Are we feeling spooky? If not, here’s a creepy treat for you this Halloween night. This funky little cartoon is an early Disney animation, and the first of their long-running Silly Symphonies series (reputed to have inspired Warners to call their equivalent Loony Tunes). The plot (what there is of one) is simple but effective: four skeletons cheerfully dance round a graveyard in the dead of night, only stopping their leaping, skipping and jumping when dawn begins to break.
The animation style may seem rather crude by modern standards, but this was pretty state of the art stuff when it was first released in the late 1920s, especially as it’s one of the first cartoons to use sound. Decades later, it is still considered a minor classic of the genre. It’s certainly a fun Halloween watch – the antics of these skeletons definitely still make enjoyable viewing!
These grooving skeletons nod to the allegorical medieval idea of the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death), which reinforced the universality of death and mortality by showing a skeletonized personification of death leading people of all ranks and statuses in a dance to the grave (you can see one such late 15th century depiction of the Dance of Death below).
I must say I’m rather fond of this 15th century woodcut – like the skeletons in the Disney cartoon, this lot look like they’re having a fantastic time. And, since it’s Halloween, they probably still are, somewhere…