Disney Shorts – The Alice Shorts (1923-1927)
Alice In Wonderland
May 16, 1923 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
A little girl walks into a cartoonist’s studio to watch him “draw the funnies”. He sits her in his chair and she delights to a little cartoon of a cat and dog fighting over a dog house. This expands into a few other scenarios within the studio… cats playing instruments and dancing, a dog and cat boxing together.
That night Alice goes to bed and dreams of Cartoonland, where she is transported and greeted (and subsequently chased) by a series of cartoon characters. The superposition of cartoons and live action is pretty interesting, even if the animation is rudimentary. It’s cute.
Alice’s Wild West Show
May 1, 1924 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
Alice is putting on a Wild West Show for the kids in the neighborhood (at the Cowboy Bar, there’s a sign that reads “Boos, 10 cents”). When Tubby O’Brian threatens to bust up the show, Alice regales the crowd with his adventures in the Wild West, which transitions us into the animation portions of the short.
Alice plays a stagecoach rifleman fighting off Indians and then the sheriff who chases down “Wild Bill Hiccup”. It’s quite a celebration of violence, this one. I liked it.
Alice’s Egg Plant
May 17, 1925 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
A cute little play on words, this short is about hens working in an “egg plant” making eggs under the supervision of Julius, the task-master cat.
Along comes the “Little Red Henski” the commie chicken who agitates the working hens into a labor strike. But Alice cleverly fills her egg order by organizing a big cock fight and charging the hens 1 egg for admission.
I swear I’m not making this up.
It’s interesting that Disney so quickly saw that he didn’t need a pretense to put Alice into a cartoon world… he could just put her there just because that’s what the cartoon demanded.
Alice In The Jungle
December 15, 1925 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
I don’t know what Alice is doing in the jungle but also it doesn’t matter. This one is a bit disjointed. It has Julius the escaping alligators, elephants bathing in a local pond, a jungle barber lamenting the loss of his barber pole to a hungry hippo, and Alice attacked by a lion.
We can see here that Julius the cat is becoming something of the hero in these films, taking substantially more screen time than Alice.
Alice’s Mysterious Mystery
February 15, 1926 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
Two evil dog catchers kidnap a bunch of school dogs to take them to the… sausage factory? This is some dark stuff. Alice and Julius save… most of the dogs. Hooray?
Alice’s The Whaler
July 25, 1927 available in Disney Rarities – Celebrated Shorts from 1920’s to 1960’s
This is a substantially more elaborate and impressive short than any of the previous ones. More characters, better gags. It’s cute to see Alice growing up a bit (even if the shorts are less and less about her). This short is about life on a whaling boat where the animal cartoon figures are doing pretty mundane ship duties… skinning spuds, cooking food, swabbing the deck.
It isn’t until the last minute that we even see a whale and, when they harpoon it… the short ends!
And that is, sadly, the last of the Alice shorts.