August 15, 1946 – The 8th Animated Feature, Make Mine Music, is Released to Theaters
“Make mine music and my heart will sing.”
On August 15, 1946, Disney’s eighth animated feature, Make Mine Music, was released to theaters. This was the first postwar package film released by Disney, as financial problems prevented the studio from creating a full animated feature. The talents in the film include Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Andy Russell, Sterling Holloway, Riabouchinska and Lichine, Pied Pipers, the King’s Men, and the Ken Darby Chorus. The music director was Charles Wolcott, with songs written by Ray Gilbert, Eliot Daniel, Allie Wrubel, and Bobby Worth. The production supervisor was Joe Grant, with sequence directors Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Robert Cormack, and Joshua Meador. Many segments have been shown as separate entities on television and as short films before theatrical releases; the film has never been released on home video in its entirety.
The first segment is The Martins and the Coys, featuring the popular radio vocal group The King’s Men. The segment, a play on the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys where two members of the rival families meet and fall in love, was cut from the video release due to the gunplay aspect of the segment. It has yet to be released on home video.
The next segment is entitled Blue Bayou, sung by the Ken Darby Chorus. It is a slow, artistic piece about a moonlit night in the bayou, and a majestic crane that explores before it flies off into the night with another crane. The artwork was originally meant for Fantasia, to be used with Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
Blue Bayou is followed by a jazz interlude called All the Cats Join In, performed by Benny Goodman and his orchestra. A sketchbook opens on a drafting table, and a pencil springs to life and draws a jukebox and a cat, then erases the cat, and draws a teenaged boy. The boy calls his friends to meet him down at the jukebox at the malt shop. Everyone races down to dance at the malt shop, while the pencil continues to draw the story out for the audience.
A ballad in blue follows, with Andy Russell singing Without You. The rain falls outside a window in a dark room, which lightens enough for the audience to see a love letter on a nearby desk. The focus then goes back to the window to show a rather gloomy willow tree at the side of a river. Different scenes appear on the screen to match the lyrics of the scene, including church windows and a starry night. The segment ends back at the window, showing the room once again in darkness, reflecting a lone star in the sky.
Jerry Colonna entertains the audience with the next segment, a reading of the poem Casey at the Bat. Every member of the town of Mudville is heading to the ballpark to see Casey, “the pride of them all.” The game doesn’t look so good for Mudville, as they’re losing 4 to 2. Two players manage to hit the ball when Casey comes up to bat. Casey’s a show-off, always flirting with the ladies, and cockily steps up to the plate. The tension is high in the stadium as Casey ignores two pitches and gets two strikes. Everyone watches carefully as Casey gets ready to hit the ball, but the short ends with the famous line, “…but there is no joy in Mudville – Mighty Casey has struck out,” and Casey comically crying in the rainy baseball stadium.
Dinah Shore sings for a “Ballade Ballet” entitled Two Silhouettes, performed by dancers Tania Riabouchinska and David Lichine. The dancers are seen only in silhouette in an animated world. The theme of the ballet is of a boy meeting and losing his love, only to find her again before the end.
One of the more well-known segments in this film is the Sterling Holloway-narrated version of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. The story, with the characters “speaking” through corresponding musical instruments and themes, is about a young boy named Peter (string quartet), who meets with his friends Sascha the bird (flute), Sonia the duck (oboe), and Ivan the cat (clarinet) to hunt the wolf (French horns) that has been haunting the woods, against the wishes of Peter’s grandfather (bassoon). In this animated retelling of the 1936 composition, the ending has been changed to make it more child-friendly, although Peter and his friends still capture the wolf.
The next segment is entitled After You’re Gone, performed by the Benny Goodman Quartet. Animated musical instruments are seen goofing around in true animation style. This is more of an artistic musical fantasy, rather than an animated tale, as seen with the other segments. It serves as a musical interlude between one story segment and the next.
The Andrews Sisters perform the next segment, the love story of Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet. The two are hats that sit in the window of a department store, with it being love at first sight. One day, Alice is bought for $23.94, and the lovers are separated. Johnny is soon bought by another patron, and his mood improves, as he is able to look for Alice as he travels around the city of New York. The short ends with Johnny and Alice reuniting as hats for the ice-man’s horses.
The last segment of the film, known as “Opera Pathetique,” is The Whale Who Wanted to Sing At The Met, feaures Nelson Eddy, who performs as all the characters. The segment tells the tragic story of Willie the Whale, who dreams of signing at the Metropolitan Opera. The story of his singing makes front-page news. Impresario Tetti-Tatti declares that Willie must have swallowed an opera singer, and announces that he will go and save the singer. In the end, after an elaborate dream segment of Tetti-Tatti discovering Willie and making him a star, Tetti-Tatti harpoons Willie, killing him. However, Eddy reassures the audience that Willie is now performing in Heaven to a sold-out crowd.