It’s a beautiful short to behold, as the animation and the backgrounds are extremely well done. The characters’ movement is very fluid and enables the action to be moving constantly. That’s good, because as with most of the Disney shorts at this time, there is little story to hold the cartoon together.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case. This short is truly a celebration of nature, as it features all sorts of creatures of the bug world in various incarnations. If the boys at Pixar did not watch this before they did A Bug’s Life, I’d be shocked. So many of the characters from that film are similar to ideas here that I would think it had to be an influence.
The short begins with a quartet of caterpillars, doing the by now patented Ub Iwerks four abreast dance sequence. It is very interesting that a man so amazingly talented and creative as Ub kept returning to the same idea – four creatures side by side doing a silly dance. Not to say that it’s not entertaining. There is a new twist here as the characters roll, stack on top of each other, and then turn into butterflies. But it seems odd to me that so many of Ub’s
films feature this sort of sequence, from
The Skeleton Dance forward.
Of course a lot of that could be do to production schedules. Animating and releasing so many films a year had to make it a temptation for Walt and his team to take shortcuts, and by all accounts they did so. That’s part of what makes
Summer a little interesting, is there is no reuse of story or sequences from other films here. As far as I can see, all the material is original except the four abreast dance scene.
There are some very imaginative sequences here. After the caterpillars become butterflies, they land on a preying mantis that does its own crooked dance, then falls in a pond. Water bugs do a skating routine on top of the pond, before being interrupted by a dragonfly. The dragonfly is pulling a lady bug behind it like a skier, which is a great idea.
Of course the real coup de grace is the final sequence with the flies. After some ladybugs are pushed aside by a flower spurting out of the ground, four flies appear on top of the flower and do a dance as the lady bugs spin the flower. Then, the flies pick up a sleeping spider, by each of them grabbing a corner of its web. They bounce the spider up and down on the web, using it as a trampoline. But the spider gets his revenge, swinging a web line up to a tree branch and then devouring the flies. It’s a dark ending to be sure, but very funny and somewhat deserved. I mean, the spider was minding his own business, and these flies messed with him, right?
Summer is entertaining and silly, no doubt. But after what I saw with
The Haunted House and
Wild Waves, I’m somewhat surprised that there is not more consistency and that this short is not up to par with those. Sure, it’s a Silly Symphony versus a Mickey, but there is none of the experimentation we saw in
Springtime or the lighting effects like in
The Haunted House. By this time, though, Ub Iwerks was getting fed up with being at Disney, so that could have something to do with it. More on that later.
Again with the little mayhem touches and swishy gay poses when least expected. Things get eaten and killed and gobbled alive and kicked in the butt and there are great collisions. Nothing is taken seriously except solid entertainment. You want a story? Read a novel. A plot would just slow down the fun. Not many Disney/Iwerks shorts left - a golden period for both men, and the solid foundation upon which the Rock Of Disney was built.
There's a great flow to this one so a lot of planning must have gone to it. There's a constant variety in the kinds of creatures we see dance and nearly every shot is carefully linked to keep the flow going. So the caterpillars climb the flowers to become butterflies who fly to the praying mantis (I thought he was a stick insect!) who falls into the lake where the pond skaters dance and so on. It's a much smoother thing to do than the easier option of just cutting to different bug dances. Also, with all the creepy crawlies on display here, it's easy to see why bugs would eventually be chosen to represent the Silly Symphony series, as David was talking about before.
Click on thumbnail for full size image