Monday, April 13, 2009

Alice's Little Parade

Alice’s Little Parade is neither a little short, nor about a parade. Discuss.

Okay, now that we have today’s Coffee Talk joke out of the way, we can discuss the latest in the Alice films. Alice’s Little Parade shows great improvement to my untrained eye. It seems like a better example of storytelling and gag animation than previous shorts, continuing the progression from Alice’s Balloon Race and Alice’s Orphan.

The subject matter is a bit startling, actually, considering the times in which it was produced. The idea is that Alice and Julius are going to war with Pete and his army of mice, so the short opens with Julius trying to recruit friends to their cause. This leads to a cute gag with Julius pulling down the top of a house where an old man can’t hear him, so Julius can literally shove the words “War is declared” in the man’s earpiece.

But remember what was going on in 1926. It was the Roaring 20’s, but much of the country was still recovering from American involvement in World War I. There was much debate as to whether the US should ever involve itself in such a war again. It was somewhat of a war weary nation, so to produce a short with such a military bent is confusing to me.

However, the short goes full bore with its war imagery. Julius leads a parade of animals through the recruiting station, where they emerge on the other side in uniform and armed to go to battle.

Of course, the battle ensues, with Pete leading a battalion of Mickey-esque mice to fire cannons at Alice and her troops. There are some cute gags here, with the mice losing their cannon and hiring a donkey to kick the cannonballs at the opposition being one highlight. But there are more - Alice gets knocked down by a cannonball, Julius uses a stove as armor – all of which are better than what was seen only a few shorts back.

One of my favorites was seeing Julius get hit by a cannonball, and shattering to pieces. He is gathered up by a medic, then taken to the hospital, where a doctor reassembles him from the pieces and “spare parts” on the shelf. It’s an amusing sequence that stands out in this film.

Reassembled, Julius devises a plan. He places a piece of strong cheese at the entrance of a crevice, then uses a fan to blow the scent to the mice. He removes his tail and bashes each of them on the head, in a similar fashion to the fish back in Alice’s Day at Sea.

Of course, after eliminating the mice, Pete comes to call, but Julius is prepared. He gets Pete to chase him into a cannon, then escapes and shoots the bad guy off into the ether.

So what does this short tell us? Not much if you are looking at Walt’s life. It is interesting that this short features warfare, because Walt was in the Ambulance Corps during WWI, so he saw the horrors of war up close. Is that why this is the first of the shorts to feature war? Was the hospital scene a take off on those years? Without more evidence, we’ll never know, but that’s probably the most interesting thing to note about this well done short.


  1. It is interesting seeing how war is portrayed in some of these early cartoons. WWI had really brought home the horrors of war and so many people were killed. Yet so many early cartoons seem to delight in depicting cartoons animals in the trenches getting blown to smithereens.

    There's often a dark edge to the humour in some of these Alice cartoons, but all the gags seem to play out in the same light hearted way – whether it's a donkey kicking a cannon ball or a soldier having his head blown off. The hospital scene in this one is particularly interesting. It's really gross idea, but it's not drawn in a repulsive way. There's no blood or crying in pain and yet here we have a working medical unit that's in ruins with gigantic saws on the walls and body parts that have to chopped up to fit new patients.

  2. It's a strange mix of humour and horror because somehow the horror part isn't quite acknowledged – it's just more comical business.


  3. Whatever the horrors of real-life war, art imitated life this way in 1920s cartoons ad infinitum. You'll find that the later GREAT GUNS (Oswald) and BARNYARD BATTLE (Mickey) contain some of the same situations and gags as ALICE'S LITTLE PARADE.
    PARADE itself followed on FELIX TURNS THE TIDE, an even grimmer 1922 short, and several earlier Mutt and Jeff war cartoons — some produced during World War I itself.
    One could even say the trend to do war cartoons began during the war, much as it would later do in WWII, and then simply continued afterward.
    As for the title, ALICE'S LITTLE PARADE would seem to be a play on THE BIG PARADE, a then-famous war movie from one year earlier.

  4. Thanks for the info, ramapith. Approaching this as a newbie with little or no animation knowledge (I'm more of a theme park junkie) is an eye opening experience.

    This short seems to play off the dark humor, while the one I just reviewed, Alice's Mysterious Mystery, goes straight into dark. It's very bleak, and doesn't offer the light hearted edge that Alice's Little Parade did.

    I speculated in that review that it has to be Ub's influence. He has a darker edge to his stuff after he leaves Disney, and the much debated balance between he and Walt seems to be off kilter here.


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