The Skeleton Dance
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|The Skeleton Dance|
|Silly Symphony series|
|Directed by||Walt Disney|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Studio||Walt Disney Productions|
|Followed by||El Terrible Toreador|
The Skeleton Dance is a 1929 Silly Symphony animated short subject produced and directed by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks. In the film, four human skeletons dance and make music around a spooky graveyard—a modern film example of medieval European "danse macabre" imagery. It is the first entry in the Silly Symphony series. In 1994, it was voted #18 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.
While many claim that the musical score was adapted from the Saint-Saëns composition Danse Macabre, Carl Stalling explained, in a 1969 interview, that it was actually a foxtrot set in a minor key. Stalling suggested the idea for a series of musical one-shot cartoons to Disney at a gag meeting in 1929. Stalling also adapts Edvard Grieg's "The March of the Trolls" for part of the skeleton dance music.
The skeletons dance in various ways and play makeshift musical instruments. In one scene, all four skeletons hold hands and dance in a circle, akin to schoolchildren dancing "Ring a Ring O'Roses". In another scene, a skeleton pulls the thigh bones off another and plays the thighless skeleton like a xylophone. A skeleton also plays a cat like a double bass, using a bow and the cat's tail as the strings. One skeleton dances part of the Charleston.
It is notable for being the first animated cartoon to use non-post-sync sound. Animation from this short was later reused in the Mickey Mouse short Haunted House, in which Mickey, having taken shelter in a haunted house, is forced to play music for the dancing skeletons.
The cartoon was created in black and white on standard 1.33:1 35mm film. The original music for both the title card and ending card was found in reissues, so music (and sounds) from later Mickey Mouse short The Mad Doctor and the ending music of Mickey Mouse shorts of the early 1930s were used respectively.
The film had a budget of $5,386.
Contemporary references and usage
In 1931, A Merrie Melodies cartoon Hittin' the Trail for Hallelujah Land had 3 skeletons that resemble those from The Skeleton Dance. In 1982, The Skeleton Dance was featured in a colorized version during the credits of the television Halloween episodes "Disney's Halloween Treat" and "A Disney Halloween". Clips from the original black-and-white version were used in Disney's "DTV Monster Hits" Halloween special (1987). It was included on the 1983 Disney compilation tape, Scary Tales.
It was used in the Disney Sing-a-Long videos during the montage "Grim Grinning Ghosts".
It was used in the film Ghost Rider (2007), as a cartoon Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is watching not knowing he will become a skeleton-like supernatural being at night in the presence of evil. The Skeleton Dance was also referenced to in the episode "Hill Billy" of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, where Grim, having been turned into a silent era cartoon character, leads several other skeletons in dance, and even mimics their actions. A similar thing happens during the choreography of the music "Remains of the Day", from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.
The skeleton dancers make cameo appearances in various episodes of Disney's House of Mouse.
The cartoon was included as a bonus in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. It also appears in the form of several transition levels.
In a deleted scene of Hotel Transylvania Johnny leads a hiphop song with zombies dancing the skeleton dance in the background
Note: In 1937, during a brief stint at Columbia, Iwerks remade it in color as Skeleton Frolics. It is one of the very few Columbia cartoons to be widely seen today, as it was attached to the theatrical release of the 2004 feature The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, and also included on the DVD version.
Some parts of the cartoon are included in the music video O.P.P from rapper CHYNO.