February 23, 1935 – The Mickey Mouse Short The Band Concert is Released to Theaters
“Yet, in a funny way, The Band Concert spelled the beginning of the end for Mickey as a solo cartoon star. As good as he is in this film, and his range of expressions as the frustrated conductor is marvelous, his thunder is easily stolen by a newcomer on the scene, Donald Duck.” – Film Critic Leonard Maltin.
On February 23, 1935, audiences flocked to see a new Mickey Mouse short, only this time, it was in Technicolor. The Band Concert, Mickey’s first color short film, would not go on to win an Academy Award, but has been hailed as one of, if not the, best Mickey Mouse short of them all. From this point on, with the exceptions of Mickey’s Service Station and Mickey’s Kangaroo, all of the Disney shorts would be in Technicolor. The short also boosted the popularity of Donald Duck, who was considered to be a funny character, as opposed to Mickey’s charming personality. The film was directed by Wilfred Jackson, and has Clarence “Ducky” Nash with the only speaking role in the film as Donald. It has been noted that orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini considered this film his favorite; it has also been said that the short film Symphony Hour (1942) may have been a more outlandish remake of this film.
The short opens with a concert in a park, with Mickey and his orchestra taking a bow after finishing Selections from Zampa, and the audience applauding enthusiastically. When Mickey shows the card displaying the title of their next piece – The William Tell Overture – the audience is overjoyed. With great fanfare, Mickey leads his orchestra into the piece, only to get distracted by a voice calling out “Popcorn! Lemonade!”
The camera moves to the distraction, and we see Donald Duck pushing an ice cream cart, with lemonade and bags of popcorn for sale as well. He stops to admire the music, then pulls a flute from the front of his uniform, wanting to join in with the orchestra. In the middle of the William Tell Overture, Donald begins to play Turkey in the Straw, which gets the orchestra to switch to the similar sounding tune. When Mickey notices the switch, he grabs Donald’s flute and breaks it in half, but Donald has another trick – or flute, rather – up his sleeve, and resumes his tune while Mickey tries to bring the concert to a halt.
With a wink, Donald presents another flute as the orchestra tries to get back on track, and when an aggravated Mickey tries to break the third flute, Donald decides to do it for him, sending the audience into peels of laughter. Mickey, at wits’ end, lunges at Donald, only to land on his face as the duck speeds off the stage. With renewed vigor, Mickey pulls the orchestra back to the assigned piece. As they begin to play, Donald, hiding behind a music stand, pulls out another flute, only to have the trombone player encircle the duck’s neck with the trombone slide and shake him down, revealing all the flutes Donald had hidden away, before throwing him right onto his cart, spilling food everywhere. Donald throws a tantrum, but the trombonist just laughs.
Donald grabs one of the flutes from the shake down and begins his takeover attempt again, not noticing a bee buzzing around him curiously. The bee flies into the flute, and ends up in Donald’s mouth, causing the duck to have another fit. When the bee flies away and lands on Mickey’s hat, Donald grabs an ice cream cone and throws it in the insect’s direction. The ice cream lands in a trumpet, and the trumpeter blows it out, which hits Mickey on the back of the head. As Mickey tries to shake the ice cream out, directing the orchestra along the way, the classical piece gets a somewhat interesting interpretation, and Mickey’s temper flares again.
As Mickey finally gets the orchestra back on track, the bee returns and buzzes around Mickey, and each move the mouse makes to swat it away is interpreted by the orchestra as his direction with comical results. The bee buzzes around Horace Horsecollar, playing percussion, who tries to swat him with the cymbals, only to crash around Goofy’s head.
Mickey turns the page in his music book to the part in the overture called The Storm. He looks rather surprised at how complicated the piece is, but is determined to play it and play it well. When the orchestra starts to play, the clouds get noticeably darker, and the wind begins to blow ominously. Without warning, a tornado sweeps through the town, heading directly for the concert in the park. The audience and the benches flee the concert in a panic as the tornado devours everything in its path. Donald stands around, confused as to why everyone is running away, until he sees the tornado bearing down and tries to hide by climbing up a tree, only to have the tornado braid him within three tree trunks.
The orchestra continues to play with Mickey conducting,as they are dramatically pulled up into the storm, seemingly oblivious to their peril. As they reach the climax of the piece, they stop in midair and are once again set down to the ground for a triumphant finish. The only audience member remaining, however, is Donald, who once again tries to take over with Turkey in the Straw, only to have a tuba land on his head.