Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Duck Hunt - January 1, 1932

The Duck Hunt is the 55th film in Mickey's cartoon series. The toon stars Mickey and his best pal Pluto enjoying the thrill of hunting in nature.

The film opens with the Mouse and his pup walking cheerfully and briskly out in the woods. Just look at that beautiful animated reflection on the water.

This toon is full of sight gags such as the inclusion of Pluto's fleas. As Mickey and Pluto march through the forest, so do the fleas from Pluto's back.

Soon the hunters come upon a group of ducks playing in a nearby pond; however, the ducks cleverly manage to make themselves scarce once they sense danger approaching by becoming harmless lily pads.

Luckily Mickey has a plan to lure the unsuspecting ducks into his trap. As he waits in the reeds, he sends Pluto out into the pond with a decoy duck.

Curious of the new stranger, the ducks come out of hiding; one is even brave enough to get close to the decoy.

Meanwhile, Mickey sees his chance and aims his gun; unfortunately, nothing happens when he presses the trigger. Annoyed, the Mouse shakes the weapon vigorously, causing it to fire into the air above.

The bullets manage to hit a tree's branch, which promptly falls into Mickey boat and onto the gun. Unaware he now has a twisted weapon, Mickey shoots and causes a massive hole in his boat.

For a few seconds, it looks like curtains for our hero. Luckily, the pond is only 2 feet or so deep, allowing the Mouse to stand! Still unaware of his broken gun, Mickey again fires. This time the gun breaks in half and flies off.

The broken gun lands on the decoy duck, exposing its true identity. Angered, the real duck calls for an attack.

At once, a gaggle of ducks dives from the sky, picking poor Pluto up and out of the pond by his ears.

Mickey rushes to help Pluto, but his efforts to ground the pup are useless against the strength of the ducks.

The vicious ducks cause all sorts of terrible things to happen to the Mouse. Mickey runs into a flock of geese...

...he is brutally punished as he repeatedly is beaten by a windmill...

...and is dragged across a roof, breaking every tile and eventually running into a chimney.

Finally Mickey is able to stop the duck's attack by wrapping his legs around a weather vane. The ducks manage to twist the Mouse and his pup around and around until the two are thrown off into the sky.

As the pair hurtles towards the ground, perhaps the funniest gag in the film appears when Pluto's fleas parachute off his butt. Hilarious!

All ends well though when Mickey and Pluto safely land in a pair of long underwear. Pluto's fleas also manage to survive the drop as they too land safely back on their host. All together a great cartoon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mickey's Orphans - December 9, 1931

54th in Mickey's cartoon series is Mickey's Orphans. Just in time for Christmas, this toon takes on a holiday theme. This toon is special due tot he fsct it is the Mouse's very first Christmas-themed film.

The film opens dramatically on a hooded figure out in a chilling blizzard. On her arm she carries a covered basket. She soon comes upon a small, lighted house and peers inside the inviting window.

Inside the home are none other than Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. As Minnie plays Christmas tunes on the organ, Mickey trims the tree jovially while Pluto sleeps by the warm fireplace.

Satisfied with what she sees, the stranger drops her basket on the doorstep and disappears into the night. The present is soon discovered by Pluto and Mickey; the pair are pleased to find a kitten under the blanket. Let's pause here to take in the irony of a pair of mice taking care of a baby kitten...

But wise Pluto soon discovers that the basket doesn't hide just one kitten but an entire litter! The young cats are out of control as they swarm upon Mickey, Minnie, and their humble abode.

The litter descends upon the house, playing with and breaking everything in sight. But even with all this destruction, they still remain to be so cute!

Two kittens set their sights upon poor Pluto. No wonder the pup is no fan of pesky little felines.

One kitten even causes the pet bird grief. Remember how this bird has made various appearances since 1928's Steamboat Willie?

As pesky as these critters are, there is one cute scene when a kitten asks Minnie for a special something. Based on the animation, it looks as though the kitty needs the bathroom pronto. But...

...he actually just wants to satisfy his sweet tooth. Minnie gives him a delicious candy cane straight from the Christmas tree, and the kitten does a great impression of Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character.

Wanting to entertain and surprise the litter, Minnie whispers something to Mickey. The Mouse leaves hurriedly with a grin and a twinkle in his eye, returning moments later, with a bag of toys and a very special "reindeer".

The bag of toys is just too enticing to the kittens, and they rush Mickey Claus. Strangely, the bag is full of dangerous objects such as hammers and saws.

One kitten is brave enough to venture up to Mickey and ask, "are you Santa Claus?" Mickey shyly nods yes, only to get a face full of spit from the nasty little feline. As if that isn't enough, the brat pulls Mickey's beard and runs away, leaving the Mouse dazed and confused.

The other cats turn their evilness on Pluto the "reindeer" by attacking him with a toy cannon. The tables are hilariously turned however when Pluto gains the upper hand... or rear.

Then again the blame could be given to Mickey for giving the destructive cats toys like cannons and toy guns. Tsk tsk.

A seemingly harmless toy construction digger turns into a tool of evil in the hands of a kitten. As one kitten plays up the cuteness factor in order to distract Mickey, his cohort dumps hot coals into the Mouse's shorts. The result is not pretty.

Finally, it comes time to reveal the biggest surprise of all: the tree! Minnie dutifully announces the unveiling by bugle, and Mickey draws back the curtains to reveal a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

All at once the kittens rush the tree and pluck every last ornament from its branches, including the pine needles!

As the litter runs away screaming and laughing, Mickey and Minnie are left gazing at their bare Christmas tree. Perhaps the two ponder how it's possible for hours of decorating to be destroyed in mere seconds. Or perhaps the pair wonder what sort of mother taught her children to act so violently.

One thing's for sure: the kittens must go!

Mickey's Orphans is today certainly an entertaining film, and critics back in 1932 also agreed. The short was nominated for an Academy Award at the 5th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony. The film lost to another Disney short: Flowers and Trees.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mickey Cuts Up - November 30, 1931

53rd in Mickey's cartoon series is Mickey Cuts Up, a film featuring Mickey and his lovely Minnie in the garden. Of course Mickey's pooch pal Pluto is present too, making Mickey's chores just a bit harder to complete.

The film begins with the Mouse doing some yard work with his faithful rover. I love how Mickey recruits Pluto to pull the mower thus allowing him to pretty much do no work at all.

It's hard to show here, but there's a fantastic moving shot of Mickey dancing and Pluto mowing. As Pluto moves across the screen, the camera pans along with him. The resulting film shot is simple yet effective.

Minnie is also frolicking in her garden making sure all her lovely flowers receive water. I've always loved Minnie's animation; her style is like a cute and dainty school girl.

The cartoon is very much a typical song-and-dance toon Mickey and Minnie usually star in. For a while Mickey pretends to be a bird and whistles to his sweet love.

Unfortunately for the Mouse, his plan to woo Minnie backfires when a hungry cat spots what he believes to be a tasty white bird.

Things get a bit messy when the cat decides to attack the "bird", giving Mickey the surprise of his life.

Eventually the birdhouse lands in a nearby garden pond. A gag I really enjoy is Mickey coming out of the pond, trapped inside the birdhouse and looking like a turtle.

While all this goes on, Pluto sits quietly off to the side taking in the sights. Notice the large amount of birds surrounding him...

...It's these birds that attract the cat, who pounces over the hedge; this of course only angers Pluto, who finds something new to occupy his time.

The only problem of course is the fact that wherever Pluto goes, so does the lawn mower. Another gag I like is when Pluto manages to not only shave half a tree, but an unsuspecting owl as well.

The chase manages to find itself on a nearby hill where the mower manages to get ahead of Pluto and mow right over the frightened feline.

The chase finally ends in Minnie's kitchen where Pluto and the cat manage to ruin an entire case of dishes. But even with all this trouble, Mickey is still able to love his best friend Pluto.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Beach Party - November 5, 1931

The Beach Party is Mickey's 34th cartoon film. The toon features Mickey and the Gang spending a relaxing and fun day at the beach.

The toon begins with Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle, Horace, and Pluto on their way to the sunny and playful beach. The animation of the Gang just frolicking in the sun is simple, yet so very well done.

This toon has some interesting gags. One I like is when Mickey uses Pluto as a pump to fill his inner tube. Another good one is Horace's failed attempt at diving into the ocean. This gag in particular is very similar to later stunts performed by the yet to be created Goofy.

Another clever gag occurs when Clarabelle accidentally loses her swim trunks. The hilarity goes even further of course when Mickey accidentally finds them.

Clarabelle, still trunkless, finds her bottoms washed up on the shore; however, when she grabs for them she is shocked to discover they move! After thwacking the trunks with a nearby plank, Clarabelle is amazed to see it was Mickey in her bloomers. The look on her face in the last panel is priceless as she leaves Mickey dazed and confused.

One gag I enjoy again and again is the use of Clarabelle's cow bell as a dinner bell. The gag originated in 1930's The Shindig in which Horace uses Clarabelle's tail as a doorbell.

A picnic on the beach is the perfect way to spend the day. Horace tackles the corn and is especially fond of the watermelon.

It seems Clarabelle has a soft spot for olives. It's hilarious the way she pops the olive jar in order to pop an olive into her mouth. The scene turns even funnier when she accidentally pops the entire jar into her throat, and Horace is forced to kick the jar out. Perfect slapstick comedy.

Pluto has his fun too when Mickey plays fetch with his pooch. Unfortunately, the sausages Pluto thinks he fetches turn out to be the tentacle of an angry octopus.

As the octopus goes on a rampage, the Gang fights back with whatever they can find. Remember Horace's fondness for watermelon? He puts his seed-spitting skills to use against the octopus.

Clarabelle too puts her skills to use as she pops olive after olive at the angry sea creature. In another example of hilarity, the Gang uses the cow as a makeshift olive jar shooter.

It isn't until Mickey manages to throw a nearby anchor at the octopus that the problem is solved and the day returned to peace.

The toon ends with the octopus being sent back to the depths from which it came and the Gang laughing and waving goodbye on the beach.