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.