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Director: Bill Nolan
Release Date: October 10, 1932
Stars: Oswald, Honey, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★
Review:

Carnival Capers © Walter Lantz‘Carnival Capers’ takes place at the beach and at a carnival.

We watch Oswald and Honey trying to enjoy themselves, but being bullied by Peg Leg Pete. Oswald finally disposes of Pete, with help of a fence, a lobster, a cat, a dog and a goat.

‘Carnival Capers’ looks pretty old-fashioned by 1932 standards. It recalls the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Karnival Kid‘ (1929) in its setting, and the silent Oswald cartoons with its love triangle. At one point Pete is cut into two – a familiar gag in the 1920s, but by 1932 a rare one, as by then cartoon characters had gained more consistency. Overall, the animation and the vocalizations are rather erratic.

A young Tex Avery worked on this cartoon, and perhaps he came up with the gag of a phlegmatic dog making milkshakes with help of a shimmy dancer, which is arguably the best gag in the whole cartoon.

Watch ‘Carnival Capers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Carnival Capers’ is available on the DVD ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 November 12, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pete, Goofy
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

The Klondike Kid © Walt DisneyKlondike. In a beautiful opening scene we cut to “Klondike Bar’, a rowdy bar, where Mickey is a bar pianist, playing the popular ballad ‘Frankie and Johnny’.

The bar scene is pretty complex, with a lot going on. Goofy is there, too, seemingly just to show he’s a star to stay, for he has no involvement in the plot, at all. Outside, Minnie is freezing, and Mickey takes her inside, but then Pierre (a.k.a. Pete) arrives, peg leg and all. Soon he runs off with Minnie after a short gun fighting scene. Mickey, of course, rushes out to follow him, and jumps on a sled pulled by Pluto. In a remote log cabin, a fight ensues…

In essence ‘The Klondike Kid’ is ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ in Alaska. But what an execution of such an old idea! The gags are plenty and funny and build up to a fast paced finale. This short is unique for its time in its clever integration of story and gags: the gags are not bonuses, but really add to the story. Highlight must be the ridiculous fight between Mickey and Peg Leg Pete hindered by spiral springs. Mickey Mouse arguably reached the apex of his solo career with this cartoon.

Because of the strong similarities in setting and storyline ‘The Klondike Kid’ feels like a direct ancestor to Tex Avery’s two settings of the poem ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’: ‘Dangerous Dan McFoo’ (Warner Brothers, 1939) and ‘The Shooting of Dan McGoo‘ (MGM, 1946).

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 49
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Wayward Canary
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Good Deed

‘The Klondike Kid’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: February 15, 1932
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit
Rating: ★★
Review:

Mechanical Man © Walter LantzIn 1932 Oswald was redesigned to give him a more boy-like appearance. ‘Mechanical Man’ features this new design and opens with Oswald an his girlfriend playing the piano together.

Meanwhile Peg Leg Pete has built a robot, which needs a human heart. Pete kidnaps Oswald’s girlfriend and takes it to his hideout, followed by Oswald. After a long pursuit Oswald manages to get rid of Pete, and rescuing his sweetheart. But it’s a goat who rescues the two from the robot.

When you read this, the cartoon seems to make some sense, but the real thing is rather different: there’s a lot happening on the screen, and nonsensical gags fill every scene. For example, during the chase scene, various skeletons appear at random, giving the cartoon its typical horror atmosphere, but adding nothing otherwise. This gives the cartoon a rather stream-of-consciousness-like character, and at every point one expects Oswald to wake up from this random nightmare.

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

‘Mechanical Man’ is available on the DVD ‘Lantz Studio Treasures Starring Oswald’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 August 18, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Peg Leg Pete, (Pluto)
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Chain Gang © Walt DisneyIn ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ Mickey had been depicted as a bandit, but it still comes as a surprise to see him being a prisoner in ‘The Chain Gang’. We’re sure some injustice has been done, and that Mickey is in fact innocent…

Mickey is imprisoned in a mixed prison (one of the inmates is a cow), where Peg Leg Pete is one of the guards. When Pete goes to sleep Mickey brings out his harmonica, like he did in ‘The Shindig‘ one month earlier, and starts playing Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 hit ‘The Prisoner’s Song’.

This leads to an unremarkable sing-and-dance-routine, which abruptly ends in a massive jailbreak. Mickey escapes, but is followed by two bloodhounds, possibly the most elaborately designed dogs hitherto. Animated by Norm Ferguson, these bloodhounds would become the prototype of Pluto later on. Indeed, the animation of the blood hound approaching and sniffing into the camera was reused for Pluto as late as 1939 for ‘The Pointer’. The real Pluto would appear on the screen two months later in ‘The Picnic‘, and even then he still was called ‘Rover’.

The ‘birth’ of Pluto is the single most important feature of this cartoon, although it’s also noteworthy for the presence of gags involving recurring characters (something pretty new at the time), and for the chase scenes, which contain some nice perspective effects.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 21
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Shindig
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Gorilla Mystery

‘The Chain Gang’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: ‘Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 March 7, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

raffic Troubles © Walt DisneyIn 1931 Mickey’s cartoons slowly but surely got better. ‘Traffic Troubles’ in particular is a gem, arguably being Mickey’s first great gag cartoon since his first cartoon, ‘Plane Crazy‘ (1928).

In this film Mickey is a cab driver driving an anthropomorphized car, resembling Flip the Frog’s car in ‘The Cuckoo Murder Case’ from five months earlier. His first customer is a fat pig, but he loses his passenger on a road, full of potholes and bumps. Mickey’s horror and surprise when he realizes his customer is gone, is priceless.

Mickey’s second customer is Minnie. When they get a flat tire, Peg Leg Pete makes an odd cameo as ‘Dr. Pep’ who revives Mickey’s car with some kind of potion, with disastrous results. This part leads to a great end scene in which Mickey’s car ends on a cow, rides through a barn, and crashes into a silo.

‘Traffic Troubles’ is a genuine gag cartoon without any songs or dances, but with fast action, plenty of gags building to a grand finale, and spectacular and flexible animation. It also contains a very funny scene in which a police officer asks Mickey many questions while silencing him at the same time. In short, ‘Traffic Trouble’ is arguably the best Mickey Mouse film from 1931, and Mickey’s first really great cartoon since ‘Steamboat Willie‘. But by now the Disney studio was making faster and faster strides, and Mickey’s best cartoons were still to come.

Watch ‘Traffic Troubles’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 26
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Birthday Party
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Castaway

‘Traffic Troubles’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume Two’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: June 2, 1930
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Hell's Heels © Walter LantzIn the spring of 1929 Universal announced that it had set up an animation studio to make sound cartoons of its own. Head of the studio was Walter Lantz. This was the beginning of the Walter Lantz studio, which lasted well into the 1970s, outliving all other contemporary cartoon studios.

With this contract Walter Lantz inherited Oswald the rabbit, a character originally conceived by Walt Disney in 1927, but whose copyright was owned by Universal. Universal demanded no less than 26 Oswald cartoons each year, and the results were consequently of variable quality.

‘Hell’s Heels’, Lantz’s 23th Oswald cartoon, is one of the better ones. It opens with Oswald, Peg Leg Pete and an anonymous grey dog being a gang of bandits wandering and singing through the desert. The three decide to rob a bank and Pete and the Dog send Oswald inside with dynamite. Oswald blows up the bank, killing Pete and the dog(!). Later, Oswald befriends the Sheriff’s little boy, which leads to some song-and-dance scenes, which surprisingly features a number of skeletons.

It’s strange to watch Oswald and Pete being buddies in this film, and the story is rather inconsistent, but the cartoon is fast and funny, and full of gags. Its lively jazzy score by James Dietrich is highly enjoyable, and the animation by Bill Nolan and Clyde Geronimi is joyful and of a fair quality. ‘Hell’s Heels’ shows that in 1930 other animation studios still could match the Walt Disney studio.

Watch ‘Hell’s Heels’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Unknown
Release Date: June 11, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Honey, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Sky Scrappers © Walt DisneyWhere ‘Oh, What a Knight‘ was a forerunner of ‘Ye Olden Days‘, ‘Sky Scrappers’ is the blueprint for the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Building a Building‘ (1933).

Like the later cartoon, ‘Sky Scrappers’ opens spectacularly with a fantastic opening shot zooming out of Oswald’s excavator. Both feature Honey/Minnie bringing Oswald/Mickey lunchboxes and Pete kidnapping Honey/Minnie. Like in ‘Oh What A Knight’ Honey is shown without her pants.

The opening shot shows a lot of animation cycles, effectively suggesting a lot of working on the building. There’s also a great perspective gag with Pete punching right into the camera. However, the most remarkably animation achievement is that of Oswald pulling up a heavy barrel. The idea of weight and muscle stretch is very convincing, and stands out amidst the more formulaic animation of the rest of the cartoon.

Watch ‘Sky Scrappers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 21
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Oh, What A Knight
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: The Fox Chase

Director: Unknown
Release Date: May 28, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Honey, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Oh, What a Knight © Walt Disney‘Oh What A knight’ can be regarded as an early forerunner of the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Ye Olden Days‘ (1933).

Both shorts feature a medieval setting and both Oswald and Mickey are minstrels courting their love in a castle. However, where in ‘Ye Olden Days’ Goofy is the unlikely villain, Oswald’s opponent is Pete, who wears an anachronistic high hat.

Oswald serenades his sweetie Honey with an equally anachronistic accordeon. Soon, Oswald and Pete duel in grand adventure film-like manner, with Oswald kissing Honey between the fights. One scene in particular has beautifully animated shadows. In the final falling scene Honey loses her pants, and is shown naked. All characters are animated very flexibly: there’s a lot of stretching, falling apart etc.

‘Oh, What a Knight’ is a very entertaining entry in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, and shows that Disney already went for high quality before the advent of Mickey.

Watch ‘Oh, What a Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 20
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Hungry Hoboes
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Sky Scrappers

Director: Unknown
Release Date: April 30, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Peg Leg Pete
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Ozzie of the Mounted © Walt DisneyOswald is a mounted police officer in charge of catching Peg Leg Pete, who, in spite of his name, has two legs here.

Oswald follows Pete on a mechanical horse, but in the end they’re both chased by a bear. Oswald, however, manages to get both Pete and the bear into prison.

‘Ozzie of the Mounted’ feels rather routine, and is less remarkable than say ‘Rival Romeos‘ or ‘Oh, What a Knight‘. The chase scene fills a large part of the cartoon, but contains few clever gags. Nevertheless, the animation of Oswald swinging around on his mechanical horse’s loose spring is still fascinating to watch. It’s also interesting to point out that Oswald’s mechanical horse looks far more mechanical than his mechanical cow in ‘The Mechanical Cow‘ from seven months earlier. This shows the subtle but steady progress the Walt Disney studio was making in animation, even before it became famous for that.

Watch ‘Ozzie of the Mounted’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 18
To the previous surviving Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Bright Lights
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Hungry Hoboes

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