The Failure of the Ark: Disney's Lion King without Animals
January 7, 2014
Satirical Perspective on Noah's Gargantuan Task
December 4, 2013
Character, Ethics, and Watching Films
January 9, 2014
Walt Disney Silly Symphony Cartoon from 1933 - "Father Noah's Ark"
March 27, 2014
So much is so right about this cartoon. Noah looks like Santa Claus, the animals earn their keep on the ark by helping to build the boat, the three sons (Ham, Shem, Japheth) sing a song together before embarking on a factory-line efficienct ceiling-building mission, the wives *CLAIM* those names: "Mrs. Ham, Shem, and Japheth" (le sigh), and they do traditional women's work loading the food (canned sardines? now wait, that's not biblical...they couldn't eat meat yet!).
It goes on and on. The porcupines who load up the ship are far more numerous than just a pair, which means some of the extremely helpful animals will not be able to come onto the ark. Same with the monkeys - so many help to chop down the trees, but not all of them can come onto the ship.
Mother Noah, Captian Noah's wife, is doing the laundry, but in a wry and exciting shift of expectations, she pulls out her sopping wet britches and claims "I wear the pants on board this boat you bet your life." Meanshile, Captain Noah himself takes on the role of God in the Genesis tale: "I make the plans and give commands to build the ark."
The animals in this clip really are something. The rhino who helps makes boards out of tree trunks...the snakes who form tank-like treads to make the vehicle forward, the duck who serves admirably as the horn, the hippo who creates drill holes in the boards, and woodpeckers bang in the wooden nails The whole animal kingdom joins the industrial era's ability to erect impressive sized-archetecture with speed and efficiency.
As the rain begins to fall, Captain Noah and his sons sound the trumpet. The animals, now conviently numbered in twos, enter the ark. But there is significant mayhem, when the animals are is disarray, running toward the ark. They seem to be the ones around whom the drama whirls. Their mayhem only becomes order as they find their mate and run up the gangplank together as a pair. Father Noah counts the large animals, and Mother Noah counts the swarming things (bugs and such). The recalcitrant donkey ends up saving the last moment; upon getting struck by lightening, his charge for the door helps dislodge the elephant. Upon seeing the skunks, Noah and his family lift up the plank and force them to swim into the water after the boat.
What happens to them?!? During the symphonic boat trip, they grasp the ceiling of the ark and hold on for dear life. Meanwhile, the animals in the ark get tossed back and forth, almost making *me* seasick just to watch. The humans fare not-much-better. They sing their old spiritual song about 40 days of rain while prostrate in prayer. Mother Noah is unphased. She knits, not bothered by the teetering boat floor, the kitten pawing at her skein, nor the leaks in the roof around her.
The closing number is ripe: "The skies are clear." Father Noah should have a top hat and tap shoes for this one.
I'm going to go ahead and admit that I don't get the last joke, the dogs encircling a tree and the puppies encircline a sapling. I ahve dogs, and they like to pee on trees. But that's not what appears to be happening.
Perhaps I will just say this, by way of conclusion, it is striking that a story about labor, the subjugation of animals to factory logic, ends with domestic pets and a rainbow. Dunno...I think there's a message about the American way of life in there.