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The Four Musicians of Bremen

A Laugh-o-Gram Cartoon

Release Date : August 1, 1922

Running Time : 7:41

Synopsis

The four animal musicians take up arms and defeat a town who doesn't care for their presence.

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Walt Disney
Rudolph Ising

Source

Based on the story "The Bremen Town Musicians"

Video

United States
Disney's Beginnings (1920-1927)

DVD

Toon Factory : Daffy Duckaroo
Disney's Laugh-O-Grams
The Legendary Laugh-O-Gram Fairy Tales

Blu-Ray

Beauty and the Beast : 3 Disc Blue Ray + DVD Combo Pack

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Silent
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by The Laugh-O-Gram Company

Comments

  • Also released with a soundtrack by Sound Film Distributing Corp. (New York) and Wardour Films (England) under the title "The Four Jazz Boys."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The next film in the Laugh-O-Gram fairy tale series is The Four Musicians of Bremen, a cartoon loosely based on the story “The Bremen Town Musicians” by the Brothers Grimm. In that story, four animals, a donkey, a cat, a dog and a rooster decide to give up their former lives to become musicians, but along the way end up inhabiting the house of some criminals and scaring them off. A cute little story about being content with who you are, which is a moral that comes up in some of the later Disney films.

This is a much longer short, around seven minutes, and it is much more representative of what you may have seen from early Mickey cartoons. To start with, there are painted backgrounds in this short, as Walt was trying to save money by creating lush backgrounds that he could reuse. It works fine here, as many of the scenes take place over a generic landscape.

The short starts with a poem explaining that the four musicians try their best to play their music all around the countryside, but they’re not good at it, and when people’s nerves are frayed, they take it out on the four musicians. This fades into a scene of the four musicians, a donkey, a dog, a rooster and a cat being run out of town by a mob, throwing bricks at them. Strangely enough, one of the mob looks just like the old man in the picture from Little Red Riding Hood. That guy creeps me out.

Another thing to note is that this is the second time we have seen a cat like this. The cat is very much like the cat in Little Red Riding Hood, and he is the star of this short. The other four are mainly there for window dressing and to tie in the fairy tale plot.

As the musicians escape, they come to a body of water, and while the other three weep, the cat realizes that they are hungry. He urges his compatriots to play music, which drifts into the water and starts the fish and frogs dancing. One fish comes up to dance on the land, and the cat tries in vain to hit it with a 2’ x 4’, but he is, like so many of us, unfulfilled.

The cat chases the fish into the water, which leads to the most inventive scene of the short. The cat swims up after the fish, but runs into a swordfish that has removed it’s sword and is sharpening it. Right before the cat and the stray fish arrive, the swordfish tests out his new sword by cutting a fish in half ruthlessly. I’m serious! This is the most violent thing I’ve ever seen in a Disney short. The fish just casually turns around and cuts another fish in half. It’s like Pulp Fiction in the ocean or something. This is clearly not a swordfish to mess with.

The swordfish catches wind of the cat and chases it out onto the land, picking up the three other musicians and chases them off a cliff. They fall one by one into the chimney of a house, and a band of criminals runs out of the house, scared off by the falling livestock. Which, come to think of it, is a good reason to be scared. I mean, if you were sitting in your living room, and donkey, a dog, a rooster and a cat fell down the chimney, I think you’d run, too.

So the criminals band together, get some weapons, and attack the house. The conflict is finally resolved when the cat hitches a ride on a cannonball, and detaches his tail to knock all the criminals out. The end title assures us that the musicians lived happily ever after.

In day three of watching these shorts, this was the first one that felt like a Disney cartoon. Now, it feels very primitive still, but it had some inventive gags, a lush background, and a mischievous but fun main character. Sound familiar? The formula here is not that different from Mickey Mouse. I have not yet seen all the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts or the Alice Comedies, but this reminds me a great deal of Mickey.

The animation on this was again done by Walt and Rudy Ising. There is still some great detail here. At one point when the cannonballs are assaulting the house, there is a close up of the roof, and there is detailed crosshatching on the underside of the roof. There’s no story or artistic reason that has to be there, but yet it is. Considering that these shorts were being done in Walt’s spare time, it’s amazing that he chose to put that much attention into these sorts of things.

Ultimately, this short does not tell the story of the Grimm fairy tale, but instead is an excuse for Walt to try out this cat character. The cat is loveable enough, but is very much in the trickster mode of things, pulling off capers against the other characters. We’ll see if there are more similarities as we continue. More Laugh-O-Gram Fairy Tales to come!


From Jerry Edwards : I've always felt this short deserved more attention than it gets. Maybe few copies are out there. The short starts with a poem:

One bright day four musicians
Set out to search for fame.
When anybody's nerves went wrong,
 These four got the blame.
They went in state to every town,
In haste did they disperse.
All tho' they did their very best,
They couldn't have done worse.

A donkey, rooster, dog, and cat flee a town with townspeople throwing bricks and such at them. The cat looks and acts much like Julius - the cat in the Alice Comedies. At a river, they play music to tempt the fish out with the cat attempting the clobber the fish with a board. The cat jumps in after the fish and is chased by a swordfish. The swordfish chases the gang on land, finally sawing the tree the gang have climbed. The gang falls into a house at the bottom of the cliff, chasing a group of robbers out of the house. The robbers return with cannon and fire on the house. Some fun gags are the chimney of the house knocking the cannons back and the cat using his tail as a bat to swat the cannons back. The cat takes a ride on one of the cannonballs and swats the robbers as they chase him. Using an umbrella, the cat jumps off the cannonball. The rest of the gang hold a blanket for him to land on. The umbrella breaks and the cat falls through the blanket. His 9 lives depart as angels, but the dog throws the 9th life back into the cat. The short ends with "They lived happily ever after."


From Rich Drezen : This is my favorite Laugh-O-Gram. The story is solid and fluid, loaded with clever gags that aren't very repetitive. The characters are nicely developed, although the black cat is the one that steals the show (possibly a prototype Julius according to some historians). Walt's animation is improving, his backgrounds now utilize greytones, shadows, and some texture. One of the best scenes in the picture are when the musicians are fleeing from the angry swordfish, who chases them into a tree on a cliff, and cuts it down bearing the musicians in it's branches. My next favorite scene is when the musicians are battling the soldiers and where the cat uses his tail as a baseball bat to deflect their cannonballs. Not bad for Disney's second full-length short, and other than Puss in Boots (1922), this is the best I've seen in the Laugh-O-Gram series.


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