Before "Baby Shark" made the Hot 100, "Silly Symphonies" were all the rage
Do you love the song "Baby Shark"? Thank a South Korean educational content brand. They produced a popular version of the catchy song.
It was a little over a decade ago when "Baby Shark" teased its true potential. That's when a video of the song went viral. It went viral in Germany.
That turned out to be small potatoes. That's compared to the Pinkfong remix. The brand has made tens of thousands of children's videos. This includes multiple takes on "Baby Shark." One of these versions went supernova. This was after it was published to YouTube. That was in 2016.
The company laid a K-pop beat underneath the vocals. They cast two children. They did the hand motions. The motions go with the lyrics for the video.
Pinkfong's "Baby Shark" mania hit. It gave the #babysharkchallenge. That's thanks to people like Ellen DeGeneres and James Corden.
Bob Cunningham tried to pin down just what made the Pinkfong song so very listenable. Cunningham is an educator. He is a senior adviser. He works for a nonprofit consortium. It's called Understood.org.
He described the formula to the Associated Press. He said it had a "catchy rhythm." It had "silly sounds." It had "colorful and cute animation." It is similar to the first children's hits.
Children's music has been part of the music industry since the get-go. "Ever since there has been a music business, there has been a children's music business." That's what Simon Frith said in his collection of essays. It's called Taking Pop Music Seriously. Frith is a professor of music.
Thomas Edison debuted the phonograph in 1877. An unknown employee of the Edison company made a recording. He sang "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." It was for the company's talking dolls. That recording was found in the desk of an assistant. That was in the 1960s. It earned the nursery rhyme the note of being the earliest-known children's recording. It is also the earliest-known commercial recording. It might even be "the first recording to be made by someone who was paid to perform for a sound recording." That's according to the Library of Congress.
"Baby Shark" stands in the shoes of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies. These also matched music to animation. They had great success. They used catchy rhythms. They used silly sounds. They used colorful animation. They used cute animation. That's when the technology allowed. The animations were eye-catching.
This "musical novelty" series of short films was different from "Baby Shark." They were released from 1929 to 1939. They had critical success. That was in addition to popular success. The Sillies did so by marrying clever animation with a range of music. That music encompassed "classical melodies." It included "traditional folk tunes." It included "operatic themes." And it included "popular songs." That's what J.B. Kaufman explains in Animation World Magazine. Kaufman is a film scholar.
Silly Symphonies came just at the right moment. Composers and graphic artists were exploring. They were testing the frontiers of animation. This was in the 1920s and '30s.
"What all these experimenters shared was a common interest in, indeed a fascination for" finding the "rhythm" between sight and sound on screen. That's according to Jon Newsom. He is a music scholar. He was writing for the Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress.
That balancing act was a big deal at Disney HQ. The studio's synchronization of music and animated movement had a nickname. It was referred to within the industry as "mickey mousing."
Carl W. Stalling was a theater organist. He was an orchestra leader. He was a big part of how that came to be. He engineered a way to allow his musicians to hear what was happening in an animated sequence. This was through an ingenious "click track." Stalling was also the one who convinced Disney to let him score the Sillys. He did so before they were animated. This began with the very first mini-musical. It was called "The Skeleton Dance." It debuted in 1929.
The alchemy of the music inspiring the animation was groundbreaking. Stalling famously used whatever music he thought fit the bill for his work.
There was a true "going viral" moment. It was for the Sillies. It came with the debut of "The Three Little Pigs." This was at New York's Radio City Music Hall. This was on May 27, 1933.
"It received a sensational public response as it was shown in neighborhood theaters, becoming the most phenomenal short cartoon of its time." That's according to Devon Baxter. He is a classic cartoon researcher.
Disney had imagined the cartoon. They saw it as a light operetta. It was humorous. This is according to Baxter. The dialogue was sung in rhythm. It was sung by the pigs. The pigs bob. They sway. They work against their foil. That foil is the Big Bad Wolf. It is a cheery cartoon. It is very watchable. Americans were weathering the Great Depression. The cartoon had a happy-go-lucky tone. It was just what children needed. Adults needed it, too.
Ann Ronell was with Tin Pan Alley. She had previously worked with Disney. She worked with composer Frank Churchill. They on "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf." Their result was pieced together throughout the cartoon.
Sol Bourne was general manager of Irving Berlin Music, Inc. He believed he had a massive hit on his hands. He knew it when he heard the song on screen. Irving Berlin Music negotiated to get Disney Studio's music rights.
"Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" made a statement. TIME magazine declared it was one of the year's "catchiest songs." More than 201,000 copies of sheet music for were sold. This happened in the second half of 1933.
Kaufman and film and media scholar Russell Merritt wrote a Silly Symphonies companion book. They said that before 1934 had even begun, "the song had been widely recorded and had set a new precedent by introducing the Disney studio into the world of popular music."