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Elmer Elephant

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : March 28, 1936

Running Time : 8:29

Synopsis

Poor Elmer is teased unmercifully by the other kids at Tillie Tiger's birthday party because of his long nose. But soon, he is shown that his trunk can be very handy when a fire breaks out.

Characters

Elmer Elephant
Joe Giraffe
Joey Hippo
Tillie Tiger (Voice: Alice Ardell)

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Asst. Director
Graham Heid
Animation
Hamilton Luske
Paul Hopkins
Bob Wickersham
Wolfgang Reitherman
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Milt Schaffer
Eddie Strickland
Ward Kimball
Backgrounds
Maurice Noble
Layout
Ferdinand Horvath
Story
Bianca Marjolie
Ted Sears
Earl Hurd
Music
Leigh Harline
Character Design
Charlie Thorson
Voices
Alice Ardell

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 14 : Animal Tales
France
Contes et Legendes de Jiminy Cricket
Italy
Le Fiabe Volume 2 : Il Brutto Anatraccolo e Altre Storie
Le Meravigliose Fiabe del Grillo Parlante

Laserdiscs

United States
Cartoon Classics : Animal Tales

DVD

Dumbo : Big Top Edition
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 2 : The Three Little Pigs
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Dumbo (Special Collection)
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Blu-Ray

United States
Dumbo (Two Disc 70th Anniversay BluRay/DVD Combo Pack)

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 53: Silly Symphonies at the Zoo
The Mickey Mouse Club : December 14, 1955
The Mickey Mouse Club : November 28, 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

From Patrick Malone : Elmer Elephant is a very effective but simple story. When the story begins, we see Elmer skipping along on his way to Tillie Tiger's birthday party. His timing is a bit off; he arrives just at the moment that Tillie has asked Joey Hippo to blow out the candles on her cake for her, and with his tremendous blow sends the entire frosting of the cake right onto the face of the newly-arrived Elmer.

It's fairly easy to see that Elmer is one of Tillie's favorites as she cleans off his face for him and then goes all gushy over his gift; a simple bouquet of flowers. Possibly it's a bit of jealousy from the other attendees (including one bear cub who bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain cartoon mouse) but when Tillie goes up to her jungle penthouse (to do what, we're not told) the other party goers decide to taunt Elmer about his trunk with a variety of disguises, including the ultimate insult of one monkey making a caricature of Elmer out of his rear end and tail!

Without Tillie to defend him. Elmer wanders off dejected, trying to find some way to disguise his trunk. But then he comes across Joe Giraffe, with an extremely long neck. He points out to Elmer that he's not the only animal in the jungle who might look a little silly, and points out a group of pelicans who give their best Jimmy Durante impression. Elmer begins to feel a little better, but suddenly there is an alarm! Somehow, Tillie's birthday party is going up in flames!

Elmer and Joe head off to the fire with the pelicans in tow to find that all the other party-goers have been able to do is run around like chickens panicking. There is some attempt to put out the blaze by a monkey fire-brigade, but the personified flames make quick work of the fire-ladder, as they do a makeshift trampoline the other animals try to use to get Tillie down from her penthouse. The pelicans are able to bring water because of the size of their beaks; Elmer, standing atop Joe Giraffe's head has the proper height to shoot out the flames with water from his trunk. Because of their physical peculiarities, Elmer, Joe and the pelicans are able to put out the fire, rescue Tillie from her precarious perch and save the day!

Elmer Elephant was well-received by the public and some Disney artists felt that it was an important step towards the pathos that would give features such as "Dumbo" it's charm. It was a remarkable step for Disney as Elmer was able to convey a variety of emotions, even though he had not a single line of dialogue in the entire short. It was also unusual for a Silly Symphony as it retreated from the standard form of using the music in the forefront. Although it does have a couple of musical numbers, the story takes center stage. Some, however, felt that the pathos wasn't enough and it had a sense of emptiness at it's core.

One who was disappointed with the way it came out was the original storywriter, Bianca Majolie. Majolie was an anomaly at Disney; a woman in the male dominated story department. Walt approved the first idea she submitted - an original story entitled "The Romance of Baby Elephant" which went into production in mid-1935. However, as it went through the story department, more slapstick ideas were added to the original charming story. It was the brutal aspects of the slapstick that Marjolie objected to but, being the "new kid in town", her objections went unheard.

Most of her ideas for characters and narrative were retained, however, including the moral in her words "that usefulness is more important than beauty ... that things that are not decorative may be extremely useful and should be cherished for that reason."


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : One of the things that has been interesting to watch as we’ve gotten further and further into the Silly Symphonies is the two different approaches in the series. On the one hand, you have shorts that are looking to expand the medium and storytelling tools, such as The Goddess of Spring or The Golden Touch. On the other hand, you have shorts that are focused on “cute” stories that are familiar and pleasing. Elmer Elephant falls into the latter category.

Elmer is really a precursor to Dumbo in many ways, as it features a simplistic, cute elephant being mocked for his “handicap,” which later becomes his biggest asset. Elmer feels like a storybook, and the look and feel of this short reflects that. The characters are overly cute, and have alliterative names like Elmer Elephant or Tillie Tiger.

When Elmer heads to Tillie’s birthday party, he is at first encouraged because despite ending up with cake on his face, Tillie is rather taken with him. But after Tillie retreats into her treehouse, the other kids start teasing Elmer mercilessly. They are making fun of his nose, which seems odd, because, well, he’s an elephant. What did they expect?

Regardless, Elmer tries to hide his nose, but runs off into the jungle in tears. The jungle is rendered beautifully in the backgrounds. It’s a far cry from the Alice shorts or the Mickey black and white shorts where the jungle was a flat surface with a few palm trees. This is a beautiful, watercolor background, and it’s one of the best features of the short.

Elmer meets a giraffe in the jungle who tells him not to worry. It’s an admonition that really seems to fall short. The interaction between Elmer and the giraffe is strained, at least to me, and the best part of it is really the pelicans nearby, who do their best Jimmy Durante impression to convince Elmer that a large nose isn’t that bad.

As I stated, the liability becomes an asset when a fire envelops Tillie’s treehouse, and Elmer rides to the rescue on the neck of his giraffe friend. The scenes of Elmer spraying the fire with his trunk are fun, and the movements of the fire to avoid him are some of the best animation of the short.

Elmer ends up with the girl and the admiration of the other guests, and all ends well. That said, watching this short just brought home to me the wide difference between the two types of Silly Symphonies. It’s not something that you see in the Mickey Mouse shorts. I looked to see if it was a director-based thing, but best I could tell it was not. Any thoughts on why there is such a wide difference between the two types of Silly Symphonies?


From Mac : I've never categorized the Symphonies at two different types before, but I do see what you mean. As we've seen, the Silly Symphonies series was an opportunity to try out different things, so I just think they went with what seemed like good ideas for a 9 minute cartoons.

The opening scene contains everything I like and don't like about the aesthetics of this cartoon. The use of color is lovely and there's some excellent use of shadows which give both Elmer and his surroundings a feeling of depth. However, fat-headed, round- cheeked Elmer is just too sickly cute. That what I find interesting about this cartoon – Disney has done cute before, but these characters don't look like any others in the Disney canon. A lot of effort must have been put into creating the world of this cartoon, which doesn't look quite like any of the others. A sequel was never made and the characters were featured in comics and magazines, but this animated cartoon remains unique in the Disney library.


From Rod Bennett : This short is pretty unique; it's done in a very unusual style not employed in any other Disney film. First of all, the character models themselves don't look at all "Disney" to me; I believe they may have been inspired by a popular comic strip series from the period that I recall - all about jungle animals and running regularly in The Saturday Evening Post (but, darn it, I've forgotten the artist's name). Also : there's a great deal more "modeling" (with shadow) on the figures here than we get to see in any other Disney effort until "Who Framed Roger Rabbit!" All in all, this one strikes me as wildly experimental and I, for one, would like to know more about its origins.
From Jerry Edwards : A nicely done cartoon that makes me care for Elmer Elephant. I believe I had read the book adapting the cartoon story long before I saw the short. Elmer was one of the first new Disney characters to appear on merchandise items since the Three Little Pigs. The jungle fire department, made up of monkeys, is played for laughs.
From Andrea : Found this on the Dumbo DVD. My 3 year old is enchanted and asks for this short more often than Dumbo, the film itself. Charming characterization of Elmer and I just love Tilly Tiger's voice.

We don't get many Silly Symphonies shown in the UK and if they're like this I'd love to see more.


From Ryan : While this cartoon is very well animated, I really don't care too much for it. I find it way too cute for my taste. I do, however, enjoy the climax of it when all the animals are trying to extinguish the fire.
From Hal Niederbrach : Elmer Elephant is one of my favorites of the Silly Symphonies .The only thing I dont like is the taunting. I dont think anyone knows except me that one of the cubs whos at Tillie Tigers party looks like a bearlike Mickey Mouse with his 1939 to today look. I like the ending which has Elmer and Tillie kissing and IT IS an enjoyable cartoon.
From Kay : OMG! It was so cute! I loved how Tillie Tiger was drawn! It was so great in the end when they got together.
From Chris : This is a very sweet one, whose relevance looms larger today than before. You genuinely feel for the characters, you want to see Elmer come through victorious and prove everyone wrong (without violence of course). Joe Giraffe proves the wonderful words of reason. A must have on any enthusiast's lists.
From Wesley Fleming : I have it on a video my mom taped for me. I love it! My favorite is when the teasers sing about his nose.
From Dino Cencia : Oh my god, this cartoon is so sweet! Also, I liked Tillie Tiger. She's so cute and sweet and she has the same clothes and hair bow like Minnie Mouse. I liked the part when Tillie Tiger blew out the candles on her cake, it didn't go out, so she asked Joey Hippo to blow them out for her. So he said ok and took a deep breath and blowed the whole cake into Elmer Elephant. Then Tillie Tiger cleaned him up and Elmer gave Tillie some flowers for her birthday. And she kissed him on the trunk. Aww! So sweet! Then the other kids (or animals) teased Elmer about his long nose (or trunk.) Also, last, I loved the part when there was a fire at Tillie Tiger's clubhouse, Elmer saves her from the fire by getting water from the birds and he sucked the water in his trunk and put the fire out just like a fire hose. Then Tillie was about to fall but Elmer saved her with his trunk and carried her down safely. "My hero!" Tillie Tiger said. Then the two friends were about to kiss, Elmer's trunk was in the way but he moved his trunk to kiss Tillie at the end. Aww so cute and sweet! I give this cartoon a 9000.
From Baruch Weiss : While watching this cartoon I can't help but feel sorry for poor Elmer as the kids (including a monkey who's wearing Mickey Mouse's pants) make fun of him, Tilly shouldn't have allowed this and should have just kicked everybody else out of her party. Other than that, I loved it espically at the end where Elmer is kissing Tilly, but censores it by hiding it behind his ear!
From Gijs Grob : A beautiful cartoon. it's full of cute animals, but despite its cuteness it never becomes cloying. Its storyline is very straightforward and really heartfelt, like the best of Disney's works. Elmer visits the birthday party of one of his jungle friends, the extremely cute girl tiger Tilly. He appears to be her favorite guest, but all the other animals (including some non-tropical foxes) mock him because of his trunk, singing "your nose is like a rubber hose". Moreover they bully and taunt him and send him away. Unhappy, Elmer wanders through the jungle, but then he encounters even stranger-looking animals: an old giraffe and three Jimmy Durante-like pelicanes, who comfort him a little. Then, suddenly, there's a fire in Tillie's treehut. Elmer comes to the rescue, and with help of his nose and of his new odd friends he saves Tillie from the anthropomorphized flames. Thus being the hero of the day he wins Tillie's love, displayed by a kiss.

Elmer Elephant has the looks of a storybook. It's beautifully animated, with lots of shadows, and has well-designed characters. Especially the hippo, who has an absurdly low voice, is a wonderful character. It's both surprising and a shame that no other cartoon has been made with these cute characters in their beautiful jungle forest. Of course, the idea of a kind elephant being mocked for a handicap would later return in "Dumbo", making Elmer Elephant its immediate predecessor.


From Sydney Simmonds : Tillie Tiger kinda sounds like Minnie Mouse when she is giggling. She sure had been bitten by the lovebug and fell in love with Elmer. But since she likes him a lot, why didn't she speak up for him when he was being teased about his trunk. I would do that if I was Tillie.
From Thomas Bauer : In the cartoon Elmer Elephant, why did Walt Disney make the cartoon in a way that Elmer Elephant is first ridiculed about his trunk and then the others attendants of Tillie Tiger's birthday party become bullies to him about his trunk? He didn't do anything to any of them and they all physically abuse him by tugging on his trunk. When the hippo tugs on elmer's trunk, the monkey stands right behind him bent over so Elmer would trip over him and tumble down the hill they were on top of when the hippo suddenly lets go of his trunk. They make him feel self-conscious and insecure about his trunk and when he kicks his trunk , it snaps him in the face and make him cry. I feel they should have all been kicked out of Tillie Tiger's party for that, especially the tiger that led it who said "Hello, Elmer" in an intimidating way to him.

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