Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Complete History and Videos of Walt Disney's Animated Shorts: Part 4 (1929)

Update: This is getting too long, so we're dividing 1928 and 1929. We added a bunch more videos and text. We now have videos for all the Mickey cartoons of this year! Next is to fill out the Silly Symphonies and more info.




The History and Videos of Walt Disney's Animated Shorts




Part 4: 1929





1929


1) Mickey Mouse 4: The Barn Dance - March 14, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



The Barn Dance (1929), first released on March 14, 1929, was the first of twelve Mickey Mouse shorts released during that year.



The fourth Mickey Mouse movie, it was the first one made after the hit, Steamboat Willie, and it was later released in color:



Why did it take so long for Walt Disney to make a fourth Mickey mouse cartoon, if Steamboat Willie was a huge success? Well, he redid Plane Crazy and Gallopin Gaucho in sound. Other than that, I'm not entirely sure. He might have been renegotiating his contract with Pat Powers, which lasted until early 1930 when Disney confronted Powers for skimming money off the top.



This short didn't end up so great for Mickey!!! =^)

The barn dance of the title is the occasion which brings together Minnie Mouse and her two suitors: Mickey and Peg-Leg Pete. The latter two and their vehicles are first seen arriving at Minnie's house in an attempt to pick her up for the dance. Mickey turns up in his horse-cart while Pete in a newly purchased automobile (Pete also appeared in the Alice Comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit).



This short is notable for featuring Mickey turned down by Minnie in favor of Pete. It is also an unusual appearance of the Pete character; previously depicted as a menacing villain, he is portrayed here as a well-mannered gentleman. In addition, Mickey was not depicted as a hero but as a rather ineffective young suitor.



This portrays Minnie in a particulary bad light as she seems a bit shallow.



The shoes gag is kind of weird:



Always the thinker, Mickey devises a plan to win Minnie back. Using a balloon, he literally becomes light on his feet.



Pete strikes back:



Minnie once more goes back to Pete. In a cruel twist, the toon ends with Mickey sobbing.



This is the Parrot's second cartoon. His first was in Steamboat Willie. He appears here as Minnie's pet:




2) Mickey Mouse 5: The Opry House - March 28, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



The Opry House (1929) was the second Mickey Mouse short released during the year. It cast Mickey as the owner of a small theater (or opera house according to the title). Mickey performs a vaudeville show all by himself. Acts include his impersonation of a snake charmer...



His dressing in drag and performing a belly dance...



His caricature of a Hasidic Jew...



And, for the finale, a piano performance.



Minnie Mouse does not appear in person in this short. Instead, a poster of her can be seen which introduces her as a member of the Yankee Doodle Girls, apparently a group of female performers.



The only other recurring character to appear in the short is known as Kat Nipp (apparently a play on the word catnip). This would be his debut; he would appear in two more shorts during the year as a minor antagonist.

This short features no dialogue and consequently its humor relies on a long series of visual gags. The accompanying musical pieces notably include "Yankee Doodle" and George Bizet's Carmen. It is also the first appearance of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" by Franz Liszt in a cartoon. The song can be found in many other shorts from different animation studios as well as the Disney movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (performed by Daffy and Donald Duck).

This short also introduced Mickey's gloves; Mickey can be seen wearing them in most of his subsequent appearances. Supposedly one reason for adding the white gloves was to allow audiences to distinguish the characters' hands when they appeared against their bodies, as both were black (Mickey did not appear in color until The Band Concert in 1935).


3) Mickey Mouse 6: When the Cat's Away - April 11, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



You can tell that the goal of these animations was to showcase music. It naturally led into the Silly Symphonies series.

Animated by Ub Iwerks.



In the film Mickey and Minnie are portrayed the size of regular mice, whereas Tom Kat is the size of a person.



After Tom Kat leaves his house, drunk on hooch, Mickey Mouse organises all his mice friends to break into Kat's house. Once inside Mickey and Minnie play the piano, and later others play some of Kat's records using themselves as the player and needle. In the end Mickey and Minnie kiss.



Note that this may be the only Mickey Mouse cartoon that shows Mickey the size of a mouse, like in Tom & Jerry. Normally, Mickey is shown as the size of a human next to other animals that are also the size of humans.



The mice start doing gags with a record player and with a saxophone:





The Parrot appears in this short (as well as Steamboat Willie, The Barn Dance, and The Gorilla Mystery in 1930). Here he is in When the Cat's Away:



And they kiss at the end:



Trivia: This is a remake of the Alice short "Alice Rattled by Rats." Disney probably wanted to do it with Mickey, so they made Mickey small for this.


4) Mickey Mouse 7: The Barnyard Battle - April 25, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



The mice are still a little smaller here, but I think they're getting bigger and closer to the size of the cats, led by Pete. Especially that huge recruiter rat is easily the size of Pete.

Some versions shown by Disney cut out the recruitment tests at the beginning. It's a little harsh.

Speaking of harsh, I think Mickey impales a cat at the end!!!



As the title implies it featured a battle between an invading army of cats and an army of mice trying to defend their homes and farms.

Walt Disney especially was fascinated by WWI (having served as an ambulance driver in France).



Peg-Leg Pete was depicted as a leading soldier of the former army and Mickey as a conscript of the latter one. Before joining the army, Mickey has to pass a physical examination. This scene depicts Mickey becoming the subject of physical and emotional abuse. After passing the examination, he is given a machine gun and is sent to battle. Mickey's combat efforts are comical in depiction but prove effective enough in forcing the enemy to retreat. Mickey is hailed as a hero by his fellow soldiers and then the short ends.



This short is notable as the first to depict Mickey as a soldier and the first to place him in combat. The physical examination scene has since often been edited out as being somewhat disturbing. However modern viewers have often pointed to this scene as being the most memorable of the short.

Taking a look at the battle itself, we can see the Cats and Mice engaging in trench warfare. This is yet another inspiration taken from WWI.



The short did not clearly identify the war it depicted; but it has been noted that the cats are depicted as wearing military helmets similar to those used by the German Empire during World War I. On the other hand, the mice are marching in battle to the tune of "Dixie", a song written in 1859. The song was popular among the forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. The victory of the mice is celebrated in the tune of "Battle Cry of Freedom", known to have been popular among the forces of the United States during the same conflict. In any case both wars were still within living memory of the audiences at the time of release and so it is possible that the details mentioned were intended as recognizable references to both of them.

Though the toon deals with war, there are plenty of fun gags present. One involves Mickey and a machine gun. When he runs out of bullets, Mickey substitutes piano keys instead which wreak havoc on the Cats while playing a catchy tune.



Mickey wins:



It's similar to the Oswald short, Great Guns.


5) Mickey Mouse 8: The Plow Boy - May 9, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



At 4:53, Disney uses the perspective style that he thought would make Plane Crazy a hit before he tried sound with Steamboat Willie.

Mickey was depicted as a farmer alongside Minnie Mouse. He is first seen with his horse while ploughing a field. Then Minnie comes along with her cow. She has Mickey milk the cow for her.

At some point the horse is stung by a bee, panics and starts galloping. By the time the horse calms down again, the plough has been broken. In the finale, Mickey resorts to using a pig as a plough.

Curiously the short is considered mainly notable for the livestock it featured. Minnie's cow is considered to be Clarabelle Cow making her second appearance, and Mickey's plow horse is considered to be Horace Horsecollar making his debut. Though depicted as non-anthropomorphic animals during this short, later that same year Clarabelle would become as anthropomorphic as her former owners.

However, Horace acts anthropomorphic several times during this short.

Mickey's cruelty to animals continues by tying up the cow's tongue and forcing the pig to plow (Horace helps, Ha!). He also continues his womanizing ways by forcing Minnie to kiss and getting rejected by her.


6) Mickey Mouse 9: The Karnival Kid - May 23, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



Although it was Mickey's ninth short, it was the first in which he actually spoke. (During his first eight appearances Mickey whistled, laughed, cried and otherwise vocally expressed himself.) Mickey's first spoken words were "Hot Dogs!"

Walt's doing Mickey's voice. Mickey hasn't gotten his high-pitched voice yet. But Walt is also doing Minnie's voice, and Minnie has the high pitched voice. =^)

I found the gag hilarious where Mickey spanked the hot dog!!!

The short featured Mickey selling hot dogs at a carnival. Much of the humor in this short came from the interaction between Mickey and his hot dogs, with the latter tending to act like actual dogs in relation to their owner/trainer.

Three other recurring characters of the series also appear. The first of them was Clarabelle Cow in a cameo. The second was Kat Nipp, making his third and last appearance. A barker at the carnival, he briefly gets into an argument with Mickey over a dancing doll scam. The third was Mickey's recurring love interest: Minnie Mouse, "the Shimmy Dancer" of the carnival. Having given one of Mickey's hot dogs for free, she is surprised to see it run away.

Mickey apparently attempts to draw Minnie's attention by playing guitar singing outside her window. He only manages to draw the attention of two alley cats who decide to join him and then that of an irate neighbour of Minnie who starts throwing things at these three annoyances in an attempt to silence them.

This short also features the cat duo performing their rendition of the barbershop standard Sweet Adeline.

Mickey gets thwomped in the end. But I think Minnie still likes him. =^)

It's interesting that Cat Nip doesn't seem to compete with Mickey for Minnie, but Pete often does. Mickey's starting to turn into a nice guy.

Trivia: In Toon Town Central in Toon Town Online, there's a building that is named after this 1929 film.


7) Mickey Mouse 10: Mickey's Choo-Choo - June 20, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney

Mickey's running a small-town railroad. He takes Minnie for a wild ride on a humanized train which eventually rumbles out of control.



Animation : Ben Sharpsteen
Music : Carl Stalling

Mickey's first cartoon with a high-pitched voice. Walt must have realized that this voice works better than the low voice he was using.

Later made in color (a little washed out):



Here Mickey has a dog, but it doesn't look much like Pluto.

Disney's first speghetti gags, which were later made famous in Lady and the Tramp.

At 5:24, Minnie on the car goes to the perspective shot that Disney loves to do. Also at 6:12 where they chase Clarebelle.

I like how there's a bit of a story here. It feels more like the first Mickey cartoons and the Oswald cartoons (Trolley Troubles; the first distributed Oswald short) rather than a song and dance piece.

It ends decently with Mickey and Minnie going back to the engine. Mickey is turning into a nice guy here rather than an anti-hero. He's not womanizing, he doesn't abuse animals (not intentionally), and he doesn't laugh at others.


8) Mickey Mouse 11: Mickey's Follies - June 26, 1929 - Dir. by Wilfred Jackson

Mickey and his barnyard pals put on a show that includes dancing ducks, opera singing by Patricia Pig, and Mickey's own rendition of his theme song, "Minnie's Yoo Hoo.



The barnyard theme continues. They were establishing that Mickey lived on a farm. That was later changed though.

Um, chicken violence?

This was also known for Mickey's first song he's song, dubbed as "Mickey's Theme Song." Here's a clip that shows just the song:



This was a Mickey milestone (part of Mickey's 60th birthday celebration). This an original song. Most of the music up to this point was popular or known music at the time. Mickey's singing voice isn't high pitched, even though his talking voice was.

The little pig comes out of the outhouse at the end! I believe that gag was in the first Mickey cartoon, Plane Crazy.


9) Mickey Mouse 12: The Jazz Fool - July 5, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney

Mickey and Horace gather a rural audience and put on first a xylophone performance, then an elaborate piano solo.



Horace is back! We haven't seen him since the Plow Boy on May 9, a few months earlier.

The clothes dancing to Mary Had a Little Lamb at 1:27 made me laugh!!!

We're still in the barnyard environment. Some of these ducks are starting to sound like Donald Duck!!!

Mickey spanks the piano at 4:26!! Hahaha. Mickey begins to fight with the piano.

It ends with the piano biting Mickey. No Minnie Mouse in this episode.


10) Mickey Mouse 13: The Haunted House - August 1, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney

You can start to see where the Silly Symphony, Skeleton Dance, came from, which was released later this year. It also shows early inspiration for the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride that Walt Disney also did.



Music : Carl Stalling

At 2:22 we see the ghost is a skeleton, and 2:31 shows skeletons coming out of the closet. The skeletons want Mickey to play the organ. This is very similar to the Skeleton Dance (there are also a lot of skeletons dancing here and playing music with bones). The skeletons take over the show here, so I guess it makes sense to give them their own short.

No Minnie Mouse here either.


11) Mickey Mouse 14: Wild Waves - August 15, 1929 - Dir. by Burt Gillett

Mickey tries to save Minnie from the ocean waves.



It was remade into color in 1930 (Mickey's finally got his high-pitched voice):



It's interesting, because we start to see Mickey become a kind-hearted hero instead of the womanizing, animal-abusing anti-hero that he started out as.


12) Silly Symphony 1: The Skeleton Dance - August 22, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



Disney billed this with his name, but he later realized that he should put Mickey's name on the Silly Symphonies too to give them better marketing. It's similar to how Pixar advertises today. For example, the first preview of Up showed clips from all the Pixar movies before it showed a little preview of the actual film. They want to remind you who they are. Same idea was used by Disney to market Silly Symphonies.

4:12 - The skeletons were cruel to animals even if Mickey stopped doing that.

Walt and team took a break from the Mickey Mouse cartoons to do these silly symphonies from August 22 through the end of October. Disney was starting to return to his roots of the Laugh-o-gram shorts (that featured fairie tales in present times). This time he found success in music in animation, and so that's the direction he took his second anthology series (the first being the laugh-o-gram shorts).

In the film, four human skeletons dance and make music around a spooky graveyard. It is the first entry in the Silly Symphonies series. In 1994, it was voted #18 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.

Carl Stalling explained, in a 1969 interview, that it was actually a foxtrot set in a minor key. Stalling suggested the idea for a series of musical one-shot cartoons to Disney at a gag meeting in 1929. Stalling also adapts Edvard Grieg's "The March of the Trolls" for part of the skeleton dance music.

In some ways, Carl Stalling helped push Walt Disney into doing these Silly Symphonies, which eventually became short film masterpieces and led to the feature-length films (Three Little Pigs and others were marketed like feature films).

The skeletons dance in various ways and play makeshift musical instruments. In one scene, all four skeletons hold hands and dance in a circle, akin to schoolchildren dancing "Ring a Ring O'Roses". In another scene, a skeleton pulls the thigh bones off another and plays the thighless skeleton like a xylophone. A skeleton also plays a cat like a double bass, using a bow and the cat's tail as the strings. One skeleton dances part of the Charleston.

It is notable for being the first animated cartoon to use non-post-sync sound. Animation from this short was later reused in the Mickey Mouse short Haunted House, in which Mickey, having taken shelter in a haunted house, is forced to play music for the dancing skeletons.

In 1982, The Skeleton Dance was featured in a colorized version as an intro to the Halloween special Disney's Halloween Treat and Disney's Greatest Villains.

Trivia: (1) It was used in the film Ghost Rider (2007), as a cartoon Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is watching not knowing he will become a skeleton-like supernatural being at night in the presence of evil. (2) The Skeleton Dance was also referenced to in the episode "Hill Billy" of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, where Grim, having been turned into a silent era cartoon character, leads several other skeletons in dance, and even mimics the actions.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Skeleton_Dance"


13) Silly Symphony 2: El Terrible Toreador - September 7, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney



The title character vies with a Mexican officer for the affections of a comely barmaid, all set to Latin themes from classical music.



This is the second Silly Symphony. I can't find the video at this time.

This is known as one of the worse Disney cartoons. The story is similar to Mickey's Gallopin Gaucho, but the quality and gags aren't as good. Probably why the Silly Symphonies to follow went back to not having a story (just song and dance).


14) Silly Symphony 3: Springtime - October 24, 1929 - Dir. by Ub Iwerks

They started showing Mickey's face before the shorts to play off of Mickey's popularity (much how Pixar trailers today reference previous Pixar films).



Animation : Ub Iwerks
Music : Carl Stalling

No story here. Just song and dance without Mickey. The common theme is just spring time.

This is similar to the first color Disney animated short, Flowers and Trees.

It was also the first of four seasonal Silly Symphonies (summer, fall, and winter came later).

The frog ate the crickets at 3:29. =^)

Trivia: (1) A scene of flowers dancing was shown on black and white TV that Horace and Jasper were watching, during a scene in the 1961 animated Disney film, 101 Dalmatians. (2) Being animated by Ub, This cartoon also features a prototype for Flip the Frog, a character Ub would create for Pat Powers at MGM.


15) Silly Symphony 4: Hell's Bells - October 30, 1929 - Dir. by Ub Iwerks

The devils of hell gather together for a mad frolic.

Music : Carl Stalling



This cartoon was released in November 1929, only about three months after "The Skeleton Dance". A highlight is the dance cycle of the three devils around 2:40.

1:11 - Serpent eats the bat and grows wings! =^)

3:18 - The jagged dance movements are awesome!

Um, there'sa dragon cow at 3:45. =^O

5:04 - It starts to get interesting. A little demon cat saw his friend get fed to a 3-headed dog (Cerberus) so he books it. He knocks the devil off the edge who gets spanked by fire at 5:30. I don't know why, but the spanking gag always makes me laugh! Disney did it with the hot dogs (Karnival Kid), then the piano (Jazz Fool), and now to the devil!

And the devil dies at the end. I guess they walked the fine line of not making hell look too fun. =^)


16) Mickey Mouse 15: Jungle Rhythm - November 15, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney

Mickey plays music with various jungle animals.



Out of the barnyard and into the jungle! This is the first Mickey cartoon in quite awhile, and they've mostly placed Mickey on a barn. However, the first three films had Mickey in movie-like locations (similar to Disney's Oswald shorts). So I think they ran out of ideas for the earlier Mickey shorts, because they were confining themselves to song and dance routines on the farm (probably because those were doing the best). I think they finally decided that the popularity of Mickey meant they had to pick it back up, and in order to do that right, they had to mix it up. Starting with a jungle environment. Pretty soon, we'd see Mickey Mouse in every type of scenario.

That's also why their last two previous Mickey shorts were in a haunted mansion and a beach. Now a jungle. They're just putting Mickey into new settings.

This short feels similar to the Haunted Mansion short. Instead of skeletons dancing, we've got jungle animals. Once again, no real story here, just music. The last story was when he saved Minnie in Wild Waves. It seems like they do more of these, but mix it up with a bit more story every once in awhile.

Here's the classic cruelty to animals! It's back! No Minnie though.

Trivia: The scene with the dancing apes appears to have been reused in the 1931 short, "The Castaway."


17) Silly Symphony 5: The Merry Dwarfs - December 16, 1929 - Dir. by Walt Disney

It took them a whole month to knock this one out. There was a lot of drama going on though. Iwerks and Stalling were upset because Disney was demanding and not organized, and Disney was upset at his distributor, Pat Powers, who was skimming money off the top. So the drama might have slowed them down.

A village of dwarfs dance and play through their day.



Animation : Les Clark
Music : Carl Stalling

A lot of similar ideas were later used by the elves in the 1932 Disney short, Santa's Workshop and the 1940 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

These dwarves are so small that they ride crickets!!! Wow. They're more like mites, sprites, Kiebler elves, or Smurfs!

It was released laterin 16mm under the title "The Little Elves." I think that title's more likely to meet expectations. For Merry Dwarves I was expecting them working in a mine or building armor or something.



These dwarves drink a lot! They even fall into barrels of beer, ala Timothy Mouse in Dumbo!

5:34 - The hallucination effects are great (also a similar idea was used later in Dumbo)! I think they're just moving the papers around! =^)

The drunk dwarves collapse - weird ending.



Enjoy!

- TAE

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