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The Goddess of Spring

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : November 3, 1934

Running Time : 9:43

Synopsis

An operatic (and melodramatic) take on the myth of Persephone and her abduction to the underworld.

Characters

Persephone
Pluto (Satan)

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Cy Young
Hamilton Luske
Leonard Sebring
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Les Clark
Dick Heumer
Art Babbitt
Ugo D'Orsi
Wolfgang Reitherman
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Louie Schmitt
Story
Bill Cottrell
Music
Leigh Harline
Character Design
Albert Hurter
Voices
Kenny Baker
Tudor Williams

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 13 : Fanciful Fables
Germany
Verrückte Musikanten
France
Silly Symphonies Volume 1
Italy
Silly Symphonies Volume 2

Laserdiscs

United States
Cartoon Classics : Fanciful Fables
Japan
More Silly Symphonies

DVD

United States
It's a Small World of Fun Volume 4
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 4 : The Tortoise and the Hare
Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Blu-Ray

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs : 3 Disc Blue ray + DVD Combo Pack
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 20, 1957
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 21, 1957

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
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 United Artists Pictures

Comments

  • Watch for the spectacular use of shadows, especially in the "underworld" scenes.
  • Although Disney's animators were proficient in working with animals, they had very little experience animating human beings. This short was one of their first with humans, invaluable experience for the upcoming Snow White feature that Disney was planning.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I’ve read about the creation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for years now. I’ve eagerly put down money for two versions of the film (VHS and DVD) and will probably end up with another (Bluray) at some point soon. And in everything I have seen, The Goddess of Spring is referenced as Disney’s first attempt to create a realistic human figure, in preparation for Snow White.

In watching this short, though, I have to say that it seems as though that may not be correct. Or perhaps it’s a matter of perception. The subject of this film is Persephone, the titular goddess. But the form she takes seems no improvement on the porcelain dolls of The China Shop. It seems like Persephone’s hair is porcelain or plastic, just like the dolls.

Persephone is a distinct figure, though, because it marks when the animators started trying to find their way in the human form. And there are some distinct differences between Persephone and her predecessors. Her facial expressions and design are much cleaner and more expressive. Her movements, while still a bit unnatural, are more fluid than other human like figures in the shorts to this point.

What I found interesting was that Pluto, the adversary of Persephone in this short, was a much more realistic figure except for his face. His manner of walking and gesturing seemed more real to me than Persephone’s broad gestures. There is the slight problem of his devilish face, though.

I guess I should discuss the melodrama of the story as well. Everything in this short is overwrought and dramatic, but it fits, because the story is about the work of the gods and how it affects us mere mortals on Earth.

Persephone opens the short by dancing amongst the spring like flora and fauna, but she is soon grabbed by Pluto, who erupts from the ground and steals her away. The consequence is that the Earth turns from Spring to Winter, as Persephone is taken away. Pluto can not make her happy, no matter how many jewels or gifts he gives her, so he agrees to let her go back to the surface temporarily, so long as she comes back.

Persephone’s return to the Earth melts the snow and returns the Spring, but only temporarily, as the chorus reminds us. This is supposed to be the explanation for the change of the seasons, which is a neat concept.

However, I have to say, that as a first step towards Snow White, I did not find Persephone very convincing. It could also be that she is featured so little in this short that it’s hard to make a good judgment. There is more focus on Pluto than on her. It’s a good short, but shows you how far Disney and his team would have to evolve between 1934 and 1937 to get Snow White out and make it the film it would become.


From Mac : A very ambitious short for Disney. It's lightly operatic, there's a more serious tone (although there's a good measure of fun and some gags mixed in) and it attempts to portray two realistic human-like figures in the main roles. Disney was absolutely looking ahead to Snow White (work began on the feature in 1934, although experimental animation wouldn't begin until 1935).

Of course, attempting something so ambitious was going to be something of a struggle and most of what I've read and heard about this short suggests that no one at the studio was satisfied with the animation in this cartoon. It's easy to laugh at this cartoon (I remember a my dad once at a clip of Persephone's dancing and I burst out laughing every single time I see that pathetic fawn crying in the snow), but it was this kind of ambition, aiming for what yet can't be achieved, that would lead to future achievements and acclaim for Disney.

Still it wouldn't be fair of me to focus only on what Disney couldn't quite achieve with this cartoon. The Hi-de-Hades is a knock-out and one of my all time favourite Disney scenes.


From Jerry Edwards : The god Pluto, depicted here as Satan, captures Persephone, the goddess of Spring, as his bride and takes her to his underworld - causing the world to change from eternal Spring to a frozen Winter wasteland. Pluto later agrees to allow Persephone to return to the surface for six months each year, resulting in Spring and Winter sharing the year. The animation of the demons dancing around a pillar of fire is especially well done. This short was practice for Snow White on animating realistic human figures but it shows there was a lot of practice needed - especially in Persephone's rubbery arm movements while dancing. The main thing I dislike is that the "talking" is actually sung, opera style - which quickly got tiresome for me. Still one of my favorite Silly Symphonies. I had a black and white Mickey Mouse Club copy for years before I found an original color version on laserdisc.
From Stephanie Stewart : I just wanted to let you know that for the record, my Grandmother, Diana Gaylen, was the one who did the singing for this particular Disney short. I noticed the you did not have the singers credit listed, so I thought that I would let you know. It seems that they didn't give those kind of credit back then. Diana Gaylen was widely known in the 30's and 40's, for both her stage performances and her behind the scenes work in many movies singing for the stars. Anthony Adverse is one you might have heard of, she did the singing for Olivia DeHavilland.
From Petter Solberg : This is surely among the best Silly Symphonies I've seen. I really like this one. Especially when Hades and the Goddess of Spring sing together, in addition to the very cool bit where the imps dances around a fire. The shadow effects here make this sequence very interesting.
From Matt : So what if Persephone's arms are rubber, and the whole thing is overly dramatic? I think it has to be my favorite Disney Silly Symphony, right next to The Cookie Carnival and The Skeleton Dance. Why wasn't it included in the DVD set of the Symphonies? This is so good, it should have been the 2nd feature length animated Disney film. A little clean-up on the animation could have made for a great 90 minute movie, don't you think?
From Jeremy Fassler : I'm not calling it one of my favorites, but I guess it's OK. I think the animation on Persephone resembles Snow White a little. A film historian once said that if you look at this cartoon and then at Snow White it looks like twenty years of progress when it was only three. I love the Persephone myth, but I think that it isn't brought to great justice here.

By the way, this short has the absolute worst rhymes of all time that sound like they were written by the horse that threw the horse that threw Cole Porter. I mean, what is with "No no no! I will not go!" Or "That is the reason why there's a winter season." As Donald would say, "Aw, Nuts!"

Despite the bad lyrics, I will give this cartoon a six for the animation and history.


From Philip S. Nagy : The Goddess of Spring must be one of the best shorties from the Silly Symphony series I've seen in my life. It starts with animals and small people dancing and singing. The beautiful princess Persephone - The Goddess of Spring (hence the film's title) is their one and only heroine. That same day Satan rises from the underground down below and lightning and thunder appears on the sky. This is my favorite part.

He and his devilish imps take The Goddess to Hell, literally, and she is captured until the Devil lets her return to the World, where Winter is cold and dark. When she comes back, everything melts. Spring has surely come and they live happily ever after! Highlights include when one of the imps play an organ and the others dance around a fire.

Walt Disney and his animators made a truly classic and strangely beautiful little short. It is fascinating, scary and funny at the same time, with great singing by uncredited people. The effects are really stunning and ahead of their time. It was a precursor to the first length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so you could say they just warmed up for it. But let's not forget The Goddess of Spring, a rarely seen milestone in animation history. It is however worth all accolades it can be given. I love it.


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