The Bird Store
January 16, 1932 available in More Silly Symphonies
This is an odd cartoon. The first half is a series of meager music-based gags trying to set up some comedy within the birdshop. The second half is a fun cartoon about a cat trying to eat one of the baby birds and the community of birds rising up in revolt, giving that cat its comeuppance.
The Duck Hunt
January 28, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Mickey and Pluto go on a duck hunt. I’m really starting to feel like the Mickey cartoons are maturing into story-based shorts. All the gags here are focused on advancing the story of Mickey’s misadventures as a terrible hunter. There are a couple good laughs involving Pluto as a decoy and the ducks kidnapping him, but still a long way from the more iconic Mickey shorts.
The Grocery Boy
February 11, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey and Pluto working in a grocery. Man… Mickey is really rude to basically everyone who isn’t Minnie. He brings groceries over to Minnie’s house, they flirt a bit, and then he… helps her make dinner? This is either some pretty full-service grocery delivery or Mickey just ditched his job to hang out with Minnie. Pluto ruins dinner in an antic-filled sequence with a few solid jokes.
This is an interesting transition to watch, as these cartoons move from being a vehicle for song and dance to being a vehicle for manic gags and physical jokes that don’t necessarily make sense in a narrative context.
The Mad Dog
March 5, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey giving Pluto a bath results in Pluto eating the soap and a bubble-filled episode. Everyone assumes Pluto is rabid and foaming at the mouth and Mickey has to come to his rescue. This one was surprisingly good, a set of engaging chase scenes with a beginning, middle, and end.
April 12, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Oh my god, how many “Barnyard” shorts are there? (Answer: 5) This short revolves around what seems to be a decathlon. Mickey is competing with some permutation of Peg Leg Pete and, being Mickey, pretty much goofs the whole thing up but ends up winning anyway. We’re definitely getting more and more of the narrative style that I’m familiar with when I think of Mickey Mouse. I could use a little more personality, but all in good time (I assume).
May 25, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
We’re back to a concert hall, with Mickey acting as conductor. Interestingly, I think we see our first glimpse of Goofy in the annoying peanut eating audience member with the distinctly Goofy-like gaffaw. Nothing overly special about this one. It’s cute, with a couple good joke. There are some adorable kittens that threaten Mickey’s and Minnie’s performance, but it’s largely an added element to break up the music bits.
June 23, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey and Pluto are plowing and sowing when they decide inhabit a scarecrow and torment Minnie. Mickey expands his animal abuse repertoire by playing the bagpipes on a set of ducks he found. The rest of the cartoon is another song-dance piece.
I found this one slightly more engaging than other ones. Maybe it was better jokes (the catchers mitt used to handle eggs was funny) or it could be that the pacing is just getting better in these. Even when the focus is the music, Disney is weaving little mini-stories into the shorts and it really improves the overall entertainment value.
The Bears and the Bees
July 9, 1932 available in More Silly Symphonies
Well, this is just adorable, a sweet cartoon about two baby bears who look like Mickey Mouse playing in the spring meadows. They come upon a tree of honey and ransack it, drawing the ire of the nearby bees.
Fortunately for the little bears, they are interrupted by a mean old big bear, who suffers the punishment they have rightfully earned. In the end, I think we can all agree that the bad bear got what he deserved and the little bears, though certainly guilty of the same crime, are cute.
Flowers and Trees
July 30, 1932 available in Silly Symphonies
I really have an affinity for the Silly Synphonies, especially as I watch these in order. They are incredibly inventive, you can see that the animators adore stretching their wings to try to make better and more beautiful narratives and images. This is the first color short (it was the first commercial film using the three-strip Technicolor process) and it’s just lovely. Detailed animation, lush and full colors, and anthropomorphic fire. The storyline is unapologetic melodrama. Evil tree tries to kidnap lady tree, sets forest on fire when he fails, heroes save the day, get married… but I like that.
Mickey In Arabia
July 18, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse In Black and White Volume 2
Mickey an Minnie are traveling “Arabia” aboard an implausibly tall camel. Racial stereotypes abound in this one, although that is forgiven with the spectacle of Mickey Mouse chasing Peg Leg Pete on a drunken upside-down camel. It follows a patterns we’ve seen in a lot of the Mickey / Pete shorts where Mickey arrives at a place, does some stuff with Minnie, Minnie is captured, Mickey goes to the rescue, there is a fight with Pete, and Mickey is triumphant. Pretty classic early 30’s melodramatic pattern.
July 30, 1932
It may come as a surprise but there are a lot of dogs in this one. We start the short in a dog pound, where a scrappy young mutt aids a massive jailbreak. All the dogs escape to the park to sniff trees. The vast majority of the gags in this one come from the fact that dogs are great and adorable and have fleas.
August 31, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Mickey has a dream where he and Minnie get married and have about 2 dozen kids, who run wild throughout the cartoon. Quite a fun little piece, especially as we discover that Mickey has passed along his penchant for animal abuse to another generation. The jokes are decent enough and varied and that makes up for lack of narrative.
August 20, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey is an African trader and is captured by cannibal natives. This is a weird one to watch since nearly all the jokes are in the form of fairly racist caricatures of African natives, with lots of jokes involving the natives playing instruments the wrong way. The music is good though.
September 10, 1932 available in More Silly Symphonies
Beautifully animated, this one was not at all what I expected… especially the part with the topless mermaids. King Neptune toys playfully with the mermaids, but when they are set upon by leering lustful pirates, the denizens of the sea come to their aid.
The result is a glorious battle and some of the very best in early action animation. The sense of scale and peril are really superb. A great short in which the king of the sea apparently murders two hundred men while singing about what a jolly king he is.
The Whooppee Party
September 17, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
This is another party / musical piece. It does have an early iteration of Goofy, playing one of the kitchen workers. Outside of that, there isn’t much of note. Most gags are with dancing furniture, and at least they aren’t recycled. It’s fine, but not great.
Bugs in Love
October 1, 1932 available in More Silly Symphonies
The bugs are in love! It’s adorable! Until that mean old hobo crow comes to ruin their love by eating them.
It’s interesting to watch theses with a history in melodrama in film. DW Griffith, director of the grounding (and racist) Birth of a Nation, pioneered the short dramatic form in which characters introduce themselves to the audience, find themselves in peril, and there is a race and a battle to defeat the evil doers (after which order is restored to the community). This short (and many of these early Disney shorts) follows that formula perfectly.
October 15, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Mickey and his pals play football against what seems to be a bunch of Peg Leg Pete characters. Decent football gags make this fun to watch. We are really starting to see Mickey as the leader of a menagerie of characters who sort of work together to balance the narrative and jokes with differing styles and personalities.
The Wayward Canary
November 12, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey brings Minnie a canary, which sings with them as they play music. It’s cute, I guess. If you can’t tell, I’ve about had it with pure music-based short films. I need stuff to happen. The canaries cause some ruckus, but nothing of substantial note. Except for the swastika. That was kind of weird.
November 12, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Mickey is playing piano in the Klondike Bar when he sees Minnie at the window gold and starving. He invites her in and takes care of her until Peg Leg Pete shows up and kidnaps her, stealing Minnie away on his dog sled. Natrually, Micky gives chase and fights Pete at his log cabin. Pluto causes an avalanche that provides the really compelling final chase scene. I quite enjoyed it.
Babes in the Woods
November 19, 1932 available in Silly Symphonies
I quite enjoy the Silly Symphonies, which really push the style and invention of cartoons at the time. In this one, a Hansel and Gretel duo come across some gnomes in the woods and play with them until an evil witch offers them a ride on her broom to her candy house. Upon the revelation of her evil plan to turn the children into creepy crawly creatures, the gnomes swoop in to rescue the children and the evil witch is defeated.
This was just great. Beautiful, excellently paced, great animation for the gnomes, the piles of creepy creatures, the witch. Just a great fairy tale cartoon.
December 10, 1932 available in More Silly Symphonies
I’m still enamored with the color cartoons, so I’m enjoying this one. The colors are fantastic and this is really similar to the of other shorts that show these sorts of workshop scenarios (like Funny Little Bunnies, which basically does the same thing as this short but for Easter).The music is appropriately energetic and the variety of toys and gags is really engaging. This could have been a total phone-in for the Disney team, but they really gave it a lot of energy and invention
Mickey’s Good Deed
December 17, 1932 available in Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Mickey is playing a Christmas music, begging for pennies for Christmas. When he plays outside the house of a wealthy pig, the spoiled piglet demands hears Pluto and demands to buy him. Mickey flees the scene and, upon his escape, discovers a destitute mother weeping for her children’s sparse Christmas. Mickey returns to the rich man and sells Pluto to him, using the money to play Santa for the poor children.
Meanwhile Pluto is be harassed by the rich brat, who is worse than ever having been so easily given his heart’s desire. The rich man throws Pluto out, and he is reunited with Mickey and they have a happy hobo Christmas together.