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Moth and the Flame

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : April 1, 1938

Running Time : 7:45

Synopsis

A swarm of moths tear into "Ye Olde Costume Shop" as one pretty girl moth is beguiled by a hypnotic candle flame.

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Bert Gillett
Dick Heumer
Animation
Win Hoskins
Archie Robin
Izzy Klein
Milt Schaffer
Ed Love
Louie Schmitt
Don Williams
John McManus
Andy Engman
Story
Bill Cottrell
George Stallings
Tom Palmer
Hal Helvenston
Music
Albert Hay Malotte
Inpiration Art
Gustav Tenngren

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions I : Silly Symphonies
France
Silly Symphonies Volume 2
Italy
Il Meglio di Disney
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions I : Il Meglio Di Disney

CED

United States
Limited Gold Editions - Silly Symphonies

Laserdiscs

Japan
Silly Symphonies : Limited Gold Editions

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 38: Infested Silly Symphonies
The Mickey Mouse Club : October 22, 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 RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : There is an ongoing theme in the Silly Symphonies series of exploring worlds that exist right under our noses. From the very beginning of the series, looking at the skeletons who dance in the graveyard when people are not around, to Midnight in a Toy Shop, examining toys after people go home, the Silly Symphonies often look at these “hidden” worlds. The Moth and the Flame is the same idea, examining a costume shop after hours when invaded by a group of moths.

In addition to the “hidden” world motif, we also have a great number of Silly Symphonies that play off of parables, or moral lessons. This one is no different. This plays off the theme of sticking with the safe over the exciting – in other words, taking the reliable man over the (literally) flaming hot new beau.

The best part of this short is the art, meaning the fantastic backgrounds and characters. The backgrounds here are more rich and full than in previous shorts, looking similar to Snow White in the design of the costume shop. The characters, especially the lead moth, his girl and the flame, are exceptional designs as well.

The downside is that despite having such great tools to work with, the story doesn’t give them much to work with. The basics are that the lead moth brings his girlfriend into the costume shop, and they dance around for a while before he is distracted by a hat. Yes, he starts eating a hat, while his woman goes and flirts with a flame. Predictably, the flame turns evil and starts chasing her around before the boyfriend snaps out of it and enlists his fellow moths to extinguish the flame.

While the personification of the flame is done quite well, most of the other gags just fall flat. The majority of them involve either the lead moth or the flame pursuing the girl, to no avail. It starts simply, with the flirtation of the two moths, and there’s even some willing flirtation on the part of the female moth and the flame, but it then devolves into the lecherous flame pursuing the moth.

It’s not that this is bad, as it illustrates the point of the short, but it’s predictable. There’s no big surprise in the short, and honestly, not much for the viewer to latch onto. I think there’s also something to the fact that the Silly Symphonies seem a little off at this point. After all, we have Goofy, Donald, Mickey and Pluto established as stars capable of carrying their own series. So why are the Silly Symphonies necessary?

The Moth and the Flame isn’t bad, and the artistic quality is actually quite good. It’s just not up to par with earlier efforts in 1937 and 1938, though. It lacks that great character or hook that makes you want to keep watching and warms the heart. What did you think?


From Mac : To me this feels like a remake of The Spider and the Fly with much more impressive visual effects. However, ever since I first saw this cartoon I've felt that it doesn't look like a Disney cartoon. Sure the backgrounds have that rich feel of the early features and other late Sillies, but the characters don't like Disney characters to me. some of them look like Fleischer characters, but not good ones. Now I don't have a problem with Disney trying different styles, but I personally really hate the character designs in this. I find the main moth leads particularly ugly to watch and it spoils my enjoyment of the film a great deal.

I disagree that the Sillies should end because of the strong characters in the regular Mickey and Donald series. I think it's healthy that the artists at Disney continued to try out new things and explore different styles. This one offers some splendid fire and lighting effects unlike others we have seen before (the fire displays a much greater burning intensity than the flames we saw in Snow White). However, the ugly characters who are uninteresting in personality anyway (plus some of the animation of them isn't too great either) in this one really puts me off.


From Rod Bennett : A wildly elaborate update of early 30's efforts like The Spider and the Fly and Midnight in a Toy Shop now features the fully mature "Snow White" house style which the Symphonies were so instrumental in bringing about.
From Jerry Edwards : The story is generally not that interesting to me - I just can't get interested in the boy and girl moth main characters. The only saving grace to the short is the amazingly realistic flame that the special effects animators create as a character onto itself.
From Amanda J : This was another one of my favorite Disney animated shorts. I thought the girl moth was so pretty, and the boy moth was goofy looking. The animation was so fun and creative, like when the moth ate the hat like it was a turkey. The music for this Disney short was chosen well, like when the girl moth was dancing near the flame. This is definitely one of the most memorable Disney cartoons from my childhood.
From Matthew Cooper : Okay, this short is awesome! Very good animation and excellent character design. I especially like the beginning when the boy and girl moth look through the window and vision the clothes as food (great animation here!) The flame is animated both very realistically and excellently. This short also has great effects like when the flame grows giant from the gasoline or turns blue from the ink! The only thing I don't enjoy about this short is the goofy look of that Scottish mannequin the moths get the bagpipes from! It's not that I think Disney was trying to be offensive to the Scotts, it's just that I'm sure it could have been drawn prettier.
From DaVon : This is another addition to my top ten list of favorite Silly Symphonies. I agree that the effects with the flame are great. That female moth surely is fine. I like how the male moth and other moths come to rescue her and manage to save, and prevent, the shop from burning down before it could all simultaneously. So in the end, there are two victories in the same night. I find everything else about this cartoon great, from the characters to the colorful artwork to the backgrounds. For me, I consider it to be one of the more outstanding Silly Symphony shorts of the latter half of the '30s and to outdo some, certain others. In the league with the best of the best of them, recommended, I give it a 10/10 and A+.
From Richard Sutor, Ph. D : Two observations about the "flame" character. The first is a kind of subliminal bit. When the girl moth is first seen by the flame it blazes up and acquires a face. The girl moth reacts and the action turns back to the flame again. This is at about 2min 45 sec into the cartoon. If you use the single frame advance feature on you DVD player you'll see, for just one frame, the face of the flame turns into a caricature of Clark Gable. I'm not sure if this was for the ladies in the audience or to make the flame seem more alluring to the girl moth. The second observation regarding the flame character is its design. To my eyes there is a strong resemblance between the facial design of the flame the the jack in the box who tries to win over the ballerina in Fantasia 2000 "The Steadfast Toy Soldier" set to Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No 2. The resemblance becomes most pronounced after the flame has grown in strength due to the boy moth's accidentally dousing it with a flammable fluid.

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