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Hell's Bells (1929)

by Nicholas Sammond

In one of the earliest of Disney's Silly Symphonies, we enter Hell and encounter the creatures there. We encounter a spider that swings back and forth, devouring the camera/audience repetitively. The scene turns to Satan, who sites enthroned while the creatures entertain him. They play music on bones (reminiscent of the Skeleton Dance Silly Symphony released only months before), and dance before him. They then feed him firey milk from a dragon cow. Satan decides to feed one of the little demons to his hound Cerberus, inspiring the other one to run away. Satan chases the other demon, who then kicks Satan off the cliff of Hell. The juxtaposition of performance/joy with slavery suggests a more complicated structure of power between audience and performer, and indeed between animator (controller) and animated (controlled). This can be seen in the segment where the devil runs into the wall, turning his previously "free" dance into a pattern inflicted by force. The humour and complication in this plays out in the film on several levels.

Hell's Bells (1929)

In this Silly Symphony, we are introduced to the many creatures of Hell. Satan sits while creatures entertain him and feed him firemilk. When Satan tries to feed a little demon to his hound Cerberus, it runs away and kicks him off the cliff of Hell.

from Hell's Bells (1929)
Creator: Ub Iwerks & Walt Disney
Posted by Nicholas Sammond