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The Old Mill

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : November 5, 1937

Running Time : 8:42


A triumph of mood over plot, the short shows the inhabitants of an ancient, abandoned mill preparing for nightfall and an approaching storm.


Wilfred Jackson
Graham Heid
Asst. Director
Jack Atwood
Cy Young
Ugo D'Orsi
Art Palmer
John Meador
Cornett Wood
Ralph J. Sommerville
Bob Martsch
George Rowley
Stan Quackenbush
John McManus
Bob Stokes
Jack Hannah
Bob Wickersham
Mique Nelson
Terrell Stapp
Dick Rickard
Leigh Harline
Inpiration Art
Gustav Tenngren
Louise Myers
Jean MacMurray
Jerry Phillips
Marie Arbuckle
Marie Nielsen
Barbara Whitson


Academy Award Winner (Short Subjects - Cartoons.) Disney also won an Academy Award (Scientific or Technical, Class II) for the invention and use of the Multiplane Camera which allowed a greater depth of field than the regular two dimensional animation of the time.
Best Animated Film : Venice Film Festival (1937)


First use of Disney's Multiplane Camera.


There is one scene where a bird has nested in the cog of a gearwheel when the wheel begins to turn. The nest is saved when a gear tooth that would have crushed the nest is seen to be missing. However, the tooth is clearly visible is a previous scene. It is also apparent that the gear and the matching wheel have different tooth sizes, so if the missing tooth had saved the nest once, it surely wouldn't have spared them the second time around.


United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 7 : More of Disney's Best 1932-1946
Meister-Cartoons von Walt Disney
Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de Walt Disney
Le Fiabe Volume 2 : Il Brutto Anatraccolo e Altre Storie
I Capolavori di Walt Disney


The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons


United States
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Bambi (Special Edition)
Zauberhafte Marchenwelt 2
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Walt Disney Le Fiabe 3
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Walt Disney's Fables : Volume 2
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies


United States
Bambi (Two-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs : 3 Disc Blue ray + DVD Combo Pack


The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 29: Goin' Outside with the Silly Symphonies
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 1: Award Winners
Donald's Quack Attack: Episode 38

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 RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.


From Rod Bennett : One striking visual stunt in this one makes a memorable reappearance in "Fantasia"; lightning flashes and then silhouettes a row of frightened mice hiding in the rafters. In "Fantasia", the mice have become cherubs in a Greek pavilion (Beethoven's 6th) but the effect is the same ... and just as arresting.
From Anonymous : I read somewhere that this short played ahead of the first animated movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
From Jerry Edwards : One of my top favorite Disney shorts. The animation - especially the special effects - is top-notch. The story line is riveting, especially when it appears that the mill wheel will crush a mother bird and her nest of eggs. The result is stark and terrifying realism, especially when comparing the peaceful quiet with the violence of the storm. I love the "missing spoke" on the wheel goof. I still get a kick out of it every time I watch this short. Some of the animation has been recycled into later shorts and films and TV shows. The scene of the wind blowing reeds against the fence has been re-used several times, including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow portion of the 1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
From J. D. Weil : Walt Disney took home a technical award for the use of a multiplane camera for this short, but the idea for this goes back a lot farther than this.

For years animators have dreamed of putting depth into the flat backdrops seen in animated shorts and a few of them found solutions in in a number of ways:

In 1934 Max Fleischer created his stereoscopic backdrop which was a miniature set built on a 12 ft. diameter turntable (Some European studios also adopted this approach). The following year (1935) Ub Iwerks used a multiplane camera for his production of "The Headless Horseman" based on Washington Irving's "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow." (It might be interesting to compare this short with Disney's version of the tale from "Ichabod and Mr. Toad"). The Iwerks multiplane was a horizontally mounted fixed focus camera which Iwerks had assembled using the chassis of a Chevrolet pickup truck all for the cost of $750. Disney's multiplane, on the other hand was far more sophisticated, a 14 ft. high monster that was expensive to build (Disney built two of them) and just as expensive to operate requiring a crew of seven. (Disney built an even larger multiplane for "Fantasia" a horizontally mounted camera that was 60 length.)

The large size of these cameras was dictated by the camera optics that were available in the late '30s. Later developments in camera lenses and exposure controls would allow multiplane cameras to be built that were smaller and more user-friendly but Disney never took advantage of these. The Disney Studio retired the multiplanes after the "Jungle Book" was in the can, bringing them briefly out of retirement with a few improvements for "The Black Cauldron". These days, new technologies such as computer generated imagery now available to all studios have made multiplane photography obsolete.

From Diann : Each frame is a work of art. I enjoy the intricate animation, the music and the timelessness of this work. Animation reached its peak as art in this film.
From Lynn Morgan : Probably Disney's best early effort.
From Donny Sweeney : I remember watching this as a young child. It has never left my mind and has made thunder storms all the better for me through out the years. It truly is one of my favorites.
From cc : This cartoon takes me back to my childhood probably faster than any other, save for maybe the The Grasshopper and the Ants. It starts off quiet and serene, the 'calm before the storm', if you will . . . and the music, mood, and activity all pick up as the storm moves in. It shows in wonderful detail the effect this storm has on the animals, the land, the old mill. I don't remember for sure, or not, but I believe there is no dialogue, which I think helps to make this Disney Short so . . . outspoken. The short ends as peacefully as it begins, a nice, dramatic, 'circular' effect.
From Carla : Disney tries to achieve perfection in realism in this cartoon, but European crickets do not sing by rubbing their legs against each other, and I have never heard of a species that does. Could it be that Disney and his staff did not know how a cricket makes its sounds?
From Bo Engwall : This is probably my number one favorite of the Silly Symphonies. I was amazed by the fine artwork when I saw this film the first time nearly 40 years ago. A lovely theme from the changing sides of nature.
From Gonnie Anneveld : I am not surprised that this is an oscarwinning cartoon. I am surprised of the age of this cartoon. Magnificent! My whole family loves this cartoon!
From Lisa : I now have a fear of windmills from watching this movie as a child!
From Sharilyn : This is the most beautiful Silly Symphony I have ever seen, and the most realistic. If you are a fan of Snow White's old world style you will love this one! It is a masterpiece. Many of the same designers and artists of Snow White created the Old Mill. I first saw it in a Wonderful World of Disney Halloween Special. This is in circulation but expensive. I believe it was Disney's Halloween Treat and there are 2 of them so make sure you get the right one.
From Baruch Weiss : A very stunning short if ever I've seen one!
From Ed : Very scary but good.
From Julie Arsenault : I absolutely love this cartoon, it's beautifully animated under the direction Wilfred Jackson, who also directed the "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria" segment from "Fantasia", and a few favorite Silly Symphonies like :

1.The Cat's Out (1931)
2.The Bears and Bees (1932)
3.Lullaby Land (1933)
4.The Goddess of Spring (1934)
5.The Country Cousin (1936) and...
6.Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938)
but this short is my all-time favorite on "My Favorite Silly Symphonies" list. I love the scene at night (it is just gorgeous), and I also love the little swallow family (they are sooooo adorable).

From Dino Cencia : Wow, I remembered this short a long time ago! This was one of my favorite Disney shorts. This short was on A Disney Halloween and when I watched the short when I was little, it was a little scary for me but now I'm not scared of this short. This short reminds me of a bad thunderstorm I had yesterday. There was a heavy wind advisory and rain changing over to snow and freezing rain. And maybe sometime I will buy the Walt Disney Treasures Silly Symphonies with this short on it. I really loved this short! I give this short a 999 out of 999.
From Jordi : My name is Jordi, I'm from Spain and I'm 18 and I love this short! When I was I child I saw it in that video which had some shorts awarded with Oscars, The Three Little Pigs, and this was my favorite! I became very obsessed with it and I used to draw mills all the day. I think is great, the music and the effects are amazing The scene when the thunder broke the mill is very violent; every time I see it, I get emotional! Now I'm nostalgic and I return to my childhood when I see it.
From Josh Perez : This short has become one of of my favorite animated shorts ever. I first saw it in one of the platinum edition of Bambi. It is still fairly new to me but the animation is excellent. This is animation at it's best. I only hope that future generations also have the chance to view this and other animated treasures from the golden era of animation.
From Klaus Disney : German Title: Die alte Mühle

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