This is also one of the few cartoons in which the music performed can
be unmistakably identified as jazz. Minnie's blues singing resembles contemporary
female vaudeville blues singers (e.g. Victoria Spivey) and the pig trumpeter
performs in the growling jungle style of Duke Ellington. Mickey shows to
be an all round entertainer, performing as a ragtime pianist, a scat singer,
a conductor AND a clarinetist.
Blue Rhythm is a great cartoon, from the opening scene, in which Mickey's
casting a huge shadow on the curtains to the grand finale in which the excited
performance makes the stage collapse. This cartoon may have few gags, it
nevertheless is a delightful ode to music, and jazz in particular.
It's nice how everything is laid out in this short. The stage for the band sequence allows the audience to see all the characters at once and then go into close ups with short sequences with each one. Horace and Clarabelle are here, as well as some typical stock characters – a big pig, two goats and two daschunds. We also have that diminutive hairy-faced dog who's become a recurring character throughout 1931. Plus there's Pluto. It's an odd appearance since he's wearing gloves and playing the trombone. Yet in other ways he's very much the dog (rather than human substitute) that he usually is especially with the quizzical glances on his face as Mickey folds up his trombone. It's still quite an early appearance Pluto, so I guess some of the 'rules' still hadn't been sorted out. I suppose it was decided that these all too human characteristics didn't really fit so some of the more outlandish things (having hands, playing a trombone, talking) soon stopped and he remained a 'real' dog.
Part of that, I imagine, is because of the different type of music used in this short. Rather than the popular songs that have been used in some of the other shorts, this cartoon uses a more jazz/swing type music, that flows much better. It’s a breezy tune that flows through the short and gives a lively energy that was lacking in other shorts.
The second thing I like about Blue Rhythm is the animation work done on Mickey Mouse. Much like the music, Mickey has an energy about him in this short that keeps things moving. Despite the fact that Mickey is used in a variety of sequences in the short, he moves from one to the next smoothly and rapidly.
Not to mention, there are some fantastic shots in this short. The opening shot features Mickey’s silhouette on a giant scale, showing his performance at the piano. It establishes a grandiose scale and then brings things down to a smaller level quickly.
After a quick Mickey performance, Minnie joins in to do a dance, while Mickey keeps playing the piano. He reaches underneath the piano and gets gum on his glove, which leads to some funny interactions with the piano and great facial expressions by Mickey. His irritation and frustration is palpable, and is a credit to the artists.
The middle section of the short is a nice band sequence, just like we’ve seen a million times before in other Mickey shorts. It’s Mickey leading a band, but this time, instead of in the barnyard, it’s taking place in a nice looking theatre on a grand stage. Perhaps that makes the difference, I’m not sure, but it’s well done.
Pluto gets an interesting role here. For the first time (and as far as I know the only time) he takes on a characteristic of a human being. In this case, it’s playing the trombone, much to the annoyance of Mickey. Pluto keeps ramming his trombone into Mickey’s backside, in a quite humorous bit.
The final number is Mickey playing an instrument while doing a dance in the spotlight. Again, he transitions from the big flashy band number to the tight shot dance with ease. I don’t know if there is a different technique being used in the animation, but it seems as though Mickey’s motion is much more fluid here. Could be the music, I’m not sure.
So, even though Blue Rhythm is completely not the type of short I would normally praise here, I really enjoyed it. It delivers fun in spades and is immensely entertaining. It is a credit to the artists and to Walt that there’s such fun to be had in this short.
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Submitted by eutychus