Today’s short, Alice Solves the Puzzle, sees the debut of two notable figures in Disney history. One is still around today, in various forms, while one is merely a footnote, but an important one.
The short opens with Alice struggling to solve a crossword puzzle. But wait, this is not the Alice we know and love!
Yep, it’s the debut of Dawn O’Day as Alice, replacing Virginia Davis. Even hardcore fans like myself probably have never seen pictures of O’Day in the Alice shorts, as most of us have only seen Alice’s Wonderland or the films that Disney released on their Disney Rarities DVD. Virginia Davis is such a part of the fabric of the Disney lore, that it’s hard to realize that there was more than one Alice.
So, as Alice continues, she cannot solve the last word on the puzzle. The still unnamed Julius shows up and tells her to blow off the puzzle and take a swim with him. It’s at this point I noticed something interesting. As in past films, the camera pans out, and Alice switches from the live action O’Day to an animated character.
However, what was interesting to me here, is how much Dawn O’Day looks like an animated character already. Virginia Davis had her curls and various bouncing dresses and moved her arms in varying directions, so when the animation took over it looked stiff and unrealistic. Dawn O’Day, on the other hand, has her hair in a short bob that doesn’t move, her dress is straight up and down smock, or a bathing suit in this instance, and her movements are very limited. For some reason, this struck me while watching the animated sequence.
While Julius and Alice are playing off the diving board, we are introduced to a major figure in Disney cartoon history – Bootleg Pete. The card here tells us that Pete is a collector of rare crossword puzzles, but for Disney historians, he’s much more. Pete is currently seen today on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but he’s been a thorn in Mickey’s side for decades, as Pete, Pegleg Pete and other incarnations.
Here, he’s a water skiing bear, who gets a rude reception when he chases after Alice to get her puzzle. Pete chases her up a lighthouse tower, and Julius has to bounce up to save the day.
There are some cute gags in this short, and it’s clear that Walt and his animators were moving now to almost all animation, minimizing the contribution of the live action Alice. But they are starting to build a repertory of characters. Julius has been around, but the dog from the Laugh-O-Grams shows up here again, as he has intermittently since Ub came on board. Pete’s appearance is the first of many. It will be interesting to track the development of these characters as we move forward.
Overall, Alice Solves the Puzzle is entertaining, but it’s not as gag packed or well done as some of the last Virginia Davis shorts. Oddly enough, you kind of miss her when she’s gone, and that’s no slight on Dawn O’Day. But the curly haired moppet is my mind’s eye picture of Alice, so not having her there is a little disconcerting. But, onward and upward, with more to come tomorrow.