Friday, March 7, 2008

Silly Symphonies Part V: Little Hiawatha

Walt Disney's Little Hiawatha didn't start out as a series character. He was the eponymous star of a Silly Symphony released May 15, 1937; and while the Silly Symphonies did have the occasional break-out hit (the biggest being Donald Duck), most of their characters came and went and were never seen again.

This particular Silly Symphony concerned a young boy's adventure in the woods. Hiawatha (pronounced Hee-a-watha), no known relation to the hero of H.W. Longfellow's famous poem (and even less to the Hiawatha who once hunted Bugs Bunny), ventured forth with his little bow and arrow, intent on emulating the mighty hunters of his village. He tries to shoot a grasshopper with his arrow, but the grasshopper spits in his eye. He tries to shoot a bunny rabbit, but the rabbit is too cute and pathetic. He tracks a bear, and runs after its cub and right into the mother. The rest of the animals, thankful for him saving the rabbit, come to his rescue.

Hiawatha returned home safely but empty-handed. The director was David Hand, who had earlier directed the Oscar-winning Silly Symphony, Three Orphan Kittens. Hiawatha didn't speak; hence, no voice credits.

Three years later, Hiawatha turned up again, this time in the Silly Symphonies newspaper comic, which was distributed by King Features Syndicate. From November 10, 1940 to July 12, 1942, writer Hubie Karp and artist Bob Grant (who had assisted Hank Porter on the comics adaptation of Snow White) used it for gags about Little Hiawatha. These didn't adapt the cartoon, but did a self-contained story each Sunday, usually without words, about the little boy's doings in and around the village. It was in this sequence that Hiawatha's girlfriend, inevitably called Little Minnehaha, was introduced. She'd originally been designed (by Walt Kelly) for a Silly Symphony that was never produced.
Little Hiawatha made his Walt Disney Classics Collection debut this past August as the third release in the Silly Symphony Series. "Mighty Hunter" is a two (2) piece Open Edition set sculpted by Jacqueline Perreault Gonzales.

For those unfamiliar with the short, I've included a clip of the animated short (courtesy of below:

Little Hiawatha is a Silly Symphony Cartoon ©Disney


Matthew said...

I'm glad that WDCC picked "Little Hiawatha" to honor in the Silly Symphony series.

This piece perfectly captures the wonderful 1930's character design and lush production look of the short, particularly in the wonderful rabbit, stump and surrounding landscape.

Duckman said...

Hi Matthew,

I too had always hoped Little Hiawatha would find it's way into the collection and the sculpture did not disappoint. Jacqueline Perreault Gonzales has been doing an amazing job with each and every sculpture release she's done.

The sculpture, as you said, truly captures the design and lush production look of this short and showcased the amazing color palette that was used.