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Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: June 17, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating:
Review:

Still from 'Mickey's Mechanical Man' featuring a gorilla boxing a robotMickey has build a robot to fight a gorilla in a boxing match, which is called “the battle of the century: machine vs. beast”.

Mickey’s robot has one disadvantage: he runs wild when he hears Minnie’s car horn. Luckily, this fact helps him in the end: when he’s clobbered by the gorilla (on the tune of Franz Liszt’s second Hungarian rhapsody), he seems almost lost. But then Minnie fetches her car horn, revitalizing the robot. From that point he actually cheats, using multiple boxing gloves, a hammer and hits below the belt.

Despite its clear story and high quality animation, ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man’ is a very weak short, and a low point in the otherwise outstanding Mickey Mouse year of 1933. The cartoon is surprisingly low on gags and it’s difficult to sympathize with the robot character, as it’s mechanical after all, while the gorilla is a living being. Moreover, Mickey’s motives remain unclear and we’re not invited to care about the match.

The cartoon most interesting feat. are the robot’s jerky movements, which are clearly mechanical and based on wind-up toys, but which become rather frantic and ridiculously elaborate when the robot goes wild. Nevertheless, there are some traces of Stan Laurel’s boxing moves from ‘Any Old Port’ (1932).

‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man’ is reminiscent of the Fleischer Studio’s equally weak ‘The Robot‘ (1932). Both films were inspired by rather hysterical stories about robots taking over jobs, which circulated in the early 1930s, and which struck a chord in an era of vast unemployment.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 57
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mail Pilot
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Gala Premier

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Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: February 28, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Mickey's Pal Pluto' featuring Pluto and his little devilish self‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ shows how important Pluto had become by 1933.

It’s the first cartoon having the sympathetic mutt in its title, and it’s he, not Mickey or Minnie, who’s the real star of this short, arguably making ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ Pluto’s first own cartoon.

In ‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ Pluto saves a few little kittens from drowning. Mickey and Minnie take them home, but there Pluto grows jealous of the intruders, exemplified by a conflict between his devilish and angelic sides, who materialize outside him, and who speak in rhyme. Unfortunately, when Pluto listens to his little devil, this leads to Mickey putting him outside. Nevertheless, when the kittens fall into a well, Pluto rescues the kittens from drowning again, almost drowning himself in the act. In the end he’s rewarded for this unselfish behavior with a roast chicken.

The moral clearly is that being good will be rewarded, as Pluto’s angel character clearly states in the end. So some of the childish sentimentality that had entered the Silly Symphonies in 1933 sneaks in to the Mickey Mouse series, as well.

‘Mickey’s Pal Pluto’ marks the first appearance of Pluto’s imaginary little devil and angel, symbolizing his inner conflict. This cartoon was more or less remade in color in 1941, titled ‘Lend a Paw’. Pluto’s little devil would reappear in ‘Mickey’s Elephant‘ (1936).

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 53
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mad Doctor
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Mellerdrammer

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: November 12, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Wayward Canary' featuring two canaries and a charicature of Douglas FairbanksThe Wayward Canary’ follows the same story line as ‘The Barnyard Broadcast‘ (1931) and ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ (1932). Like in these films, a song-and-dance routine is interrupted by numerous animals causing havoc.

This time, Mickey gives Minnie a canary for a present. It appears to have numerous offspring. These little birds escape and fly all over the house. Before they’re all caught, the complete house is wrecked.

Among the numerous gags there’s a surreal one when Pluto and a cat run through a wringer, which renders them flat. By 1932 such extreme body deformities had become extremely rare in Disney cartoons, and soon they would vanish altogether, as they were not in tune with Disney’s search for the ‘plausible impossible’. It was up to Tex Avery at Warner Brothers to revive gags like these in the late 1930s.

Among Minnie’s household there is a lighter with a swastika on it [update: see animation historian David Gerstein’s comment below for an explanation]. She also has signed portraits of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Together with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, these two actors were the co-founders of United Artists, the company Disney had joined in 1932.

These portraits are the first caricatures of real people in a Mickey Mouse film. Although Mickey and Minnie were only slowly shedding their barnyard background, these signed portraits are not too surprising accessories, considering Mickey’s enormous popularity in the early 1930s. Moreover, they suggest that Mickey and Minnie, although being cartoon characters, live in the real world, among other Hollywood stars. This concept would be developed further in the next year, in the superb ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘.

Watch ‘The Wayward Canary’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 48
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Touchdown Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Klondike Kid

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: April 13, 1932
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Barnyard Olympics' featuring Mickey Mouse on a bicycleAs the title implies, there’s a great sports event at the barn.

Mickey is joining a cross country race that involves running, rowing and cycling (which is beautifully animated). His main opponent is a rather unrecognizable Pete, who looks like just a big mean cat without a peg leg.

‘Barnyard Olympics’ was inspired by the upcoming Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932. It’s a brilliant gag cartoon: it’s fast, consistent and exciting, and without doubt one of Mickey’s finest. It immediately starts with an excellent gag when a spectator suddenly discovers he’s being filmed and waves at ‘the camera’.

In a way ‘Barnyard Olympics’ marks Goofy’s debut. He’s not seen at all, but during a boxing match his characteristic laughter, provided by story man Pinto Colvig, can already be heard. In Mickey’s next film, ‘Mickey’s Revue‘, Goofy would appear on the screen himself.

With ‘Barnyard Olympics’ Mickey entered the zenith of his career. His films from 1932-1934 are his best. Almost all portray him as the little, but brave underdog fighting the odds, and importantly, in these films Mickey still is the star himself. After 1934 Mickey became more and more of a straight man, losing screen time to Pluto, Donald and Goofy. Yes, the Mickey Mouse films from the second half of the 1930s are also great, but by then Mickey’s own stardom was in a clear decline. But in ‘Barnyard Olympics’, like the other films from 1932-1934, he’s still in top form as the greatest cartoon star of his era.

Watch ‘Barnyard Olympics’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 40
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mad Dog
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Revue

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
July 11, 1932
Stars:
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating:
★★★★
Review:

Still from 'Mickey in Arabia' featuring a snake-charmer‘Mickey in Arabia’ can be described as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ in Arabia.

In this short Mickey and Minnie are tourists visiting some mythical Arabian country on a camel. Here they meet Pete, who has both his legs here, and who apparently is some sort of sheik. Pete captures Minnie, which leads to an exciting finale, which consists of continuous series of gags.

Despite its all too familiar story outline, ‘Mickey in Arabia’ is a major step forward in the Mickey Mouse series. It places Mickey outside his familiar barnyard and performance settings, and sends him on an adventure abroad, similar to the ones Mickey was having in Floyd Gottfredson’s comic strip of the same time. Mickey is at his best as the little hero, and he excels here. Gottfredson himself sent Mickey to Arabia, too, but only two years later, at the end of 1934. His comic strip ‘The Sacred Jewel’ borrows a lot of images from this 1932 film.

The adventure notwithstanding, the Disney story men didn’t forget to fill the short with gags, making ‘Mickey in Arabia’ a fast paced and funny short. It also has a great score, which makes excellent use of Albert Ketèlbey’s ‘In a Persian Market’ to create an Arabian atmosphere.

With ‘Mickey in Arabia’, the studio had hit the jackpot storywise, and in the next two years Mickey would play the little hero more often, with delightful results. Indeed, already in the same year, ‘Mickey in Arabia’ would be topped by the even more excellent ‘Touchdown Mickey‘ and ‘The Klondike Kid‘.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 43
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Musical Farmer
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Nightmare

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: February 8, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Grocery Boy' featuring Mickey Mouse cookingMickey has to deliver groceries to Minnie. When he arrives, she’s baking a stuffed turkey in the kitchen. Mickey helps her cooking in a musical scene, based on the 12th Street Rag. But then Pluto steals the turkey, an event that leads to a grand finale in which Minnie’s kitchen is completely ruined. Nevertheless, Mickey and Minnie retain their optimistic spirit.

‘The Grocery Boy’, contains many fine gags, the best of which is Mickey throwing a dish in the trash can immediately after he has finished preparing it. The structure of this short is very similar to those of the earlier ‘Mickey Steps Out‘ and ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘ from 1931, being part musical number and part gags leading to ruin. The finale is fast-paced and gag-rich, and saves a film that started a little bit dull.

Watch ‘The Grocery Boy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 38
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Duck Hunt
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mad Dog

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: October 28, 1931
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'The Beach Party' featuring Clarabella Cow and Minnie Mouse picknicking on the beachIn ‘The Beach Party’ Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Pluto go picnicking on the beach. All goes well, until an evil octopus ruins their picnic, and they all have to battle against him.

‘The Beach Party’ is one of four 1931 Mickey Mouse cartoons to feature no musical routine, at all. Clearly, the Disney studio grew more and more confident in telling stories instead of musical numbers. And rightfully so, because ‘The Beach Party’ shows that Disney studio was more capable than any other studio in telling a good gag-filled story leading to a great finale. These were a welcome replacement to the tiring song-and-dance-routines. And so, by 1932, the musical numbers had almost disappeared from the Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Nonetheless, ‘The Beach Party’ knows no dialogue, and most of the movement is rhythmical, and set to a musical beat. The film’s greatest idea is the battle, because the gang’s means to chase the octopus away are entirely based on their eating habits as shown before. Such subtle and sophisticated story telling was unknown outside the Walt Disney studio at that time.

Notice, too, how Pluto and the crab resolve into speed lines when fighting. This effect was still pretty new at the time. The gag with the crab would be reused six years later to much better effects in ‘Hawaiian Holiday’.’The Beach Party’ is no classic, but secretly this film, too, shows Disney’s ambitions.

‘The Beach Party’ is also the first of only two shorts in which Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar are presented as four close friends, the other one being ‘Camping Out’ from 1934. Their friendship would become common practice in Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics, starting with ‘Mickey Mouse and the Ransom Plot’ (July-November 1931).

In these comic strips Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar would become real personalities, something that never happened in the Mickey Mouse films. Indeed, soon after Mickey changed to color in 1935, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar vanished from the screen, apart from an occasional cameo. Unfortunately, the same thing occurred in the Mickey Mouse strips: Horace’s and Clarabelle’s last major adventure with Mickey was ‘Race for Riches’ (July-September 1935), after which they were replaced by Goofy.

Watch ‘The Beach Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 34
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Broadcast
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Cuts Up

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: September 30, 1931
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Barnyard Broadcast' featuring Horace Horsecollar playing sawMickey’s got his own radio station at the barn. There, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow perform some music to broadcast.

All goes well, until a cat and her little kittens cause havoc in the studio. Mickey has a hard time chasing them away, and during his efforts all instruments are destroyed.

‘The Barnyard Broadcast’ reuses the cat from ‘Mickey Steps Out‘ from two months earlier, and it introduces the numerous kittens that would cause Mickey lots of trouble in the subsequent films ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (1931) and ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ (1932). After that their role would be taken over by the orphan mice, introduced in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932).

After ‘Mickey Steps Out’, ‘The Barnyard Broadcast’ is another attempt in building a finale in a string of gags. The film is not entirely successful in this and only gains momentum when Mickey chases the cat away with a broom. The technique would be perfected in the subsequent films, ‘The Beach Party‘ and ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘.

Watch ‘The Barnyard Broadcast’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 33
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Fishin’ Around
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Beach Party

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: June 6, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete (cameo), Pluto
Rating: ★★
Review:

Still from 'The Delivery Boy' featuring Mickey and Minnie playing instrumentIn ‘The Delivery Boy’ we watch Minnie doing the laundry in a pasture, singing the 1905 hit song ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’.

Mickey surprises her, and they dance the Charleston together to the background music. Mickey is so happy, he boxes a wasp’s nest. The wasp’s nest hits his donkey and his whole delivery, which consists of musical instruments, is spread over the pasture.

Undaunted, Mickey and Minnie start playing the piano, and all the farm animals join in, playing ‘The stars and stripes forever’. The cartoon ends when Pluto retrieves a burning dynamite stick and everything explodes. Nevertheless, Mickey is still able to finish playing John Philip Sousa’s famous march.

‘The Delivery Boy’ is as joyous as it is boring. After three years of song-and-dance routines one grows rather tired of it. Moreover, cartoons like ‘Traffic Troubles‘ and ‘The Moose Hunt‘ had proven that Mickey could do very well without them.

Pluto would cause havoc again in some of the succeeding films, like ‘Mickey Steps Out‘ (1931), ‘Mickey Cuts Up‘ (1931) and ‘The Grocery Boy‘ (1932). In these films the song-and-dance routine would give way to well-build gag-filled finales, of which the one in ‘The Delivery Boy’ is an embryonic version.

Watch ‘The Delivery Boy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 29
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Moose Hunt
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Steps Out

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: October 9, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto (as Rover)
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Picnic' featuring Mickey and Minnie picnickingMickey’s driving to Minnie’s house singing his own theme song. They both are going on a picnic. While Mickey and Minnie are singing and dancing across the field to the tune of ‘In the Good Old Summertime’, hundreds of wild animals take their food away. The picnic ends in rain.

‘The Picnic’ is a rather plotless and unremarkable cartoon. It nevertheless contains a nice surreal gag in which a rabbit pulls away a hole. This kind of surrealism was rare at Disney’s at that time, but later, Tex Avery would reuse this gag many times at Warner Brothers and MGM.

‘The Picnic’ would have been forgettable, did it not mark the debut of Pluto. He is called Rover in this cartoon, and appears to be Minnie’s dog rather than Mickey’s, but he’s Pluto alright. At this point there’s no reason to believe that Disney intended to make the dog a regular character. Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics of January 1931 cover similar grounds, but feature a very large dog called “Tiny”.

Nevertheless, in April 1931 Pluto would return in ‘The Moose Hunt‘. This time to stay*. In fact Pluto would become a more and more important character in the Mickey Mouse cartoons, at times stealing most of the screen time from Mickey, who would become more and more a ‘straight man’. Eventually, Pluto would be given his own series, in 1937.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 23
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Gorilla Mystery
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pioneer Days

* Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics followed three months later, introducing Pluto on July the 8th.

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: July 11, 1930
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Shindig' featuring Mickey and Minnie playingThere’s a party at the barn. Mickey and Minnie make some music and Mickey dances with Clarabelle Cow, with a dachshund and with a fat pig, but not with Minnie, who plays the piano.

The short contains no story, but is one of sheer joy. Mickey and Minnie perform folk tunes like ‘Turkey in the Straw’, ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ (in which Mickey repeatedly grabs Minnie’s knickers), and ‘Old Folks at Home’, performed by Mickey on a mouth organ. The cartoon ends when the pig lands on Mickey.

‘The Shindig’ marks Horace Horsecollar’s first appearance as a completely humanized horse. It also contains the first love scene between him and Clarabelle Cow, whose name is written on the shed in which she lives.

In Clarabelle’s first scene, we watch her read Elinor Glyn’s novel ‘Three Weeks’. When she discovers an audience is watching her, she blushes, and quickly hides the book away. No wonder, ‘Three Weeks’ was a scandalous book, an erotic romance from 1907, apparently still controversial in 1930.

The party idea of ‘The Shindig’ was elaborated on in ‘The Whoopee Party‘ (1932), producing a cartoon full of party delight, compared to which ‘The Shindig’ pales.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 20
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Fire Fighters
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Chain Gang

Director: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 10, 1930
Stars: Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Still from 'The Cactus Kid' featuring Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Mickey looking over a cliff‘The Cactus Kid’ can be summarized as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho in Mexico’. Mickey visits a Mexican canteen where Minnie’s a waitress. They make music together until Pete enters and kidnaps Minnie.

When Mickey pulls her nose, we hear Minnie speaking Spanish. The Mexican atmosphere is further enhanced by the use of music from Emmanuel Chabrier’s España, although the chase scene is accompanied by Jacques Offenbach’s (French) can-can.

Pete’s seen with a peg leg for the first time in this cartoon, although he already had a peg leg in several Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. We also hear him really speak for the first time. Actually, there’s an unprecedented amount of dialogue in this cartoon. Nevertheless, Mickey’s lips still look awkward when he speaks. Fortunately, this problem would soon be solved in the following cartoons.

Horace Horsecollar is recognizable, too, with his characteristic yoke and bowler hat. But he’s still only a partly humanized horse, here, and Mickey rides him. Only in ‘The Shindig‘ from two months later Horace Horsecollar would be fully anthropomorphized.

‘The Cactus Kid’ happened to be the last cartoon Walt Disney directed himself until his unfortunate come-back with ‘The Golden Touch’ five years later. The film was parodied as ‘Galloping Romance’, the cartoon showed in ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘ from 1932.

Watch ‘The Cactus Kid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 18
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Barnyard Concert
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Fire Fighters

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: December 21, 1929
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Still from 'Wild Waves' featuring Minnie kissing MickeyIn his fifteenth cartoon Mickey is a lifeguard and he saves a nearly drowning Minnie.

To comfort his sweetheart Mickey does some playing and dancing. Some animals (pinguins, sea lions, pelicans and a singing walrus) join in. This is a particularly dull sequence, Minnie cheers up, calls Mickey ‘my hero’ and kisses him. Iris out.

In this short, there’s a story at least the first half of the cartoon, making it slightly better than most of the early Mickey Mouse entries. The cartoon starts with some nice scatting by Mickey. Unfortunately, the fledgling lip-synch still accounts for some strange facial expressions on our hero. The drowning and saving part is the most interesting sequence, and contains some nice water animation, as well Mickey defying gravity by swimming through air.

‘Wild Waves’ was the first short directed by Burt Gillett. Gillett had joined Disney in April 1929. He would become the principal Mickey Mouse director of 1930 and 1931, and in 1933 he would gain fame with ‘Three Little Pigs‘. His career at Disney’s would last until 1934, when he left for the ill-fated Van Beuren Studio.

‘Wild Waves’ also was the last Walt Disney short to feature music by Carl Stalling. When Ub Iwerks left Disney in January 1930, Stalling soon followed, believing the studio had no future without this master animator. For his last film Stalling not only provided the score, but also the singing for Mickey and the Walrus. The singing walrus would be reused half a year later, in the Silly Symphony ‘Arctic Antics‘, while the dancing sea lions returned in ‘The Castaway‘ (1931).

Watch ‘Wild Waves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 15
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Haunted House
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Just Mickey

Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Release Date: September 28, 1935
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

On Ice © Walt DisneyOn Ice is the first of Disney’s ‘ensemble cartoons’.

Everyone is in it: Mickey, Minnie (in her color debut), Donald, Goofy, Pluto and even, albeit very briefly, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. ‘On Ice’ introduces two story ideas that would be used again much later: Pluto’s problems on ice in ‘Bambi’ (1942) and the idea of skating near a waterfall in the ‘Once upon a Wintertime’ sequence of ‘Melody Time’ (1948), although this latter idea first appears in the Popeye cartoon ‘Season’s Greetinks!‘ from 1933.

Apart from this, ‘On Ice’ has been very important in the development of Goofy. He’s been completely restyled, has more body to his looks and a much more distinct personality. All these important improvements on the character are attributed to Art Babbitt, one of the greatest animators of all time. Goofy sings ‘The world owes me a living’ from ‘The grasshopper and the ants’ (1934). The song naturally becomes his theme song. No wonder, for the grasshopper and Goofy share the same voice: that of Pinto Colvig. Also of note is Goofy’s original fishing style, using chew to catch fish.

Watch ‘On Ice’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 79
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Pluto’s Judgement Day
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Polo Team

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: October 28, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Pet Store © Walt DisneyMickey applies for a job at Tony’s pet store. Then Minnie drops by and together they perform their usual song-and-dance-routine.

‘The Pet Store’ was Mickey’s last cartoon to feature the half song-and-dance routine half story formula, a story structure that by 1933 had become old-fashioned.

This time Minnie’s quite tiresome lalala’s are interrupted by ‘Beppo, the movie monk’, an ape who has read about King Kong (that movie was released the same year) and who wants to imitate him, after he had imitated Stan Laurel. This leads to a nice spoof of King Kong, in which the ape climbs a pile of boxes with Minnie under his arm while being attacked by birds, mimicking the planes in the original feature. In the end Mickey and Minnie are fleeing the pet shop, just before the owner returns, leaving it in complete ruin.

Unfortunately, by 1933 such battle scenes had become as jaded as the song-and-dance routines, and the one in ‘The Pet Store’ is not really different from the ones in ‘The Bird Store‘, ‘King Neptune‘, or ‘Babes in the Woods‘ (all 1932). Nevertheless, the take on ‘King Kong’ is marvelous, and more original than Walter Lantz’s much more literal spoof ‘King Klunk‘ from one month earlier.

Tony is the first elaborate human to enter Mickey’s world, being on par with the human characters in the Silly Symphony ‘The Pied Piper‘ from one month earlier. He would be topped, however, by the giant in Mickey’s next cartoon, ‘Giantland‘. Part of the fun in this cartoon is provided by Tony’s pseudo-Italian labels (like “birda seed” and “biga da sale”), a type of pun that was later borrowed extensively by Chuck Jones in his Pepe le Pew-cartoons.

Watch ‘The Pet Store’ yourself and tell me what you think:

 

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 61
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Steeple Chase
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Giantland

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: July 1, 1933
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Mickey's Gala Premiere © Walt Disney‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ is without doubt one of the greatest of all Mickey Mouse Cartoons.

The short both celebrates the enormous popularity Mickey enjoyed in the early 1930s, and establishes him as one of the leading actors of that period.

We’re witnessing the premiere of a new Mickey Mouse cartoon at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where Mickey and the gang are welcomed as celebrities (only Goofy is absent, his character was not yet established at that time).

The cartoon that is shown at the premiere is called ‘Galloping Romance’. It is an early and fantastic self-parody. This short only exists within ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ and is a ridiculous variation on ‘The Cactus Kid’ (1930), in which Mickey rides a number of silly animals in his pursuit of Pete, including a marimba. This self-consciously silly cartoon is way more old-fashioned than ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ itself.

Nevertheless, the crowd, which consists solely of well-known performers of the time, laugh their heads off and, after the show, all try to congratulate Mickey. Mickey’s wet dream appears to be being kissed by Swedish actress Greta Garbo, because it is the cartoon’s climax before it’s being revealed that all has been just a dream.

All the caricatures are the work of Joe Grant, whose work was also quoted by the Disney studio in the short special ‘Parade of the Award Nominees‘ (1932). For ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ Disney went directly to Grant, and the film became the story man’s first job for Disney. However, it was only two months after this film that Joe Grant became a full-time employee at the Disney studio. There he would also draw caricatures for ‘Broken Toys’ (1935) and ‘Mickey’s Polo Team’ (1936), but his main contribution would be to the story department.

The self-conscious nature of ‘Mickey’s Gala Premiere’ would remain rare at Disney’s, but it would become one of the key features of the Warner Brother Cartoons, who would produce similar cartoons as ‘You Ought to be in Pictures’ (1940) and ‘What’s Cookin’ Doc?’ (1944). Both cartoons are tributary to ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’.

The short also sprouted several other cartoons featuring caricatures of contemporary Hollywood stars, among others ub Iwerks’s ‘Soda Squirt‘ (1933), Walter Lantz’s ‘The Merry Old Soul‘ (1933) and ‘Toyland Premiere’ (1934), Disney’s own ‘Mickey’s Polo Team’ (1936) and ‘Mother Goose goes Hollywood’ (1938), and the Warner Brothers cartoons ‘The Coo-Coo Nut Groove’ (1936), ‘Porky’s Road Race’ (1937) and ‘Hollywood Steps Out‘ (1941). Nevertheless, ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ was not the first in his kind, for already ten years earlier Felix the Cat made the trip to Hollywood to meet the stars in ‘Felix in Hollywood’ (1923).

Among the stars featured in ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ I managed to identify The Keystone Cops, Marie Dressler, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Maurice Chevalier, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Harold Lloyd, Edward G. Robinson, Clark Gable, Joe E. Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mae West, Greta Garbo, Bela Lugosi, Frederic March and Boris Karloff.

Also featured is some guy who has a striking resemblance to Prince Charles of Wales and who’s dressed as a king. This is a caricature of Will H. Hays, the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). Hays was Hollywood’s chief censor and the man behind the Hays code, the censorship Hollywood imposed on itself between 1930 and 1968. Interestingly, the censorship only became severe when Hays made place for Joseph Breen in 1934…

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 58
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Mechanical Man
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Puppy Love

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: April 8, 1933
Stars: Clarabelle Cow, Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Ye Olden Days © Walt DisneyMickey and the gang are staged in many different times and places in their cartoons. Yet, this medieval short is the only cartoon in which they are introduced as actors performing their parts.

This idea of Mickey being an actor was first coined in ‘The Wayward Canary’ (1932) and played out to the max in ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier’ (1933). This cartoon nevertheless is played without any awareness of the public.

Minnie is the princess of Lalapazoo, and forced by her father to marry prince Goofy from Pupupadoo. Minnie refuses and is locked up in the high tower. Fortunately, there is minstrel Mickey to save her and to battle the evil prince, chasing him through the window, and marrying the princess himself. This adventure film cliche Disney already had visited in the Oswald cartoon ‘Oh, What A Knight‘, but it is expanded and improved in ‘Ye Olden Days’.

Like ‘Building a Building’ and ‘The Mad Doctor’ from the same year, this cartoon is partly a musical with lots of parts sung. It also contains a very anachronistic guillotine and an elaborately designed horse that shows the aspirations of the studio to master more lifelike designs and animation.

Goofy, who is introduced as Dippy Dawg, is quite miscast here, playing the villain, whom he acts out more sillily than threateningly. It seems that the animators didn’t really know what to do with the character, so far only funny because of his typical voice. So, after this film they dropped him for more than a year.

Watch ‘Ye Olden Days’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 55
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Mellerdrammer
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mail Pilot

Director: David Hand
Release Date: January 7, 1933
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete ,Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Building a Building © Walt Disney‘Building a building’ has a grand opening with its close-up of the anthropomorphized excavator.

This fast and gag-rich cartoon can be summarized as ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ at a building site: Mickey is employed as an excavator machinist. When Minnie drops by selling box lunches, Mickey is so struck by love that he ruins the blueprints of foreman Peg Leg Pete three times. Pete is charmed by Minnie, too, and he tries to force her to a kiss. Of course, Mickey comes to the rescue, fleeing with Minnie and leaving Pete behind with the building in complete shambles. Pete just manages to fire Mickey, but Minnie immediately adds him to her business.

‘Building a Building’ reuses several story ideas from the early Oswald cartoon ‘Sky Scrappers‘ (1928). Both feature the hero being an excavator machinist, his love interest bringing box lunches, and Pete trying to abduct the girl. Even the excavator opening shot is a copy of the opening shot of ‘Sky Scrappers’. However, in five years both animation, timing and characterization have much improved. If ‘Sky Scrappers’ was a remarkable achievement for 1928, it was at times still crude. ‘Building a Building’ on the other hand has a refined quality that characterized the Mickey Mouse cartoons of 1933 and beyond.

There’s for example some remarkably flexible animation on Mickey when he rides the elevator. The animators have really put a sense of weight in his body, and exaggerated the effects of the sudden start and stop of the lift on it, with a lovely comic result. The musical score, too, is a delight from beginning to end, becoming particularly silly when Pete’s trousers change into a watering can. Indeed, with ‘Building A Building’ Mickey got his second Academy Award nomination, after ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (1931)

‘Building a Building’ is the first of a few 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoons that are introduced and partly played out in Song, following the Silly Symphonies ‘King Neptune‘ and ‘Santa’s Workshop‘ from 1932. Other examples from 1933 are ‘The Mad Doctor‘,  ‘Ye Olden Days‘ and ‘The Mail Pilot‘.

Watch ‘Building a Building’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 51
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Good Deed
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Mad Doctor

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: September 17, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Whoopee Party © Walt DisneyAfter three  years of musical cartoons, consistent story lines where reintroduced to the Mickey cartoons with a remarkable success in 1932 (good examples are ‘Barnyard Olympics‘ and ‘Touchdown Mickey’). In this era the musical cartoon ‘The Whoopee Party’ with its total lack of story seems to be quite old-fashioned.

The short contains numerous elements that were used many times earlier: a public dancing, Minnie singing behind the piano and alive inanimate objects (although the latter feature was much more common practice in the Fleischer and Iwerks cartoons of that time – yet no other Disney cartoon celebrates the secret dancing life of inanimate objects as much as ‘The Whoopee Party’ does). The short also contains some nice effect animation of confetti and flying feathers. Despite being anything but new, the sheer fun with which everything is executed, makes this cartoon a delight to watch.

‘The Whoopee Party’ marks Goofy’s second appearance after his debut in ‘Mickey’s Revue‘ earlier that year. It’s in this cartoon he gets the looks he would maintain until Art Babbitt redesigned him for ‘On Ice’ (1935). He’s more than just a silly laugh now; he now has a rudimentary character of being some kind of silly person, and we hear him speak for the first time. Clearly, he now is one of the gang, making sandwiches with Horace and Mickey, and showing to be a character here to stay. Yet, he’s still more weird than likable – and when he made his debut as ‘Dippy Dawg’ in Floyd Gottfredson’s comic strip in January, 1933, he’s introduced as a pest. In fact, Goofy’s character would remain rather vague until 1935. Only with ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ from that year he would become the likable Goof we know today.

It may be interesting to note that Goofy arguably is the first cartoon character built on a funny voice. His success is proof that, although a unique voice is not necessary (Tom and Jerry for instance could do perfectly without one), it certainly helps to build a character. This must have been an inspiration to later voice-based characters like Donald Duck, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.

Ironically, Goofy himself would eventually lose his voice in the early forties when voice artist Pinto Colvig left Disney for Fleischer.

Watch ‘The Whoopee Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 46
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Trader Mickey
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Touchdown Mickey

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

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