LA Times: 'Trolley' will ring the bell at Los Angeles Chambe

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LA Times: 'Trolley' will ring the bell at Los Angeles Chambe

PostFri May 20, 2011 2:22 pm

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/ne ... 4313.story

'Trolley' will ring the bell at Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's Silent Film Gala
Alexander Rannie has written a new score for Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon short 'Trolley Troubles.'

By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
May 20, 2011
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's 22nd annual Silent Film Gala at UCLA's Royce Hall has lined up two classic Charlie Chaplin comedies from 1918 — "A Dog's Life" and "Shoulder Arms" — with Timothy Brock conducting Chaplin's original scores, which Brock restored and adapted.

But Brock won't be conducting Sunday night's curtain-raiser, the 1927 Walt Disney silent Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon short "Trolley Troubles." Alexander Rannie has written a new score for the short and will conduct the world premiere at the piano, with Margaret Batjer on violin, Joshua Ranz on clarinet and Wade Culbreath on percussion.

Rannie first worked with the orchestra in 2004, when Brock conducted his reconstruction of Carl Stalling's score for the 1928 Mickey Mouse cartoon "Plane Crazy," the first Mickey cartoon made and the third released. Last year, Brock conducted Rannie's score for "Alice's Wild West Show," one of the "Alice" live-action/animated comedy shorts Disney made between 1923 and 1927.

Composing music for a silent cartoon, Rannie says, is more complicated than a silent live-action film.

"You almost never have an intertitle card with a cartoon like you do in a live-action film," said Rannie, who has penned scores for cartoons such as "Ren & Stimpy" and live-action silent films such as the DVD collection "Georges Melies: First Wizard of Cinema."

"Some of the early cartoons you would see a thought balloon come up next to the character but, for the most part, all the action is visual, and that music certainly has to support everything going on onscreen. With an out-of-control trolley, that's a lot of music."

Rannie adds that Disney really knew the importance of music with his silent cartoons.

"Walt Disney would go and tip the organist wherever they were premiering one of the silent cartoons to make sure they knew where the gags were and to spruce up the films," he said.

Though Oswald cartoons are on DVD and YouTube, the rabbit certainly isn't as well known as his successor, Mickey Mouse, whom Disney introduced in 1928's "Steamboat Willie.".

Disney created Oswald, who is basically a bunny version of Mickey, with Ub Iwerks in 1927 for Universal. Disney and his team made 26 black-and-white animated Oswald shorts that year. But they lost control of the rabbit by leaving after Universal refused to give them more money. The studio continued the Oswald shorts for the next decade under the direction of Walter Lantz, who later created Woody Woodpecker.

The character finally came back to the Disney fold in 2006 as part of the deal between ABC/Disney and NBCUniversal that allowed sportscaster Al Michaels to leave ABC and ESPN and sign with NBC.

"Trolley Troubles," which was the second Oswald short completed and the first released, finds the rabbit having a difficult time maneuvering a crowded trolley over hilly terrain, ultimately losing control in the process. Along the way, Oswald encounters an obstinate cow and a mischievous goat. "It's pretty frantic," Rannie said.

Rannie watched "Trolley Troubles" countless times because "the film will dictate the tempo of the music … like when the trolley is coming down the hill and weaving back and forth."

His score reflects the Jazz Age era in which "Trolley Troubles" was released. "There's also a very fast kind of waltz toward the beginning, what I call 'haughty hayseed' music when the cow comes along and a sort of Spanish flavor with the whole interplay with the goat when Oswald uses his tail," Rannie said. "There are syncopated rhythms throughout it."

susan.king(at)latimes.com
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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