Matthias Shapiro

I need fewer hobbies

Disney Shorts 1937

The Worm Turns

January 2, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

This is a wonderfully classic Mickey Mouse short. Mickey plays a mad scientist who develops a serum to increase strength and bravery, which he then uses to wreak havoc in the natural world, turning fly against spider, mouse against cat, and so on.

This is a great short, which escalates perfectly it constantly flips the power dynamic in the characters. There is, however, a very important question about Mickey Mouse as he a human-sized mouse, lives in a world in which he there are also tiny mice. This incongruity is presented to us as plain fact and goes un-examined.


Don Donald

January 9, 1937 available in The Chronological Donald Duck Volume 1

What appears to be Mexican Donald visits his sweetheart (Mexican Daisy) and, upon her humiliation at the hands of his donkey, Donald decides to trade his burro for a shiny red car, immediately winning the affection of his rather shallow mate.

This in incredibly fun and I have to say that I think I enjoy the Donald-voiced Daisy, who seems like a better comic foil for Donald the the sweet-voiced sweet-natured Daisy Duck we get in later cartoons.


Magician Mickey

February 6, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

As one of the “Mickey on stage” shorts, this one does quite well. Mickey Mouse plays magician as Donald is the loud-mouthed box seat critic. This turns into a back-and-forth between the two. This naturally results in Donald’s humiliation and Mickey’s triumph.

Mickey is always at his best when he had a streak of mischievous cruelty in him. This is a great example of why Donald emerged as an important character in the Disney world; Donald was so off-putting that it allowed Mickey to be a little bit mean and the audience wouldn’t be put off by Mickey’s behavior.


Moose Hunters

February 20, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

This is a fun, cute one in which Mickey, Donald, and Goofy go moose hunting. It’s got plenty of great ribald gags of Goofy and Donald trying to romance a moose.

This is a solid short with a really great visual trick in the latter part of the short where two moose fight for the affection of the fake moose and the impact of their tussle shakes the background scenery. Given that the backgrounds in these films were typically static hand-painted scenes, this would have really emphasized the physicality of the fight. Great stuff.


Woodland Cafe

March 13, 1937 available in Silly Symphonies

I’m not an objective observer on this one. It’s one of my favorite early Silly Symphonies. From the multi-legged cafe patrons to the tough-guy spider to the triumphant lady-fly, it’s just a great short. Musically engaging, visually compelling, incredibly dynamic, the whole thing is just fun all the way through.


Mickey’s Amateurs

April 17, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

Mickey is hosting a radio amateur hour which will inevitably feature Donald Duck in some capacity.

This is ok. Not the best “Mickey on stage” short by a long shot. It feels almost like filler… something that doesn’t take up too much creativity but is none-the-less a crowd pleaser. My favorite moment is when Donald points a tommy-gun at the audience for laughing at him for not being able to recite “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Goofy also has a great role playing a 52 piece band. Those visuals alone are worth the price of admission.


Little Hiawatha

May 15, 1937 available in More Silly Symphonies

I’m not sure what to do with this one. It seems like a preparation for Snow White (which Disney would release by the end of 1937) with its use of woodland creatures. It’s much more silly than Snow White, but it’s elaborate and there is a lot of quality animation around humanizing animal characters.

This is a high quality short with great drama and really well executed animation. It just feels like it’s in service to another end.


Modern Inventions

May 29, 1937 available in The Chronological Donald Duck Volume 1

Donald visits a hall of inventions and is confounded by a nearly endless series of innovative products. From a robot butler to an automatic shoe shine, Donald gets the unfortunate end of all the pitfalls of modern technology.

This is ok. There’s something about Donald that just makes this a bit of a paint-by-the-numbers piece. We all know Donald is going to bumble through this like the idiot he is, but there is still some invention in the gags which brings some joy.


Hawaiian Holiday

September 24, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

Mickey and the gang (Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy) are on a Hawaiian vacation. We’re definitely getting into the part of the Disney world where they want to be more careful with Mickey’s image. All the mischief is being performed by the tertiary characters. The people having fun are Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Mickey is barely a part of the action at all.

This is a fine short. Basic gags and there’s a sense that the writers and animators are just putting in time on this.


Clock Cleaners

October 15, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

Mickey and the gang are cleaning what appears to be Big Ben. This feels a bit like the Hawaiian Holiday one, where they gags aren’t as inspired as some previous work. There are a few interesting moments, but overall it’s a mediocre gag fest about large clocks for 6 minutes.


The Old Mill

November 5, 1937 available in Silly Symphonies

I’ve been waiting for this one for some time because it’s famous for being a proving ground for many of the animation concepts that would ultimately appear in Disney’s first feature length animated film, Snow White.

This is a fascinating piece. It is certainly an attempt at high-art in the animation space and I think it achieves that end quite well. This is an elegant short about the life and drama within the rotted innards of an old mill. It plays elegantly with light and has a very strong sense of suspense and simple drama.


Pluto’s Quin-puplets

November 26, 1937 available in The Complete Pluto

This is a pretty basic, but adorable piece in which Pluto plays the hen-pecked husband and father of 5 adorable puppies.

This is one of those shorts that relies enormously on the cute factor. All the tension is around the antics of the puppies with some misdirection humor thrown in for good measure. It’s a perfectly serviceable cartoon.


Donald’s Ostrich

December 10, 1937 available in The Chronological Donald Duck Volume 1

I hate to fall back on the “this is such a classic” with so many of these, but this time frame is a bit of a golden age for the Disney cartoons. Donald’s Ostrich is great. Even the parts that aren’t critical to the plot are treated with a lot of thought and loving care.

Donald is a train station worker who finds himself the recipient of an ostrich (who falls in love with him or something). This thing is just chock full of great gags and jokes from beginning to end. Every single thing the ostrich touches is great. Accordion, clock, balloons, radio, the writers clearly just went nuts on and had a ton with this concept and it shows.


Lonesome Ghosts

December 24, 1937 available in Mickey Mouse In Living Color

Another classic. This cartoon has 4 bored ghosts call up Mickey’s Ghost Exterminators to lure them to their haunted house for laughs.

This is one of the best Mickey-Donald-Goofy team shorts. It holds together as a whole but still gives each character something interesting to do. The gags are pretty good and hold together in the overall context of the short. And it ends well, which is always important.


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