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The first of the Classic Disney Shorts series Silly Symphonies, The Skeleton Dance, first appearing in 1929, is among The 50 Greatest Cartoons ever made--no. 18 to be specific--and certainly one of the earliest of the macabre type of toon, too. Did we mention it's also very catchy? It is noteworthy for being one of the earliest, if not the first, cartoon to be entirely musically themed and timed, with no dialogue whatsoever.
While many theaters refused to show it in its heyday, the short ultimately paved the way for future hits in the series, and the cartoon still holds up to this day. The animation was almost entirely done by Disney's then-right hand man Ub Iwerks, save for the xylophone bone bit that was done by Les Clark, as well as the Rooster that was animated by Wilfred Jackson, with the music composed by Carl Stalling (who suggested the idea of a fully musical cartoon to Walt) who would go on to compose for Iwerks in his own studio, and later on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of shorts.
The film would be remade in color by Iwerks for Columbia Cartoons in 1937 as "Skeleton Frolic." Though not a Shot for Shot Remake, as several new gags are incorporated and the character design is made considerably less creepy (not to mention the toon's entirely new soundtrack), the general structure is the same and much of the original animation is closely imitated.
Tropes Used By This Short:
- Animation Bump: Early on when the first Skeleton leaps at the "camera", and during the song when the teeth chattering skeleton zooms in at the camera.
- Banned In Denmark: For being too macabre.
- Dark Is Not Evil: These skeletons look scary but they aren't truly evil -- one of them is even frightened by an owl.
- Dem Bones
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a short about a bunch of skeletons who dance.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the remake, there's a scene in which one skeleton gives another double middle fingers... three or four times.
- Jerkass: They may not be evil but a few of them are pretty mean. One throws its head at an owl that spooked it and another captures a stray cat and plays its tail like a violen.
- Jump Scare: Literally when the first skeleton jumps at the audience.
- Mickey Mousing
- Owl Be Damned: One of them frightens the first skeleton.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: When the first Skeleton leaps forward and "eats" the camera.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Part of Carl Stalling's music is based on Edvard Grieg's "March of the Dwarfs."
- Rubber Hose Limbs: Even though they're bones. Rule of Funny and all that.
- Shout-Out: The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy had Grim re-enact this in an episode where they are stuck in a grammophone which turns reality into a 20s black-and-white cartoon.
- The Taming of the Grue: Conspicuously averted, or at least, mitigated. There's a sense of humor to the proceedings, some go-to cartoon slapstick, and the skeletons don't cause any more actual harm to their neighbors than Micky Mouse, but it's still a surprisingly scary piece of work.