb that the spider tumbles through were reused as backgrounds in the 1933 Mickey short The Mad Doctor.
From Brian : The same spider from Midnite in a Toy Shop returns in this crazy black-and-white short where Egyptian hieroglyphics that come to life and get into a fight cause the terrified spider to quickly run away from the tomb. Be cautious; this short is too intense for the RUGRAT crowd.
From Ryan : I find this to be a very nicely animated cartoon. I enjoy the scenes where the hieroglyphics come to life and start dancing to music. As mentioned before, the scene where the spider goes through the pyramid tunnel was reused in the 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Mad Doctor.
From Gijs Grob : This is one of those silly symphonies that offers quite a dull dance routine only (and no story). Nevertheless, the introduction of the cartoon is well worth seeing: when we follow a six-legged spider into the pyramid, we experience some astonishing 3D-effect animation, creating the feeling that the camera wanders through corridors and staircases. This unique exercise in perspective would not be repeated in animation until labyrinth computer games were introduced in the nineteen-eighties.

Besides this great introduction this cartoon also offers a great finale: it is one of the earliest nightmare-sequences, in which the montage of images is diffuse and increasingly sped up, in order to suggest the feeling of getting insane.

This predates similar sequences in films like Der Fuehrer's Face by many years.


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