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Broken Toys

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : November 30, 1935

Running Time : 7:53

Synopsis

A discarded toy soldier tossed onto a junk pile rallies the spirits of his fellow cast-offs and founds an ersatz hospital to repair them.

Caricatures

Stephan Fetchit
W. C. Fields
Zasu Pitts
Ned Sparks

Credits

Director
Ben Sharpsteen
Asst. Director
Dick Williams
Roy Williams
Animation
John McManus
Dick Heumer
Art Babbitt
George Drake
Jim Algar
Grim Natwick
Bill Tytla
Johnny Cannon
Leonard Sebring
Bob Wickersham
Wolfgang Reitherman
Berny Wolf
Cy Young
Marvin Woodward
Layout
Ferdinand Horvath
Story
Otto Englander
Larry Morey
Pinto Colvig
Music
Albert Hay Malotte
Character Design
Joe Grant

Cut Scenes

Some short scenes featuring Chinese and black dolls have been cut.

Video

Germany
Verrückte Musikanten
France
Silly Symphonies Volume 1
Italy
Silly Symphonies Volume 2

Laserdiscs

Japan
More Silly Symphonies

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 18: A Bunch of Silly Symphonies
The Mickey Mouse Club : December 20, 1955
The Mickey Mouse Club : December 18, 1956

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

  • The Jack-In-the-Box seen here is a caricature of dead-pan film comedian Ned Sparks. The rag-doll is a spoof of character actress Zasu Pitts. Also seen are caricatures of Stepin Fetchit and W. C. Fields.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : As Leonard Maltin is kind enough to tell us on the introduction to the “From the Vault” section on the More Silly Symphonies DVD, the time in which these shorts were made was different than our time. That’s obvious, I know, but specifically, Maltin is referring to the caricatures of race and nationality and how they are depicted in the shorts.

One of the examples he gives is from Broken Toys, in the character of Stepin Fetchit, which is a caricature of the actor by the same name. This, along with the Mammy doll character, similar to others in earlier Disney shorts, gives us some of the more racially insensitive moments to date, but only by today’s standards. Neither caricature is particularly mean spirited, especially if you are at all familiar with Stepin Fetchit.

These are not the only caricatures in the film, either. I recognized WC Fields immediately, but there’s also comedian Ned Sparks and actress Zasu Pitts as a jack in the box and an empty sawdust doll, respectively. The caricatures are there to allow the audience to connect to the characters more quickly, since a majority of the film is not spent on characterization, but on moving the plot forward.

The plot is very charming, and appropriate since it was released around the holidays in 1935. A broken toy sailor is dumped into the local trash heap, and finds a whole community of broken toys around him. The toy sailor rallies the troops, so to speak, and proceeds to get them all fixed in various ways to get them out of the dump.

This is some of the best “assembly line” type work that Disney produced. We’ve seen stuff like this before in things like Funny Little Bunnies, Santa’s Workshop and others, but here, it’s a little more clever here and the characters are more individualized. There are great individual scenes like the sailor doll running a crane to transfer sawdust from one doll to the next, or the fantastic operation scene.

There are so many great little touches to this short that it’s hard to pinpoint the standout sequence, but the operation scene was it for me. One of the dolls is missing her eyes, and so the sailor decides to sew some on her. From Stepin Fetchit working the breathing machine, to the crowd observing in a hanging basket, every bit of the scene breathes humor and tension at the same time. It’s wonderful.

It’s also interesting to me to see the parallels with this short and later works by other companies. Think about the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or the discarded toys in Toy Story 2, and then watch this short. There are definite similarities.

The ending, though, is what really warms the heart. The toys march themselves out of the dump, and over the hill into the town. The viewer only knows that they are marching through a gate, but it’s not until the very end, when the camera pans up to reveal a wreath over the door of the city orphanage, that you see their destination. It’s a beautiful ending to a very well done short.


From Mac : I quite enjoyed watching this cartoon on the twelfth night of Christmas! I do find some moments a little weird though what with the mix of toys and medical procedures. You don't expect to see a transfusion when you see the title of this cartoon! I only saw this cartoon once as a child and it stuck with me. When I finally saw it again as an adult I was actually a little disappointed it didn't seem as good as I remembered.
From Jerry Edwards : Discarded toys at the city dump decide to repair themselves. A soldier doll, acting as a surgeon, restores the sight of a girl doll. At the end, the toys march to the orphanage to their new life as toys for the orphans. I enjoyed the imaginative ways the toys repair themselves. I enjoy the sentimentality of the short, even though overdone in spots. I have never seen the original color uncensored short. I have seen it uncensored in black and white.

The black and white copy I previously stated as complete was also censored. I recently received an uncensored copy - it contains some of the most serious black racial stereotype scenes that have appeared in Disney works. It contains about 1 1/2 minutes of Stepin Fetchit type scenes - a lazy, slow black male doll. It also contains a "Mammy" black female doll. The censored version comes across as a sweet, innocent film - the uncensored scenes turns this into a somewhat "mean spirited" cartoon (by today's standards.)


From Ryan : In the opening sequence of this short, we see a truck dumping discarded toys into the junkyard. Refusing to give up hope, the toy sailor proposes they fix each other up. A fat plush police officer gives an old rag doll a sawdust transfusion, a Stepin Fetchit marionette shines his head with shoe polish, and the sailor performs open surgery on the girl doll, giving her a new pair of eyes. While this short doesn't add too much interest for me, I really like the animation. I also enjoy the Stepin Fetchit marionette and the mammy rag doll.
From John Gough : I haven't seen this recently, but I have such vivid childhood memories (late 1950s, in Australia), when "Broken Toys" would appear in an episode of "The Mousketeers" that I feel the urge to add a comment. This was simply gorgeous. Apart from the fun of spot-the-actor (some non-Disney cartoons of the 1930s did this also -- surely because ADULTS also watched these cartoons in cinemas!), the story-line was beautiful. This is the sort of story Hans Christian Anderson would have written in a happy mood.