A Year in Shorts Day 60: "High Note"
Despite his undeniably pivotal role in the history of Western Animation, Chuck Jones hasn’t been covered a lot here at The Great Oscar Baiter. As one of the Founding Fathers of Looney Tunes, we’ve discussed Chuck Jones in his relation to films such as Beep Prepared, as well as obliquely referencing his unfortunate tenure with the Tom and Jerry series. But Chuck Jones’ body of work stretches far beyond the classic characters we know and love, and the man certainly had a love for getting a little experimental with his shorts. And while 1960’s High Note may not be quite as out there as his work could get, it’s still a fun and clever short that deserves to be seen by more people.
High Note is another entry in the Looney Tunes series, although don't come into this expecting Bugs or Daffy. Instead, the short follows a group of sentient musical notes trying to put on a performance of Strauss's "The Blue Danube" on a piece of sheet music. As you do. But as is so often the case in animated shorts, something goes wrong; in this case, a mischievous half-note who is late for work and drunk off his gourd.
It is, as you might expect, a profoundly silly short. But it's a consistently funny one, with Chuck Jones and story writer Michael Maltese wringing as many laughs from the premise that they can. There's a lot of great visual material to be mined just from the construction of the piece alone, and once you thrown in a rowdy, inebriated note you know you're in for a great time. Throw in some simple but nevertheless beautiful, and you're left with a recipe for some classic Looney Tunes mayhem.
Unfortunately it's also a rather obscure short. It doesn't get shown on TV anymore (apparently all the drunken antics are "inappropriate" for children), and as far as I'm aware it's not available to stream legally. It's available on DVD of course, but it would be nice if Warner would put it up on HBO Max at least. High Note is a delightful film, and it shouldn't be so difficult for people to (legally) experience it.
But as delightful as it was, it didn't win the Oscar that year, instead losing to Gene Deitch's Munro. And I've seen Munro, and let me tell you- it absolutely deserved that win because Munro is just an amazing short. But High Note is good too, and I highly recommend seeing it however you can!
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