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Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 December 17, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mickey's Good Deed © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ is the second of four Mickey Mouse Christmas cartoons (‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ from 1931 was the first, the third would only appear at the end of Mickey’s career in 1952: ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree‘ and the fourth would herald Mickey’s return to the screen in ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ from 1983).

‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ is a typical cartoon of the Great Depression era, which, if we look at the Hollywood output, seemed to find its lowest point in 1931-1933. Surprisingly many films from these years show people in great poverty, struggling at the bottom of society. Other examples are the Laurel and Hardy short ‘One Good Turn’ (1931), the Flip the Frog cartoon ‘What A Life’ (1932), the Cubby the Bear cartoon ‘Barking Dogs’, and the Warner Bros. musical ‘ Gold Diggers of 1933’ (1933).

In the opening scene of ‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ we watch Mickey being down at the dumps: he is a poor street musician, playing ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ on a double bass in the snow. He’s obviously homeless and his pants are ragged. When all the change he got turns out to be just bolts and nuts his hopes of a decent meal in a fancy restaurant are shattered.

Meanwhile a rich and spoiled brat discovers Pluto and wants him for a present. So his father sends out his servant to buy Pluto from Mickey. Mickey first refuses, stating that Pluto is his pal. But then his double bass is destroyed by a sleigh and Mickey discovers a very poor and desperate mother of numerous kittens.

In other to help the latter, he finally sells Pluto to buy numerous toys for the little kittens, which he gives them, dressed like Santa, while they’re sleeping. Meanwhile, the spoiled brat is giving Pluto, his own father and the servant a hard time. In the end, the father spanks his son and throws Pluto out of the house. The cartoon ends when Mickey and Pluto are rejoined again, sharing a roasted chicken Pluto accidentally had brought along.

‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ is one of Mickey’s most melodramatic cartoons, and relatively low on gags, the most of which involving the spoiled brat and his antics. It plays a familiar theme contrasting the spoiled rich, who think they can get anything with money, with the unfortunate poor, who are willing to help each other out. It’s strange to see Mickey so poor, however, as he is in this cartoon. It’s as if he had lost Minnie and his friends, as well. The most poignant scene is that of a homeless Mickey roasting a sausage on a fire with a mock Pluto made out of snow.

This cartoon contains a caricature of Jimmy Durante as a jack-in-the-box, which is probably the first of many caricatures of this 1930s comedian in animated film. One and a half year later, Mickey would meet Jimmy Durante in person in the live action movie ‘Hollywood Party’.

Watch ‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 50
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Klondike Kid
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Building a Building

‘Mickey’s Good Deed’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white Volume two’

 

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 December 10, 1932
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Santa's Workshop © Walt Disney‘Santa’s Workshop’ is one of the earliest Christmas cartoons, celebrating the Santa Claus myth with glee.

If the preceding Silly Symphonies, ‘King Neptune‘ and ‘Babes in the Woods’ were impressive, ‘Santa’s Workshop’ is even more beautiful and colorful. The short’s opening scenes are more colorful than those of the earlier shorts, and this high level of use of color is maintained throughout the picture.

Like ‘King Neptune’ it’s an operetta cartoon, with the elves and Santa singing their lines in rhyme. Santa Claus himself is a variation on King Neptune, equally stout and equally merry. We watch him reading letters, accompanied by a sour gnome, who shares his voice (Pinto Colvig) with later famous sourpuss Grumpy from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937). Later he test dolls, including a Topsy doll exclaiming ‘Mammy’, referencing to Al Jolson.

This scene is followed by a parade of mechanical toys into Santa’s sack, accompanied by Franz Schubert’s Military March No. 1. This sequence clearly shows how good Disney’s animation had become: the difference between living creatures and mechanical toys is unmistakable. This march a.o. features a mechanical Charlie Chaplin toy, and some stereotyped Chinese and Jewish dolls.

The racist dolls notwithstanding the complete cartoon is one of sheer delight, and must have been mind-blowing to the audiences of the time, unfamiliar with either color or this level of animation in other cartoons of the era. One can rightly say, that only in color the Silly Symphony series rightly found its purpose of pushing the limits of animation forward.

‘Santa’s Workshop’ itself was proof of the astonishing growth the studio had made in its four year existence. One of the reasons was that since 1931 Disney had sent his animators to evening classes at the Chouinard Art School. But on 15 november 1932 Chouinard art teacher Don Graham was appointed as the studio’s formal teacher, starting evening classes at the Disney studio itself.

From now on the studio could improve itself even faster, with the Silly Symphonies as its main platform for innovation, especially from 1934 onward, when Disney planned to make a feature film. By the mid-1930’s the art school cost the studio no less than $100.000 a year, but Disney now could improve the quality of his films at an amazing speed, leaving all competitors far behind.

‘Santa’s Workshop’ was one of the few Silly Symphonies to get a sequel. In 1933 the studio released ‘The Night Before Christmas’, which is  even more colorful and more refined than this cartoon.

Watch ‘ Santa’s Workshop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 33
To the previous Silly Symphony: Babes in the Woods
To the next Silly Symphony: Birds in the Spring

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: December 16, 1949
Stars: Donald Duck, Chip ‘n’ Dale
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Toy Tinkers © Walt DisneyIn 1949 Donald Duck had to deal with three small adversaries: Bootle Beetle, the bee and Chip ‘n Dale. Of the three, Chip ‘n Dale were by far the funniest – and it’s no wonder they have become famous where the two insects have not.

‘Toy Tinkers’ is particularly inspired, using Christmas toys as props for a chase inside Donald’s living room, leading to an open war that is far removed from the Christmas spirit. Highlight, however, is the excellent animation of Dale impersonating a gentleman with a top hat and a cane.

Watch ‘Toy Tinkers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 82
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Slide, Donald, Slide
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Lion Around

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: November 21, 1952
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Pluto's Christmas Tree © Walt DisneyMickey chops Chip ‘n Dale’s tree down to use as a Christmas tree.

By doing so he accidentally brings the two little chipmunks home. Pluto soon discovers the duo, but Mickey only does so in the very end. The cartoon ends with a cameo of Goofy, Donald and Minnie singing Christmas carols in Mickey’s garden.

The cartoon’s overall atmosphere is cute, adorable and full of charm, making ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree’ one of the most delightful Mickey Mouse cartoons from the post-war period. This short is the second of two Mickey Mouse cartoons directed by Jack Hannah, the other being ‘Squatter’s Rights’ from 1946. These are the only two cartoons to feature Mickey and Chip ‘n Dale. It’s also the third of Mickey’s four Christmas cartoons, the others being ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ from 1931, ‘Mickey’s Good Deed‘ from 1932 and ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ from 1983.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 124
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pluto’s Party
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Simple Things

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date:
 March 26, 1949
Stars:
 Daffy Duck, Porky Pig
Rating:
 ★★★★★
Review:

Daffy Duck Hunt © Warner BrothersWith ‘Daffy Duck Hunt’ Robert McKimson returned to the subject of Daffy’s very first cartoon, ‘Porky’s Duck Hunt’ (1937).

Like in the original cartoon Porky Pig is hunting ducks, and Daffy in particular, to no avail. He’s now accompanied by a dog (a typical McKimson design). To trick Daffy, the dog convinces Daffy that he will be tortured if he doesn’t retrieve a duck, so Daffy allows the Dog to take him to Porky. Porky takes Daffy back home and puts him into a particularly cold fridge. From now on almost all the action takes place around the fridge in a wonderfully loony cartoon (penned by Warren Foster) full of wild gags and zany animation.

‘Daffy Duck Hunt’ is one of those Warren Foster/Robert McKimson cartoons that celebrate Daffy’s looniness perfectly. Highlight is a gag in which Daffy jumps out of the fridge in a Santa suit making Porky and the dog believe it’s Christmas. This gag is a nice and equally hilarious variation on a classic gag from Freleng’s ‘The Wabbit Who Came to Supper’ from 1942, in which Bugs Bunny made Elmer believe it’s new year’s day.

Watch ‘Daffy Duck Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Daffy Duck Hunt’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Porky Pig cartoon no. 124
To the previous Porky Pig cartoon: Paying the Piper
To the next Porky Pig cartoon: Curtain Raizor

Director: Władysław Starewicz
Release Date: 1913
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Insects' Christmas © Ladislav Starewicz‘The Insects’ Christmas’ is Starewicz’s next film after his masterpiece ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge‘.

Although it uses insects again, it’s a whole different film, turning to the sweet subject of Christmas. It’s probably the first animated film about Christmas ever made.

Its plot is surprisingly simple: Father Christmas climbs down a Christmas tree, awakes some insects and a frog, who are hibernating underground, and he invites them to a Christmas party. He gives them presents and they all go skating.

This film’s story cannot be compared to the adult plot of ‘The Cameraman’s revenge‘. It’s more like a child’s dream of Christmas. However, the film reuses puppets from ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ and others with stunning virtuosity, making it still a delight to watch.

Watch ‘The Insects’ Christmas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Chuck Jones
Airing Date: December 18, 1966
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

How The Grinch Stole Christmas © MGM‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ is a wonderful Christmas cartoon. The Christmas of a little town called the Whoville is threatened by a green character called the Grinch, who disapproves of Christmas, and particularly the noise involved. He decides to ‘steal’ Christmas from the little creatures, but then he discovers that Christmas is not restricted to objects.

This special, lasting 26 minutes, is one of Chuck Jones’s productions for MGM television. It’s a very faithful and beautiful reading of the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book, keeping Dr. Seuss’s rhymes and faithfully reproducing its designs, but extending those by long and beautiful silent comedy scenes and Jones’s wonderful facial expressions, to even better results.

Especially the Grinch himself is a wonderfully expressive character. In him Jones’ mastery of facial expression reaches its apex. Particularly amazing is the scene in which the Grinch thinks up his evil plan, making his face curl with wickedness.

The story is told by Boris Karloff’s grim voice, and it contains two songs: a rather annoying Christmas song sung by the Whos and an odd song describing the meanness of the Grinch. While we hear this song, we see the Grinch steal every Christmas item in Whoville.

All in all, it’s a classic. It’s arguably the best Dr. Seuss adaptation ever, and certainly one of the best Christmas cartoons ever made. It’s certainly better than the rather annoying live action remake from 2000.

Watch ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

https://myspace.com/171601491/video/how-the-grinch-stole-christmas/47941731

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: December 5, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Mickey's Orphans © Walt DisneyIt’s Christmas and a poor lady drops by Mickey and Minnie’s house to leave a box at their doorstep.

This box contains an endless quantity of little kittens, which are taking over the house within seconds. Soon, the house is near complete destruction. This is partly Mickey’s own fault, because dressed up as Santa he gives the little brats toys like hammers, saws, drills, axes, and even guns and canons.

‘Mickey’s Orphans’ is a real gag cartoon from the outset and the first of several Mickey Mouse shorts in which many brats cause havoc. No musical routine is involved, and as soon as the box of kittens is opened, the gags roll in like they never did before. The kittens even manage to give the ever cheerful Mickey and Minnie a dismayed look, albeit only at the end of the cartoon. The little kittens would cause havoc again in ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ (1932) before being replaced by the little mice in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ later that year. Maybe the idea of giant mice dealing with little kittens was a little too awkward for the makers…

‘Mickey’s Orphans’ is the first of no less than four Mickey Mouse Christmas cartoons, the others being ‘Mickey’s Good Deed‘ (1932), ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree’ (1952) and ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol‘ (1983). It was nominated for the very first Academy Award for animated short film, but it understandably lost to the first technicolor short ‘Flowers and Trees‘ (1932), although Walt Disney did get a special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 36
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Cuts Up
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Duck Hunt

Director: Norm Ferguson
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, Panchito, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Three Caballeros © Walt DisneyDonald stars in his first and only very own feature film.

In the opening scene he receives a large package full of presents. When he opens these presents, they lead him to the mild story of Pablo the cold-blooded penguin (narrated by the melancholy voice of Disney-favorite Sterling Holloway), and to the childish story of ‘Gauchito and his flying donkey Burrito’, before it reintroduces Joe Carioca from ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942). Joe takes Donald to Baía, where they dance the samba with Aurora Miranda, nicely blending animation with live action, something that occurs throughout the picture.

Another package introduces the Mexican rooster Panchito. Together the trio sings the intoxicating theme song, wonderfully animated by Ward Kimball, who regarded the scene as his best work. Panchito takes Donald and Joe on a magic serape ride over Mexico, visiting Mexico City, Veracruz en Acapulco Beach, where Donald plays blind man’s buff with a bunch of girls in bathing suits. Actually, Donald keeps hunting girls like a hungry wolf throughout the picture.

‘The Three Caballeros’ was the second of two ‘Good neighbor policy’ features, focusing on South America, and the second of six compilation features Disney made until returning to real features with ‘Cinderella‘ in 1950. When compared to ‘Saludos Amigos’, ‘The Three Caballeros’ is brighter, bolder and more nonsensical. It is noteworthy for its bold color design and for its beautiful color book artwork by Mary Blair, which in its modernity looks forward to the 1950s (especially in the opening titles, during the train ride and in the Mexican Christmas episode).

It is most interesting however, because of its zany surrealism, which invades many scenes with associative images, where metamorphosis and abstraction run haywire, not even sparing Donald himself. In this respect ‘The Three Caballeros’ is the boldest feature Disney ever made.

However, its lack of story, its strong touristic content, its outdated live action imagery, its sentimental songs and the two childish stories at the beginning of the feature all harm the picture. Thus watching the movie feels like being on a colorful journey full of beautiful images that nevertheless turns out to be unsatisfactory in the end.

Watch the title song from ‘The Three Caballeros’ below:

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