Silly Symphony shorts came about after Walt and his Mickey Mouse short music director thought how well the public would receive great music synched with animation. With the creation of the Skeleton Dance (1929), they were off. There were 75 Silly Symphony shorts produced by 1939 and many follow up shorts similar, up through 2000. One of the things that stands out when you see the title cells is that all of the Silly Symphony are presented by Mickey Mouse.
"Santa's Workshop" was released in Dec. 1932 and was directed by Wilfred Jackson and runs about 7 minutes. Of the animators listed some more well-known names stand out; Les Clark, Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore. Art Babbit was also was listed and although I know he was an animator, I really only heard his named mentioned as a big organizer when the Disney Studio went union. It was not the first animated short in color, but it was one of the first. The Disney company had released their first color short that same year, "Flowers and Trees".
As we watch Santa's elves getting ready in the stables along with the reindeer the sled needs a good cleaning. "The Merry, Merry men of the Midnight Sun", they sing. Then onto the Who's Good or Bad room where Santa gets to read the various letters from the good and not so good little boys and girls. Then onto the Toy Factory which is filled with all kinds of wondrous machinery and other goodies. We could really have used the checkerboard paint a couple of months ago.The tour of the factory continues until we catch up to Santa and the perhaps only iffy point of the short. As Santa is testing dollies, a black faced version of a doll comes down and gives Santa a "Mammy " before stamping herself OK and moving on. Again, the mindset of the '30's. I also liked the World War 1 version of the toy tank as opposed to the more popular turret version we are used to seeing as it had not been invented yet in real life. The parade into Santa's sack does have a couple stereotypical race moments but I don't think they detract from the effect. The final scene has Santa waving goodbye to his elves as he guides his sleigh into the sky. This almost matches the Polar Express in it's Santa departure scene. As we see Santa and his reindeer fly past the Man in the Moon, we can only wonder how his night is going to go.
Well, Walt was not one to wait long for a sequel and almost to the day one year later, "The Night Before Christmas" (1933) was released. Wlfred Jackson also directed and the usual list of animators were listed in the credits. This wonderful short is a little over 8 minutes and picks up where we left off above.With the musical version of Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem playing in the background we enter a house of the day. We follow the lyrics of the song as they describe what we see. There is not a lot of straying from the script until Santa enters the house. There were some great scenes and some gags certainly stick out. It appears that Santa is given the job of bringing the Christmas tree and all it's fixin's. Just as we saw the parade into the bag in "Santa's Workshop", we see the toys on the way out of the bag and to the tree. None match what was loaded in the first cartoon, but some the new Toy gags are great. I especially like the way the soldiers are using cannon to put ornaments on the tree.
All the toys and Santa make so much noise that the children all wake up, all 8 of them. As soon as the toys heard the kids awake, they did the familiar Toy Story scramble to get back into their original positions and boxes. As the children begin to play with their new toys we see Santa flying off into the distance again and hear the famous line that end that really great poem, "Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night." Perfect.If you're looking for something so old that it's new to you and your kids I really recommend these two great Silly Symphony shorts. You could make these two shorts the opening shorts on your next holiday movie night. It'll be a fun, holiday, blast from the past.