RELEASE DATE: Friday 5th November 1937
SYNOPSIS: As far as story goes, there isn't much to say. Some animals are living in and around an old abandoned windmill, and one night they weather a storm. That's about it. This cartoon is most famous for its use of atmospheric effects and lighting, as well as being the first cartoon to ever make use of Walt Disney's amazing new multiplane camera!
In this picture you can see Walt here standing in front of the mammoth machine. The concept was quite simple, but the machine was huge and complex. Instead of having a single background plate and placing painted cels on top, the multiplane camera allowed the animators to create multiple layers of backgrounds (or foregrounds) and move them at independent speeds and distances, thus creating a beautiful impression of three dimensions.
Walt specifically had this camera system developed for use on his feature movies, but as always, the Silly Symphonies were a testing ground for new techniques. The Old Mill gave the animators a chance to try out the new technology and see what they could do with it. Therefore, this is a very important piece of animation history.
HAKU: This cartoon is one in a MILL-ion!
MALEFICENT: Look, with its foreground-background-movementy-type-stuff, it was good.
HAKU: It's good that not only were the layers moving independently, but they could pull focus as well, so that some were a bit blurry and some were sharp.
IRVYNE: Which they could use to draw the viewer's eye to the part of the picture they are supposed to be looking at. It's all very clever.
WENDY: It was a bit "blah" apart from that.
IRVYNE: Story-wise, there really isn't much there. I wouldn't call this a very entertaining cartoon. It's more about the atmosphere. In that sense, it's more a precursor to Bambi than anything else, with the animals facing the natural elements.
WENDY: I feared for the life of that poor little bird on her nest! That got really tense!
HAKU: Yeah, the atmosphere was good. There were parts of this that reminded me of the windmill scene in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.
IRVYNE: I'd say there's definitely some inspiration there. I daresay we'll discuss that movie a bit later on in the year when we watch "Ichabod & Mr. Toad." As for The Old Mill... As an experimental piece and a try-out of the new camera, it's a success. But for people looking for great characters and a few laughs, The Old Mill is pretty flat.