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Classical Notes

Cartoon Classics: They didn't call 'em Merry Melodies for nuthin'

Posted at 11:14 AM on March 1, 2012 by Emily Reese

I've been watching a lot of old cartoons lately. Not only have I been watching them because I particularly enjoy the nostalgia it brings back, but I've really been loving the music.

I think it started a few weeks ago when I was reminded of Rossini's Leap-Day birthday, and most Rossini conversations eventually evolve (devolve?) into, "Welcome to my shop, lemme cut your mop, lemme save your crop," from this gem.

I could easily list dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of cartoons that draw heavily on classical hits for their score, but here are a couple favorites I can't stop watching recently.

Tex Avery is one of the most famous cartoonists from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood animation. His notable creations include Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but this next cartoon comes from his penguin character, Chilly Willy.

It's natural to expect the music in a cartoon to enhance the shenanigans, but just listen to what American composer Clarence Wheeler (Woody Woodpecker) wrote for the hysteria that ensues:

Did you catch the frequent references to Rossini's "William Tell"? That's not even the best part. According to me, the best part is at 2:56.

And Rossini deserves all the attention, for being a brilliant composer and all, but here's another fav from my childhood, courtesy of Tom and Jerry:

Tchaikovsky gets the glory here, from Sleeping Beauty. Thing is, I swear there was a Tom and Jerry cartoon where Jerry is skating on Jello to the Blue Danube Waltz, but I sure can't find it and might be mixing it up with something else.

Anyway, who cares that we're old(er). Take a few minutes and watch some cartoons today, and catch the brilliant scores underneath the action, masterfully woven with the musical threads of our favorite classical dudes.