Animation Cel-ebration
August 14, 2023 posted by Michael Lyons

Animation of “Note”: The Anniversary of Disney’s “Make Mine Music”

There’s a caricature of Walt Disney that a Studio artist did during the 1940s. In it, Walt is sitting at a table looking exhausted, with his head supported in his hand, cigarette hanging from his mouth, eyebrow arched, he is staring off in the distance, trying to process, and he looks completely exhausted.

The caricature has become famous (or infamous) for encapsulating Walt’s mood and the mood at the Studio during the 1940s. Between an animators’ strike in May of 1941 and America’s involvement in World War II, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, production at the Studio had been crippled.

Walt kept animation production going at the Studio during this challenging time by producing lower-budgeted, easy-to-execute films. Most of these were known as “package films.” These features didn’t have a traditional plot but instead were a series of short subjects strung together during a feature-length running time.

One of these “package films” was Make Mine Music. The common theme among the segments was that each was set to a particular piece of music. As each is so vastly different from the other, the result (like all package films) is a “mixed bag” of entertainment.

Most of Make Mine Music has become a faded footnote in animation history, but it’s the perfect time to look back on the film as it celebrates the anniversary of its general release on August 15th, 1946 (It had its world premiere in New York City a few months earlier, on April 20th).

The film plays almost like “Fantasia-lite” and, after the opening credits, starts like a concert complete with a program that reads: “Make Mine Music: A Musical Fantasy

We are then taken into the segments of the film:

The first is “The Martins and the Coys” (on the program as “A Rustic Ballad”), which features some inventive animated slapstick and sight gags, as it tells the musical tale of two feuding mountain families. Narrated by the singing group The King’s Men, this segment was edited from home video offerings due to violence and gunplay concerns. While this is “cartoon violence,” it does comprise most of the piece (including cartoon ghosts of the mountain men floating angelically up to the clouds above).

After this comes a sequence that re-used animation intended for a sequel to 1940’s Fantasia. Beautiful, naturalistic animation accompanies a group called The Ken Darby Chorus performing the title song “Blue Bayou’ (the animation was originally intended to accompany the musical composition “Clair de lune”). The slow-moving music and animation of the nighttime bayou as a crane takes flight is one of Disney’s most calming and relaxing film moments.

Next is Benny Goodman and his Orchestra with “All the Cats Join in.” Two “hepcat bobbysoxer” teens of the decade heading out on a date and dancing to the upbeat music (coming from a jukebox, no less). The animation is introduced with a pencil that creates the images that come to life. Many would say that this is one of those segments that hasn’t aged well, but the “time-capsule” feel, and creativity of the animation are all of this segment’s charms.

Andy Russell, a famous singer at the time, performs the next segment, “Without You.” A slow ballad, over which we see images that seem to melt like rain running down a window and transitioning into views of lonely woods and nighttime stars. One of the sadder moments in Disney animation.

Thankfully, this is offset by the next segment, “Casey at the Bat,” one of the film’s better-remembered segments and narrated as a “Musical Recital” by bug-eyed comedian Jerry Colonna, in his over-the-top, loudmouth style.

The segment is a re-telling of the “baseball poem” by author Ernest Thayer about the Mudville team and their star player, Casey. The scene features some great, overly-caricatured design of the characters (Casey’s jut-jaw, the diminutive manager arguing with the umpire) and some great sight gags (a player touches base with his giant handlebar mustache).

With superb animation from Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston, and Eric Larson, among others, “Casey” seems more at home in the realm of Warner Bros. than Disney, which may be why it was released later in 1946 as a stand-alone short subject and even spawned a sequel short subject, Casey Bats Again in 1954.

Singer Dinah Shore sings “Two Silhouettes,” the next segment, which is a “Ballade Ballet,” which features two ballet dancers (brought to life through rotoscoped silhouette animation performing in front of the stylized backdrop and assisted by two cherubic figures).

It’s another slower moment in the film that allows us to catch our breath before what is arguably the most popular segment, “Peter and the Wolf.” Narrated by the familiar, comforting voice of Disney stalwart Sterling Holloway, from a famous musical composition from conductor Sergei Prokofiev.

Set in Russia, the segment tells the tale of young Peter and his friends Sascha, a bird, Sonia the duck, and Ivan the cat, who venture off into the woods to hunt a wolf. A different musical instrument represents each character as their theme. This gives “Peter and the Wolf” a very Fantasia-like tone and includes great pantomime animation, as other than Holloway’s narration, there is no dialogue in the segment.

“Peter and the Wolf” was such a substantial segment that it has been shown on its own several times and even had its own release as a record album (paired with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” on the flip side).

“Peter and the Wolf” is followed by Benny Goodman returning for the upbeat “After You’re Gone,” which provides the backdrop for a march of anthropomorphized music instruments.

The Andrews Sisters then perform the musical narration for the story of “Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet,” one of the Studio’s sweetest and most underrated moments in animation, telling the story of two hats who fall in love after meeting in a department store window.

The concluding segment is baritone singer Nelson Eddy and the story of “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” A whale named Willie with incredible operatic talents and dreams is hunted by a music conductor who believes that the whale has swallowed an opera singer.

As tragic as this segment seems, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” developed a following among animation and Disney devotees through the years. There is some beautiful, lush animation (the sequence where the whale sings as Pagliacci the clown is gorgeous), and full opportunity is taken for sight gags involving the size and scale of Willie.

Seventy-seven years later, Make Mine Music has become remembered more for its parts than the whole. While it was shown on The Disney Channel and released on home video in 2000, it hasn’t surfaced much since (as of this writing, it’s still not available on Disney+).

Hopefully, that will change soon, because to see the film in its full-length form is a fascinating glimpse into a moment in the Disney Studio’s historical timeline.


  • I love this film! A true gem of animation history!

  • I’m glad to see that All the Cat’s is not the edited version on the Disney Video

    • For the “record”, the upload here of “All the Cats Join In” IS the censored version from the Disney video (where the girl in the shower has been rendered digitally flat-chested when she emerges). Moore’s uncensored drawings can be seen in a side-by-side comparison on Youtube under “Disney Censorship Comparison: Make Mine Music”, or, better yet, the entire film can be seen uncut on Internet Archive as “Make Mine Music – 1985 Uncut Japanese Laserdisc.”

  • It angers me that even the recent Blu-ray is still missing “The Martins and the Coys” sequence, while Melody Time has a warning on the box of beware of gun use and smoking, and it’s uncut.

  • I’m familiar with the caricature of Walt Disney you described; Jim Korkis posted it with one of his last Animation Anecdotes columns (“The Friz and the Diz”, February 3, 2023). If anybody knows who drew it, I would love to know.

    It’s not just that “All the Cats Join In” hasn’t aged well, but boy, has it ever aged! Watching it makes me feel much as I did when I revisited the Mickey Mouse Club serial “Annette” (with its featured song “Meeting at the Malt Shop After School”) not too long ago. Here was a story set in my native country, a mere two decades before my own teenage years, and yet I felt as though I were observing the arcane rituals of an utterly alien culture. So, too, with “All the Cats”. Modern viewers might wonder why the “cats” are so hostile to the ukulele player: “Really? THEY think HE’S corny and old-fashioned?”

    The birds in “Blue Bayou” are egrets, not cranes. Easy to tell the difference: cranes fly with their necks extended, while egrets (and herons) fly with theirs bent back in an S-shape. Sorry, but as a lifelong birdwatcher I can’t let that go.

    “Pagliacci” isn’t the name of the clown in the opera “I Pagliacci”, which is just Italian for “the clowns”. (One of the Disney Channel sitcoms made the same mistake a few years back, so you’re in good company.) The clown’s name is Canio, and if you’re wondering what he has to cry about, he just found out that his wife has been cheating on him. Will he forgive her and let bygones be bygones? Not in an Italian opera he won’t!

    • Well, so did Homer And Jethro when they guest starred on a Spike Jones record called Pal-Yatch-Chee, lol….

  • The Ken Darby Singers are probably best known for the theme song to “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.” They also provided all the background music for the series, which had no instrumental score.

  • Thank you so much for letting us hear this hidden gem. My hope, along with all the others who have responded, is that we see a real physical release of this, totally uncut as a collectible.

  • You’ll havta pry my DVDs of Melody Time and Make Mine Music out of my cold dead hands, edited or not. I’m too old to wonder and wait for a perfect Bluray; not happening.

    Dunno if I’m entirely onboard with the dismissal of All The Cats. Yes, the malt-shop culture is from some other ancient civilization – I’m much more at home in a metal mosh pit. But there are at least two elements of Cats that are indisputably timeless.

    One is the spectacular music of Benny Goodman.

    The other is Freddy Moore’s Girls.

    I rest my case.

    • “All The Cats Join In” has always been my favorite segment in the whole movie! Yes, it’s a “time capsule” and the imagery and notions may seem a bit dated, but what of film of the past hasn’t…? The music SWINGS and the animation ins funny and top-notch. My Dad introduced me to swing in the form of his old 78s when I was just a young’un and I’ve loved it ever since.

      • I concur. “Cats” has always been my favorite segment. As someone once said in a Clampett cartoon, “YEAH, BENNY!!”

  • Of all of Disney’s packaged films, Dinah Shore was the artist with the most contributions to these films. I wish I would have known her personally. Her magical voice had a velvet-like quality. And this was decades before she became better known as a talk show host.

    Her only biological child, daughter Melissa Montgomery, would probably tell you more about Shore’s contributions to the Disney films than anyone else can.

    As for “Make Mine Music” itself…pity we cannot see the full uncut version here in the US. Let’s hope things will change soon.

    • Years ago I knew an orchestra conductor who had done some shows with Dinah Shore in the 1940s, and he said she was one of the best singers, and one of the nicest people, he had ever worked with.

  • and, again i wonder, why ISN”T on “The Plus”????

    • It’s a shame it’s not on the platform. It’s everything one expects to come from Disney. My guess is that the Disney company is more interested in their recent content and more notable titles than ones they deem lesser known? 🤔

  • Seeing the roster of segments spelled out this way, reminds me of just how smoothly the film runs, with contrasting segments nicely arranged to provide a fun experience. Cutting THE MARTINS AND THE COYS for home video really deprives the movie of a slam-bang introduction and starting with BLUE BAYOU makes it difficult to regain the momentum that the film needs.

  • I wonder whether objections to the gunplay in “The Martins and the Coys” may be only part of a bigger picture.

    When I was living in Kentucky in the 1990s, theatres that showed the new Beverly Hillbillies movie were met with protests by Appalachian persons — and I’m not being facetious; that really is the “politically correct” term — who took offense to the stereotypes depicted in it. One might think they would have just laughed it off; after all, this was when Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” comedy was at the height of its popularity. But Appalachian people comprise a minority group that has historically faced a great deal of prejudice and disadvantage, and like everybody else they have advocacy organisations to look after their interests. Could one of them have complained to Disney about “The Martins and the Coys” and caused the segment to be cut from home video release? I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything about that, but then I moved far away from Kentucky a long time ago.

    Such corporate decisions are nothing new. I’ve been told that the major auto manufacturers were reluctant to sponsor the original Beverly Hillbillies sitcom because Detroit had a large Appalachian population that made up a fair portion of their workforce. That didn’t stop the show from becoming hugely popular, though the critics hated it. The “Li’l Abner” comic strip was highly regarded in its time — John Steinbeck, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, thought Al Capp deserved one — but it probably wouldn’t fly today, especially if it was written and drawn by a Jew from the Northeast.

    Watching “The Martins and the Coys” today (I haven’t seen it in many years) reminds me a bit of Lantz’s “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat”, with everybody dozing lazily at the beginning and then becoming completely energised by the music in the end, and above all with its grotesquely exaggerated caricature of a minority subculture. It doesn’t bother me, but I can see why it might bother some people. Personally I think “Make Mine Music” should be available uncut on home video and Disney’s streaming service. But it’s Disney’s decision to make, not mine.

  • In my late-boomer youth the original package films were vaulted away, but individual segments were in constant use on “World of Color”. I got to see “Make Mine Music” and “Melody Time” at UCSC in the late 70s, where they were screened in connection to a class. Then they seemed to vanish again until they got DVD releases.

    Interesting that both features end with comic showpieces that close on teary sentimental notes: Willie the Whale is harpooned, but the narrator asks us to assume he’s singing in heaven. Pecos Bill loses his sweetheart (bounced to the moon) and sadly reverts to life with the animals, howling at the moon every night and causing the coyotes to take up the habit.

    One other possible factor in clipping the Martins and the Coys is the ending. The last survivors fall in love and marry, but to the joy of their dead ancestors immediately take to slapstick fighting. The husband gets the worst of it, as in all cartoons, but somebody might have decided it was making light of domestic violence. This isn’t a sudden thing — Andy Capp stopped brawling with his missus long ago, and you don’t see modern cartoons or comedies treating the subject so lightly as in years past.

  • I was eager to see “Make Mine Music” after getting a Benny Goodman LP that included the Alec Wilder song “All The Cats Join In”. I first saw it screened on the film program at a science fiction convention in the 1970s. I recall from that screening seeing Jiminy Cricket as the host introducing segments with a tone of “We’ve been through a lot in recent times (ie, WWII) but we can still enjoy ourselves with music. When I’ve see Mak Mine Music since, there was no trace of that subtext. What was involved with that change?

    • In 1955 Disney did one last package film, “Music Land”, consisting of “All the Cats Join In” and other segments recycled from previous films. It seems to have been a slap-together job to complete Disney’s distribution contract with RKO, so odds are against much time or money being spent on it. Still, it’s possible they did new animation of Jiminy Cricket hosting.

      Disney DID invest in new animation for the hourly TV show, using Jiminy and others to tie shorts and feature segments together. I’d guess you probably saw one of those episodes. I’ve been poking around the net, but haven’t found a specific episode that sounds like a fit. Anyone?

  • Some segments come across better than others, showing the beginnings of Uncle Walt’s waning interest in animation as he looked forward to live action films and theme parks. The animators seem to have trouble with the birds’ (whatever they are) beaks in “Blue Bayou”; they bob in and out like sewing machine needles. The Jack Kinney-directed slapstick sequences suffer from rubbery movement (smooth animation is not necessarily good animation), and “Peter and the Wolf” just barely survives the cloying, unnecessary narration and the painfully literate depiction; it would have been more fun to use Mickey (as Peter), Donald (as the duck, natch), Goofy (the “cat”), and Pluto (the “bird”). “All the Cats Join In” is a charming time capsule from a time when teenagers were coming into their own.

    The main problem is the lack of anything unifying the segments as Deems Taylor holds “Fantasia” together.

  • I’m in the US, but I have a multi-region player that can play PAL-system DVDs from the UK, such as the 2014 “Make Mine Music” (UPC 717418 385941). On it, the feature plays complete with “The Martins and the Coys” AND plays at the correct speed, though the three bonus cartoons have the normal “PAL speed-up” that results from transferring 24fps films at 25fps, the normal PAL procedure for both broadcast and home video. I compared timings of the individual segments on this to the Blu-ray and they match. I have lots of PAL DVDs, and this is the only one I’ve come across that’s mastered this way.

  • There is a 1080i transfer of the uncut film floating around. It wasn’t taken from a print and doesn’t appear to be an upscale, so I’m thinking it must have been made for TV showings outside of the US.

    I was born and raised in WV and never ran into any complaints about things like the Martins and the Coys segment. Then again, I grew up in a town where the high school mascot was The Hillbilly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *