Friday, June 5, 2009

Mickey's Follies

Once again, I have to lay aside my own earlier objections about story and the like to simply say that I enjoyed Mickey’s Follies, the latest short. Although it’s not one of the best so far, and the music/dance numbers are becoming repetitive, simply the inclusion of “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo,” declared here as Mickey’s theme song, makes this a great short.



For those who haven’t seen it, Mickey’s Follies falls back on an old theme of Walt’s, all the way back to Alice’s Wild West Show. Out in the barnyard, Mickey and friends set up a vaudeville show, with a tattered sheet for a curtain and acts parading out behind it. This is something that has been seen in Disney’s shorts before, so the setting itself is not all that interesting.



There are three acts preceding Mickey in the show – a dance of ducks to a take off on “Suwanee River,” two fighting chickens, and an operatic pig. Each of them is entertaining to a degree, but mostly they are there as great syncopated musical numbers. Just like in The Skeleton Dance, the music and animation here work together to maximum effect.



There are some great gags in these early acts as well. The ducks are fairly routine, although the do a good job of synchronizing action like the skeletons did in The Skeleton Dance. The chicken fight is rather amusing because one chicken has to take a break to lay an egg in the middle of the fight. But the one and only appearance of Patricia Pig as the opera singer has a couple of funny gags.



First, as she continues to sing, her bloomers keep falling down. It’s very amusing even as it repeats. The second is that her singing is so bad it prompts the audience to boo her off stage, but she can’t take the hint. A mouse lowers himself down on a hook, grabs her, then signals a cat with a donkey off to the side at the other end of the rope he has attached to Patricia. What’s funny is that rather than push the donkey farther away to pull Patricia up, the cat turns the donkey’s tail into a crank and turns the donkey into a winch. It’s that little unexpected touch that is quite humorous, and a great turn from the animators.

Finally, though, the headliner of this short is Mickey Mouse singing his “theme song” as the card before his act lets us know. He proceeds to give us a full rendition of “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo,” which would be the opening music of his shorts for many years until the Mickey Mouse Club March came into popularity in the 50s.



In our last Mickey short, The Karnival Kid, I wrote about Mickey’s voice, and his squeaking tones that Walt supplied. In the comments (you must read those, people!) we debated whether it was actually Walt or Carl Stalling who supplied the voice. I have to say, after hearing this, it sound like Stalling to me, because the singing here does not sound like Walt.

Regardless, “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo” is one of my favorite Disney songs, although it’s seldom used today. Like I mentioned before, my favorite version is the Main Street Saxophone Quartet, but there are several others. This, though, was the first, and the first time I’ve seen Mickey belt out a tune. It’s very entertaining, although the vocal version is a little slower time than the instrumental version, which I prefer. Regardless, “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo” makes Mickey’s Follies a winner for me.

2 comments:

  1. As a kid, I was obsessed with the animation on Mickey when he sings his tune. Great, silly exaggeration we never quite see on him later.

    You haven't seen the last of Patricia Pig. She's in THE SHINDIG and THE WHOOPEE PARTY too. And she's in the comics with her husband Percy Pig, though they're never more than supporting characters in the neighborhood.
    Sometimes their surname is spelled Pigg, if only to add a little (weird) variety.

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  2. Certainly it's first use in a Disney cartoon and maybe any cartoon is what I call the "woman beating" music and dance. This must be a famous routine, but I only know it from cartoons. Here it's a chicken couple who beat each other up in time to the music.

    Since I don't know much about it let's find out more... OK going from the book "Silly Symphonies" (by Merrit and Kaufman) I learn the the tune is "L'Amour d'Apache" – the Apache dance from Offenbach's ballet "Le Papillon" (the tune was used in Woodland Café). From here let's go to the never reliable Wikipedia and I find out:

    "Apache is a highly dramatic dance associated in popular culture with Parisian street culture in the beginning of the 20th century. The name of the dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH, not uh-PATCH-ee, like the English pronunciation of the Native American tribe) is taken from a Parisian street gang (see Apache (gang)), which in turn was named for the American Indian tribe due to the perceived savagery of the hoodlums. The term came to be used more generally to refer to certain vicious elements of the Paris underworld at the beginning of the 20th century.
    The dance is very brutal to the woman, and sometimes said to reenact a "discussion" between pimp and prostitute. It includes mock slaps and punches, the man picking up and throwing the woman to the ground, or lifting and carrying her while she struggles or feigns unconsciousness. In some examples, the woman may fight back."

    Apparently the music from the ballet became the most associated with the dance. Who says you can't learn anything from cartoons?

    Getting back to the cartoon itself - it's good to see Patricia Pig(g). I think I may have spotted her in the backgrounds of earlier Disney cartoons, but here she gets some proper screen time and is promptly booed off the stage. Oh well.

    And of course it's the first use of "Minnie's Yoo hoo". I love how it's actually introduced on screen as "Mickey's Theme Song". This is the very first 'Disney Song' so it's the start of an important tradition. "Yoo Hoo" was Minnie's catch phrase back in this era, but you hardly ever hear her say it now. And, yes, the toothy animation in this scene is delightfully oddball and quite unlike any other scene in a Disney cartoon.

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