Dr. Toon: Make Mine Music Critique Revisited
Unless a given film is either perfect or totally abysmal, the ways in which it can be critiqued or examined are legion. There are, for example, unlikely to be raging camps involved in competitive analyses of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, but there are certainly many of Walt Disney's films that inspire opposing views regarding their content and quality. This is the story of how I re-examined a critique I did for The Animated Movie Guide by Jerry Beck (Chicago Review Press). The purpose of the column is to inspire critical thinking about one's own critical thinking, an indispensable ability if one is to seriously examine animation.
I was thrilled and honored when Jerry asked me to serve as a contributor to his guide, and doubly joyful that he asked me to compose the entries on the Disney films. Jerry had studied them for decades, and preferred to concentrate on the oddball entries in the book, so this rich plum fell to me. For months I reviewed every Disney animated feature extant from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through Home on the Range, attempting to do the best critical summation I could on each film.
My office was overrun with DVDs, used ink cartridges and dozens of copies of reviews in various states of draft and revision. That was the summer of 2003, and it was one of my favorite summers to date. Jerry was generous with feedback and guidance, and never once tampered with an opinion, entry or finished piece: they appear in the book just as I had written them. That's not to say we didn't have professional disagreements.
"This film depicts a post-war popular culture that no longer exists… With the exception of some of the animated segments there is little for today's younger viewers to relate to. Make Mine Music is a relic of Disney's America, a film more suited for cultural historians than audiences."
Jerry, on the other hand, believed I had been rather unfair to Make Mine Music. Although the performers and pieces may have been dated, Jerry believed that the feature still had far more credits than debits. After six years, I re-examined my stance on this film and came to the following conclusions: I was both right and wrong. The stance that I still consider to be correct is that the movie was not built for success in the way that Pinocchio was. In my initial review, I considered this film a badly dated artifact whose poorer segments are burdened by kitsch, overly cute characters and visuals that most Disney artists could have executed while comatose. No teen today, for example, could easily relate to the "All the Cats Join In" segment: They would have been laughing too hard at the opening scene in which a boy has to scrounge a nickel from the unseen artist to make a call from a telephone booth.