Thursday, April 9, 2009

Alice's Balloon Race

As 1926’s shorts roll along, I’m looking for signs of what is to come in the Oswald shorts and the Mickeys that will come later. I have not seen those cartoons before, except for a couple of the Mickeys, but I just want to see if there are familiar themes here that will be repeated later. Increasingly, though, what I’m seeing is that Julius is more like another cartoon character – Felix the Cat.

Alice’s Balloon Race is a good example of this. Where Julius started out as Alice’s companion who would do some fun gags here and there, in the later shorts, he increasingly dominates the screen, and pulls some of the same tricks that Felix does. Alice is merely a side character in her own short, and Julius and his Felix imitation take center stage.

This short has a fairly simple plot – Alice, Julius, Pete and some others are competing in a balloon race. Straightforward and easy to understand, right?

So, they begin the race, and of course, Pete cheats and knocks Alice and Julius out of the sky. After the crash landing, they can’t get their balloon back in the air, but Julius comes up with the idea of having a nearby hippo sneeze them back up. He pulls pepper out of nowhere (much like Felix and his magic bag) and forces the sneeze that propels them upward.

Once they are in the air, the balloon bounces around as bad weather sets in. Lightning terrorizes the balloon, separating the basket from the balloon, and creating a corkscrew effect that pops the balloon.

Once they hit the ground, Alice is done for the short, just over halfway through. Julius doesn’t give up, though, grabbing a dachshund, and attaching his thought balloons to either end. That doesn’t work, so after that crash, he inflates an elephant, after pulling a pump out of nowhere. As he gets up he grabs a bird and catches up to Pete.

The final scene on my copy is a bit muddled, but lightning again threatens Julius, chasing him off of the elephant-balloon, but Julius hitches a ride on the lightning and gets back to the balloon as the short ends.

I’m assuming that my copy is missing the ending, but all in all, it’s not a bad short. There are some entertaining gags as well as a story that moves through the entire short. The lack of appearance by Alice is not bad, because she has not been a factor in most of the recent shorts anyway.

What really stands out is how much Julius is becoming a copy cat, no pun intended. His ability to pull tools out of nowhere is a direct copy of Felix, and he even looks more like Felix in this short than in others. This runs counter to everything you think when you look at Disney animation. I’ve always thought that Disney was the innovator, but at this point in his career, although Ub has created some memorable gags and is pushing the quality of the animation, the characters are largely derivative. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s very interesting to note, since the later characters would be so original.


  1. Hi! I only just discovered your blog and think it's a great idea – I may even watch the films in order along with you (at least the ones that I own).

    I thought you might want to know the ending of Alice's Balloon Race (a complete copy is included on the Disney Oswald DVD and contains about half a minute of extra footage). After riding a lightning bolt back to his balloon, Julius then grabs another bolt which he throws at Pete's balloon, popping it and sending him plummeting below. Julius barely has time to laugh though as a second bolt pops his balloon and sends him downwards also.

    We cut to Alice who is pacing the ground (in a rather Felix-like manner). First Pete's balloon lands on her and then, after they both pull themselves out from underneath, Julius's balloon lands on Pete (this is slightly disgusting since this balloon is actually a popped elephant and he looks pretty dead). Both Julius and Pete crawl out from under the balloons and an angry Pete chases Alice and Julius off into the horizon as we iris out.

    In a way it's a bit of a cop out ending as it fails to address the initial set up of the big prize for winning the balloon race. I can only assume the prize was won by the mouse we saw at the beginning!


  2. I have that DVD, and I can't believe I didn't check it out. I'm watching these films off of the various Alice compilation DVDs that are out there, so I don't think to look at what I already have. Thanks for that. I may repost after viewing the whole film.

    Glad you're enjoying it and please keep reading and watching!


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