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Disney Cartoons Reanimated for Live Orchestra at Ace Hotel

With all the attention to bigscreen spectacles accompanied by 80-piece orchestras, it’s easy to forget the smaller films that need music just as much, if not more: cartoons.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has not forgotten, and will devote an entire evening to a live-to-film performance of music for classic Disney cartoons on June 13 at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, a restored L.A. movie palace from the 1920s.

Included will be two late-1920s “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” shorts with new scores by Emmy winner Mark Watters; five Mickey Mouse shorts including “Plane Crazy,” the first synchronized-sound cartoon; the 1935 classic “Band Concert” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from “Fantasia”; a jazz-meets-classical 1935 “Silly Symphony” titled “Music Land”; and the Oscar-nominated 2013 “Get a Horse!”

Watters, who is conducting the 32-piece chamber orchestra that night, is an animation-scoring vet. When Disney took 60 classic Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto cartoons and condensed them from eight minutes down to 2½ for shorter moppet attention spans, he re-arranged and re-recorded the original scores to fit.

The music for these classics is difficult, Watters says. “The tempos are very fast. The musicians are asked to make sudden changes in style every 10 or 15 seconds, and there’s no letup. The physical comedy of animation has to be sync’d with precise timings.”

Dave Bossert, Disney Animation Studio’s creative director for special projects, has restored many of these and overseen their re-scoring with Watters as his musical partner. He recently made a half-hour doc, “The Tunes Behind the Toons,” that has been making the rounds on the festival circuit. He is expected to attend and speak at the LACO event.

“These animated shorts and segments are forgotten treasures,” he says. “There has been a wonderful awakening at Disney, pulling them off the shelf, dusting them off and giving them a new life.”

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