Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh Teacher

So, today brings the second of the Oswalds, Oh Teacher. Does it hold up? I’m happy to say that, yes, the second Oswald is just as entertaining as the first, even if it’s a bit simpler.

The big thing that stood out to me on Trolley Troubles was the different direction in the animation, adding more side to side movement, changing perspectives, etc. There is less of that in the second short, but there are more gags, like those you would see in the better Alice Comedies.



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The story is somewhat straightforward, as Oswald is trying to woo a young girl, but has a rival in a cat character that’s kind of a cross between Julius and Pete. The gags begin early, as Oswald’s ears put him in flight, expressing his delight as he goes to pick up his sweetie. It’s a great gag, but it also shows some of his personality, which is a key thing.


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After Oswald picks up his girl, we cut to a young pig who’s being picked up by the school bus. The school bus continues down the lane, followed by the much larger cat character, who tries to hitch a ride but gets knocked off. Undeterred, the cat knocks Oswald off his bike and steals a ride to school.

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Unfortunately, the cat is not a great driver, and he wrecks the bike, sending Oswald’s girl into a nearby pond. Her cries of help reach Oswald, quite literally, and he rides the word as a horse to save her. However, as he extends himself out over the water, the cat runs over top of him, fishes the girl out of the water and wins her temporary affection in the process.


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Of course this does not sit well with our hero, who tries to confront him in a very funny sequence. Oswald draws a line in the sand, which the cat merely picks up and knocks away, then knocks Oswald’s head off his body. It’s a classic underdog matchup, and it really draws the viewer onto Oswald’s side.

As the school day begins, the cat drags Oswald’s girl into school, where they stay until recess. As recess begins, Oswald waits outside the school house with a brick, ready to clobber the cat when he emerges. Unfortunately, the cat goes out the back door.


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Being confronted by the cat, Oswald attempts to explain away the brick as an exercise machine, but the cat is not buying it. He steals the brick and throws it up in the air, but it lands in the storm drain, and flies down the drain and right into the cat’s head, knocking him out. Oswald is as shocked as anyone, but he takes advantage, pretending he knocked the cat out as his girl comes by, and they are reunited.

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Admittedly, the story is simple, but it is also charming. Moreso than I ever did with Julius, I felt for Oswald here. He’s undersized and overmatched, but he’s determined. It’s definitely a precursor to Mickey in his early days, in the interaction with the girl. You could easily replace Oswald and his girl with Mickey and Minnie and have one of the early Mickeys.

So far, I’m loving the Oswald shorts. If you are a Disney fan, and you think that the company started with Steamboat Willie, you owe it to yourself to get this DVD and check out the Oswald shorts.

Get your copy of Walt Disney Treasures: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit on DVD at Amazon or other DVD retailers and follow along with the blog!

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad you're enjoying the Oswald shorts. One interesting thing about the first three to be made is that Oswald seems to get younger. I've never seen Poor Papa, but Oswald was supposed to have been redesigned to seem younger for Trolley Troubles. Here he was still old enough to be a Trolley driver and be irritated by a little kid in an early scene. Now, with Oh, Teacher he's a kid in school himself.

    If you haven't done so already check out the commentary on the DVD by Mark Kausler. Not only does he point out who animated what, but he also points out some of the reordered and missing scenes in the existing reissue version. It would appear that originally the story was set out a little differently. Starting with the scenes of kids getting the bus (so setting up the idea they're going to school from the out set) and introducing the naughty cat character before we cut to Oswald on his way to pick up his girl.

    It would also seem that the short was even more gag-packed including what may have been the funniest scene (of the female rabbit forgetting her underwear) and also a black-face gag (the cat gets a face fall of smoke from the exhaust and ends up looking like a minstrel). This is the earliest example of such a gag that I'm aware of in a Disney cartoon. I did wonder if the smash hit film 'the Jazz Singer' released the same year influenced the gag – although I think the cartoon was made and released a few months earlier so maybe not.

    Interesting that you notice how the cat looks like a cross between Julius and Pete. However, it's the later Pete that he looks like from the Mickeys rather than the bear from the Alice Comedies. Pete himself will return later in the Oswalds and it'll be interesting to see how he evolves.

    –Mac

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  2. Thanks as always for the info, Mac. Your tips are definitely helping make this a more illuminating experience. I haven't had a chance to check out the commentary yet, but plan to do so soon.

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  3. Oswald doesn't sound sympathetic to me, what with intending to bash a romantic rival over the head with a brick.

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