Walt Disney Sets Picture and Music To Time
Putting A Stopwatch To Synchronization With The Clock Store (1931)
One thing you could say about Silly Symphonies from the beginning: they were precision instruments. Each was synchronized to the last beat, a flawless wedding of animated picture and sound. I'm only surprised they didn't get around to a clock cartoon sooner, considering how much Disney's output had in common with timepieces. Silly Symphonies measured music with picture in terms of hair-splits, that being what thrilled audiences most when Disney shorts were shown. The novelty of synchronization, even if flawless, would dissipate as a wider industry gained competence. Where, then, to go past technical summit once reached? Disney was slowed, but not stopped, by two good men who'd quit him --- Ub Iwerks and Carl Stalling. They'd done initial Symphonies almost single-handed. Other staff would train toward their level, but in a meantime, release schedules had to be met. Walt's best cartoons were ones he did slowest, but distributing
Many a past century home, humble ones even, kept clocks that were often a centerpiece among furnishing, many having been passed down generations. Ornate-enough specimen could engage a family like radio or television to come, set-off of chime/cuckoo, or figures emerging from behind a time-face to signal an hour's passage --- these could entertain between stories told or meals ate. We had a Grandfather clock that concertized every fifteen minutes. I don't know how I slept through its night-long din. The Clock Store trades on good will folk felt for time-keeping, happy association with what ticked at home. How else could Disney draw seven minutes from such inanimate objects going into their dance? (added query: how many digital-dwellers are even conscious of clocks, other than collectors of antiquity?) A lot of '31 viewers, especially youngsters, might have imagined household clocks coming to life at night, asserting their presence amidst otherwise silence. Impressed critics called early Silly Symphonies "mood pieces" for just such meditation, and didn't require they be funny. In fact, the Sillies were as close as any cartoon series got to being art. Walt couldn't have bought his genius persona with just the Mickeys. He would (to his mind) improve on The Clock Store and stately shorts like it, B/W Symphonies removed from circulation, and kept for decades on ice. A one-and-only place you'd see a lot of them was The Mickey Mouse Club. It's only within a last seven-twelve years that we've had access to a complete run (but wow, look at prices those out-of-print DVD's command!).