Cartoon Opera

The clip below is from a cartoon, “Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers,” that I watched all the time as a kid. The story begins with the characters ending up at an opera by accident, thinking they’re going to a movie.

But happens in this episode is actually kind of interesting as far as pop culture representations of opera go. You get some of the expected moves, such as that Dale assumes that it’s going to be boring, and Gadget points out that “this is an opportunity for us to culturally enrich ourselves!” — i.e. people don’t listen to this for pleasure.

But the episode represents opera as being fun, as in full of sword battles and grand entrances, which is kind of true. And it’s in English, which is interesting. No one has any trouble understanding the plot. And there is no sense that our ‘everyperson’ characters are out of place or that they should be dressed up, or that opera-going is a snooty thing to do.

In a Disney cartoon I would half expect the ‘opera’ to be a reference to some real one. This one isn’t, as far as I can tell. You do get some emphasis on the fact that this is a ‘live’ performance — the soprano makes an obvious mistake at one point, and the sword fighting turns ‘real’ for a minute or two when one of the characters loses his trousers. Later on, if I remember correctly, the episode turns into a kind of extended riff on The Phantom of the Opera, with the phantom represented by a pretentious sewer alligator.

So, anyway. Cartoon opera! With anthropomorphic rodents!

12 thoughts on “Cartoon Opera

  1. i used to watch this too in HS, though remember more opera scenes from bugs bunny. but my favorite scene is this, we had it in French throughout our childhood and always “read” them, you don’t even need to understand the language to get it :-).

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    1. This is TinTin, right? I never saw these growing up but have come across them as an adult. I like the bit about ‘oh, this reminds me of a hurricane that hit my ship once’ – I have heard singers who might be compared to hurricanes, both positively and negatively . . .

      My favorite Bugs Bunny opera scene is the Barber of Seville one – that was the first time I ever heard Rossini that I can remember.

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      1. yes, TinTin, from this one, really really good, in case you’re bored one night and want to follow his trail.
        yes, rossini, first place i heard it too. it wasn’t until 10+ years later with William Tell overture at the NEC that i found out it’s rossini. Don’t remember which piece he was playing, but there’s also the scene bugs bunny playing piano so absorbingly his fingers got tangled together :-).

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          1. I saw it on video as a kid – the part with Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain scared the hell out of me. But fear is an excellent mnemonic device: there is no way I will ever not recognize that piece. (And the part with Mickey-the-sorcerers-apprentice and the broom is wonderful)

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          2. Fantasia, vhat dat? 🙂
            though i think it’s less because of age and more related to the cold war. Many things produced before/after i was born were commonly heard/shared by people born on the eastern block, including the emotional misha flying up the sky to this farewell song that i always babble about, which many people on the west didn’t know due to the boycott in 1980.

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            1. Fantasia was Disney making groundbreaking cartoons to various pieces of music, including information about orchestral instruments. It may have been reissued on DVD now.

              Partly why I love the alligator in the cartoon!

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