Despite the show being a good idea, the author of this column did not enjoy “Life in Pieces.” The half hour show premiered on Monday, Sept. 21. Over the course of four short vignettes per episode, the show tells the tale of a family. Each sequence features a different set of family members. While the author notes that short comedies should make a comeback, the shorts on “Life in Pieces” just weren’t that funny.
No one makes shorts like they used to. When the author was growing up, Merrie Melodies, Looney Tunes, and Silly Symphonies got regular play on TV. These shorts were often under ten minutes, and they were all exceptional.
Note how these shorts have words like “melodies,” “tunes,” and “symphonies” in them. That is because the shorts were often like early music videos. Their storylines were supposed to match the background music. Dialogue wasn’t always necessary to create these cartoons.
One of the best shorts ever made was called “The Old Mill.” It was a Silly Symphony created by Disney in the 1930s. There is no dialogue and it isn’t very funny; but it is stylish, captivating, and has a good soundtrack. It only runs nine minutes and can be viewed on YouTube.
The short starts off on a pleasant day. A spider crawls on its web and there lies an old mill in the background. It is nestled in a pond, and the music plays happily away. Ducks and their ducklings swim in the water while cows roaming the landscape meander through the grass. All looks well outside the old mill.
Inside, we see that animals have made the old mill their home. A couple of blue birds have a nest. The female chirps at the male, who has a worm in his mouth. He tosses her the worm and she devours it. They have a short chirping conversation, after which she stands up and reveals the eggs beneath her. The music’s tone is one of domestic bliss.
Eventually, the music shifts into a down to earth tone, night begins to fall, and the bats hanging upside down in the mill begin to awaken. The music takes on a mysterious quality as the bats fly into the night.
The music becomes cheerful again as the beautiful water lilies close up for the night. Then another quick shift takes place. The frogs come out of the water and nestle on the lily pods. The music becomes proud and assertive as the frogs croak at each other, blowing up their chests with air and machismo.
There’s no need to spoil the rest of the episode. The music becomes progressively darker, more distressing, and threatening as the inhabitants of the old mill must survive a terrible storm that strikes in the middle of the night. The wind blows hard, there is thunder and lightning, and violent rain pours down through the unstable roof. The music plays on and builds tension throughout the emergency. Take a worthwhile nine minutes to find out what happens to the old mill and the animals that have made it home.