Animation music plays a significant role in today’s modern world, but its roots date back to the silent film era which was the birth of its original conception. According to the Goldmark, a few of the cartoons might have had “specials scores” which were given to the theaters. Much before the era of ‘sync sound’, the early cartoon music utilized the theaters organ accompaniment by displaying the musician’s skill as well as wit Instead of delineating the character of the cartoon or creating a specific mood.
In a 1923 periodical titled ‘Motion Picture News’ there was a suggestion from the Pathe home Office who issued in a printed statement that, “Jazz music goes well with Aesop’s Fables. That’s the conclusion reached after a number of tests, and consequently hereafter Pathe, the distributor of these subjects, will furnish musical effects sheets to each distributor booking one of these cartoons.”
In the 1930s, animation music was not very highly appreciated and derogatory remarks such as “Mickey mousing” a term that was used in a derogatory manner by David O. Seiznick when he compared a score by Max Steiner to that of a Mickey mouse cartoon which implied that the score was extremely simplistic and the happenings in the scene could be easily guessed.
However, it was Carl Stalling who made the greatest impact in the arena of animation music. He made use of contemporary songs as film music. Stalling got hooked to movies after watching “The Great Train Robbery.” By 1904, in Lexington, Missouri, he started playing the piano during the changing of the reel at the local movie theatre. Later, in the mid – 1920s he became the leader of the orchestra where he worked at the Isis Theatre in the city of Kansas. Gradually, Stalling made music by improvising on the keyboard to suit the features of the cartoon. He used this style for short films as well as animated series such as “Alice in Cartoon land.”
Walt Disney a young filmmaker in Kansas City gave two cartoons on Mickey Mouse titled “Plane Crazy” and Gallopin’ Gaucho..’ to Stalling in 1928, before he moved away to California. Thereafter, Stalling worked at Disney, as a musical director and scored music for 19 other cartoons. In order to avoid high licensing fees he also had to make use of songs of the 19th century.
The next change he brought about was the use of “bar sheets” which greatly helped to synchronize the sound effects and the music. Making use of the blueprint of the animation storyboards, he was able to compose the musical score much before the film could be completed. Together with composers like Max Steiner and Scott Bradley he created the “click track system” which made it easy for the orchestra follow a steady beat and synchronize the action and the music.
Stalling worked for Warner Brothers from 1936 to 1958 as Musical Director where he added shot original cues which had already been recorded with a 60 piece orchestra in his compositional style in addition to the high energy gags and verbal jokes. He may do of music from the Warner music library to support the narrative.
In her famous book titled “Notes” (Hubbert Julie, 2003) enlightens our view on on some of America’s most iconoclastic and innovative composers of all time. These Legendary composers like Carl Stalling, Scott Bradley and Raymond Scott have the victory in the history of music animation and have laid their indelible stamp on the history music composition as well as music education that has enabled music scholars from all over the world to take music in animation seriously. Julie’s book “Notes” makes readers aware of how important music has been in the history of animation, and also the role cartoons have played in both the history of music composition and music education in this country.” (Hubbert Julie, 2003)
Mary Ann Skweres. (2007) Music for Animation: The Golden Years. Animation World magazine.
Hubbert Julie, (2003) Notes. The Cartoon Music Book. Journal Vol. 60. No. 1, pp. 146 – 148