69. The Band Concert – Wilfred Jackson

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SUMMARY: In his first cartoon in colour, Mickey Mouse attempts to conduct his band through a distraction-filled public performance of the William Tell Overture.

WHY IT’S HERE: Mickey Mouse had kept audiences laughing consistently for seven years without having to make the change from black and white to colour. But when that inevitable shift finally came, it happened with a suitably monumental cartoon. ‘The Band Concert’ is not only Mickey’s greatest cartoon but is recognised as one of the great masterpieces of animation. It packs so much into its nine minutes that it feels almost like a twenty minute special, even as the priceless antics simultaneously make it fly by like a three minute trailer. The premise is simple: Mickey, as conductor, attempts to guide his band through a public performance of ‘The William Tell Overture’. However, there are numerous distractions including a bee, a tornado and a scene-stealing duck!

From this modest premise comes an animation epic. Both hilarious and beautiful, ‘The Band Concert’ weaves together its threads expertly, thanks to the deft touch of director Wilfred Jackson. At this early stage in his career, Donald Duck was clearly meant for stardom and he upstages his co-stars with a mixture of his trademark impish sense of humour and explosive temper. The music in ‘The Band Concert’ is ingeniously used throughout, complementing and mirroring the on-screen action (the tornado arrives during the ‘Storm’ segment of the overture). Donald’s attempts to hijack the performance into a rendition of ‘Turkey in the Straw’ draws on the similarities in the two musical pieces to seamlessly shift from one to the other repeatedly. The whole plot and each individual element is so perfectly worked out and executed that the film never hits a bum note even as Mickey struggles to get his band to hit the right ones. ‘The Band Concert’ is undoubtedly one of the greatest animated films ever made, of whatever length. ‘Steamboat Willie’ may still be Mickey’s most iconic short but ‘The Band Concert’ is undoubtedly his greatest.

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