Mickey Mouse in Giantland

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Sometimes the best Mickey Mouse cartoons are the ones we never got to see. Earlier, I wrote about some UnMade Mickey Mouse cartoons from the 1930s.

However, some of the Mickey Mouse cartoons that were actually made were still quite different from the original story outline. Unfortunately, most fans have never gotten to see an original Mickey Mouse cartoon story outline, but, during the Golden Age of Mickey Mouse Cartoons, Walt himself shared one with the world so that readers could get a glimpse of the process of developing a Mickey Mouse story.

Digging deeply into my archive of magazines, I unearthed this gem that never gets referenced in other articles or end notes.

For the January 1934 (Vol. XI, No. 6) issue of Screen Book ("The Newsmagazine of the Movies") published by Fawcett Publications, Walt Disney is credited with an article titled "Exposing Mickey Mouse."

That title sounds more intriguing than the actual article, which has Walt explaining how a Mickey Mouse cartoon is made… by exposing individual drawings one at a time—and when they are run at regular speed, the illusion of motion is created.

"Why you can make an animated cartoon yourself!" Walt encouraged. "Just sit down and draw 10,000 little pictures, place them end to end, photograph them on motion picture film—and there you are! Where are you? Probably in a nice padded cell!"

In the article, Walt talks about a film in production titled Mickey and the Giant. That film was retitled Giantland, an eight-minute, black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon released November 25, 1933, and still in release when the magazine article appeared. It was directed by Burt Gillett.

David McKay publishing released a hardcover adaptation of the story titled Mickey Mouse in "Giantland" in January 1934 and the film was expected to be a "hit."

As Walt shared in the article:

"A Mickey picture starts with an idea, an idea for a story. Take Mickey and the Giant for example. It marks an important phase in Mickey's career because for the first time, our little actor invades the realm of folk-tale, fairy story and legend—a vast realm for future exploitation and exploration—fresh situations, rich atmosphere and, best of all, stories that are familiar and loved by us since childhood.

"When a story must be told in seven minutes on the screen, it is a great advantage to start with a situation familiar and self-explanatory and from this meeting ground of common experience or knowledge lead the audience's imagination subtly and gradually from the familiar to the amazing and impossible.

"That's how we fool you into believing. If you were to see a man of Mickey's [size] jump a fence 50-feet high, you wouldn't believe your eyes. But if he first jumped a fence 4-feet high, then a 6-foot fence, then a 7-foot fence, then a 10-foot fence… You understand?

"Like all other Mickey stories, Mickey and the Giant was little more than a phantom idea several months ago. We let our little plots float around in nebulous form for a long time before we distill them into a definite substance. We try them on everybody and thing from our families, the 16 kittens in Mickey's garage, to the cop who hands us a traffic tag.

"If reactions are encouraging, the story department prepares a rough, short outline which, when mimeographed, is distributed among the members of the staff. Everybody whom Mickey supports, chief animators to bill collectors, are supposed to think up gags and situations for the story.

"The staff is given about two weeks to ponder, toy, meditate, cogitate, reflect, cerebrate over, under and upon the tentative story outline… After two weeks, the staff hands the story department a veritable avalanche of illustrated gags and situations… Out of the original story outline and contributed ideas, the story department welds the scenario."

Accompanying Walt's article was a sidebar featuring the original outline for the cartoon before it evolved into Giantland.

Story Outline for Mickey and the Giant

"This picture opens with Mickey reading out of a big story book to a group of youngsters (little Mickeys)… he reads about Jack and the Beanstalk and tells of planting the beans, etc… and when he reaches the part about climbing the stalk, we dissolve into:

"Mickey climbing beanstalk in the costume of Jack. His voices dies out and we continue with the action of climbing the stalk.

"Mickey arrives at the top of the beanstalk and finds himself in Giantland… the plants, insects, grasshoppers, butterflies… all of gigantic size in proportion to Mickey.

"He reaches the giant's castle and might enter by crawling through the mail box… finds everything inside of same large proportion.

"Five of six kids (the same as the little Mickeys) are hard at work, possibly chained up like slaves… cleaning the giant's rooms, cooking, etc…

"They are happy to see Mickey and stop work to play, but become scared when they hear the big giant approaching… Mickey might hide in the cuckoo clock.

"Giant enters… big, loud, mean character… long black hair and beard… mutters to himself like Edward G. Robinson. He orders the kids around… makes them prepare his supper… business of kids struggling with the knives, forks, cups, preparing supper, etc…

"The giant is very mean to them, pushes them around, etc… he enjoys annoying the kids and playing rough jokes on them… After the meal is over, he locks them in a dungeon for the night.

"Mickey watches all this from the cuckoo clock… business of Mickey peeking out of door of clock and riding out on cuckoo when clock strikes.

"Giant gets out magic hen and magic harp for his amusement. The harp plays itself and the hen sings operatic number. The giant soon grows tired of this and falls asleep in his chair.

"Mickey climbs down from the clock and takes the giant's key from his belt and releases the kids.

"They tie the giant's hair and whiskers to the chair… one little kid ties his boot-laces together.

"Mickey places the kids on the back of the hen and the harp (which has wings on the carved figure)… one little kid, through clumsiness, awakens the giant just as they are escaping… the giant makes a big racket struggling to free himself… trips… breaks furniture, etc., and finally starts out in pursuit of Mickey and the kids who have flown out of the window.

"The kids might make use of all the large props in Giantland as obstacles to hinder the giant.

"The kids beat the giant to the beanstalk and slide down, reaching the earth as the giant starts down after them… they then burn or chop down the beanstalk in some way, causing the giant to fall into the ground, making a deep hole… Mickey's voice fades in, saying:

" 'And he fell down and down right through the earth and he came out in China!'

"During this dialogue we have dissolved back to the opening shot of Mickey and the kids… As Mickey finishes reading from the book he might look up and continue:… '—and they chopped him into sausage meat. What do you think of that?"

"One ornery little kid looks at Mickey and says: 'Aw, that's a lot of baloney.' The kids all laugh and give Mickey the razzberry, as the picture ends.

"Suggestions would be valuable on props, and their use, in Giantland… kids and Mickey playing in the giant's house… methods of serving giant's supper… giant's mean tactics towards children… business with the harp and magic hen… chase gags during escape… business of sliding down the beanstalk with Mickey, the kids and giant. The ending suggested in this story is just a sample. Could use suggestions for a different ending, not depending on dialogue.

"Conclusion: Possible use of various trees, flowers, bugs, etc. trying to delay giant from capturing Mickey. The giant reaches the beanstalk and starts down after the children. His attempt is thwarted: Mickey chops down the beanstalk—or—Mickey cuts a section of the leaves off so that the giant slides down, gathering speed as he nears the bottom, and spraying leaves all around—or Mickey burns the beanstalk, so that the flames chase the giant back up to his own land—or—in burning the beanstalk, the giant falls down to earth and goes way down in the ground."

It is easy to see why this particular story got carved down to just Mickey and the Giant and a butterfly. It was a matter of price. Animating all those little Mickeys would have taken more time and more animators and more money.

As Walt explained in the magazine article, "The average cost of a 'Mickey' is from $15,000 to $20,000 dollars. The average number of people who contribute to the making of a 'Mickey' follows: animators, assistants and apprentices, layout men, the story department, musicians, singers, dialogue readers, inkers and painters, technicians. About three thousand, five hundred feet of film are used up before a six hundred foot picture is ready for the screen. The one thousand, seven hundred feet are wasted in re-takes, tests and revisions in the story."

How close was this story outline to the finished film? Here is a synopsis of the finished cartoon:

Mickey is in a living room surrounded by the "Mickey orphans" in their nightgowns familiar from earlier cartoons. This cartoon is the first of the "storyteller" shorts where Mickey reads a story to the children as a framework for a fantasy story.

Standing on the seat of his chair, Mickey tells his vocally appreciative audience about Jack and the Beanstalk and the image transitions to Mickey climbing the twisted beanstalk to the top where he sees a sign that says "Giantland. Keep Out" and, in the distance, a huge castle.

Mickey hops a ride on a gigantic butterfly to the castle and drops off on the door knob. As he is gazing through the keyhole, the giant strides towards the castle, singing: "Fee Fi Fo Fum. I am the King of Giantland. Fe Fi Fo Fum. I rule with an iron hand. I'm the King of the Giants. I'm the Prince of the Tyrants. Fee Fi Fo Fum. I'm the Ruler of Giantland."

As the giant puts his key into the keyhole, he inadvertently shoves Mickey through the keyhole onto a stack of bread on the dinner table. As the giant approaches, Mickey hides in a sugar bowl. The giant sits down and reads his newspaper that has a headline "Extra. Giants Win."

The giant casually pours himself a cup of coffee and without looking, spoons in two cubes of sugar along with Mickey and stirs the coffee. Mickey climbs out of the cup, shakes himself off and then runs to hide in one of the holes of a wheel of Swiss cheese on the table.

Next, the giant drains his cup of coffee and slices off a piece of the cheese, with Mickey still hiding in it, slaps in on a slice of bread and covers it with mustard. Putting on another slice of bread to make a sandwich, he takes a bite, barely missing Mickey. On the third bite, Mickey ends up in the giant's mouth, trying to balance himself on the constantly moving tongue as the giant munches away.

The giant puts some peas on his knife and swallows them with Mickey dodging the rolling peas that are the size of bowling balls. However, eating so fast gives the giant hiccups and he drinks an entire pitcher of water as Mickey frantically swims against the waves toward the teeth so he won't be washed down the throat.

To relax, the giant lights his pipe and begins to smoke but the smoke causes Mickey to cough. Mickey blocks the pipe stem opening with both his hands and then blows back into the opening causing the tobacco to spurt out the other end of the pipe like a volcano.

An angry giant quickly pulls the pipe out of his mouth and finds Mickey dangling precariously on the end of the stem.

Sheepishly, Mickey says "Hi, big boy!" and drops to the table to run through the holes of a plate of doughnuts that the giant instantly crushes with one blow of his hand. Mickey runs into a slab of butter that the giant also crushes and grabs the plucky Mouse. However, the butter has made Mickey slippery and he keeps popping out of the giant's hands.

Mickey pops up and into an open empty bottle and the giant gloats that he has finally got the intruder, poking his finger into the top opening to try to get at Mickey. Mickey bites the giant's finger.

The giant sharply slaps the bottom of the bottle with his hand and Mickey pops out and starts to run away. Mickey pours the entire contents of a pepper shaker into a spoon and using a nearby fork for leverage fashions a makeshift catapult. Climbing to the top of the Swiss Cheese and whistling at the giant to get his attention, Mickey jumps onto the fork which tosses the spoonful of pepper into the giant's face.

The giant sneezes so violently that it blows apart a section of the castle as well as sending Mickey sailing through the air to the edge of the beanstalk. As the giant gives chase, Mickey slides down the beanstalk. Arriving at the bottom, Mickey sets the stalk on fire with a match in the pocket of his shorts. The giant tries to climb back to the top of the disintegrating stalk but it is too late. He topples off and hits the ground with such force that the surrounding landscape is sucked into the huge hole he has made as well.

Mickey cautiously looks down into the gaping hole as the cartoon transitions back to Mickey talking to the little mice and saying: "And he fell down and down and down and down and down and down and down and down… and he came out in China! Now what do you think of that?"

The littlest baby blows on its bottle to make a bubbling sound like giving a razzberry and the other mice giggle. Mickey looks to the camera and shrugs his shoulders.

Animation was done by Les Clark, Johnny Cannon, Frenchy de Tremaudan, and Gerry Geronimi.

As others have pointed out, elements from this short appear in later cartoons like Brave Little Tailor (1938) where the giant eats pumpkins and Mickey ends up in the giant's mouth and Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) where the action takes place on the dinner table.

The giant was named "Rumplewatt" in the Floyd Gottfredson color Sunday Mickey Mouse comic strip continuity from March 11, 1934, to June 10, 1934. There were many similarities to the animated cartoon, but some significant differences, including the butterfly carrying Mickey to the castle being a princess who later transforms into Princess Minnie when the giant is defeated - after Mickey blows up the castle with gunpowder.

Actually, despite the cost, I would have liked to see the original story outline produced.