Matthias Shapiro

I need fewer hobbies

Disney Shorts 1930

Just Mickey

March 21, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

No beating around the bush with this title, the entire short is Mickey playing the violin. It speaks to Walt Disney’s obsession with putting classical music up on the screen, but things like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice play that out much better than this, which is really just not that great.


The Barnyard Concert

April 5, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

Another music-to-images piece, this one driven by the “Dichter und Bauer” (Poet and Peasant) overture by Franz von Suppe. More of the now-expected animal abuse when Mickey plays a set of suckling piglets by pulling on their tails. There is a low-culture / high-culture dichotomy in play here, which provides for most of the jokes.


Wild Waves

April 25, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

Mickey and Minnie are at a beach when Minnie is carried away by the waves. Mickey saves her and she is pretty upset, so he… dances to a sailor’s tune? Ok, sure, why not!

That’s the first half of the cartoon. The second half is Mickey and a series of sea creatures singing and dancing and using various oceanic accouterments as instruments.


Cactus Kid

May 15, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

Mickey saunters into a cantina where Minnie is working. He ticks Minnie off with his over-familiar nature whereupon we kick into the musical number. We do get a little story toward the middle, when the villian  (and early permutation of Pete perhaps?) dances into the cantina and steals Minnie away.

This is one of the better ones so far. I get the feeling that Disney is working his way toward integrating story, narrative, and the musical numbers. Not quite there yet, but getting closer.


The Fire Fighters

July 25, 1930 – available on the Mickey Mouse in Black and White Disney Treasures DVD

Mickey is the fire chief of a station when the alarm goes off and the team races off to put out the fire. They mostly suck at it, but there are plenty of good jokes in it. Definitely nice to see them focus more on the jokes and the story. There’s a humor trajectory and it’s trending in the right direction.


The Shindig

May 15, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

Mickey and Minnie perform for a community gathering. Here we actually get to see Horace Horsecollar and Clarabell Cow interacting, which is neat. Outside of that, it’s another song-and-dance-and-Mickey-uses-inappropriate-things-as-musical-instruments piece.

Seriously, what is wrong with this mouse? He uses Minnie’s tail and underwear for musical accompaniment, Mickey is kind of a jerk.


The Chain Gang

September 25, 1930 – available on the Mickey Mouse in Black and White Disney Treasures DVD

Mickey is part of a prison chain gang! It is not made clear why Mickey is in jail (possibly for animal cruelty) nor why he is not dressed in stripes as the other inmates. This starts off promisingly with some decent prison labor gags, but sadly ends up shifting back into the instruments and dance routine. There’s a prison break at the end which adds some drama, but it still feels like a lost opportunity.


The Gorilla Mystery

October 10, 1930 – available on the Mickey Mouse in Black and White Disney Treasures DVD

Mickey reads about an escaped gorilla and calls to warn Minnie who…. plays a song to him about how she is all alone? And this makes him feel better?

Until the gorilla grabs Minnie. Then it’s Mickey to the rescue! Decent plot, some good gags. Overall well done.

It’s interesting to me that there are several animation techniques in this that play with directional light and shadows. I’m not sure that was a common technique at the time. I know Walt Disney liked to explore ways to push the technical possibilities of animation so this seems like maybe it was one of those “let’s try this out and see if it works” shorts.


The Picnic

October 23, 1930 – available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2

This is Pluto’s first short, and boy does he look mangy! (I looked it up and technically Disney claims Pluto was in Chain Gang, but I can tell you that is nonsense. The dog that is supposed to be Pluto looks nothing like him.)

Mickey and Minnie on a picnic and, instead of eating their food, they dance in the meadow. The animals steal their food and, quite frankly, they deserve it. There are some fun visuals of the animals (especially the insects), but that’s about it.


Pioneer Days

December 5, 1930 – available on the Mickey Mouse in Black and White Disney Treasures DVD

Mickey and Minnie lead a wagon train which comes under attack by Indians. Leaving aside the 1930’s portrayal of Native Americans (which is set pretty solidly in the stereotypes of the time), this one was better than most. Solid pacing, good gags, decent drama.

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