Director: David Hand
Release Date:
August 20, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto


Still from 'Trader Mickey' featuring Mickey playing saxophone to a cannibalMickey is a trader in Africa. He is captured by a bunch of hungry cannibals, whose king laughs with Goofy’s guffaw*.

The cannibals ruin Mickey’s trade, which consists mostly of musical instruments. When Mickey grabs a saxophone, he launches a long song-and-dance-routine, making the short old-fashioned when compared to contemporary Mickey Mouse cartoons like ‘Barnyard Olympics‘, ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ and ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’.

The cartoon is hampered further by severe and backward caricatures of African natives. They’re shown as extremely dumb, and halfway apes and humans. Among the offensive images are shots of cannibals playing instruments with their feet, and others of cannibals with gigantic duck-like lips. In any case practically all the gags originate in the cannibals’ ignorant use of Mickey’s trade, which make the film a tiresome watch today, despite its jolly atmosphere. The cannibals would also appear in Floyd Gottfredson’s contemporary Mickey Mouse strip, starting at August 17. The strip borrowed several images from the animated cartoon, including the fat king and his cook.

‘Trader Mickey’ was the first short directed by David Hand (1900-1986), who’d become Disney’s third director after Wilfred Jackson and Burt Gillett. Hand had joined the Disney studio as an animator in early 1930, just after the departure of Ub Iwerks. As a director he would create many wonderful shorts, like ‘The Mad Doctor‘ (1932) and ‘Who Killed Cock Robin‘ (1935). Then he advanced to features, directing ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) and ‘Bambi‘ (1942). Hand would leave the Disney studio in July 1944 to set up his own studio in England.

Unfortunately, ‘Trader Mickey’ cannot be regarded a great start of Hand’s directing career. It’s a weak film, based on ingredients from the equally weak ‘Cannibal Capers‘ (1930) and ‘The Delivery Boy‘ (1931). Hand would nevertheless maintain a high standard in all his next films, the only other failures being ‘Mickey’s Man Friday‘ (unfortunately also starring cannibals) and ‘The Robber Kitten‘, both from 1935.

Watch ‘Trader Mickey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 45
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Nightmare
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Whoopee Party

*Goofy himself had just made his first appearance in ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ from three months earlier and there was not yet an indication that this character was here to stay, or that this laugh was exclusively his.