A Technical and Historical Overview Of Soundtrack Production Procedure in American Animated Film

“There’s No Accounting for Taste,” Pt. II
A Division III (Undergraduate Thesis) Project 
by Arthur Kegerreis

Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, 1986

History and Structure

General Labor Development
Initially, the production of an animated film was a process with few divisions in labor structure. Everyone involved participated in the conception, development, and execution of the film. As production demands and staff increased, the move toward more efficient production procedures resulted in more distinct division of the labor structure. The duties fulfilled by the staff became more specialized, with the more creative positions exhibiting a higher status than the predominantly technical positions. Although every step of the process required skills of high caliber, it was frequently the case that the newcomer began with the m ore technical assembly line tasks and worked their way up to director. Some of the earliest and most influential directors actually helped develop and define this structure, emerging from a more egalitarian structure with their ingenuity and experience placing them at the guiding end of an unfolding artistic business.

In the second decade of the twentieth century, the major film center in the United States was New York City. Consequently the largest scale animation studios were situated there. These were Raoul Barre, Hearst International, and John R. Bray Studios. Many newspaper cartoonists moved into the animation field, and a large number of the animated films produced were animated versions of newspaper comic strips. This is a trend that has persisted throughout animation’s history, although even the most noteworthy of these efforts have not fared as well as many of the outstanding films conceive specifically for the animation medium. Many other early animated films were created as advertisements for products and businesses. From this time through the late l950’s, animated shorts were distributed along with feature films as a package, initially with a newsreel and later as a bonus and at no extra charge. Some of the earliest animated silent films were so poor that theater owners didn’t even show them. Feature length animated films offered exceptions to this marketing structure, but it was the exception more often than the rule.

Barres studio was the first to use a large staff in an assembly line fashion. Barre would give a vague plot line to his animators and encourage them to “ad lib” gags. The storyline was a general theme and the individual animators had a large degree of control over the humorous content and thematic continuity of the film. Barre and his animators contributed many technical advances to the animation field, including alignment and registration pegs which maintained a common field of view for each frame; rotating discs on the drawing board, which allowed the animator easier access to hard to draw lines, simply by rotating the entire image; and the innovation of moving separate backgrounds, underneath the main character. Other technical innovations were contributed by John Bray, whose studio outlived the Barre and Hearst studios. Bray pioneered the use of translucent paper in animation, and his collaborative patent with Earl Hurd in 1914 innovated the use of celluloid sheets as the animators working medium. Bray’s studio more closely approximated the labor structure of a modern animation studio than his competitors. With between thirty and forty artists, the first cartoonist would lay the cartoon out in pencil, another would ink in certain parts, and another would “put color on the back of it.” (1) This statement is somewhat misleading, as the films of this era were black and white, and brushes and pens were used to outline the characters on celluloid, since pencils would not leave a line. Many cartoonists were used to working on paper and resisted the transition to celluloid sheet or “cels.” It is possible but unlikely that artists working on different sections of the same cartoon used different media; paper in one section, celluloid in another; however the procedural methodology implied by this quote is even more ambiguous because it points out that the drawings were painted on the back. This is done only on celluloid, and effectively eliminates color bleeding while distinctly outlining features. Regardless of the unclear details concerning individual production duties and the working media employed, it is clear that Bray was the first to incorporate division of labor into his production structure. As Bray’s business expanded, he stopped drawing and assumed supervisory duties in order to manage his rapidly growing business.

Shortly before World War I broke out, Bray subcontracted the studio and services of Max Fleischer, who had patented and successfully utilized the rotoscope, a device which projected live action film, frame by frame, onto a light table, enabling figures and movement to be traced in detail and allowing live and animated characters to be combined on film. During the war, Fleischer produced instructional films for the army, but his continued efforts following armistice were well received, and in 1921 he decided to become and independent producer. His 1923 staff consisted of nineteen people, and Max Fleischer had devoted his efforts to business and distributional duties, letting his brother David handle the directorial duties. David proposed story ideas to the animators, and gags were developed in a highly informal fashion. Each animator took responsibility for a section of the film, and elaborated upon it wherever they felt fit. Another animator simultaneously developed the sequence to follow it.

Most of these films simply consisted of a string of gags loosely tied together without any semblance of thematic continuity. Because each animator was encouraged to elaborate whenever possible, in a highly individual, sectionalized production environment, transitions between scenes were rough or non-existent. Walt Disney was the first to emphasize the importance of a plot and storyline to a picture, and until his elaborate preproduction techniques were incorporated into the production process animated films exhibited little if any trace of coherent style and story.

Animator Dick Huemer is credited as being the first to use an “in-betweener.” He would draw beginning and ending drawings for a sequence, and Art Davis, his assistant, would draw out the transitional material. Both Dick Huemer and Art Davis later became important animators and directors at Disney. Art Davis also worked for Warner Brothers, Walter Lantz, and Screen Gems. Despite this technique, footage lengths varied considerably, and timings,were often adjusted after initial drawings were completed, rather than being predetermined before the project was begun.

One of the Fleischers’ most successful products was their bouncing ball series. This incorporated movement within the sing-a-long slide format that was in vogue in many movie theaters. Rather than projecting slides on the screen with song lyrics, following the organist or orchestra in the movie theater, these films used a ball which bounced across the tops of the lyrics in time to the music. Drawings elaborated on the song lyrics. Post release splices and bad edits would often throw the organist, orchestra leader, and even singers in the audience a bit off, however they were popular nonetheless.

In 1925 Max Fleischer was introduced to Dr. Lee DeForest by Hugo Reisenfeld, a leading film orchestra leader and theatrical entrepreneur. Dr. Lee DeForest had developed a synchronized sound process for film which he called Phonofilm, and in January 1926, they released the first animated film with a synchronized soundtrack, “My Old Kentucky Home.” The song was sung by the Metropolitan Quartet, with Jimmy Flora at the organ.

DeForest’s system did not catch on, however, and it was not until after the success of Warner Brothers’ film “The Jazz Singer,” the first synchronized dialogue film, that distributors and producers proved receptive to synchronized sound. So it was Walt Disney’s 1928 film, “Steamboat Willie,” with its synchronized music and voice track, that took the public by storm.

Disney had started animating in 1920 for an animated advertisement producer, “Kansas City Film Ad” or the “United Film Ad Service.” It was there that he met Ub Iwerks, an animator who jointly formed an independent animation company with Disney in 1922. The Kansas City based “Disney-Iwerks Studios” employed three other animators: Carmine “Max” Maxwell, Hugh Harman, and Rudolf Ising. All of these people later had a significant impact on the cartoon industry. Together they produced Disney’s “Laugh O Gram” cartoons, one every two to three weeks. The partnership was not financially successful and went bankrupt in 1923. Disney set out for California later that year to start anew, and Iwerks returned to Kansas City Film Ad the following year. Iwerks was joined at Kansas City Film Ad by a young cartoonist, Friz Freleng. Before the year was out however, Harman, Ising, and Iwerks had joined Disney in Los Angeles and Freleng would follow, in 1927. Disney’s Los Angeles studio now included Walt’s brother Roy, Iwerks, Hugh Harman and his brother Walker, and Rudolf Ising. Early in 1928 Disney’s distributor and Universal Pictures affiliate refused to allow Disney the funding he required, and furthermore he took away Disney’s entire staff with the exception of Roy and Iwerks, and with it the rights to Disney’s feature character, Oswald the Rabbit. The Carles Mintz studio lasted only a year before Universal closed it and installed an ex-Fleischer animator, Walter Lantz, as head of their animation department.

At this point the Disney production structure was simple–everyone collectively developed the story and animated it. However, Iwerks’ new character Mickey Mouse and the success that the studio gained through him caused an expansion in the size of the studio. A consequence was its discrete and expanded production structure.

In order for production duties to be distributed throughout the larger staff while maintaining a cohesive style, Disney devoted extra attention to the pre-production process. Two pre-production techniques or tools which have now become standard procedure were innovated by his staff; the storyboard and the “dope sheet.” The storyboard illustrated significant events throughout the story’s progression, and the “dope sheet” or “bar sheet” combined a frame exposure list with a visual and soundtrack breakdown, including dialogue, rough musical score, and key events requiring audio-visual synchronization.

Disney realized that effective stories required clear character personalities. In a continuing effort to establish character traits and personalities, Disney established a separate story department and hired an illustration teacher to refine the visual continuity and realism of these characters. “Model sheets” were used which exhibited key character poses and expressions, and full scale models were built of many of the characters. Actors were sometimes hired and rotoscoped films were made of them, serving as models for character movements and expressions.

In an effort to improve the image quality of his films, Disney innovated the use of “pencil tests” which were rough film versions of the finished animation before it was painted in–character outlines only. Character outlines in earlier films often exhibited lines of irregular thickness, often with distracting jittery movements which were attributed, at least partially, to poor alignment of the cels at the drawing board. Pencil tests enabled the animators to verify the line continuity and also check the timing of the character movements to make sure that they were appropriate. This was one of the several stages of the production process which Disney contributed, helping to define the elaborate production structure which other studios adopted and have continued to use throughout animation’s history.

The production structure that emerged has the following features.
Writers collaborate with the directors developing gags and a storyline; these are then extended in a “jam session” where key animators and other directors collaboratively sketch out the story into a storyboard. This is a board about 4 x 8 feet in size (for a short), with key scenes exhibited in comic strip fashion. Together key points or gags are worked and reworked until the director feels ready to proceed. The directors then work together to lay out the picture, with several hundred character layout sketches showing attitudes, facial expressions, and general characteristics of the film. Dialogue and visuals are progressively revised with corresponding plot modifications and developments. 

Many studios had several different distinct production units: Warner Brothers had three, each with its own director, storyman, and layout man. Animators were not called in until the layout was finished. The animator would then contribute visual revisions. Rough background sketches are then made by the background artist and director. The timing is roughed out continually throughout the layout and revision processs; the dialogue is recorded and final adjustments are made; exposure sheets and bar sheets are made; finally the animation begins. 

Head animators sketch out key positions, and the inbetweeners fill in the transitional frames. After the character outlines for an entire scene have been drawn in ink on the front of the cel, each scene is made into a “pencil test” film, which is viewed and evaluated in a “sweatbox session.” Once any corrections have been made, the outlines are filled in, painted on the back of the cel to maintain clear character outlines. The final photography is done, and the scenes are assembled into the full length film. Occasionally last minute editing is encountered, but generally this is material removal as the film is minutely planned out during the preliminary stages. Finally, the edited soundtrack is married to the film.

Modern television productions skip many steps in this procedure to reduce costs; consequently, they suffer from significant compromises in the quality of their final product. Effectively, production concerns have come full circle, with footage output occupying a more fundamental position of interest to a producer than production quality, much as the early silent films did.

Methods of Soundtrack Production
As in many areas of animation, the production techniques employed by the newer studios were “borrowed” from other more established and successful studios, owing their implementation to the past experiences of a staff that was frequently lured away from older studios with promises of higher salaries. This inter-studio cross breeding of talents consequently led to a standardized production procedure, exhibiting little if any historical or inter-studio variance. Consequently, story development and the handling of visual filmic elements followed a rather consistent procedural sequence.

Soundtrack production, however, exhibits considerably less procedural consistency, both historically within single studios and from studio to studio. Technical advances in film sound, the development of pre-production timing techniques, and most importantly, the technical preferences of various animated film scorers and animators influenced the sequential placement of the various stages of soundtrack production within the overall production sequence.

Ultimately, the soundtrack production procedure is dictated by the creative methodology employed in the conception of the film. Generally, three approaches can be distinguished. In the first, the soundtrack and animation are developed simultaneously. In the second, the animation is planned to fit the soundtrack. This approach can be reversed, resulting in the final approach: planning the soundtrack to the finished animation. Qualitatively, the excellence of the final product is not dictated by the approach chosen, but by the degree of precision and creative ingenuity applied to the procedure

Any movement can display elements of visual rhythm, and animators learned early on to determine the pace of an action through the use of “beats.” Given that twenty-four frames move through the projector in one second, subdivisions of this twenty-four frame constant could provide different paces. A movement, such as a footstep, that occurred every twelve frames is said to follow a “twelve beat,” and similarly eight or nine beats would have one beat every eight or nine frames, resulting in a fairly rapid movement.

Early animated sound films relied heavily and nearly exclusively on the use of beats to synchronize action with music. The nine sound “Song Cartunes” released by the Fleischer Studio before Disney’s “Steamboat Willie” must have used some sort of technique to gauge the pace of the bouncing ball they employed; it was probably the use of beats which established this, as more sophisticated synchronization techniques, such as the bar sheet, had not yet been developed and were not employed by the studio for some time after their acceptance elsewhere.

The bar sheet, or “dope sheet,” as it was initially known, is a planing document which simply married a soundtrack score, including dialogue and sound effects, to a simplified animator’s exposure sheet. (See examples, next two pages.) The exposure sheet is a document used by the animators to plan the action cel by cel, indicating beginning and end points for actions with corresponding cels, as well as repeated frames.

This is used as a guide by the cameraman when the cels are photographed. Exposure sheets can become quite elaborate, as backgrounds or separate characters are often placed on different cels, which are sandwiched and photographed together, so that they move at different times and speeds. The bar sheet uses a simplified version of this, indicating significant visual actions with the number of elapsed frames placed correspondingly alongside them. Above and below this is displayed the dialogue with a rough syllabic breakdown, significant sound effects, and a simplified musical score. Heavy vertical lines delineate musical measures.

The first bar sheet was developed by Wilfred Jackson, an animator who worked with Walt Disney on “Steamboat Willie” and many films that followed. Although he did not have an extensive musical background, Jackson did understand rudimentary musical notation and the principle of using a metronome to keep time. Jackson played harmonica and worked together with Disney to adapt two public domain songs, “Steamboat Bill” and “Turkey in the Straw,” for the soundtrack. Although this initial bar sheet or “dope sheet,” as Jackson christened it, did not contain conventional musical notation, it did include a measure by measure breakdown of the songs, delineating each musical beat. A musical score was prepared later for the orchestra, using the beat and measure breakdown as a guide. Despite its primitive characteristics and crude form, this “dope sheet” was an important innovation which made it possible to precisely time and synchronize the soundtrack to the picture. Even without the proper musical notation, this dope sheet contained all the essential characteristics of the barsheets which are still in use today.

The production approach used in this case was the first type mentioned earlier; the soundtrack and animation were developed simultaneously. Both the music and the animation were modified somewhat to fit the needs of the other, without either playing a dominant role in the production. An intimate correspondence between the two results from this approach, as exemplified by “Steamboat Willie” and many of the other early Mickey Mouse films developed in this manner. Jackson claims that this method is the only one that can achieve the close integration of picture and soundtrack, later to be known as “Mickey Mousing,” which these pictures exhibited.

Despite the closely correlated visual and musical elements, many of these films seem to suffer from overly rigid adherence to the musical and visual beat structure used to pace them. As both composers and animators gained experience in the medium, there was much less reliance on “beats” for pacing, and when composers collaborated with animators in the preproduction sessions, musical and visual phrases could be constantly modified until they fit each other as well as possible.

The close collaborative production structure, however, proved taxing and cumbersome to everyone involved. The animators and musicians shared the same room at Disney’s studio throughout most of the ’30’s. Musicians often wished that they could leave the long meetings after contributing a basic theme and verse rather than having to patiently repeat them while the animation director worked and reworked the corresponding action and timing. Frequently an extra beat would have to be added in the middle of a musical phrase or an action would have to be trimmed down to its bare essentials to match the music. These production difficulties ultimately resulted in a more effective product, however, and transitions and movements were consistently becoming more and more natural and realistic.(5)

The collaborative production structure which stressed equal importance of both animation and music was used primarily on early Mickey Mouse shorts. A second series came about as a result of arguments between Disney and Carl Stalling, the studio’s first composer. These cartoons, called “Silly Symphonies” gave the music primary importance, requiring that the animation be modified to fit the music.

Stalling had become acquainted with Disney in Kansas City through his work as an organist and conductor at the Isis theater, where Disney had run some of his earlier efforts. Stalling had loaned Disney money to get started in Los Angeles, and later joined him there as his composer. Their collaboration on synchronized sound films began after the animation for “Steamboat Willie” had been finished. Disney was on his way to New York to record the music for it, and he stopped in Kansas City, leaving copies of two of the first Mickey Mouse shorts for Stalling to score. It is unclear whether Stalling hastily put together a score for “Steamboat Willie” since it had not been scored in musical notation, or whether the conductor for the recording session put this together.(6)

Shortly thereafter, Stalling, having composed the first post-scored animated soundtracks, joined Disney in New York to record the music for the Mickey Mouse films “Gallopin Gaucho” and “Plane Crazy.” Postscoring, or composing the music to fit the completed animation, came naturally to Stalling, as he had over twenty years of experience as a silent film accompanist. The prescored Silly Symphonies which eventually developed into “Fantasia,” were originally Stalling’s idea, yet during his tenure at Disney, he prescored only five Silly Symphonies of nineteen films he composed. Ironically, Stalling eventually became music director at Warner Brothers, where the majority of the 600-plus films that he scored were post-scored. Films that included visual vocal or visual instrumental musical numbers were, of course, exceptions. The music for these was composed and recorded before the animation began, although not necessarily in its final form with full instrumentation. An orchestra and vocal track, for example, might be recorded with voice and piano, each on a separate track. This would become a temporary track, and the animation would be plotted out to match the recording. During the time the animation was being completed, the orchestrations would be completed, the parts copied, and the full orchestration recorded. The vocal track would probably be saved and matched to the orchestra: the piano track would be discarded.

Early animated films generally recorded dialogue with the music, and the dialogue was plotted to beats. The dialogue would be read as the film was shown, effectively dubbing the film. The 1930 film “The Cactus Kid” is believed to have been the first animated film for which the dialogue was recorded in advance. Disney himself did Mickey Mouse’s voice, and the animation was planned to match the voice track.(7) This eventually became standard procedure at all the animation studios, however some, like Fleischer’s studio, resisted this method for some time. Even though Paramount Pictures advertised that Fleischer’s new “Talkartoons” series would be, “actually talking pictures, not merely cartoons synchronized after their creation,” the dialogue for these was actually post-synched, with the dialogue dubbed to a finished film and metrical breakdown as discussed earlier. The studio seemed to believe that the ad-libs which the voice performers added under their breath would add to the effectiveness of their cartoons, and at least with “Popeye” this may have been true.(8)

Walter Lantz was placed in charge of the Charles Mintz studio in 1929. Mintz had swept Disney’s staff out from under him only a year earlier, along with Disney’s principle animated character, Oswald the Rabbit. Lantz was not well received, and some of the chief animators struck out independently.

Lantz’s first job was to add sound to six of Mintz’s complete but unreleased films. This was done by watching the picture and dubbing the dialogue and sound effects to the film. No prescoring was employed.

Lantz was later contracted to produce an opening sequence for a Universal Pictures talking extravaganza “The King of Jazz” which featured Paul Whiteman and his band. The bandleaders singing voice was supplied by Bing Crosby, then a young member of Whiteman’s band. The film contained the first sound color animation, although it used only a two tone (red and green) color spectrum. This collaboration resulted in the hiring of a young member of Whiteman’s band as Lantz’s music director, James Dietrich. The cartoons that followed were aided by the use of songs as a structural medium. The music provided a timing restraint on the Lantz films that helped surpass the pacing difficulties that the earlier films had exhibited. These pacing problems could probably be attributed to an attitude prevalent at the studio which overlooked the importance of precise preproduction planning. (9,10)

Lantz had attempted to have Whiteman use a “visual metronome” to keep time with the animation in “King of Jazz,” however Whiteman had refused, claiming that he could pace it perfectly by himself–and he did, to the second. “This Visual Metronome” was one of many techniques employed by directors and orchestra conductors to achieve synchronization with the animation. Disney had encountered similar arrogance from Carl Edouarde, the conductor for “Steamboat Willie.” Edouarde had refused to use Disney’s synchronization system, with disastrous results. The recording studio owner, Pat Powers, had agreed to pay for retakes if the synchronization was off, however Disney discovered later that this didn’t cover musicians’ fees–and of course, the synchronization was off. A successful recording was obtained after a reprint of the film was made which included a bouncing ball, indicating accents as well as the beat, keeping Edouarde’s time steady.(12)

There were various other types of “visual metronomes” employed in recording animated soundtracks, most of which incorporated a visual variation of a “click track” printed on the film. A click track is a loop of optical soundtrack film with a hole punched in it. Loops of various lengths provide different tempos, for when the loop is run over a soundhead, an audible “pop” occurs every time the hole crosses the head. Consistent projection speed assures an accurate tempo. Headphones are worn by the conductor and/or the entire orchestra to assure an accurate beat. In a visual version, a white flash appears on the screen at regular intervals. This could either be printed on the film, which would be viewed as the music is conducted, or also be on a loop. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston report that Disney’s sound effects man, Jim MacDonald, invented the click track.(l3) In an interview in “Funnyworld,” Carl Stalling reported that he devised a visual variant on the flash system while attempting to synchronize “Gallopin Gaucho” and “Plane Crazy.”

…I hit on the idea of drawing ‘half-moon’ lines on the film that started on the left side of one frame, then moved to the right across the following frames, and then back toward the left, with the beat occurring when the line returned to the left side of the screen. That way, the beat didn’t catch the musicians by surprise when we were recording.(14) 

Before the addition of the bouncing ball, the original print of “Steamboat Willie” had only used the visual flashes or punches. Ub Iwerks later contributed a similar version of Stalling’s device which used a line moving horizontally up and down, with the beat occuring at the bottom of the frame. This was an animated loop, photographed at different speeds for different tempos. This version was used on the fifth and sixth Mickey Mouse cartoons, but fell into disuse after click tracks began to be used. The first Silly Symphony, “The Skeleton Dance,” which was based on an idea of Stallings’ and was the first to utilize a click track.

Initially, recording sessions for the early Disney films required that everything — dialogue, music, and sound effects — be recorded in one take. Sound effects were performed by percussionists and were indicated in musical notation. Jim MacDonald, Disney’s sound effects man and the voice of Mickey Mouse following Disney’s resignation from that position, began his long and respected career as a percussionist/sound effects man as did many others, such as Treg Brown, Warner Brothers’ sound effects man.

Within three years it became possible to mix down several soundtracks onto a single track, and separately recorded music, effects, and voice tracks became standard practice at Disney’s and everywhere. The mood which prevailed at many recording sessions was significantly different from that at sessions for many live action films. Warner Brothers animator Bob Clampett reports,

Many’s the time that Carl, Treg [Brown] and I waited while the fifty-piece Warner Brothers orchestra would finish recording the score for a Bogart or Bette Davis feature, and then bat out one of my Bugs Bunny or Porky shorts. When Leo Forbstein [the orchestra’s director] told them to put our cartoon score on their stands, a wave of relief would spread through the entire orchestra. Suddenly, two violinists would pop up and begin dueling with their bows, or some such horseplay. Others would call out things in jest, and by the time Carl stepped to the podium, raised his baton and they broke into the unnaturally rapid tempo of our Merrie Melodies theme song (‘Merrily We Roll Along’), or subtitle, or whatever, they would be in a completely different mood for Bugs than for Bogey.(15)

Many later animated films contained scores of such intricate complexity that they were recorded in about ten sections. The recording session for one 5-6 minute Warner Brothers cartoon usually lasted about three hours.(16)

Generally, the scores for these sessions had to be composed in one to two weeks.(l7, 18) The difficulties of this requirement were perhaps somewhat alleviated by encouragement from the producers at the larger studios to use popular songs from the studio’s feature films. As a result the studios received the additional benefits of reusing successful musical material and promoting their own feature films. The Warner Brothers cartoon studio was started for this explicit purpose, and it was required that every animated film produced there use a popular song from a Warner Brothers feature.(l9, 20) The chief animators at this point were two Disney ex-compatriots from Kansas City, having defected to Charles Mintz and becoming independent when Lantz took charge of that studio. These were Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, and they brought with them Friz Freleng, the one director who was at the Warner Brothers studio almost entirely from its conception until its closing. Harman and Ising moved to MGM after four years in 1934 when producer Leon Schlesinger refused to meet their higher budget demands. At MGM they employed the services of Scott Bradley, a radio conductor and composer who was to become one of the most respected cartoon composers in Hollywood, principally for his treatment of the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. Bradley’s scores, like those from Warner Brothers, used a large amount of material from MGM features. By 1936, Carl Stalling had taken over the position of music director at Warner Brothers and in many ways the musical treatments prepared by Scott Bradley and Carl Stalling evolved similarly.

At both MGM and Warner Brothers the cartoons are almost entirely post scored, despite subtle distinctions. Bradley received a pencil test print to work from along with a bar sheet. Stalling, however, worked principally from exposure sheets and rough scripts. Freleng preferred to work with bar sheets, so most of the films directed by him were presented to Stalling on bar sheets. Freleng felt that the bar sheets gave him a better sense of the timing of the picture.(21) Stalling was generally composing while the animation was being carried out. Bradley usually would be composing while painting was being done, having a much more complete visual reference to work from. Both men composed rough sketches which were passed on to an arranger and copyist. Both men conducted their own scores. Close collaboration was required with the sound effects men in order to integrate the two elements effectively. Bradley tried to avoid the use of sound effects whenever possible, in an attempt to fill their place musically.(22)

Consequently, the work of both composers exhibit considerable similarity, linking thematic fragments from popular songs with twentieth century compositional devices. The characters are often characterized by leitmotivs, and the instrumentation is humorously non-conventional. Bradley scored for a smaller (20-30 piece) ensemble while Stalling composed for the full fifty piece Warner Brothers orchestra. Both composers frequently utilized the musical pun, accompanying action with a song title related to the action.

In these ways the commercial shorts of the larger film studios exhibited procedural and structural similarities. Disney, however, gradually moved towards scoring procedures which approached those of live action filmic technique, later to apply his studios “mickey mousing” techniques to his live “True Life Adventure” series.

In conclusion, it is significant to note that the precise timing techniques invented in the animated film scoring field have been gratuitously adopted by live action film scorers. The technological evolution of synchronized sound has been paralleled by creative advances in the treatment of animated music, up until the end of animation’s filmic era and its adaptation by network television. The quality and precision exhibited in these films is a testament to the ingenuity of a handful of key people, many of whom have been mentioned here.

Suffice it to say that the longevity of these films is a confirmation of their indisputable quality.


1.) Leonard Maltin,”Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons,” (NY: New American Library, 1980), p.20

2.) Chuck Jones- interview with author, 1/24/86

3.) Joe Adamson, interview with Friz Freleng (UCLA: Oral History Department), n.p

4.) Wilfred Jackson, “Music and Animation” (notes from lecture given at Disney studios) 12/8/52, n.p.

5.) Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston,”Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life”, (NY: Abbeville Press, 1981), pp.287-8

6.) Jon Newsom,”‘A Sound Idea’: Music for Animated Films,” Quarterly Journal of The Library of Congress 1980, V37,N3-4,p.287

7.) “An Interview With Carl Stalling”, Funnyworld 13 (Spring 1971):p.287

8.) Jeff Lenberg, “The Great Cartoon Directors” (Jefferson,NC: Mc Farland &

Co., 1983) p. 102

9.) Leonard Maltin, op. cit., p. 161

10.) Ibid., p. 158

11.) Ibid., p. 158

12.) Jon Newsom, op. cit., p. 287

13.) Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, op. cit., p. 294

14.) Funnyworld 13 (1971): p. 24

15.) Ibid., p. 26

16.) Ibid., p. 26

17.) Chuck Jones – interview with author, 1/24/86, p.4

18.) Ingolf Dahl,”Notes on Cartoon Music”,Film Music Notes: Official Organ of the National Film Music Council 7, (May-June 1949): p.4

19.) Leonard Maltin, op. cit., p.220

20.) Mike Barrier, “The Careers of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising,” Millimeter:4:2 (February 1976) p. 47

21.) Jeff Lenburg, op. cit., p. 4

22.) John Winge “Cartoons and Modern Music” Sight and Sound (Autumn 1948) p. 136