Friday, January 25, 2008

The Shindig - July 29, 1930

The Shindig is the 20th toon in the Mickey Mouse shorts series. The film is one of my favorite purely for its upbeat tone and music.

The toon opens with a great panning shot of a very long car full of various barnyard animals on their way to a barn dance. Perched on the back are Mickey and Minnie, joyfully tooting on trumpets.

We next see Horace Horsecollar chugging along on his faithful motorbike to call on the lovely Clarabelle Cow. This toon really marks the turning point in Horace's (as well as Clarabelle's) career. Previously he had always been cast as Mickey's horse, but here we get to see him as Mickey's friend.

As a side note, notice Clarabelle's name printed above her door. This is the first time we the audience have gotten a name for the character.

Clarabelle is seen reading in her hay loft when Horace arrives. One thing I love about these cartoons is the fact that they are time capsules of a bygone period of time. Clarabelle's book, Three Weeks, was banned in 1907 for distasteful reasons. It's unclear why she's seen here reading it.

Once Clarabelle hears Horace at her door, she quickly dresses and is ready for a night out. Since Clarabelle is technically naked, this scene has been censored by Disney when aired on TV.

The Shindig is full of lively tunes and great animation of animals dancing. While Mickey and Minnie play on their fiddle and piano, Horace and Clarabelle become the center of attention on the dance floor. This is yet another way the two characters were beginning to be pushed into the spotlight alongside Mickey and Minnie.

The toon ends with Mickey dancing joyfully with a rather rotund lady. I'm sure the Mouse had bruises the next morning.

The Fire Fighters - June 25, 1930

The Fire Fighters is Mickey's 19th film. This toon stars both Mickey and Minnie as well as the rising star Horace Horsecollar. The plot is fairly simple, but the toon definitely makes up for it with a host of funny gags.

The film opens with a shot of the town firehouse where Fire Chief Mickey, Fire Fighter Horace, and the rest of the team are fast asleep.

Out on the outskirts of town, a citizen rings the fire bell to alert the fire department of an apartment building ablaze.

The fire house soon becomes alive as each fire fighter wakes up and gets dressed. A gag I enjoy is this one of the ostrich as the fire pole.

An even funnier joke occurrs when the fire ladder wakes up and descends itself to reach the fire wagon.

Mickey and the gang reach the burning building and discover Minnie trapped and screaming on the very top floor.

Quick-thinking Mickey manages to reach Minnie via a clothesline attached to a nearby building. Just as Minnie is saved from a deadly fall, the fire burns straight through the rope!

Luckily the large pair of trousers holding the mice works perfectly as a parachute, and the pair lands safely on the ground. Overjoyed to be rescued, Minnie smooches Mickey and ends the toon.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Toons In the Parks: Disneyland's Main Street Cinema

Ahhh, Disneyland. As I was strolling down Main Street USA the other day, a thought occurred to me that concerns this blog. Part of what I love about The Happiest Place On Earth (and all the Disney parks) is the fact that they sometimes take inspiration from beloved Disney movies...and sometimes cartoons. Therefore, I thought this blog would be the perfect place to debut a series I call Toons In the Parks in which I'll catalogue the many different cartoon influences within Disneyland and the other Disney parks. Since Mickey Mouse Follies: Black and White is all about Mickey's earliest cartoons, all the theme park influences posted here will also deal with those same films.

The Main Street Cinema is a place I remember visiting whenever I went to Disneyland as a child. As the years passed, I went there less and less, but I recently re-discovered its charm and its importance to MMF.

The Main Street Cinema continuously runs 6 Mickey Mouse cartoons, all in black and white. Though none of the toons were released as silent films, they all are projected without their soundtracks except Steamboat Willie. What follows are pictures of the posters advertising the different cartoons in the lobby of the cinema.

1928's Steamboat Willie is the only toon projected with its soundtrack. It's very satisfying to hear small children and even adults giggle at Mickey's early personality and antics. I find it interesting that jokes meant to crack up audiences 80 years ago still manage to delight the audiences of today.

1931's Traffic Troubles is the toon where Mickey plays a cab driver who gets into all sorts of mischief.

1931's The Moose Hunt stars Mickey and Pluto and is the cartoon in which Pluto utters his first words.

1936's Mickey's Polo Team is one of my favorites because it contains so many celebrity caricatures. Although this toon was originally released in color, it is projected in black and white.

1928's Plane Crazy was originally intended as a silent film though it was released with a full soundtrack. Ironic that it can be seen daily as it was once intended.

1934's The Dognapper is Mickey's second-to-last black and white film appearance. Next to most of the other films presented in the Cinema, this toon looks extremely advanced animation-wise.

Disneyland's Main Street Cinema is unique because it so far has not suffered the same fate as its sister cinema located in the Magic Kingdom. That area unfortuantely was recently turned into a shop, something I would hate to see happen over here in California. So next time you visit Disneyland, take a break in the Cinema and watch a toon or two.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Cactus Kid - May 5, 1930

18th in Mickey's black and white cartoon series is The Cactus Kid, an entertaining remake of 1928's more primitive The Gallopin' Gaucho.

The toon begins with gaucho Mickey riding through the Mexican desert on his trusty steed, Horace Horsecollar. It's nice to see Horace being featured more and more in these cartoons even though he is still stuck with playing bit parts.

Minnie stars alongside Mickey as a beautiful cantina gal. Though her role in this toon is the same as her role in The Gallopin' Gaucho, it's amazing how much better the animation is here. It had only been two years, and yet the Disney Studios clearly had made leaps and bounds in the animation process.

Soon Peg-Leg Pedro shows up looking for some love in all the wrong places. An interesting note here is that Pete speaks for the first time when he says to Minnie, "You give me little kiss, yes?"

Luckily for Minnie Mickey is right there to defend his love; however, Pedro is not amused by the Mouse's act of bravery.

What follows is a sporadic gun fight between Mickey and Pedro, one that takes place in the pitch black darkness of the cantina. I marvel at this short sequence because it's such a fantastic use of special effects and shadows.

Pedro manages to escape in the dark with Minnie and a short chase ensues, ending with Pedro hanging on for dear life on the side of a cracking cliff.

The cliff's edge soon gives way and Pedro is sent tumbling down the side with a huge boulder behind him.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year Resolutions

Hopefully none of you Mickey Mouse Follies readers thought I dropped off the face of the planet since I haven't made a post in a while. No, it was just the holiday rush that kept keeping me away from the blog. Today though I have a special post all about what's to come from me in the coming months of 2008.

After I finish all the toons from Mickey's black and white era, the next set of films I'd like to tackle belong to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. As many of you probably know, Oswald was created before Mickey but was taken away from Walt through a series of dirty deals. Recently the Walt Disney Company had re-acquired the character and created a special Walt Disney Treasures DVD full of many of the rabbit's shorts. I was given this DVD for Christmas, and I must say it's fantastic! I can't wait to show you the parallels between Oswald and Mickey, not just in design but in their individual toons as well.

Next I'll be starting up the second version of this blog titled Mickey Mouse Follies: Vibrant Technicolor. This blog will focus on Mickey's color toons.

Another blog I'd like to begin (though it won't get up and running until way down the line) is one featuring my favorite Disney character, Donald Duck. This blog is called The Donald Duck Chronicles and will focus on all of Donald's films.

Last but not least, I'd like to start a blog all about Mickey's pup Pluto. This blog will be called The Yellow Planet (the above picture is the blog's logo) and will focus on all of Pluto's cartoons, both color and black and white.

Well that's what I'd like to accomplish this year, and hopefully you'll be there to read about my thoughts on various cartoons. Have a great year!