Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life
This week Mickey Mouse celebrates his eighty-sixth birthday! The icon that sparked the beginning of Walt Disney’s illustrious Hollywood career became famous to the world as the star of his own cartoon series of theatrical shorts. They are some of the best, and often overlooked, gems of Disney Animation history. In celebration of Mickey’s special day, here’s a countdown of my favorite Mickey moments, as well as where you can find them. You’ll be glad you sought them out.
10.) The Whoopee Party, 1932
There isn’t really any plot to this story other than Mickey and Minnie throwing a party with a whole bunch of their friends, including Goofy, who was then known as “Dippy Dawg.” All throughout the short, nothing really happens except various characters dancing around the house to a snappy tune. Their happy mood is very infectious, and you can’t help but tapping your toes along to the beat. It’s pure joy. The Whoopee Party is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.
9.) On Ice, 1935
Not only does this short always guarantee to get me in the holiday mood around Christmastime, but it’s also one of the few cartoons where we see the “Fab Five” all on an outing together. Although it’s billed as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey equally shares the screen in this short with Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Sometimes in certain situations, such as this one in which the characters are ice skating, the cartoon might not have worked so well if it relied on just one character the entire time, but instead would better please audiences if the time was divided amongst different characters to play off of each other. It works out excellently here, where Mickey teaches Minnie to ice skate, Goofy tries to go fishing in a frozen pond, Donald puts ice skates on an unsuspecting sleeping Pluto, and everything comically comes together in true Disney fashion during the last little bit of time. Similar cartoons that involve the Fab Five all together are Hawaiian Holiday (1937) and Mickey’s Birthday Party (1942) (though Pluto is absent from this one). Mickey’s Birthday Party is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, while On Ice and Hawaiian Holiday are both featured on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 1: Starring Mickey.
8.) Orphan’s Benefit, 1934 (black & white) and 1941 (color)
The only Mickey Mouse cartoon to my knowledge to be released twice, in different formats and animation styles each time, Orphan’s Benefit is simply hilarious. Although Minnie and Pluto don’t appear, nearly every other Disney character that had been created at that time does. In an effort to put on a show for orphaned children, Mickey and his friends present several variety acts for the kids. Donald sings “Little Boy Blue,” to which the children throw objects at him, causing him to show his true colors and anger problems for the very first time. Goofy and Horace Horsecollar dance a ballet act with Clarabelle Cow, and finally Mickey rounds up the cartoon as he plays piano while Clara Cluck sings her melodious chicken “bwawks.” Again, I like how many different characters are shown at the same time (which was sometimes often in Mickey cartoons, since Mickey wasn’t generally funny by himself), but the real reason for including Orphan’s Benefit in my countdown is Donald getting overly upset when the children ruin his act. It just goes to show that even back in 1934, Disney knew what was funny. The 1934 black-and-white version of Orphan’s Benefit is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, while the 1941 color version is on both Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2 and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 6: Extreme Music Fun.
Wow. Talk about fun! This new short, attached in theaters to Frozen, celebrates everything wonderful about vintage black-and-white Mickey with the pacing and flair of 21st-century audiences and CGI animation. It’s a feast visually and technologically (it’s just plain cool), not to mention it’s a romp that, especially viewed on the big screen, feels much like a theme park attraction. As Mickey and the gang go in and out of their 1928-era world, we might imagine we’re about to head outside and grab a FastPass. Get a Horse! is included as a bonus feature on the Frozen Blu-ray and DVD.
6.) Mickey’s Christmas Carol, 1983
The first time Mickey had appeared in a cartoon since 1953’s The Simple Things, this was the short that aroused his return to the screen, if only for a brief period of time, but it was a triumphant comeback nonetheless. Now a distinguished holiday classic and a favorite of mine to watch during Christmastime, Mickey’s Christmas Carol not only sees the return of Mickey, but also of many members of the animated cast that helmed his shorts in the ’30s. Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar are seen for the first time since 1942’s Symphony Hour, Jiminy Cricket (as the Ghost of Christmas Past) since The Mickey Mouse Club, Willie the Giant (as the Ghost of Christmas Present) since 1947’s Mickey and the Beanstalk, and even the Three Little Pigs can be seen as street carolers. Also of significance, this was just the second time that Scrooge McDuck had appeared on screen, even though he had been adored in classic Disney comics for several decades beforehand. Additionally, this was the last time that Clarence “Ducky” Nash, who had voiced Donald since the duck’s debut in 1934, would ever voice the character and it was also the very first time that Wayne Allwine, who still plays Mickey today, would voice the famous mouse. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is sold as its own individual Blu-ray (with oodles of other Christmas shorts) and can also be found on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse, and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories.
5.) Pluto’s Christmas Tree, 1952
Although this is really more of Pluto, Chip, and Dale’s story than it is Mickey’s, it is indeed labeled as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and the mouse shows a firm sense of parenthood to Pluto in this short that we often don’t get to see. After all, if your dog had ruined your Christmas tree just to get even with a pair of rascally chipmunks, wouldn’t you get a tad wee bit angry, too? Here, we really get to see some great personality and character clashes with all four aforementioned characters as the contrasts with each other are really a treat to watch. Minnie, Goofy, and Donald even make a cameo at the end, making this the only short (I think) that we ever get to see the “Sensational Seven” all in the same place. Pluto’s Christmas Tree can be found as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray for Mickey’s Christmas Carol as well as on the DVDs Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2, Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse, and Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories.
4.) Steamboat Willie, 1928
You can’t possibly write a Mickey Mouse cartoon countdown without mentioning the short that started it all, 1928’s Steamboat Willie. Although it was indeed the first Mickey cartoon to be shown to the public, it was actually the third to be made. Both Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho were animated before Willie, but were screened after it because Walt Disney wanted to implement the cartoons with sound. In fact, Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon of all time to make use of sound, and it was specifically created to use that new technology to its full potential. Rightfully so, the cartoon has plenty of snappy tunes, from its classic opening Steamboat Willie theme to “Turkey in the Straw.” Also making first appearances in this cartoon are Minnie and Pete, both looking significantly different than they do today.
Mickey certainly isn’t concerned about farmyard animals’ safety in this short – he pulls some baby pigs away from their mother so he can play music with her stomach, he plays the xylophone on a goat’s teeth, and he swings a parrot across a room. It’s certainly not the typical Mickey attitude we might see today. Steamboat Willie is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.
Not only is this the first Mickey Mouse cartoon ever to be released in color, it’s also one of the first to show a certain something about Mickey’s personality: he can get quite annoyed by other people’s shenanigans. The Band Concert is one of my Mickey favorites for its clash of personalities with Mickey and Donald. When Mickey is conducting a concert in a park, featuring Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, and several others, the mouse absolutely cannot stand Donald butting in the band to play along, disrupting the music. However, Mickey shows his persistence by continuing to conduct the orchestra through Donald’s playtime, and even through a treacherous tornado. The Band Concert is available on the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color DVD.
2.) Camping Out, 1934
Just downright hilarious, this short uses the physical comedy of bees attacking campers to the extreme, making for some belly laughs throughout the entire cartoon. Mickey, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow are all camping in the woods and must defend themselves when a vicious troupe of bees rampage their camp. I never get tired of watching Camping Out and enjoy every minute of it. Camping Out is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.
1.) Building a Building, 1933
It’s doesn’t get any better than this, folks. Building a Building is the best of the best, although you’ve probably never even heard of it. In it, Mickey works at a construction site owned by Pete. When Minnie comes by (with a briefly-seen Pluto) to give Mickey a box lunch, Pete wants one of his own and, of course, a rescue mission is pursued by Mickey to save Minnie from Pete. In an awesome little battle sequence, both Mickey and Minnie defend their way against Pete and even exit in a Splash Mountain-type finale. One of the first black-and-white Mickey shorts that I ever saw, Building a Building gave me a great glimpse into Mickey’s past for the first time and exposed me to some of the hilarious gags the Disney animators had up their sleeves at that time in history. It is featured on Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White.
Do you have a favorite Mickey Mouse short?
(Images © Disney.)
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade in Frontierland and then sprint to Main Street in time to see it again. You can find him on Twitter @olddirtyblake or at BlakeOnline.com.