LACO @ THE MOVIES: AN EVENING OF DISNEY SILLY SYMPHONIES by Sonia Kang | June 15 2016, 0 Comments

“LACO @ THE MOVIES: AN EVENING OF DISNEY SILLY SYMPHONIES”
BRINGS DAZZLING ACADEMY AWARD
®-WINNING DISNEY ANIMATION
TO THE BIG SCREEN WITH
ORCHESTRAL SCORES PERFORMED LIVE BY
LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA,
LED BY EMMY® AWARD-WINNING COMPOSER MARK WATTERS

Dustin Hoffman Serves as Honorary Chair

Saturday, June 4, 2016, 7 pm
The Orpheum Theatre Downtown LA
I was excited to be invited to attend the “LACO @ THE MOVIES: AN EVENING OF DISNEY SILLY SYMPHONIES” with my family. My dear friend is a musician and has performed with the LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA so I knew a little something about the Silly Symphonies.  She explained that the orchestra performed the music as part of the backdrop to the animated films. From symphonic to jazz I knew my kids would enjoy this evening of beautiful music and film but I would need to explain a bit more to about the Silly Symphonies and how it was part of Disney History. My kids know about Disneyland and films like Mulan, Frozen and Snow White but would need to learn a bit more about Walt’s Silly Symphonies.
Everyone knows that Walt Disney produced the Mickey series but not very many know that he produced the Silly Symphonies, to go with the Mickey series. According to the popular Disney fan page, D23: “It featured different casts of characters in each film and enabled the animators to experiment with stories that relied less on the gags and quick humor of the Mickey cartoons and more on mood, emotion, and musical themes. Eventually the Silly Symphonies turned into the training ground for all Disney artists as they prepared for the advent of animated feature films. Flowers and Trees, a Silly Symphony and the first full-color cartoon, won the Academy Award® for Best Cartoon for 1932, the first year that the Academy offered such a category. For the rest of that decade, a Disney cartoon won the Oscar® every year.”
 
My kids looked like their minds were blown when they heard about the Silly Symphonies.  We talked about how Walt produced 75 Silly Symphonies during the Great Depression and that they were meant to lift the spirits of those affected during this time. After digressing into a lengthy discussion on what the Great Depression was, we moved on to how we would be going on a mini excursion using the Metro to the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown, the event’s landmark venue.
The Orpheum Theatre, located at the heart of downtown’s revitalized Broadway Theatre District Los Angeles, and a block away from my studio/office.
 
On the evening of the event we headed to the NoHo Metro station and had a bit of time on the train to talk more about some of the seven classic animated Silly Symphony shorts we would be watching including the “five Academy Award-winners, the first Silly Symphony short produced and directed by Walt Disney, the first commercial color short and the first to utilize a multiplane camera to create depth of field.”
We arrived at our stop and walked a short distance to the Orpheum, which opened in 1926. Once inside we walked passed the 2,000-seat theatre features a stunning Beaux Arts façade designed by architect G. Albert Lansburgh toward the stage to see the Orpheum’s 1927 Wurlitzer. The Wurlitzer is one of only three remaining original theatre organ installations in theatres in Southern California. At the concession stand, we grab our popcorn and some water, head to our seats and settle in for LACO @ the Movies.
 
The film and live music conducted by six-time Emmy award-winning composer Mark Watters, fascinated the kids . The poor people in front of us as my kids kept scooting forward, amazed by what they were seeing and hearing the music by such luminaries as Leigh Harline and Carl Stalling.

FEATURED SILLY SYMPHONIES:
The Skeleton Dance (1929)
Flowers and Trees (1932)
Three Little Pigs (1933)
The Country Cousin (1936)
The Old Mill (1937)
The Ugly Duckling (1939)
Music Land (1935) 

“LACO @ the Movies: An Evening of Disney Silly Symphonies” opens with The Skeleton Dance (1929), the first Silly Symphony short produced and directed by Walt Disney, starring four music-making and dancing skeletons in a macabre graveyard with a score by Carl Stalling based on the foxtrot, a popular dance beat of the era, set in a minor key.  Also shown are Flowers and Trees (1932), the first commercial short produced in color using the then-new Technicolor three-strip process and featuring a pastoral symphonic score by Bert Lewis and Frank Churchill, which became a critical success and won the first Academy Award® for Animated Short Subject; Three Little Pigs (1933), a musical sensation scored by Stalling that won a 1934 Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film and was named to the National Film Registry in 2007 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”; and the Academy Award®-winning The Old Mill (1937), the first short to experiment with animation and camera techniques utilizing the multiplane camera, which added a dimensionality not previously seen in animated film and was later used in the iconic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

Other featured Silly Symphony shorts include The Country Cousin (1936), performed with live music for the first time since it was produced 80 years ago.  Winner of the Best Animated Short Academy Award® in 1937, this film is based on the Aesop Fable "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse" with a sophisticated musical score by Harline.  Also shown is the 1939 color version of The Ugly Duckling, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, which was the last Silly Symphony produced by the studio and garnered an Academy Award®  for Best Short Subject (a black and white version was produced in 1931).  The evening concludes with Music Land (1935), featuring a brilliant and virtuosic score that pits the Land of Symphony against the Isle of Jazz for a unique Disney “take” on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.”

As the show ended and everyone rose to acknowledge the amazing experience they had just witnessed, I looked over to my kids as the lights went on and could see the smiles on their faces. As we walked back to the Metro we talked about their favorite parts. I loved listening to their take on it and I agreed with each of them including my oldest saying her favorite parts of this magical evening was knowing that the event benefited education and concert programs of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Thank you Disney and LACO for all you do!
photo credits: Jamie Pham, ©Disney and Mixed Up 
Disclosure: Mixed Up was given tickets to this event but opinions are my own