Most of us are too young to remember Silly Symphonies in its prime. Hell, most of our parents are too young remember it; but, much like Universal Monsters and WW2, we still seem to be talking about it. Silly Symphonies was a series of 75 Disney cartoons released between 1929 and 1939 focusing on combining fun and whimsical animation with musical accompaniment. It’s most famous cartoon is the Skeleton Dance about a group of skeletons that rise up from the dead and play their ribs like xylophones. The cartoons proved to be so famous that they led to what the war-era considered entertainment: kids books and newspaper comic strips. Silly Symphonies Vol. 3 is a collection of the latter. Featuring the newspaper run from 1939-1942, the book is a full color blast from the past of cartoon jokes and noodle-armed craziness and, being relatively silent, is fun for even the slowest of readers.
The book features various leads ranging from established characters such as Pluto the Pup and Pinocchio to the never-fulfilled-movie character, Little Hiawatha, the small Indian with a big heart. If you’ve read any newspaper funnies, you can pretty much figure out the how jokes go. You got Pluto switching kittens on a mama cat, or chasing after a meat truck only to find out it’s coming to his house. Hiawatha, another silent cartoon, spends his time trying to hunt various animals who end up being much more clever than him or trying prove himself to his tribe despite numerous and hilarious setbacks. The Pinocchio stories, on the other hand, are a retelling of the original cartoon and are practically a play-by-play of the feature, so while it doesn’t add much original to the series, it’s still a wonderful reprint of the work.
There’s a lot to love about the Silly Symphonies comics, even if you haven’t seen any of the original cartoons (though seriously, check out the Skeleton Dance, it’s pretty rad). The most interesting part is seeing the adaption of a non-speaking cartoon. Though obviously they can’t add a musical score to a comic, the work still carried the physical comedy cleanly over to the more static comic medium. Pluto and Hiawatha retain that same comedic timing and recognizable animated features as their cartoon counterparts, especially Pluto, whose silent action on screen proved to be a wonderful experiment in animated personality, some of the first of its kind. The comic quality can actually be credited to Walt Disney himself who insisted that all comic work be done in house and require the same high quality as the cartoons themselves, with a majority drawn by the greatly talented Al Taliaferro, the resident comic artist.
Another great feature is that the comics and jokes never age. Unlike most of the comics from the “Golden Age of Funnies,” it’s not limited to the era it came out in. There are no references to current events or news, not even any slang, allowing for the comics to be essentially timeless. This is most likely another distinct choice by Walt Disney who knew not to isolate future audiences from enjoying Disney movies and works. With classic Disney films still going strong with kids and adults today, he was right to do so. While the Silly Symphonies comic is clearly set in the late 20’s to early 30’s, the jokes are classic, animated comedies that are, well, pretty damn funny. I love the little twists and turns that mark a good gag and the non-reliance on era specific jokes make it feel like the comics could’ve been written yesterday.
Silly Symphonies Vol. 3 is obviously the third one in the series but it’s definitely not required to read the other books. The works are all stand-alone and, as stated, are simply newspaper reprints, like a Calvin and Hobbes collection. The third volume, much like the other two, comes with plenty of awesome extras including a short history of Pluto and Hiawatha and some practice sketches of un-finished comics. There’s also a few extra comics outside of the main three such as a quick retelling of the Ugly Duckling, the original Hiawatha comics, and even a few guest appearances by your favorite Disney characters! All this and it’s wrapped in a collectable hardcover? You’d be a dummy not to buy it!
Grab your copy now from everywhere comics are sold! Released by IDW Comics.