Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon

By Coyle, Rebecca | Music, Sound and the Moving Image, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview

Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon


Coyle, Rebecca, Music, Sound and the Moving Image


Daniel Goldmark, Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 225pp.

review by Rebecca Coyle

Animation film has proven enduringly popular with cinema audiences. In recent decades, the box office successes of animation and anime films from the USA and Japan, international co-productions, claymation features from the UK, and popular national series, such as Blinky Bill from Australia, have boosted the market for feature-length animation films addressed to adults as well as children.1 Linked to these developments, the study of animation film has grown considerably in the last few years, as evidenced in programs offered in various educational institutions. 2 However, elements of music and sound are often marginalized in discussions of animation film, despite the significance of sound in the audio-visual text, the use of high-profile actors for dialogue, and the ways in which animation films are cross-marketed via soundtrack CDs, electronic games with music and sound effects, and other merchandise. In this context, Daniel Goldmark's Tunes for 'Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon offers a significant addition to the literature on animation music and the attempt to increase awareness of sound components. Furthermore, emphasizing cartoon music's historical marginalization in film scholarship, the book adds to the few chapters and articles on animation music in film music publications.3

Tunes for 'Toons extends research into animation music published in The Cartoon Music Book anthology (2002) co-edited by Goldmark with Yuval Taylor. Goldmark trained in musicology at University of California (LA), and this book is based on his PhD dissertation (see Goldmark 2001). In his Tunes for 'Toons monograph, Goldmark focuses on animation productions released in the 1930s to 1950s (a fact that could have been reflected in the subtitle). Hollywood production in this period was largely directed to short films produced for theatrical release by animation studios such as Warner Bros, Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Van Beuren, Fleischer and others. The book assumes knowledge of these studios and their output, moving directly into discussion of music, scores and composers. Inevitably, given the volume and significance of the contributions of Carl Stalling and Scott Bradley in this period, the book concentrates on their music and musical approaches, devoting the first two chapters to studies of their respective oeuvres and threading later chapters through with analyses of their work. Indeed, Goldmark argues that these two composers helped establish the (US) public's notion of what cartoon scores should sound like (7). Subsequent chapters detail musical discourses represented - sonically and narratively - in cartoons, studying jazz, 'classical' and opera, reflecting Goldmark's training as a music historian.

Goldmark's research is based on a range of primary and archival sources including cue sheets, scores and personal interviews as well as articles from more or less obscure journals, and the extensive reference notes add to the value of this volume. Reflecting the discourse and textual analysis, the book deals with case studies rather than an allencompassing history. Each chapter takes two or three films as exemplars of lines of argument and, within these discussions, offers musical analyses of techniques and themes (with brief transcriptions or excerpts from scores, plus black and white stills). The book's structure and content rationale could be more clearly signposted, and the final short epilogue surprisingly leaps into a contemporary period, where a more considered overview conclusion may have more usefully reflected on the tools for analysis and conceptual approach offered in the chapters.

From the outset, Goldmark notes the problematic way in which cartoons are generically linked despite the fact that animation films do not constitute a genre per se, given the range of forms, styles and narrative approaches employed by films falling within this rubric. …

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