Between 1929 and 1939, Disney released 75 animated shorts under this umbrella title. There is a slight disagreement over who had the idea first, famed musician Carl Stalling or Walt. Several historians feel that the idea for Silly Symphonies seemed to generate from Stalling. Tired of having to tailor his music to the pre-planned actions of animated mice, he yearned to work on a series where music took the lead role and animation followed.
Regardless of the origin, Disney and Stalling worked together and came up with a series that not only was a decade-long success, but proved to be a great way for the animators to improve their skills. The series featured Disney's first use of a multi-plane camera. The studio's first color cartoon short was a Silly Symphony. Animators used the series to learn how to animate realistic human and animal figures which is a skill that proved essential to the success of Snow White (1937).
Notable cartoons in this series included Three Little Pigs (1933), The Tortoise and the Hare (1935), Elmer Elephant (1936) and The Ugly Duckling (1939), (itself a remake of a 1931 Silly Symphony). One of Disney's most important characters, Donald Duck, made his debut in the 1934 Symphony, The Wise Little Hen. Disney's first color cartoon, Flowers and Trees (1932), won an Academy Award. Over the years, six other Symphonies were also honored by the Academy.
Merchandise depended on the popularity of the individual cartoon. Three Little Pigs and The Tortoise and the Hare saw everything from plush animals to books and games, whereas other cartoons received little, if any, merchandising. Silly Symphonies ran for nine issues of Dell Giants. Various characters from the series were also featured in Four Color Comics. Little Hiawatha appears in Four Color Comics # 439, 787, 901, and 988. The Three Little Pigs appeared in Four Color Comics issue #218. The character of Li'l Bad Wolf appears in # 403, 473 and 564. As a series, the cartoons are featured in books and Disney-related magazines.