Two institutions I am arguably more interested in than they deserve are Disney and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Now, I’ve written a lot about how difficult it can be to love the output of the assorted branches of the Walt Disney Company given how terrible the company itself can be. With the Academy, while goodness knows there’s toxicity there, I feel as though it actively harms fewer people? I don’t know. Most days, while it’s a clear example of a racist, sexist, etc., power structure, it’s not like the Academy gives money to homophobic politicians, at least not that I know of. Still, it’s not exactly news when they get things wrong.
This short is one of Disney’s undisputed classics. Mickey is conducting the eponymous concert. The performers are a who’s who of mostly forgotten characters of the ’30s in Disney. At any rate, Mickey is trying to just conduct a concert. They’re playing various light classical pieces, most notably the William Tell overture. Donald Duck, meanwhile, is selling refreshments. He keeps producing what looks to me like a fife and playing “Turkey in the Straw,” which inevitably gets the band to play along. They then play the storm section, which raises an actual tornado.
The storm sequence is the really incredible part. It’s pure visual gags—the only character with any lines at all is Donald, and he more makes sounds than talks. What happens to the various characters in that sequence is visually delightful and extremely funny. Anything that can happen in a tornado and then be funny happens here; Donald ends by being braided into a group of trees. The majority of the band gets hung onto a large pine, to the extent that my five-year-old, watching it with me, automatically identified it as a Christmas tree.
Amazingly, Minnie is not in this short. Mickey, yes, of course. Donald ditto. Goofy, too. No Daisy, but of course this short is from before she existed. Pluto had been around for a few years but wasn’t there. Instead, we get Horace Horsecollar, of course, and of course Clarabelle Cow. However, we have Peter Pig—given a name a few years earlier in “The Little Red Hen” and basically then left to watch Donald rise to stardom—and Paddy Pig, who only seems to have appeared here but still somehow has a name because of course he does. It’s a strange cast, and of course you need a bunch of minor characters to fill out an entire band, but there it is.
So what does the Academy have to do with any of this? Ah. You see, this is one of the most well-known of the ’30s Disney cartoons. Probably if you saw several of these moments, you’d recognize him. It’s even from the early days where Mickey would occasionally physically lash out at Donald, which long-time readers will know I find deeply satisfying. In 1935, the Academy nominated three cartoons for Best Animated Short, but this isn’t one of them. One of them is one of those Disney shorts even I barely remember. One is “Who Killed Cock Robin,” which is fine but not much more than that. And one is “The Calico Dragon,” a Harman-Ising short I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen.