Like many of the later Silly Symphonies, the short was a testing-ground for advanced animation techniques. Marking the first use of Disney's multiplane camera, the short also incorporates realistic depictions of animal behavior, complex lighting and color effects, depictions of rain, wind, lightning, ripples, splashes, reflections, three-dimensional rotation of detailed objects, and the use of timing to produce specific dramatic and emotional effects. All of the lessons learned from making it would subsequently be incorporated into Disney's feature-length animated films, especially Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The short won the 1937 Academy Award for Best Short Subjects: Cartoons. In 1994, it was voted #14 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. It is ranked at the IMDb top short list as the 17th greatest short film ever.
The short was parodied in The Simpsons episode "Bart Has Two Mommies", where Homer tries to win a rubber duck race by making his cross the finish line first. It however floats to an abandoned windmill very similar to the one in the short, with a sign declaring "The Old Mill". The scene where the duck is nearly squashed by the water wheel is a direct reference to the most famous one of the short. Raymond Scott's Powerhouse B is heard in the scene where Homer protected the duck from the water wheel.
The Old Mill was a ferris wheel type attraction at Disneyland Paris, but closed shortly after the park's opening. Footage of the short is also featured in the World of Color presentation at Disney California Adventure.
- Disneyland, episode #2.6: "The Story of the Silly Symphony"
- The New Mickey Mouse Club, January 17, 1977
- A Disney Halloween
- Donald's Quack Attack, episode #38
- The Ink and Paint Club, episode #1.1: "Award Winners"
- The Ink and Paint Club, episode #1.29: "Goin' Outside With the Silly Symphonies"
- Walt Disney Cartoon Classics: More of Disney's Best: 1932-1946
- One of the projector transition levels in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is based on this short.