Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Mickey Mouse, where I take a look at some of the more famous Mickey Mouse shorts.
So I’ve said before that I don’t think Mickey Mouse is that good of a character, that anything interesting about him has been grounded away to nothing. But is this true? Do I have a case? Well I decided that the only fair thing to do would to track the evolution of the character over 85 odd years to see where he came from and where he’s going. So join me over four weeks as I explore the question of â€œWho Is Mickey Mouse?â€
The Nifty Nineties (1941)
This short is on the list provided by Wikipedia for what seems the soul reason that it’s a rather accurate portrayal of the Nineties. No no that one, the 1890s. That and it’s pretty much a musical short featuring a lot of authentic music from the time period. I mean for them it was only 50 years ago, so it’s like seeing something based in the 60s (and I bet that makes some people feel old).
But as a Mickey Mouse short it’s lacking perhaps the most vital element: Mickey Mouse himself. Now this isn’t the worst case of this happening (one Mickey Mouse short is about Donald and Pluto and doesn’t feature Mickey in the slightest), but it is quite noticeable that Mickey really isn’t in this short. It’s more of a case to feature how great the animation is and how much attention to detail is paid to the props/sets. So it’s a good short in that regard… but highlights many of my problems with Mickey Mouse.
He has become a rather bland and tame figure in these shorts. He doesn’t do anything noticeably interesting or unique in this short. He’s just a bland, boring Everyman who exists so there can be a story. Essentially all of my problems I have with the character. But while my critique of the character gets worse, Oscar gold is just around the corner.
Lend a Paw (1941)
Finally, a Mickey Mouse short wins the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. With ten other shorts to compete against it’s quite an impressive feat. But this is the sole time Mickey Mouse has won an Oscar for his work, so how does the character hold up in it?
Well Mickey doesn’t appear for the first two minutes and most of the short’s conflict revolves around Pluto getting jealous of the cat that he saved. In fact Mickey barely appears in half of this short. It’s basically a Pluto short, with Mickey acting as a supporting character. So what’s Mickey’s character like in this?
Bland. Unbelievably bland. Now I suppose it’s not fair to critique a side character, but this is suppose to be his short after all. And it highlights the problem the company was having. All of the side characters were becoming far more interesting than their leading star. Take away the more mischievous and scrappy qualities and you’re left with a character more vanilla than vanilla ice-cream. He becomes an absolute bore. He has no character to speak of. A critique I fear that only becomes more relevant as this decade goes on.
Symphony Hour (1942)
It’s basically a less interesting version of The Band Concert, notable for two things: One, it became an attraction at the Disney theme parks and two, it features the last appearance of Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and Clara Cluck for the next 40 odd years. But once again Mickey is sort of placed on the sidelines, acting as the conductor but not having too much to do with the action. Honestly you could probably replace Mickey with someone else and you wouldn’t lose too much. Sure he gets annoyed at the situation, and he struggles a lot, but he really is a side character in his own short.
He pulls a gun on Donald though to get Donald to keep playing, which is unusual only in the fact that no one has thought of making it into a .gif yet. It’s quite funny really to see Mickey get this worked up.
But on the whole there’s not a lot here to write home about, at least when it comes to Mickey’s character. It’s here where I fear Mickey lost a lot of that spark that made him so interesting in the 20s and 30s, instead having a character who becomes rather uninteresting to watch. But can he redeem himself in the next short?
Squatter’s Rights (1946)
Another year, another Academy Award nod that gets taken right out from under him by Tom and Jerry. Eagle-eyed viewers would note that it’s Mickey’s first post-America getting involved with WW2 appearance. So after 4-5 years of absence, what is this new short like in terms of Mickey’s character?
Well Chip and Dale manage to effortlessly steal the show, along with Pluto’s attempts to get rid of the chipmunks. Once again, Mickey is the least interesting thing going on in his own short. He only exists to misunderstand the situation and punish Pluto for these misunderstandings. He doesn’t really do a lot in this short that’s particularly memorable or fun.
I mean yeah, it’s touching that he thinks Pluto is dying and all, but where’s the fire from his early stuff? Where’s the little scamp I fell in love with? The one that would make jokes and have a lot of fun? Sadly I fear that little guy is gone away forever.
Mickey and the Seal (1948)
Just see the first line from above. Once again Mickey Mouse lost the Academy Award to Tom and Jerry. So what’s this short like?
Well it’s interesting seeing just how far the character has come in 20 years. I complained at the beginning of this that he was a bit too malicious and callous, I end this by saying that he’s far too bland and uninteresting. The fine line was created in the early 30s, a perfect cross-section of the character. But here we have a character that doesn’t really interact much with the world around him or do anything of great note.
Again, the short is good. A lot of the jokes work. It’s just Mickey isn’t very interesting in them. He’s a rather boring snore who just reacts to the funny situations he finds himself in. He’s no longer in charge of the shorts, just someone who is dealing with the world around him. In fact a running gag in so many of these shorts seems to be that he’s Pluto’s owner, rather than a character in his won right. His dog is doing more interesting things than he is. A shame, really. Could Mickey ever get interesting again?
So there you have it. My look at perhaps the worst decade of Mickey Mouse cartoons by how much they just mess up the once interesting character. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.