For Walt Disney Productions, The Silly Symphonies were serious business.
Over a decade beginning in 1929, the music-driven series of cartoon shorts introduced Donald Duck to the world, lodged such songs as “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” deep into the public consciousness and picked up Academy Awards for best animated short film a whopping seven times in a row. Warner Bros.’ rival Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies surfed in the Disney cartoons’ OG wake. But moreover, the Symphonies—1933’s The Three Little Pigs, The Wise Little Hen and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (1938) among them—provided a kind of Rosetta stone for the nascent studio’s animation ambitions. Through Disney’s advances in characterization, story development and Technicolor techniques—not to mention the sheer, nutty exuberance of the music that accompanied the images on screen—the beating heart associated with films from Fantasia to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Frozen first pulsed into life with Silly Symphonies.
On Aug. 17, the music from all 75 Symphonies shorts became available via a first-of-its-kind, limited edition box set issued by Walt Disney Recordings/Fairfax Classics. Featuring the complete restored soundtracks—eight hours of music over 16 old school vinyl LPs, it isn’t cheap—$399.98 including a digital download—but falls into the “priceless” category (for Mouse House completists) thanks to the inclusions of such songs as “The Skeleton Dance,” “El Terrible Toreador,” “The Cat’s Out,” “Old King Cole” and “Merbabies.” It’s music from the dawn of “talkies,” the soundtrack used to complement and further the narrative of motion pictures (at a time when movies were still called “motion pictures”).
The box set is available for pre-order at www.disneymusicemporium.com/silly-symphony and will ship by the holidays. The featurette below details the history of the series and the making of the set: