Friday, November 16, 2007

The Karnival Kid - July 31, 1929

The Karnival Kid is the 9th short in the Mickey Mouse series and a landmark one at that. In previous films, Mickey had always laughed, cried, and made small noises, but he never actually spoke coherent words; however, this cartoon premieres Mickey's speaking voice.

The Karnival Kid takes place at a country carnival where Mickey is selling hot dogs to the crowd. Ever wonder why one of Mickey's catchphrases is "Hot Dog"? It's because these were his very first words!

Mickey's speaking voice has always been the subject of fascination because most people know that Walt Disney himself provided it for many of the mouse's early shorts. What's interesting though is the fact that musical director Carl Stalling, not Walt Disney, was the voice of Mickey in this toon. Fans can immediately note the difference: Stalling's voice is rougher and deeper than the one Walt used for Mickey.

Minnie also appears in the toon as "Minnie the Shimmy Dancer", another example of her sometimes overt sexuality in these early films. Later of course Minnie becomes much sweeter and more mouse-next-door.

The Karnival Kid is full of the wackier cartoon style seen previously with Disney's Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series. Gags, like the one above where Minnie stretches her leg skin to fish out a coin, were bizarre and extremely cartoony. In later years less and less of this was implemented as the animators went for a more realistic, yet still cartoonish, style.

Another such gag was also the inspiration for a merchandising milestone. At one point in the cartoon, Mickey actually takes off his ears and tips his "hat" to Minnie. Storyman Roy Williams used this gag as inspiration for the extremely popular Mickey Ears that are sold in Disney parks around the world today.

There are a few gags I really enjoy in The Karnival Kid. Mickey's hot dogs actually act like real dogs, barking and obeying Mickey's commands. When one runs away after being sold, Mickey teaches it a lesson by dropping its "drawers" and spanking it.

Another clever and complicated gag is this one involving a party blower coming towards the camera. It's a great in-your-face gag. As simple as it seems in today's cartoon universe, the gag really showed at the time just how talented the Disney Studio animators really were.

Making a brief appearance at the beginning of the toon is Clarabelle Cow. While still not up to par with Horace Horsecollar's emerging personality, Clarabelle's added flowered hat does indicate the Disney animators' growing interest in her. It's almost relatable to live-action stars who guest star and cameo here and there in various movies and television shows before they are finally noticed and given a starring role. Clarabelle still is a cameo star, but soon she too will gain a starring role.

Though loaded with gags, The Karnival Kid is not one of Mickey's best shorts. Curiously the cartoon is split into two stories, one involving Mickey selling his hot dogs and one where he serenades Minnie with the help of two annoyingly tone-deaf black cats.

In any case, The Karnival Kid is an important cartoon for Mickey because it is the one in which he finds his voice.


David Gerstein said...

Hey again!

Really enjoyed your KARNIVAL KID and MICKEY'S FOLLIES reviews, though you may have missed one thing -- the catfaced carny barker in KARNIVAL (who also seems to be the pipe-smoking snake impersonator in OPRY HOUSE, as well as Tom Cat in WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY) became a short-lived continuing character in the comics! His name there was Kat Nipp; he was a neighborhood bully and his special traits were love of moonshine (as in CAT'S AWAY) and making his point by pulling out Mickey's nose and/or tail (as in KARNIVAL KID).
He only appeared in a few stories way back when, but just for fun a writer friend and I reused him briefly in 2001.

You'll note that my name this time is linked to my private homepage, not Gemstone's, so you can contact me directly.

linklewtt said...

Awesome! Thanks for the extra info.

Daniel said...

i actually have this on film, anyone have any idea if it's in circulation or how much it is worth?