The Skeleton Dance

15/6/12 – Walt Disney and the Skeleton Dance 1929 

While searching through the internet, I found an animation on YouTube by Walt Disney from the 1920’s. The black and white animation is called the “skeleton dance”, which I did not know existed until this point in time.

According to Steven Watts, The Skeleton Dance is a dark yet ‘humorous’ animation, which features three skeletal figures who begin to dance or play the ‘xylophone’.

One could argue that the black and white animation is very different compared to Disney’s recent films or animations. The colour and the style of the animation invites one to engage with the dynamic or the rapid movements between the skeletal figures who continue to dance across the screen.

One may relate the Skeleton Dance to Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death, which also features dancing skeletal figures who ridicule or mimic the living. Within the animation, the cat’s tail is used as a musical instrument, which may relate to Holbein’s Dance of Death. Even the style of the animation is similar to Holbein’s work or skeletal figures. (Cadafalch, 2010 p. 7-13)

The black and white adds to the visual effects, which causes the audience to interact with the skeletal figures who continue to ridicule one another. From a personal perspective the Skeleton Dance is the most interesting Disney film that has been created. Perhaps the recent animations or films from Disney have become politically correct, although it is very interesting to actually watch something that has character or depth.

Columbia Cartoons: The Skeleton Frolic 1937

Columbia Cartoons have also produced a short animation about a group of dancing skeletons in a band, playing a range of musical instruments.  One could argue that the visual and the audio effects within the Skeleton Frolic are quite similar to Disney’s Skeleton Dance.

Both of the animations feature similar styles or characteristics, although the Skeleton Frolic features dark, monochromatic colours in the background. One could argue that Disney’s black and white animation compliments the skeletal figures on-screen, although the Skeleton Frolic also features an interesting effect, which causes the audience to chuckle at the skeletons misbehaviour.

I kept asking myself why we don’t have cartoons like the Skeleton Dance or the Skeleton Frolic? Were these particular cartoons considered an unpolitical or have we moved on to 3D animation?

Do these particular animations demonstrate society’s ongoing fascination with death or the skull? Has the skull always been an interesting topic or subject?

Watts, Steven. The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life.  Missouri: First University of Missouri Press, 1997. p.38

Dowling, Faye. The Book of Skulls. Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011 p. 7 – 13

Foltlyn, Jacque Lynn. “To Die For: Skull Style and Corpse Chic in Fashion, Imagery and Branding.” Scan Journal 7 (2010).

Cadafalch, Antoni. Skull Face.  London: Koreno Books, 2011. p. 7 -13



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