Mickey Mouse Movie Milestonesby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
On November 18 of this year, Mickey Mouse will celebrate his 85th birthday.
While I have recently written an article about some secrets of Mickey Mouse for Disney Files Magazine (Fall 2013, Volume 22 No. 3), the quarterly magazine for Disney Vacation Club members, and another about the Secret History of Mickey in the Disney Parks for Orlando Attractions Magazine (Summer 2013, Volume 6, Issue 3), there is so much more to write about Walt's alter ego including correcting some "facts" that proliferate on various websites and in books.
First, Wikipedia (never to be trusted as the definitive or entirely accurate source) claims that Mickey Mouse's first words were in the black-and-white short, Karnival Kid (1929) where he said "Hot dogs! Hot dogs!" That little piece of misinformation has been reprinted elsewhere including at least two official Disney sources.
While Mickey did say his first words in that short, they were "Hot dog! Hot dog!" Singular not plural. The short is easily available to view and watching it, there is no doubt at all that while Mickey is a hot dog vendor and selling hot dogs (plural), he shouts out the word singular.
It is loud and clear and there can be no confusion. While that may seem odd, earlier in the short, a vendor selling peanuts shouts out "Peanut!" not "peanuts" so obviously it was intentional.
When my friend and former writing and business partner, the ever-wise John Cawley, and I wrote four books about animation in the late 1980s, one of the things we vowed was never to trust anything that was written about a cartoon, even if it was from a reliable author.
Too often a misleading plot summary or one with missing information was simply reused from other books or magazine articles and that misinformation became the standard even though it was error-laden.
For our books, we spent hours sitting down and watching (sometimes re-watching) the actual cartoons and found most of those previous descriptions were simply wrong. We also discovered a ton of new information that no one had ever recorded in previous publications.
To this day, even with a deadline crunch, I try to always go back and watch the actual cartoon and am constantly surprised. Sometimes, it is just age and experience that gives me a different perspective. Other times, it is the fact that new information is being uncovered every day and that provides new insights.
I think most Disney fans firmly believe that the first time that Disney sound effects man Jimmy MacDonald ever did the voice of Mickey Mouse was in the Mickey and the Beanstalk featurette that was part of Fun and Fancy Free (released September 1947).
However, the first time the general public ever heard MacDonald doing the voice was in the short Squatter's Rights (released June 7, 1946, roughly a year earlier) that was in production the same time as Mickey and the Beanstalk was being completed.
In this cartoon, Mickey and Pluto discover that Chip'n'Dale (although they both have small black noses in this cartoon) have taken up residence in the oven of Mickey's winter cabin.
I think most Disney fans firmly believe that the last time Walt ever did Mickey Mouse's voice professionally was in Mickey and the Beanstalk.
Walt was the one doing the voice of Mickey Mouse in those 25-second introductions and 10-second conclusions each day on the original Mickey Mouse Club television series in 1955. That's pure Walt, no Jimmy MacDonald assistance.
So for fun, and to get some accurate information in print, here are some "Mickey Mouse Movie Milestones" from the Golden Age of Mickey Mouse short cartoons that are unfamiliar to most of the public and will once again turn MousePlanet readers into Mickey Mouse experts with their friends and family.
Hopefully, it will also tempt some of you in to doing what I did, and that is to go back and actually watch some of these cartoons. It is incredible to me that these cartoons are so easily accessible, and yet so few people take advantage of that opportunity.
I think most Disney fans know that, before Steamboat Willie, Walt and Ub Iwerks did two other silent black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons, Plane Crazy and Gallopin' Gaucho.
Walt had sound added to them and did eventually release them. Gallopin' Gaucho was released December 30, 1928. Then it was The Barn Dance on (March 15, 1929, quickly followed by Plane Crazy on March 17, 1929. The Opry House was released March 20, 1929.
Basically, Walt wanted to strike while the iron was hot to solidify Mickey's popularity with a flood of cartoons in the marketplace (and also to recover the money invested in the first two cartoons to re-invest in more cartoons).
In Gallopin' Gaucho, Mickey Mouse smokes and drinks, but it is important to remember he is an actor playing a role.
In the segment where he commits these minor vices, he is specifically mimicking and parodying the same actions of actor Douglas Fairbanks in a similar scene in the silent film, The Gaucho, released November 1927, so the scene would have still been vivid in audience's minds and caused a chuckle of recognition.
Be wary of release dates of Mickey Mouse cartoons from 1929-1930, because not only was record keeping not accurate, but films were often released "regionally." That's why people can come across different months/days for a release and, so, most often a cartoon is just identified as coming out in a particular year and in a particular order.
I usually trust "All Pictures," a document used by the Disney Company for many decades that includes a short two-sentence story summary, an identification number and a release date. However, for some of the earliest cartoons, there are only delivery dates, not general release dates.
Mickey wore his white gloves for the first time in the short The Orpy House (1929). However, he was not wearing them at the beginning of the short, only at the end.
The one and only time that Mickey and Minnie were portrayed the actual size of mice on screen was in When The Cat's Away (1929) where they break into a cat's house. Audiences didn't like it and it wasn't done again. Instead of playing the piano with their hands, Mickey and Minnie are so tiny, they jumped up and danced on the keys.
"In the beginning we thought we had to make the mouse very small in order to win the sympathy of the audiences. We have learned that we can make him as big as a horse. Sometimes we do," said Walt Disney in a 1931 issue of American Magazine .
The cartoon where Walt's famous falsetto is clearly recognized as doing the voice of Mickey was Mickey's Choo-Choo (1929). Supposedly, Mickey and Minnie pumping a handcar at the end of the film later inspired the idea of the famous Lionel wind-up toy from 1934 that helped save the company.
The first time the instrumental Minnie's Yoo Hoo is used over the title credits to a Mickey Mouse cartoon was Jungle Rhythm (1930).
Legendary musician Carl Stalling (perhaps better known for his many later accomplishments on Warner Brothers cartoons) told Disney historian Michael Barrier that he did the voice of Mickey Mouse in Wild Waves (1930), as well as the singing walrus.
I would recommend you pick up any book written by Michael Barrier, but in particular you should add The Animated Man: Life of Walt Disney to your library. A book filled with facts you can trust.
The cartoon Just Mickey (1930) was actually copyrighted as Fiddling Around and that is the title that appears on the original movie poster. Apparently Just Mickey was a working title because only Mickey appears in the cartoon.
This is also the first Mickey Mouse cartoon with no input from artist Ub Iwerks, who had left the studio. It is also the first cartoon with a new title card because it is the first Mickey Mouse cartoon released by Columbia Pictures.
The Cactus Kid (1930) is the last Mickey Mouse cartoon where Walt Disney is officially credited as the director. It is also the first time that Pete has his peg-leg in a Mickey Mouse cartoon.
The Shindig (1930) shows Mickey snapping Minnie's underwear. He was quite the scamp in those early days…as if he wasn't already in deep trouble with Disney human resources over his sexual harrassment of Minnie in Plane Crazy where he tries to force her to kiss him.
Pioneer Days (1930) actually has an alternate ending that was snipped out of the print a decade later and some alternate cuts and variant backgrounds were also discovered by restoration expert Scott MacQueen, who made many other significant discoveries (like film of Walt doing Mickey's voice with Billy Bletcher) that continue to enrich the lives of Disney fans.
We all know that the only time that Pluto spoke was in The Moose Hunt (1931) where he said "Kiss me!" to a distraught Mickey who thought he had killed his pet.
However, Pluto spoke one other time in 1931 in the short Mickey Steps Out. At the end of the short, Pluto is covered in soot and looks to the camera and happily says "Mammy!" However, since it is a blackface gag, it has been snipped from prints of the film, along with the fact that Pluto spoke twice in 1931.
Mickey's Orphans (1931) was nominated for an Academy Award. This is the cartoon where a group of orphan kittens destroy Mickey's house on Christmas Eve. Of course, Mickey should take part of the blame since the presents he gave these kids were saws, hammers, hatchets and popguns. Anyway the film lost to "Flowers and Trees" (1932).
Barnyard Olympics (1932) was released to preceed the 1932 Summer Olympics games in Los Angeles and was obviously inspired by the excitement around that event.
Mickey's Nightmare (1932) was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be distributed by United Artists. Two of the owners of United Artists, and huge Mickey Mouse fans, were silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Their framed autographed photos can be found in Minnie Mouse's house in the cartoon The Wayward Canary (1932).
By the way, Mickey's Nightmare is the cartoon that shows Mickey praying: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God Bless Minnie. God Bless Pluto. God Bless Everybody! Amen!"
In The Pet Store (1933), a gorilla reads a movie magazine where he sees an actual ad for the film King Kong. The film was released March 2 and this cartoon came out in October. Around this same time, Merian Cooper who produced, co-wrote, co-directed King Kong (and was one of the pilots in the plane that shot Kong down) was in discussion with Walt about making a full-length animated feature of Babes in Toyland.
It has always been assumed that in The Dognapper (1934), Clarence "Ducky" Nash, who did the voice of Donald Duck, also did the voice of Mickey Mouse because Walt was on vacation in Europe while this cartoon was in production.
In Two Gun Mickey (1934), Peg-leg Pete switches the leg that has the peg-leg multiple times during the cartoon.
Mickey's Service Station (1935) is the first time that Mickey, Donald and Goofy work together as a team. The last of the "trio" films during the "Golden Age" was Tugboat Mickey (1940).
Mickey's Kangaroo (1935) has Mickey receiving a crate from a "Leo Buring" in Australia that contains a boxing kangaroo and its baby. Shortly before this cartoon was made, Walt Disney received a box from Australia from a Leo Buring, who was a pioneer in the Australian wine industry and an admirer of Walt Disney. Buring had sent Walt a box with two wallabies in it that were housed at the Disney Studios for awhile. Of course, upon arrival, a third wallaby (a baby) hopped out unexpectedly.
Only three of the "Golden Age" Disney shorts featured the entire "Fab Five": On Ice (1935), Hawaiian Holiday (1937) and Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952). That last short just had a cameo at the end of Goofy, Donald and Minnie singing carols on Mickey's front lawn. By the way, Hawaiian Holiday was made roughly 22 years before Hawaii became a state.
The Fox Hunt (1938) features short cameos by Mickey Mouse, Clara Cluck, Horace Horsecollar and Minnie Mouse on horseback and dressed for the hunt. They briefly stop on a bridge to cheer Donald who has supposed grabbed the fox by the tail in a log.
In the Disney Channel "Have a Laugh" version of Mickey's Parrot (1938), Mickey's gun has been digitally replaced with a broom.
In The Whalers (1938), featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy, Mickey Mouse never says one word.
Animation of Mickey Mouse whistling and walking through the woods from The Pointer (1939) was reused in the Disneyland television episode Tricks of Our Trade in 1957. Pluto was omitted, and Mickey was redrawn wearing a different outfit and carrying a fishing pole instead of a shotgun.
The first appearance of the short lived experiment to give Mickey two-toned ears so they would seem more dimensional was in The Little Whirlwind (1941).
In A Gentleman's Gentleman (1941), Pluto stops to read the full-color Sunday Pluto comic strip in the newspaper he is taking to Mickey Mouse. While Pluto never had a comic strip of his own, he did appear in a 14-week series in the Sunday only Silly Symphonies newspaper strip in 1939-1940 as a test. Artist Bob Grant drew them from Hubie Karp's scripts.
In the 1952 Goofy short How to Be a Detective, Mickey's face is on the front cover of the comic book Goofy is reading.
The Academy-Award-winning short Lend a Paw (1941) originally began with a title card that stated "This picture is dedicated to the Tailwagger Foundation in recognition of its work in lending a paw to man's animal friends."
Symphony Hour (1942) marks the last theatrical appearance of Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow until Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983). Of course, they didn't even wait until the end of the cartoon to get rid of Clara Cluck, who also disappeared for 40 years. She is clearly present playing at the perfect audition but never makes it to the final performance.
Pluto and the Armadillo (1945) is the last theatrical appearance of Mickey in his red two-button shorts until Runaway Brain (1995). Also in this short, Mickey wears a pith helmet that completely covers his ears. hey do not pop out like they do in other hats that Mickey has worn.
And, of course, The Simple Things (1953) was the last Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon for 30 years until Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983).
There are so many delights waiting to be re-discovered in these great classic cartoons like Mickey shaving in Mickey Steps Out (1931) or that Mickey Down Under (1948) shows toucans, bananas and ostriches, none of which were indigenous to Australia.
Yes, I know it is supposed to be an emu but it such looks like all the other Disney animated ostriches and I'll bet if I looked at some other cartoons with ostriches I might find reused animation.
Reused animation in Mickey Mouse cartoons. Maybe that should be a column.