Musings #3: Cartoons and Classical Music
The one about Bluey, Sarah and Duck, Looney Tunes, and Disney.
My daughter asked to listen to 'Bluey's dad's band' today. I consider this a parenting win.
For the uninitiated, Bluey is an Australian children's cartoon about a Blue Heeler puppy who lives with her mum, dad, and little sister Bingo. It's a fun show with great parenting messages, imaginative play, and wonderfully, a positively depicted father figure. While it kicked off on ABC Kids in Australia, it's available on several other platforms around the world now as well, so feel free to check it out if you need something that isn't Peppa Pig during screen time.
It also so happened that yesterday, Spouse informed me that they're doing a vinyl release of the soundtrack (we missed the Record Store Day exclusive *tears*), and I wondered if this album included any of the classical tracks, because, in good kids' cartoon tradition, part of this generation's classical music education is going to come from cartoons.
If you grew up on Disney and Looney Tunes like me, whether or not you were one of those children inflicted with music lessons, your classical music education probably looked a bit like this:
How many of us remember Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries and Tannhäuser: Pilgrim's Chorus in this way, or Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours with a ballet dancing hippo?
There are so many other wonderful examples of this from the brilliant classic Rabbit of Seville (1950) again with Bugs Bunny, to Tom and Jerry's Cat Concerto (1947), and Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959) whose well recognised melody for Once Upon a Dream is from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet. Even now as an adult, I fondly remember the cartoons when I hear these pieces.
This neural pathway connecting cartoon and music has already begun with my daughter who associates Duke Ellington with Sarah and Duck, another delightful kids' cartoon I truly enjoy watching myself (or you know, with my child), and we've expanded on the official playlist from the episode “Toggle Tangle” to include a wider range of jazz standards and big band classics.
It gives me great pleasure to know that my daughter will have her own similarly nostalgic cartoon experiences as she learns about Holst's Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from the Bluey episode “Sleepytime” (an exceptional episode, by the way, do watch, it was even named one of the Best Television Episodes of 2020 by the New York Times) and Mozart's Rondo alla Turca in “The Magic Xylophone”.
The vinyl only covers the songs from Season 1, and not all of the classical pieces are there, but I was compelled to create a Spotify playlist of all the classical music in Bluey that I could find based on an episode list provided by composer Joff Bush, so if you’re interested, enjoy:
Even if you don't have children, give Bluey and Sarah and Duck a look in. They're sweet, kind, and a little whimsical.
"So, that was an interesting excursion into classical music in cartoons, but what was the thing about 'Bluey's dad's band'?", you may ask.
Well, it's not classical, but Bluey's dad Bandit is voiced by Dave McCormack, frontman of Brisbane-based band Custard. Their two most popular songs on Spotify are Apartment, and Girls Like That which I have embedded for your listening pleasure here:
This week’s STEAM Powered is with Jesslyn Tannady, developer advocate at Facebook. In our conversation, we talk about Jesslyn's past life in Augmented and Virtual Reality (ARVR), tech communities and democratisation, and reflecting on attending women's educational institutions.
A Twitter thread by animator Vincent Alexander about classical music in cartoons. It’s rather comprehensive.
Another interesting animation related thread is by Associate Lecturer in animation Sam Summers on the animation influences of the Disney+ Loki series TVA instructional video. Love that mid-century aesthetic.
From Computational Thinking to Computational Action by Mike Tissenbaum, Josh Sheldon, Hal Abelson. I was curious about the talk Jesslyn attended about teaching kids about programming by getting them thinking about how they can affect change and was motivated to see if I could find out more. This certainly sounds like what was being described, and so empowering to adjust our perception of who we are by thinking about our capabilities and the effect we can have on this world as computational action.
Have been watching Altered Carbon, which is an absolutely fascinating series, and was captivated by guest star Jihae’s voice in season 2, episode 1. ‘Illusion of You’ is the song that was sung in the opening sequence.
When I travelled in The Before Times, I was, and still am, a bit of an ABC (Another Bloody Castle/Church/Cathedral) tourist. History? Art? Culture? Bring it. I’m all about the galleries and the museums as well. But one of the things I’d nerd out about on my ABC trips would be flying buttresses. Flying buttresses are the arched supports that you’d often see in Gothic architecture that make those gorgeous vaulted ceilings and massive stained glass windows possible. It’s such an aesthetically stunning example of mathematics, physics, and engineering in action. Very tempted to make an exercise of finding local examples of this architectural feature.
Thanks for reading, and see you in a couple of weeks!
 I don't understand the 'bumbling dad' trope in kids' cartoons. Why can't fathers be depicted as positive role models who are intelligent and active parents?
 Every time the toy xylophone gets brought out I am compelled to play Those Endearing Young Charms. I cannot help myself. It’s even better because the xylophone isn’t perfectly in tune.
 As an aside, we're also building quite a reasonable extended Spider-Man playlist as she declares "Spider-Man! I love this song." for many punk rock songs which not only covers The Ramones, but also The Sex Pistols, and The Clash.