Lightning crashes and the wind howls as a lone owl gives a plaintive hoot against the backdrop of a full moon. A clock in a church belfry strikes midnight and a colony of bats fly into the night. Nearby, a dog howls while two black cats hiss at each other atop two gravestones. Suddenly, a bony apparition rises from the ground and leaps toward the audience.

It's time for the skeletons to come out and play. Let's dance.

Eighty-one years ago today, Walt Disney premiered The Skeleton Dance, his first Silly Symphony cartoon. Ripe off of the immense success of Mickey Mouse (Steamboat Willie debuted the previous November), Walt was already looking to explore new avenues in animation. His musical director, Carl Stalling, was the first to propose the idea of a series of cartoons built on a foundation of music that starred non-recurring characters. The first cartoon would be based on the musical piece "March of the Dwarfs" by Edvard Grieg.

Full Story at Tim's Disney News Archive Blog: A Dark and Stormy Night, 1929.