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The Tortoise and the Hare

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : January 5, 1935

Running Time : 8:37

Synopsis

A retelling of Aesop's fable where the hare learns that slow and steady wins the race.

Characters

Max Hare (Voice: Ned Norton)
Toby Tortoise (Voice: Eddie Holden)

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Louie Schmitt
Dick Lundy
Milt Schaffer
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Hamilton Luske
Eric Larson
Les Clark
Dick Heumer
Ward Kimball
Story
Bill Cottrell
Music
Frank Churchill
Character Design
Joe Grant
Voices
Ned Norton
Eddie Holden
Pinto Colvig
Alice Ardell
Marcellite Garner

Source

Based on the story "The Hare and the Tortoise"

Awards

1935 Academy Award (Short Subject - Cartoons)

Bloopers

When we first see the four bunny girls, their dresses are in the order blue, orange, blue and yellow from left to right. However when we see them from the reverse in a subsequent scene, the dresses are in the same order from left to right when they should have been reversed as well.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 7 : More of Disney's Best 1932-1946
Starring Silly Symphonies
Germany
Meister-Cartoons von Walt Disney
France
Contes et Legendes de Jiminy Cricket
Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de Walt Disney
Italy
Le Meravigliose Fiabe del Grillo Parlante
I Capolavori di Walt Disney

Laserdiscs

United States
Silly Symphonies / Animals Two by Two
Japan
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons

DVD

United States
Timeless Tales Volume 1
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 4 : The Tortoise and the Hare
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Zauberhafte Marchenwelt 4
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Walt Disney's Fables : Volume 4
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 49: More Storybook Silly Symphonies
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 1: Award Winners

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

  • Resulted in a sequel, Toby Tortoise Returns.
  • An educational version of this short was released entitled "Aesop's Hare and the Tortoise."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : We’ll start off 1935, a year where Mickey finally comes to color, and things really start moving in regards to Snow White, with another classic fable told in the Silly Symphonies. This time, it’s The Tortoise and the Hare.

We’re all familiar with the basics of the story: an overconfident rabbit races a turtle, and ends up losing because of all the detours he takes. The moral is simple: slow and steady wins the race. Knowing that it’s such a familiar story, how did Disney translate it?

It comes off surprisingly well. Rather than a simple challenge, the animators chose to make the setting a well publicized sporting event. That adds much needed humor to the tale. Max Hare, the rabbit, comes out in a robe, just like a boxing match, as does the tortoise. That adds a bit of pomp and circumstance to the goings on, and makes it an event from the start of the short.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the similarities between Max Hare and the later Bugs Bunny over at Warner Bros. A bunny began appearing in Warner shorts around 1938, but the Bugs we know and love began in full in 1939-1940. His appearance then is very similar to that of Max Hare. Is there a connection? Sure is. Chuck Thorsen, who was on the Disney staff at the time of this short, later went to WB and worked on Bugs.

That’s not to say that Max and Bugs are the same. They certainly are not. Most people credit other animators at Warner for Bugs, but Thorsen was definitely involved. Just something to keep in mind.

Max Hare would go on to star in other Silly Symphonies, which we’ll get to, but his trademark here is his cockiness. He is so sure he’s going to win the race, and he stops not once, but twice. The first time is simply a nap, but then he sees a gaggle of young rabbit girls. That really gets his attention.

This is the scene that really makes you wonder about the Bugs connection. Max demonstrates his speed to the girls by doing both ends of a sporting feat. For example, he pitches a baseball, runs over and hits it, then runs back and catches it. Sound familiar? It’s very much like Baseball Bugs, a later short featuring the Warner rabbit.

Regardless of that connection, Toby Tortoise also has future potential. He, too, would appear again after this short, and with good reason. The expression and movements of Toby are spot on, and communicate everything you need to know about him with minimal dialogue. It’s a great bit of work by the animators.

The sound effects stand out in this as well. When Max is running, we get a sound like an ambulance tearing through a city street. It’s very appropriate, because Max is knocking anything and everything out of his way. It really makes for an instantly recognizable sound cue, which is key to the short.

Max and Toby are great characters, and they come off particularly well in this short. It’s no surprise to me that they would be used again by the Disney staff, although in some different roles. We’ll look at those as we get to them.


From Mac : Great commentary, Ryan. I wish I hadn't fallen behind with watching contemporary cartoons from other studios as I follow this blog (I'll have to catch up). I'm sure this one was very influential. A lot of new stuff is being done with a speedy character that surely inspired the artists at other studios and I want to see who was doing what first. The turbulence from Max Hare's running causing trees to be uprooted and pulling the feathers off birds is great cartoon stuff and it's pulled off really well – you can really 'feel' that force. Then of course there's all the tricks like Max playing tennis with himself - it's really clever stuff.

But it's not just the wonderful feeling of speed that makes this cartoon so good. As you point out, Max and Toby are excellent characters. Toby's so good natured it's impossible not to like him and Max has an undeniable charisma despite being a bit of a jerk who deservedly loses the race.


From Tom Wilkins : OK, so this is one of the very few Silly Symphonies where we all know what is going to happen. Usually, there is some tense drama that occurs during the second half of those cartoons, however, this one is an exception even if Aesop doesn't say so.

We all know that it's a simple race between Toby Tortoise (slow but sure) and Max Hare (blue streak). The animals are all on the hare's side - even the skunks who received special seating. Toby, meanwhile, stumbles out of the gate and gets mocked by all in attendance. Toby wishes Max well, but Max arrogantly tells him that he won't beat him too bad, so as they shake, Max pulls the hand away twice on the poor turtle.

The raccoon signals the start of the race and Max gets off to a flying start, leaving Toby spinning at the starting gate. The raccoon assists by shooting a few pellets at his shell and Toby finally gets going, but not until Max leaves a tree, a stork, an owl, and almost anything in his path in the dust. Max decides to pull under a little tree and take a nap while Toby is casually galloping with the snails around him. To Toby's disbelief, he sees Max sleeping, so quietly he tip-toes by Max and takes the lead. Little does Toby know that Max was playing possum with him, so once Toby got out to what looked to be a safe lead, Max ignored all speed limit rules and nearly broke the sound barrier by whizzing by Toby. It was such a gust of speed that Toby's hat remained airborne for at least 10 seconds!

The biggest mistake Max made (which later cost him the race) was stopping in front of four female bunnies (possible Funny Little Bunny rejects) who called him over. They all think that Max is handsome, so Max decides to impress the bunnies - but before he does, Toby passes Max and ignores all calls by the bunnies even though he did crash into a tree stump. Thinking that he still has this race in the bag, Max decides to put on a one-hare show by playing solitaire Robin Hood (he shoots the arrow at an apple he puts on his head and splits it in two), solitaire baseball, and solitaire tennis. By the time his show is finished, the bunnies have won him over. However...

... a huge scream comes from the crowd as they see a shocker in the making. The tortoise is way ahead of Max at this point, so Max has to go and finish Toby off. Max makes one last mistake by blowing kisses at the bunnies as he speeds his merry way. The gap would close very quickly for sure.

Toby sees Max come from nowhere, so Toby had to pull off a trick of his own to fend him off. Toby pulls up his shell and stretches his legs and runs for the finish line. Max closes the gap very quickly, and just as they saw the finish line, Max thought he had closed the entire gap, but Toby stretches his neck as long as he could and crossed the finish line before Max did - by a foot and a half (well, I meant a neck and a half). To the crowd's delight, and Max's disbelief, Toby was carried off by the animals as the cartoon closes. Replays of the finish clearly showed that Toby did cross the finish line before Max did.

The moral? Slow and steady wins the race ... most of the time. If Max's racing career was that short-lived, imagine what his boxing career was like two years later.


From J. D. Weil : There has been a continuing dispute among animation buffs that the character of Max Hare was a prototype for Bugs Bunny. From my point of view, they were, and are separate characters. But, there is a common point between them, and that is Chuck Thorsen. Thorsen designed Max Hare (and Little Hiawatha, for that matter) and he also designed one of the embryonic Bugs Bunny's (He appears in "Hare-um Scare-um"). Probably because of this, the controversy still rages.
From Jerry Edwards : While not one of my favorites, I still find this a fun, enjoyable cartoon. The main interest for me is how the original Aesop Fable is adapted for the cartoon.
From Ryan : I enjoy this fun little cartoon. I really enjoy the part bit of dialog where Toby Tortise tells Max Hare "May the best man win." Max responds with "Thanks, but I'll try not to beat you too hard!" Max Hare's character, as stated before, was probably the inspiration for Bugs Bunny. In fact, there were some Bugs cartoons based on this fable where Bugs races Cecil Turtle.
From Baruch Weiss : To those who read this comment can anybody please tell me why is Mickey's face on the screen during the title presentation? He doesn't appear in the cartoon. The same thing happened in Elmer Elephant. Although it's kind of weird it's quite cool because if it were real you could pull of his face and then you'd have a blank Mickey Mouse icon. Anyway back to the cartoon, I haven't seen this cartoon in a while, but I remember quite a bit of it, I enjoyed Max Hare's character!
From Dino Cencia : As I read Baruch Weiss' comment, I think maybe I can help him out. I agree with him that when I watch Silly Symphonies cartoons, the Mickey Mouse title card comes on first . I think that sometimes the Mickey Mouse title comes on for Silly Symphonies because sometimes on other different Silly Symphonies title cards, it says "Mickey Mouse presents Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies" with the cartoon name at the bottom. Anyway, back to the cartoon. This is one of my favorite Silly Symphonies cartoons. My favorite part is when Toby Tortoise was running to the finish line when Max Hare was speeding to catch Toby to win the race, Toby won and he feels proud of himself. I give this a 596 out of 596.
From Gijs Grob : A classic re-telling of Aesop's fable, and a very good one. Both protagonists are very defined characters: the shy and honest Tony Tortoise and the flamboyant but brashy Max Hare. The latter steals the show, impressing four cute girl bunnies with his tricks in speed, playing baseball and tennis with himself. But, as we all know, his showing-off makes him forget the race, and he looses, leaving all the honors to the tortoise. The Tortoise and the Hare is one of the best Silly Symphonies of the period in its strong characterization, its humor and the absence of focus on sweetness and morality. It's also exceptional among the Silly Symphonies in lacking a theme song or dance routine (even though the characters speak in rhyme most of the time).
From Bryan Hensley : This oscar-winning Silly Symphony is still a great one after nearly 75 years! Who'd have thunk Max Hare was a pioneer for what Bugs Bunny would look like? This short had a sequel called Toby Tortoise Returns, and both of these are in Volume 4 of Disney's Animation Collection! Both racers were in the audience of Mickey's Polo Team the next year, before their sequel short. In that short and Toby Tortoise returns, it's mostly Silly Symphony characters who make up the audience! (One noticable exception was Goofy!) Anyway, in this short, Max Hare really was "The blue streak" when he runs past anything or anyone! When he was showing off for the girl bunnies, he was a one-rabbit sports team! As for Toby Tortoise, he just kept on running and wasn't distracted much at all, even though he shushed the audience to not wake Max up from his "nap". Slow and steady does win the race, even if a speed demon like Max Hare wasn't napping at all! The race ended up neck-and-neck, quite literally! I hope you all enjoy this oscar-winning racing classic from 1935!

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