Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wild Waves

It’s almost as if sometime before The Haunted House, Walt went into a story meeting with his animators and said, “Why is Mickey always bursting into song? Give him a reason to sing!” I don’t know if such a thing happened, but if it did, the result would have been The Haunted House or this short, Wild Waves.

Once again, the story of the short provides a way into a musical number, which makes the music piece so much more enjoyable. This short’s story is kind of a rehash of the Oswald short, All Wet. Mickey is serving as a lifeguard, same as Oswald did, and he has to save a girl, in this case Minnie. There are very similar scenes to All Wet, such as Mickey on the lifeguard stand and his careening through the waves.

Whereas in earlier Mickey shorts the copying from the Oswald shorts was more derivative, this seems much less the case. The animation is much fresher and more detailed than that earlier work, and the characters are so different that it makes this a fresh take on the subject.

Where Wild Waves branches off is when it comes to the second half of the short, which is the musical number. When Mickey saves Minnie, she cries because of the ordeal, and Mickey decides to comfort her by performing a dance to “Sailor’s Hornpipe.” Soon, the other animals join in, and the patented Ub Iwerks silly dances ensue.

What is interesting about this short is the subtle changes in Mickey from his early appearances. The evolution of his design is almost complete, as we see here the rounded shoes appearing much as they do today, a little more bulbous and full. His limbs are thicker, and his eyes are much more expressive. This has evolved over the past few shorts, like Jungle Rhythm and The Haunted House, but it’s very noticeable here.

The other change I noticed in this short is the difference in Mickey’s character. In the early shorts, he was aggressive and rude, grabbing Minnie in Plane Crazy and planting a kiss on her, regardless of her wishes. This time around, after performing his dance, Minnie professes him to be “her hero,” Mickey shifts his shoulders and blushes, obviously embarrassed. If you had not seen the other shorts early on in Mickey’s career, you wouldn’t notice it, but it’s a big change in his character.

This is part of what Leonard Maltin talks about on the DVD, that as Mickey evolved, Walt and his crew found him more and more uninteresting. It was hard to find situations for Mickey to be funny, because he was always heroic and upstanding. Soon, the focus would shift to Mickey’s supporting cast, at first Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, but later Goofy and Donald Duck.

Finally, one last interesting thing about Wild Waves. The short features two instances of Mickey singing, and a few instances of him talking. We know that Walt provided the voice for Mickey when talking, but his singing voice seems totally different. I would guess that Walt did not sing for Mickey, based on this short. Does anyone know who did? I do not, but would be curious to find out.


  1. Hi!
    I think the voice in this cartoon isn't provided by Disney, but by Carl Stalling.

    Not too many. They couldn't decide whether they wanted him to speak or not. I was his voice in only one picture. I don't recall the title [probably Wild Waves (1930)] but Mickey was a lifeguard at the beach, and saved Minnie's life. She said, "My hero," and Mickey said, "Oh, shucks, that's nothin'," in a falsetto. One of the girls in the inking department did the voice for Minnie. I left not long after that, so I don't know what they did about Mickey's voice after that.


  2. Nice quote, Hiyuga. I suspected the voice might be Carl Stalling (I knew he did the voice of the singing walrus in this cartoon) and that quote seems to confirm it.

    Ryan, it's interesting you talk about the appearance of Mickey in this cartoon. I think Mickey and Minnie look and sound a little weird in this one. It doesn't help that they change appearance quite a lot from scene to scene (their faces look different and their body proportions change). Some of the time they're right toothy little blighters and look a little creepy. They're great fun to look at though and a lot of the early merchandise is like it too.

    One thing that's back in this cartoon is the main character looking to the audience. Oswald did it quite a bit in "Oh, What a Knight" and Mickey does it here when he's wondering how to console Minnie. It's true that Mickey's personality has already changed quite a bit and now he and Minnie are very much a cute couple (like in "Mickey's Choo Choo"). Mickey does get to remain very much the star of his own series for a quite while yet though (I seem to remember I didn't 100% agree with Maltin's comment on the DVD about the focus shifting to characters like Horace and Clarabelle).

    1. I agree with you about Mickey being the star; Maltin gives a load of false information, and usually are just his own impressions(which often are not that great; he's a good lad, though). The problem is that people blindly believe it.

  3. The "girl in the inking department" that Stalling mentions in the interview Hiyuga brought up was probably Marjorie Ralston, who provided Minnie's voice in 1928 according to Wikipedia. At the time this cartoon was made, Minnie was voiced by Marcellite Garner, a voice actress who played her from 1929 until 1939. Either that, or Garner might have worked in the inking department normally and done Minnie's voice on the side - I haven't been able to find very much information on the subject.

  4. Hiyuga and B.D., thanks for answering the question. I think it seems right that Stalling did the voice of Mickey here. Makes sense, because this would be the last Mickey that Stalling did, so perhaps was he the voice throughout? I wonder.

    Mac, you're right about the appearance of the characters. They do take some strange forms here. I like when Mickey's ears pop off as he plays the harp. It's such a departure from what we've always heard about the ears being visible from each side, etc. that it stands out.

    I do have to say, though, that I see Maltin's point. Mickey is just not as interesting without a foil or someone to play off of. In the earlier shorts, he was a swashbuckler, and now he's a much more timid guy. Long term it worked out for him, but it's not coming across with great cartoons here, although I liked this one.


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