Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More 'The End of the Tour' Sundance Reviews: Jason Segel Impresses as David Foster Wallace 'The End of the Tour' Sundance Reviews: Jason Segel Impresses as David Foster Wallace Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 1, 'Iowa' 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 1, 'Iowa' Now Streaming: 'The Interview' and Other Movies That Didn't Get Us Threatened Now Streaming: 'The Interview' and Other Movies That Didn't Get Us Threatened 'Strange Magic' Reviews: Yup, That's Late Period George Lucas, All Right 'Strange Magic' Reviews: Yup, That's Late Period George Lucas, All Right 'Going Clear' Sundance Reviews: A Scorching Takedown of Scientology 'Going Clear' Sundance Reviews: A Scorching Takedown of Scientology Not at Sundance? Watch 14 Festival Films Via Sundance's #ArtistServices Not at Sundance? Watch 14 Festival Films Via Sundance's #ArtistServices David Bordwell Shows How Aspect Ratios Matter David Bordwell Shows How Aspect Ratios Matter Love or Hate 'American Sniper,' We're Brought Together By Its Bad Fake Baby Love or Hate 'American Sniper,' We're Brought Together By Its Bad Fake Baby 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 2, 'Triggering' 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 2, 'Triggering' The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" Meet the Indiewire | Sundance Institute Ebert Film Criticism Fellows, 2015 Meet the Indiewire | Sundance Institute Ebert Film Criticism Fellows, 2015 Daily Reads: Movie Monsters That Look Like Genitalia, Why It Feels Like There's Too Much TV and More Daily Reads: Movie Monsters That Look Like Genitalia, Why It Feels Like There's Too Much TV and More 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Dope' Sundance Reviews: A Smart, High-Energy Comedy 'Dope' Sundance Reviews: A Smart, High-Energy Comedy How Kids Change the Way Critics Watch Movies, Why It's Hard to Fight for Gender Equality in Hollywood and More How Kids Change the Way Critics Watch Movies, Why It's Hard to Fight for Gender Equality in Hollywood and More 'Z for Zachariah' Sundance Reviews: M for Mixed 'Z for Zachariah' Sundance Reviews: M for Mixed First Reviews of Johnny Depp's 'Mortdecai': Scraping Bottom With a Waxed Moustache First Reviews of Johnny Depp's 'Mortdecai': Scraping Bottom With a Waxed Moustache

Remembering 'Johnnie Fedora & Alice Bluebonnet,' The Original 'Blue Umbrella'

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire July 2, 2013 at 2:08PM

Fan of shorts where inanimate objects must overcome adversity to find true love? Then try this gem from Disney's 1946 anthology "Make Mine Music."
0
Johnnie Fedora & Alice Bluebonnet

“Monsters University” has been out in theaters for a few weeks now and we can argue the merits of whether it works either as a sequel or its own piece of filmmaking. But, surprisingly, it seems as though the same applies to the short that appears before it. “The Blue Umbrella” has been described by Criticwire members as everything from “stunning” to “uninspired.” For those who haven't seen it, the short follows a blue umbrella who spots a potential companion red umbrella amongst the crowd of countless similar black ones. Once the two are separated, Mr. Blue must withstand more than just the rain to find her again.

But if you’re longing for a similar story from six and a half decades ago, look to a segment from another Disney film, “Make Mine Music.” Instead of a chance meeting of umbrellas on a busy street, “Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” begins with the titular pair of headwear meeting in a storefront display. Like “The Blue Umbrella,” the two are soon parted, leading the male counterpart to withstand tremendous uncertainty and physical torture on his quest to be reunited with his lost love. If you've never had the chance to see it before (and enjoy the accompanying shot of happiness to your soul), it's worth seven and a half minutes of your time.

A direct, one-to-one comparison of the two is a little unfair. Naturally, The Andrews Sisters’ song narration gives “Johnnie Fedora & Alice Bluebonnet” a little more character depth and a story that spans more than a single night. But the pair of shorts have a similar sense of danger. It would be cynical to expect anything other than the promise of a happy ending, but the love that either of these films get probably comes from the joy of overcoming the adversity of the human world. Also, in its day, “Johnnie Fedora & Alice Bluebonnet” wasn't universally loved either; Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called the segment "a silly romance." 

Both of these shorts also share DNA with last year’s “Paperman,” a similar tale of finding an elusive love through throngs of indifferent people. All three prove Disney’s grand tradition of manipulating emotion through music. In “Paperman,” our hero’s search to find the woman from the next building builds to a frenzied effort, all scored to a pulsing sense of impending triumph (featured in the trailer below). Jon Brion follows up his absolutely stellar work on “ParaNorman” with a simple, yet effective score that captures the perfect tone for “The Blue Umbrella.” And there are few things more purely touching than Johnnie’s impassioned song, straining above the bustling city streets to find his lost Alice. (I...I’ve got something in my eye. Excuse me while I find a tissue.) 

It’s interesting to note that “The Blue Umbrella,” with its simple story, still opted to make it a boy-seeks-girl narrative. It seems like the simple framework would have been ideal for flipping that traditional gender relationship. But, in terms of innovation, the real star of Pixar’s latest short is the technology. Come awards time, we’ll probably have the conversation again about whether visual innovation trumps story originality. In the meantime, those looking for a classic version of love between inanimate objects need only look to the past.


E-Mail Updates