Carl Stalling

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Carl W. Stalling (1888-1974) was the most famous composer and arranger of cartoon music. He composed several of the early cartoon scores for Walt Disney, although not Steamboat Willie, despite claims that he did. He is one of three composers credited with having invented the click track (the others being Max Steiner and Scott Bradley (long-time composer for the Tom and Jerry cartoons). He was the first music director to extensively use the metronome to time scores.

Early discussions with Disney about whether the animation or the musical score should come first led to Disney creating the "Silly Symphonies" series of cartoons, where Stalling was allowed to create a score which Disney handed to his animators.

Stalling only stayed with Disney until 1930 and, after a spell with Ub Iwerks, Stalling moved to Warner Brothers in 1936, where he would stay for 22 years.

Stalling was the musical director for Looney Tunes from 1936 until 1958. His arrangements were very complicated and technically demanding. The music itself served both as background music for the cartoon, and as additional sound effects, since it changed styles depending on the action in the cartoon. A beautiful woman sashaying into a room would be accompanied by "The Lady in Red"...a drunk would stagger to "Little Brown Jug" or a slow-tempo "Shuffle Off to Buffalo"...a football team would scrimmage to "Freddie the Freshman"...Pepe Le Pew's lustful hops would be punctuated by high, bouncy music. Stalling incorporated many traditional and stock musical tunes into his compositions, as well as classical music like Felix Mendelssohn and many works by Raymond Scott, whose music was owned by Warner Brothers.

Recommended Listening

  • The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons, 1936-1958. Warner Brothers, 1990
  • The Carl Stalling Project Volume 2. Warner Brothers, 1995