Friday, April 17, 2009

Alice's Circus Daze

As I mentioned, yesterday’s review of Alice the Fire Fighter brought us to the end of the surviving 1926 Alice shorts. Today, we review one of the two remaining 1927 Alice Comedies. If there are more out there, and you’re aware of them, please let me know, but I think that Alice’s Circus Daze, which we’ll review today, and Alice the Whaler, which will be next, are the only two left.

That said, going back to yesterday’s review, I noted the possible beginning of a trend. In the later Mickey shorts, it seemed as though the main action was always Mickey entering a conflict with a companion (Goofy, Donald, Pluto or a combination) and then the action veered off to see what each character did, before merging again at the end. Anyone who read old Justice League comic books will recognize this technique, and it’s quite common in dramatic cop shows as well.

Today’s short, though, does not show signs of that technique becoming a recurring theme. There really is no conflict in Alice’s Circus Daze, and although there is an overarching story of the circus, the focus is more on random gags than on a coherent story.

The short opens with the circus getting ready, and some random shots of acts on the outside stages with the barkers getting in the crowds. A lion scares the crowd, the rubber man interacts with his barker and even the spots on the giraffe get polished. After this, we see Alice and Julius in their dressing rooms getting ready, and a poster on the wall lets us know that they are the stars of the show.

Back in the big top, various acts are scattered about, including a tiger show where the tamer keeps losing his pants, and a lion act where the lions bite off the tamer’s head and play keep away with it. It’s all done in a humorous manner, and is quite fun if a bit repetitive.

Finally, we see Alice and Julius’ act, which is a high wire show. Alice is precariously balanced on top of stack of chairs, which rest on Julius’ nose.

Getting over confident, Julius lights up a cigar, and tossing the match away, lights the high wire on fire, burning it up. He falls to the ground, but Alice and the chairs stay up in the air. The chairs start falling away one by one from the bottom, and Julius scrambles to find a way to save her. He grabs a ladder and sticks it under her as the ringmaster runs over. The combined weight of Julius and Alice on such a flimsy ladder causes it to fall down, though, crushing the ringmaster.

The short ends with Julius and Alice running out of the big top, chased by the ringmaster. It’s amusing to note that Julius and Alice are hardly the stars of this short, despite what their dressing room poster would have us note. Instead, this seems like a chance for the animators to stretch their wings and have some fun plotting out gags. However, the lack of conflict in the short along with the scattered approach to the storytelling keep this from being one of the better Alice shorts. If the quality is the same in the 1927 shorts, it’s no wonder that the series was soon ended.

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