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Water Babies

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : May 11, 1935

Running Time : 8:17

Synopsis

The water sprites living in a rustic pond awake with the dawn for a rollicking picnic. The festivities climax as "matadors" test their courage against an angry bull-frog.

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Art Babbitt
Archie Robin
Cy Young
Frenchy de Tremaudan
Wolfgang Reitherman
Dick Heumer
Roy Williams
Nick George
Louie Schmitt
Ugo D'Orsi
Layout
Hugh Hennesy
Story
Bill Cottrell
Music
Leigh Harline
Character Design
Albert Hurter
Voices
Marion Darlington
Leone Ledoux

Cut Scenes

A scene where one of the babies rises to the top of the water rear-end first and is promptly slapped on the butt by another baby has been cut. Also cut was a scene where baby cowboys turn and bow away from the audience rear-end first.

Video

United States
Silly Symphonies

Laserdiscs

Silly Symphonies / Animals Two by Two

DVD

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 13: Silly Symphonies Get Wet
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 22
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 4, 1957
The Mickey Mouse Club : April 17, 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

  • Very loosely based on a story by Charles Kinglsey.
  • Resulted in a 1938 sequel, Merbabies.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I have to admit, this was a tough one to get through. After years of advancement in storytelling and plotting in the Silly Symphonies, Water Babies seems like a step backwards. It has great character design, but that really is the only thing I liked about this short.

The short is a throwback to things like the “season” shorts of Springtime or Summer. It features an opening scene where we see flowers unfolding to reveal small babies inside, who then proceed to frolic and play throughout the pond area. That’s the whole short. Nothing more to it than that.

Unlike previous Silly Symphonies that did not have a plot, Water Babies does not even feature good characters and great gags. The babies, while very cute and nice to look at, are practically indistinguishable from each other, and thus it is very difficult to connect to them. And the gags? There just aren’t that many of them.

This is an issue that has been popping up lately in the Disney shorts we’ve reviewed. Even in the Mickey shorts, the number of gags is slowly shrinking, as the focus has shifted more to story and what happens with the characters. If done properly, like in The Golden Touch, that’s not such a bad thing. However, that has not been the case in this short and others, like Mickey’s Kangaroo.

The main source of gags in Water Babies is the babes playing with some frogs. The frogs stand in for horses and bulls, as the babies act out little vignettes for each other. It’s strange, to say the least. There’s one sequence where a frog is caged up, and acts like a rabid bull. Once released, the frog chases one of the babies, and gets its head stuck in a flower. But at the end, after the frog has run off the babies, he pulls the flower off his head and reveals himself to be in on the act. Huh?

That’s the problem with Water Babies. Throughout the short, I did not understand all that was going on, and continually wondered why these characters were doing what they did. Sure, it was pretty to look at, and some of the scenes are very well animated. But I never got lost in the short, like I do with some of the Mickeys or even other Silly Symphonies. This one gets a hearty thumbs down from me. What do you think?


From Mac : Blecch! I don't like it either. This is for me perhaps the ugliest Disney cartoon ever made while Walt was alive. Again it's an attempt to be more beautiful than the level of art and technical limitations of the time will quite allow. Usually I go easy on this because it's this kind of ambition that will lead to beautiful scenes in later projects, but here the imagery is so twee, it comes across as total puke.

The babies just look gross. It is an attempt to be cute (too cute!) and fairly realistic, but the over-detailed outlines combined with one flat pink area of nudity on every baby is disgusting to look at. It also makes any imperfection in the drawings readily apparent. Then there's all the yukky colored thick water and flowers, the dead-eyed stupid-looking swans and the ridiculously fat birds flapping about. Ugh! Make it go away.

Previous cute cartoons (e.g Funny Little Bunnies) did have an abundance of gags and silliness to cheer things up and they bounce along quite nicely. However, this ones just about going to a magical world where everything's cute and a disgusting color.

As much as I hate this twee little film, it does have it's fans. I do admire that Disney tried to do something different yet again (there hasn't been a Silly Symphony quite like this one before), but trying to be cute and nothing more doesn't cut it for me. I know there are people who like pretty flowers, cute babies and all this sort of thing, but I'm surprised they don't see how ugly this cartoon is. I think the music goes a long way in carrying this film – Leigh Harline's score is lovely and suggests something much more beautiful than what we see in the visuals.


From Lisette de Pillis : This adorable short animation has captured the hearts of our young children. As adults we found it certainly very charming, but were surprised at the degree to which the film appeals to our toddlers. They ask to see the film over and over again, they want to see it before going to bed at night and when they wake up in the morning. Our two year old has to hold back tears when it is time for the Water Babies to go to sleep at night, until we assure her that they will be waking up again the next morning. By the way, we somehow got hold of the uncut version (I don't recall where). The animation is beautiful, the music is sing-able, we truly enjoy this precious film.
From Jerry Edwards : Silly, imaginative, enjoyable cartoon. The animation of the scene in which the water babies ride swans is beautifully done!
From Mike Campanelli : I find Water Babies (and its saltwater cousin, Merbabies) to be among the most adorable and touching of cartoon shorts. The idyllic world of the little water babies, from the daytime antics to their evening return to their lilies actually gives me a lump in my throat. Maybe I'm weird, but that's how it affect me!! Anyway, it's a very cute little flick.
From Ryan : I first saw this short when I received a video containing it (and two other Disney videos) for my seventh birthday. I liked it. I remember that my sister and I used to laugh at the scene where the two babies dunk one baby under water each time he comes up head first. He then came up butt first and the two babies gave him a good hard slap.
From Alicia : My all time favorite movie, children wise. Watched it 17 years ago and have always thought of it. Most people have never heard of it, but those who have cherish it. CLASSIC!
From Bobby : My son (now 20) loved this wonderful short, and wanted to watch it over and over when he was a toddler of around two. I have to admit, I think I enjoyed it as much as he did, or even more. The ending almost always made him want to cry, and often times he did. But we always reassured him the babies were simply going to sleep to rest up for another day of fun tomorrow.

It is my wish that more parents would get in touch with this wonderful fantasy word with their child and embrace it for all its worth. They grow sooooo fast and its so fleeting this magical time. Watching Water Babies with my son back then is a cherished memory I will never forget.


From Baruch Weiss : This is my favorite Silly Symphony. I loved it from start to finish.
From Linary Kingdon : I first became aware of the movie Water Babies back in 1987 when my oldest daughter wanted to watch it over and over at my mother's house at the age of 1. She (and I) absolutely LOVED the movie! At the end when the babies would start going home she would very passionately say, "No go home! No go home!" Then we'd rewind and watch it over and over. A couple years ago my mother asked me to find a copy of it for my niece. I was thrilled when I found copies for sale on the internet. I'll be surprising my daughter with my findings for her 22nd birthday this weekend. Thank you for having this site.
From Gijs Grob : Water Babies is sugarly cute, contains a lot of repetitive animation and is one of those Silly Symphonies obsessed with babies and their bare behinds (other examples are Lullabye Land (1933) and Wynken, Blynken and Nod (1938)). There is not much of a story either: the sexless water babies wake up, make fun and go to bed again (apparently a day only lasts seven minutes in their world). And yet, this is undoubtly one of Disney's most impressive efforts of the era. It feels like a showcase cartoon of the Disney studio excelling in lush pictures and beautiful theme music. Especially the opening scene (dawn) and the last shot (night) are stunningly beautiful. The Disney staff had reached yet another peak, and more was still to come.
From DaVon : I first saw this short on one of the very few Walt Disney Cartoon Classics video compilations I still have/own: Vol. 4: Silly Symphonies. And I used to play/watch this all the time when I was little and younger back in the '90s, around my preschool and elementary school years. It's a great and cute short, very enjoyable. Although I used to find that bullfrog kind of frightening, but I realize that for apparent reasons that clearly was the intention in fighting that matador baby in the gag, in looking so fierce. Fortunately, despite that fact ,it didn't give me nightmares. The animation is high-quality, just the whole thing is great. Recommended, as this really may be among the best, if not better, Silly Symphonies shorts. I give it an A+, just wonderful.
From Richard Sutor, Ph. D. : I first saw this cartoon when it was one of the featured cartoons on the old Mickey Mouse Club. (Yes, I am that old) Of course it was in Black and White and what captured my attention was the music. Here's was a cartoon with a classical sounding score perfectly timed to the action on the screen. There were interwoven themes and motifs - even counterpoint. Years later I purchased a film library (16mm sound prints) from a local photo shop that no longer wanted to rent films. I bought the collection without reviewing all the titles as there were about 350 reels. To my delight there were several Disney shorts included in there including this one. Several of the cartoon description have noted cartoons which were released to the home market. This one does not carry such a notation but I have the copy. When the Silly Symphony Disney Treasures were released I was originally disappointed Water Babies was not listed as being on either edition. It is, however. It's an easter egg which when found provides a bit of the back story of the water babies as shown on an episode of Disneyland. As noted by several other reviewers this cartoon has been a hit with my grandchildren. As toddlers each has become engrossed in it and ask to see it over and over. It became one of the special things to do when visiting with Grandpa. So this cartoon can be seen as testing the ability of Disney in-house composers to create a score that could carry an extended action sequence; a throwback to the original concept of the Silly Symphony, or a film designed to capture the interest and imagination of viewers at the earliest of ages. I say Well Done Wilf Jackson and Leigh Harline.

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