Monday, May 11, 2009

Sky Scrappers

There is definitely a formula developing among the Oswald cartoons that continues in Sky Scrappers. The basic idea is that Oswald meets and woos Sadie, Pete tries to interrupt, and Oswald saves the day. It’s a formula that would serve Walt well, as he revisited it in the Mickey days with Mickey and Minnie, but it seems to have originated here.

Sky Scrappers is not as entertaining as Oh What A Knight, but it is still a funny short. The basics are easy – Oswald and friends are construction workers, building a sky scraper in a major city area.



There are some neat gags in the beginning, such as Oswald getting wet and wringing himself out, the break whistle’s “Toot” floating over the workers, as well as a few others. The action truly begins, though, when Sadie shows up peddling box lunches. It’s rather obvious that she has only come by to see Oswald, though, as she sells him the lunch and then gazes adoringly at him as he eats.



The two begin kissing, which Pete observes from above. He lowers down a hook, which, in the exact same gag we will see later in 1928 in Steamboat Willie, the hook picks up Sadie’s skirt and hooks into her underwear to raise her up. Pete grabs her, but she turns up her nose at him.



Oswald tries to scamper up a rope to save Sadie, but Pete disconnects the rope, causing Oswald to fall onto a board that launches some bricks into the air on top of him. Ever persistent, Oswald finds another route, tying himself to one end of a rope and pulling the other end through a pulley, making his way up.



Of course, a fight ensues, with Pete menacing the smaller Oswald. There’s a great sequence here where they end up on a girder, dangling over the street. After a few rounds, the camera position switches to straight on looking at Pete, who punches at Oswald…



…then the camera blacks out and the action goes to straight on looking at Oswald falling back from the punch. It’s a very neat trick, although probably not too difficult to do. It just shows the Disney animators attempting to stretch their boundaries a bit and make things more interesting.



Oswald manages to duck one of Pete’s blows, and sends him careening toward the ground. He then picks up Sadie and manages to get a happy ending after all, as they smooch on the girder.

Like I said, Sky Scrappers isn’t nearly the short that Oh What A Knight was, but that’s not to say that it is not good. The consistent quality of the Oswalds in all perspectives – design, humor, storytelling, animation – is a striking departure from the Alice Comedies. There is a “house style” developing here that was not present before. So far, that’s my big take away from the Oswald shorts.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

4 comments:

  1. I get what you mean about the 'house style' developed during the Oswalds. Watching 'Sky Scrappers' (which I find to be an absolute delight), there are two things that strike me about this era of Disney cartoons. One is how cool all of the characters are to look at. Not just the main three of the hero, the girl and the villain, but the digger at the beginning, the workers, the foreman and his robot-like, steam-powered pulley thing and that skinny dog that steals the lunches. They'd all look great on a T-shirt!

    The other is the amount of inventiveness in the non-stop little bits of action and gags, especially in regard to the amount of ways Oswald can be squashed, pulled apart, stretched and put back together. We'd seen him get soaked and wring himself out in "Oh What a Knight", but when he does it again here he does it in a completely different way. When Oswald gets his head squashed into his body by a falling wheelbarrow, the way in which he pops it back out again is completely unique. Maybe my favourite moment is when Oswald first challenges Pete, puffing out his chest, jumping up and down and swinging his fists – it's a really funny piece of animation.

    –Mac

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  2. Disney remade this short in 1933 with Mickey Mouse as Building a Building, which was nominated for an Oscar. Personally, I like the latter short better, as it has a more unified story, but this one is certainly close (and has slightly better gags).

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  3. I agree, totally, Mac. The design of the characters is wonderful. In one of the other comments (Rival Romeos, I believe), David and I were discussing the merchandise that Disney has put out with Oswald. There's not a ton of it, a lot of its for collectors, etc.

    I think the world is overdue for new Oswald stuff, including comics, cartoons and appearances in the parks. Maybe that's just me, though.

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  4. If I were Disney, I'd add Oswald to Mickey's friends. I'm pretty sure I saw a Pluto cartoon before one of Disney's movies in theaters (can't remember which movie that was, though) so if Disney were to make more "pre-film" cartoons, they could have Oswald interact with Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, or Daisy. He'd probably have to appear in a lot of cartoons centered on the better known characters before getting cartoons of his own, but after he'd been in enough of his own cartoons to be well known, they could make him a meetable character in the parks. I think it might premature to put him in the parks now because most people still don't know who he is and would rather meat characters they already know and love. Just my two cents.

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