Friday, August 29, 2008


By 1931, Walt and his crew had really gotten into their groove. They were producing quality cartoons and constantly updating their animation techniques as well as their artwork and storytelling.

When Mickey's Orphans was released on December 7, 1931, the audience loved it! They were touched by Mickey and Minnie's compassion toward the dozens of orphan kittens despite their destructive nature.

In this short, directed by Burt Gillett, a stranger leaves a basket on Mickey Mouse's doorstep in the harsh, cold, snowy winter night. Mickey finds the basket and brings it inside only to find that there are dozens of kittens in the basket!

Instantly, the kittens start playing in their destructive, yet innocent behaviour. But Mickey loves them through all of this, and even dresses up as Santa to bring them all presents!

In the end, everything is destroyed, even their beautiful Christmas tree!

There is not much in the way of plot in this movie, which is the way of many of these old cartoons. The interest is reliant on visual gags and fun music which this short provides.

Mickey's Orphans was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) in 1932, the first year the category existed! It was up against It's Got Me Again, a very early Looney Tune, and the Silly Symphony, Flowers and Trees (also directed by Burt Gillett) which went on to take the Oscar.

As a Christmas themed cartoon, this one sort of leaves you wanting the kittens to have learned something about Christmas spirit. But instead, the cartoon ends with the kittens destroying Mickey's Christmas tree leaving Mickey and Minnie flabbergasted. Not quite the happy ending most specials try to convey.

You can watch Mickey's Orphans on the first disc of Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume One

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Toyland Premiere is a theatrical cartoon produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Studios in 1934. The cartoon is part of a series of film called Cartoon Classics which featured cartoons in colour, a brand new medium at the time!

The story starts out in the North Pole where Santa and his elves are hard at work preparing for Christmas. Santa receives a telegram from Oswald saying that Santa is needed for the big Toyland Premiere Parade!

Santa prepares himself for the trip but finds that his suit has been eaten up by moths! But quick thinking on the part of the elves saves the day!

Santa and the elves take part in the parade and Oswald, who is a waiting for them at the end, invites them in for a great feast! Waiting for them at a large table is a bunch of Hollywood movie stars!

Hilarity ensues as Laurel and Hardy try to steal a piece of cake that is being guarded by the Frankenstein monster! The duo dress up as a dragon to try and scare Frankenstein away but the plan backfires as all the toys come to life and start attacking the dragon! In the end, Laurel and Hardy surrender and Santa blows put the candles on the cake. But he pulls a Big Bad Wolf and the cake is blown across the table and lands in Laurel and Hardy's faces. Their just deserts!

Toyland Premiere is a charming cartoon that really shows Santa as a fun person. He is not all business as most shows make him out to be. He has fun! He throws pies! He has a personality! He is also sad at the beginning of this short (and not because he has been kidnapped) which is something you don't see often either!

This short guest stars Oswald the Rabbit who had his own cartoon series at the time. Oswald was created by Walt Disney in 1927 and had a contract with Universal to distribute the pictures. When Walt's producer tried to take over his studio, Walt broke the contract, loosing the character that he had grown quite fond of (but this event caused him to create Mickey Mouse). Oswald remained with Universal for many years. This cartoon is his first colour appearance.

Also guest starring in this episode are a bunch of Hollywood caricatures! Some of these caricatures you may not recognize, but these were all top billing stars in 1934! You will see Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) and his actress wife Lupe Velez, Shirley Temple, a black-face Eddie Cantor, the Frankenstein monster (Boris Karloff), Bing Crosby, and Laurel and Hardy.

Hollywood caricatures are still a very popular thing to do in animation (Family Guy and Simpsons being two examples) but that sort of thing really dates a show because, eventually those stars are going to be yesterday's news. And now, 70 years after this short's release, today's generation isn't going to even recognize Johnny Weissmuller or Lupe Velez.

You can see for yourself on DVD.