Carl Stalling, Music Animator

A chance meeting in the early 1920s at a Missouri movie theater led to some of the most beloved cartoons ever created.

Carl Stalling was improvising on the organ while accompanying a silent film. A young Walt Disney was in the audience and noticed Stalling’s creative style. After introductions, a mutually beneficial friendship began.

After Disney moved to Hollywood, Stalling soon followed to become Walt Disney Studio’s first music director.


Carl Stalling at the piano in 1929 at Walt Disney’s Hyperion Studio with sheet music for “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo Theme Song.” The song was composed by Walt Disney and Carl Stalling. It was the first Disney song to be released on sheet music. Walt Disney is second from left. American Heritage Center photofile: Stalling, Carl

Stalling and Disney pioneered cartoon animation that matched the music instead of the other way around. The idea led to Walt Disney’s award-winning Silly Symphonies beginning in 1929.

Stalling next took his talents to Warner Brothers Studios. By 1936, Stalling was scoring music for most of the theatrical animated shorts in the famous Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series.

NPR featured Stalling’s contributions to cartoon scoring in radio piece regarding a 2020 update of the animated series by HBO Max.

By the time Stalling retired in 1958 he had scored more than 600 animated films.

To learn more about Carl Stalling, visit the American Heritage Center where you can see Stalling’s original music scores and more.

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