Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Moose Hunt - April 8, 1931

28th in Mickey's short film series is the strange yet entertaining The Moose Hunt. While the film showcases solid animation and is the first of many Mickey and Pluto buddy films, its gags and premise are a bit... fanciful.

The toon begins with Mickey and Pluto gallavanting through the woods in search of a moose. The Moose Hunt is important for two reasons: (1)The toon is the first where Pluto is called by his name, and (2) it is the first to establish Pluto as Mickey's dog. Previously Pluto was seen as Minnie's pup in 1930's The Picnic.

Of course, technically that pooch was called Rover, so it would be correct in saying Pluto has always belonged to Mickey.

The Moose Hunt is labeled as "From the Vault" on the Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume 2 DVD due to the scene shown above. Mickey asks Pluto to perform a series of dog tricks, one of them to "speak". Pluto obeys by kneeling down on one knee and shouting "mammy", a parody of the famous performer Al Jolson's blackface routine in the movie The Jazz Singer. The gag was a fairly common one for the time, having also been seen in 1929's The Haunted House. Of course, today it is morally wrong to allude to such a rascist act.

Coincidentally, the scene also marks Pluto's first speaking role. In fact, part of the fanciful nature of this toon is the fact that Pluto speaks not one, but three times.

After Pluto literally speaks, Mickey plays fetch with his pooch. Pluto runs wildly into the forest and, unable to decide which stick is the original, picks up an oddly shaped branch.

Meanwhile, Mickey spots the "moose" running through the trees. He fires and becomes excited once he realizes he hits the creature; however, upon closer inspection it appears that the Mouse has accidentally shot and killed his pal Pluto.

Mickey, distraught over what he has done, cries over the fallen body of Pluto. This scene is remarkably moving and adds so much humanity to Mickey's personality. Even though Pluto looks to the camera and lets the audience in on his little joke, Mickey's cries of "is there a doctor in the house?" are still heart-breaking.

As Mickey begs his pooch to speak, Pluto jumps up and utters "kiss me!"

Happy to have his pal alive, Mickey once again sets out to find a moose. He blows his moose caller and immediately hears a call back. Pluto runs to investigate and seems to find the moose's scent among a small patch of trees; however, as the camera pulls back, the trees become the legs of a very large moose.

Oblivious to the fact he inadvertently found the moose, Pluto leads the animal straight to Mickey, who also fails to realize its presence. Finally, Pluto feels the hot breath of the moose behind him, and the dog nervously shouts, "The muh...the muh....the MOOOOOOSE!!!!"

Mickey instinctively readies his gun to shoot, but his nerves get the best of him as his violent shaking completely destroys his weapon. He and Pluto both run in fear with the moose in tow.

Our heroes run all the way to a cliff where, in what has to be the most fanciful moment in the entire film, Pluto magically flaps his ears and flies to safety. Apparently Pluto had his eyes set on Dumbo's job years before the elephant was even born.

The Moose Hunt is a fun cartoon which marks Pluto's first (but not last) "talkie". In later years the film will be somewhat re-imagined with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in 1937's Moose Hunters, though that film includes no flying nor talking dogs.

The Moose Hunt can also be seen (with editing) daily at Disneyland's Main Street Cinema.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Castaway - April 6, 1931

Mickey's 27th cartoon is The Castaway, a film featuring the Mouse's adventures on a deserted island.

The film opens with Mickey aboard a tiny raft out in the middle of the ocean. As the waves rock the raft to and fro, Mickey suddenly sees land ahead.

With an improper sail, Mickey has no way of getting towards the island; thankfully the Mouse is smart fella. He cleverly tricks a swordfish into becoming a motor.

Once on dry land, Mickey finds an odd box awash on the beach. The unforgiving waves crash down on both Mickey and the box, revealing a wet piano. Of course this is a dream come true for our hero.

As Mickey inspects the piano, he is accompanied by three seals. Not one to displease his audience, the Mickey decides to play some tunes.

From here the toon turns into a typical song-and-dance Mickey Mouse cartoon. An interesting note is that The Castaway re-uses animation of the seals dancing from 1929's Wild Waves. As you can tell, the animation is identical in both films (with a scenery change of course).

This film also re-uses animation of a gorilla from 1929's Jungle Rhythm. Unlike the re-used seal animation, the gorilla animation in The Castaway is just half of the scene from Jungle Rhythm. The gorilla is attracted by Mickey's fantastic piano playing.

As the curious gorilla inspects the piano, he carelessly breaks the instrument much to the chagrin of Mickey. An annoyed Mickey picks up a boulder in anger, but later regrets his hasty decision.

As Mickey sheepishly discards the boulder, he unfortunately is thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire. It seems what he thought was just a pile of rocks and a bush are actually the body and mane of a ferocious lion!

A chase ensues with Mickey running for his life from the hungry lion. Once Mickey thinks he is safe atop a rock in the river, he again is dealt another blow when a crocodile rises from the depths. But luck is on our hero's side: the lion leaps for Mickey but instead lands inside the croc's mouth. Mickey is saved from certain death.

As the lion and croc swim down the river, the rock Mickey thinks is under his feet becomes the shell of a turtle. The suprised but relieved Mouse waves goodbye as he heads off down the tropical river and ends The Castaway.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Traffic Troubles - March 17, 1931

Mickey's 26th cartoon is the highly entertaining Traffic Troubles. The toon features great animation, fast-paced music, and a solid story.

Traffic Troubles features Mickey as a cab driver in the big city, a change of pace for this countryside critter. It was an interesting choice to give a face and personality to Mickey's cab, a characteristic also given to Mickey's train in Mickey's Choo-Choo. The technique gives life to a normally lifeless object and provides for more comic relief. Mickey's taxi here is like a mute Benny the Cab from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

It's not too long before Mickey finds his first customer of the day.

Because the customer is rather rotund, it's a hassle trying to load him into the cab. Mickey finally succeeds, but only after causing a major traffic jam.

The traffic jam does not go unnoticed by the street constable, played by Pete. After reprimanding Mickey, Pete sends the Mouse on his way.

The streets are jam-packed with various critters in cars. Sharp-eyed viewers will of course spot Horace Horsecollar in a quick cameo.

Like I said, it was a good choice to allow the cab to have a personality. The addition of facial expressions gives these scenes so much more life.

A great gag I enjoy occurs due to the many bumps in the road. Mickey notices his fare calculator keeps malfunctioning, adding more and more money to the cab cost. He's delighted, until another bump causes the fare to jump down to a measley $0.60! The look on the Mouse's face is priceless.

Even that $0.60 looks good after an extremely large road bump causes Mickey's customer to go flying out of the cab, leaving the Mouse with no profit. Of course you have to admire the irony that this well-to-do swine ends up covered in filthy mud.

With an open cab, Mickey is then able to pick up a frantic Minnie. Along the way, the two entertain themselves with some tunes.

Unfortunately, the cab comes to a screeching halt once its back tire is unexpectedly blown out. The license plate gag here is my favorite in the whole toon.

Mickey manages to find a nearby pig to use as a makeshift pump; however, the pig pump idea is nothing more than a bunch of hot air.

In enters Dr. Pep, a character also played by the talented Pete (notice how Pete dons his peg-leg for the part). Seeing a potential customer in Mickey, Dr. Pep gives the cab a free sample of his very own Snake Oil.

The Snake Oil has a horrible effect on the cab, causing it to sputter and spew about. Soon it bolts from the road and into the countryside.

The cab drives through the grass so quickly that it fails to notice the large rock in its path. Soon Mickey and Minnie are on a crazy ride inside a warped cab atop a terrified cow.

The resulting camera chase is very thrilling and funny. It is very similar to the cow chase in 1929's Plane Crazy.
The spooked cow manages to break through the back of a barn, emerging with frightened chickens in tow.

The chase finally comes to an end when the cow runs headfirst into a silo, and the screen is momentarily filled with feathers.

As the feathers settle, everyone seems to be ok; however, Mickey's cab is no more, reduced to a pile of shambles.

Traffic Troubles is definitely an entertaining and funny cartoon. As a side note, the film is available for viewing inside Disneyland's Main Street Cinema.