Beyond the Catchy Tunes

Walt Disney was a big fan of recycling, and not only because he often used pre-existing stories or fairytales as the basis for his animated features. His studio and animators also recycled existing cells from previous movies to model new animations on – a practice that has been documented in video essays before.


But as Oswald Iten demonstrates in this well-researched video essay published in the journal of media studies NECSUS, the Disney studio used the same strategy when it came to scoring their movies. Iten delves deep into the work of one particular composer, George Bruns, to illustrate how this consummate craftsman reused his own musical cues not just within the same movie (which would be considered a musical motif) but also across very different animated feature films (which could be considered, well, plagiarizing oneself).


In several masterful video essays, Oswald Iten has previously shown that he has a great ear for identifying musical patterns and for analysing subtle variations in sound design. He also demonstrated an affinity with and deep knowledge of animated movies, their technology and even their acting performances.


This video essay brings all those elements and talents together in a thorough and insightful investigation of the work of Bruns. As per usual, Iten uses simple yet elegant animations to visualize musical techniques and forms for the layperson. Each of his arguments is lavishly illustrated with a variety of examples, which proves his comprehensive knowledge of this subject. And last but not least, his experiments (matching up footage from one film with the soundtrack of another) highlight the creative choices made by Bruns and associates.