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Who Killed Cock Robin?

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : June 29, 1935

Running Time : 8:30

Synopsis

A new twist on an old nursery rhyme as the criminal bird court attempts to determine who killed Cock Robin as he wooed his love, Jenny Wren. Robin, it turns out, is not dead, but merely wounded by Cupid's arrow.

Characters

Cock Robin
Jenny Wren
Judge Owl
Crow (unnamed)
Cuckoo (unnamed)
Cupid
Legs Sparrow
Prosecutor

Caricatures

Stephan Fetchit
Harpo Marx
Mae West

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Animation
Hamilton Luske
Bob Wickersham
Eric Larson
Hardie Gramatky
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Norm Ferguson
Bill Roberts
Dick Lundy
Story
Bill Cottrell
Joe Grant
Music
Frank Churchill
Voices
Martha Wentworth
Billy Bletcher
Leo Cleary
Purv Pullen
Homer Hall Male Quartet
Freeman High Male Quartet

Source

Based on the story "Who Killed Cock Robin?"

Awards

Nominated for an Academy Award (Short Subjects - Cartoons.) The award was won by Three Orphan Kittens.

Cut Scenes

Some black and southern stereotypes were cut as were scenes of police brutality. They have been restored for the current DVD edition.

Video

Germany
Die Drei Kleinen Schweinchen und der Böse Wolf
France
Disney Parade 4
Italy
Paperino e Soci a Caccia di Guai

Laserdiscs

Japan
Disney Cartoon Festival Volume 4

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 58: Silly Symphonies Go To the Birds
Walt Disney Presents: More About Silly Symphonies

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

From Jerry Edwards : I have never seen the uncensored version shown on the Disney Channel. Violence (police brutality) is also censored. I enjoy this unusual version of the classic rhyme with Jenny Wren as the caricature of Mae West. But Cupid's voice really irritates me with the high-pitched tone.
From Jeremy Fassler : One of my favorite shorts. I like the parodies on Harpo Marx and Mae West. Jenny Wren should've been in more Silly Symphonies. The short hasn't been available to the public in a very long time, and for many years, it was considered lost.
From Ryan : This is one of my favorite Silly Symphony shorts. I enjoy the animation and the background art as well as Jenny Wren's caricature of actress Mae West. There was another celebrity caricature: a crazy bird was drawn like one of the Marx Bros. The court scene is very funny for me, especially with some of the witnesses.
From Candy : I loved this cartoon for its un-Disney-like violence. I have probably seen the edited version of it, but it still suggested some violence when the cops went into the bar and started hitting people on the head. I read somewhere that this cartoon was criticized by the censors of the time for being too violent. I especially liked the character of Jenny Wren, a bird version of Mae West. I read in Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life that Mae West actually wrote to Walt and told him that he did a good job of caricaturing her in this cartoon. Jenny Wren might have been one of the first really sexy Disney characters. She's drawn in a very sexy way. There's even a suggestion of cleavage. She walks very slowly and seductively, swinging her hips from side to side. She seems to come on to the Judge Owl in order to persuade him to hang all the birds that have been arrested.

Also, the Cupid Bird always seemed kind of gay to me. I knew it wasn't my imagination. The writer who submitted the article about this cartoon, Michael Barrier, said that this Cupid Bird was portrayed as gay. The bird is male, yet he acts very feminine. He stands in a feminine pose, with a hand on his hip. He giggles and talks with a lisp. It's amazing that that got in there. I was under the impression that Hollywood never portrayed gay characters in an obvious way during this time. And to think that Disney portrayed an obvious gay character in this cartoon. I've always wondered about that character, and another Disney person confirmed it for me; yeah, that bird is gay. There's a book about the gay community's relationship to the Disney Company; Tinker Belles and Evil Queens by Sean Griffin. I'm not trying to push any kind of agenda; I'm just throwing it out there for everyone's information.


From Sandra Schwartz : I haven't seen Who Killed Cock Robin since I was a child but I have the most wonderful memories of it. I would like to rate it a 10. The drawings are really cute and adventurous. I loved the cartoon and I still do.
From Dino Cencia : In the beginning, I thought that Cock Robin was dead, but he wasn't. I give this a 607.
From Baruch Weiss : This is a very nice short. I enjoyed the character Jenny Wren. She made two more appearances: a cameo in Mickey's Polo Team and Toby Tortoise Returns.
From Matthew Cooper : On the DVD I have, the police club-bashing and the stereotypes are still there so I have seen this short the original way it was made. My favorite thing about it is the characters (Jenny-Wren is sooooooooo Mae West,) I wonder if she posed for the Disney-Artists when they were drawing her caricature? I also like the trial scene (especially the song "We're Gonna Hang Em' All.) The only thing I don't like is that the jury members all look the same. Oh well, I guess that if they didn't, Disney would have spent too much time on making this cartoon.
From Gijs Grob : Who Killed Cock Robin? is a musical mystery very loosely based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. Its source material notwithstanding Who Killed Cock Robin is the most adult Silly Symphony ever made. True to the Silly symphony concept, all characters either sing or speak in rhyme (with Jenny Wren's sensual blues as a highlight), but in a bare seven minutes the cartoon manages to mock the law, racialism and gay people, while displaying an unusual eroticism through Jenny Wren, who is a very fine caricature of famous Hollywood actress Mae West. These features are especially striking when one bears in mind that the Union Code was already active in 1935. Due to his self-censorship sex and violence were banned from the movies. To illustrate its effect: due to this code an erotic cartoon character as Betty Boop had to be tuned down and was turned into a goody-goody and quite a bland character. Yet, Who Killed Cock Robin displays its satire and eroticism in full glory.

When Cock Robin has been shot by a mysterious shadow, the Keystone Cop-like police randomly arrests some bystanders: a tough-looking guy, a black bird (blacks were easily arrested just because of their colour) and a cuckoo who resembles Harpo Marx. They're treated very roughly, being knocked by the cops almost all the time. And when Jenny exclaims that justice should be done, the judge simply orders to hang all verdicts even though nobody knows who's guilty! It's Cupid, an obvious caricature of a homosexual, who prevents this cruel sentence. Cock Robin appears to be alive, and finally he and Jenny Wren reunite in a hot kiss. Thus ends one of the most spectacular cartoons of the nineteen thirties.


From Condor : Sort of like a Disney version of a whodunit with all the suspects and the happy ending because Robin's not really dead, just wounded. Great color and worth an award nomination.

Referenced Comments