Friday, August 7, 2009

Mickey Steps Out

Yesterday, in my review of Busy Beavers, I wrote about the schizophrenic nature of the Disney Studio in 1931 so far. The shorts have ranged from fast moving, gag filled romps to silly musical numbers, sometimes in the same film. That trend continues with Mickey Steps Out.

This short is really a good turn for Mickey and Pluto. Mickey’s dog is taking much more of center stage in the Mickey cartoons, to the benefit of his owner. Pluto provides some great comic relief and carries the comedy of this film. Pluto is also the main story point, as Mickey is headed over to Minnie’s house for some dancing and singing, and Pluto follows along. When Pluto arrives and finds a cat to chase, he drives the comedy of the last half of the short.

Mickey’s involvement in the short is mainly limited to doing fine dances. He starts off the short with a fun scene of shaving and getting ready while tapping a beat on the various items in the bathroom. Then he heads out onto the boardwalk (where did that come from?) and does a jig there. Finally, when he gets to Minnie’s house, he goes inside and does a dance with nearly every prop he can find.

This short’s music is very much a part of its success. Not so much the quality of the tune itself, but the way that everything in the animation has a rhythm to it, more like the Silly Symphonies than most Mickeys. Mickey sets the stage from the beginning, with his routine in the bathroom, and from that point forward all of his movements as well as Minnie’s and Pluto’s are in rhythm. Not necessarily synchronized to the music, but more with a flow and a beat that keeps things lively.

Again, there’s no real standout moments of animation here, but some good stuff does take place between Minnie and Mickey. A fine moment is when Pluto spots a cat, and takes off after it. The problem is, Mickey was standing on his back leaning in a window, and when Pluto leaves, he crashes into the window and it closes on him, leaving him hanging. When Minnie asks what he’s doing, he answers “Just hangin’ around.” It’s an easy joke, but a good one.

The ending of the short is part of what will become a pattern in Disney shorts. Pluto chases the cat through the house, destruction in his wake. He upends Mickey and Minnie, sneaks through the carpet, destroys the piano, crashes all through the house and ends up bringing the coal stove down on all their heads. This ending chaos is something that carries on into further Mickey shorts for many years to come.

I really liked Mickey Steps Out, but it is still a little schizophrenic. It swings between musical numbers and physical comedy in broad strokes, but does as well as can be expected. It’s interesting, though, that this trend of the Disney shorts in 1931 is still continuing. Something to keep an eye on as we keep going.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. I've always found it strange that Mickey shaves in this cartoon - I don't think it's something he's ever done in any other film, and his face looks exactly the same before and after. If there's one cartoon star who definitely should not have facial hair, it's Mickey Mouse.

  2. I enjoy this one, but it's not one of my favourites. For me the best bit is the early party with Mickey getting ready and then walking to Minnie's. I love the way Mickey gets music out of walking, tripping and jumping along a wooden path.

    In the 30's Mickey is pretty up to date whistling "Ding Dong Daddy" in a cartoon, but by the 40's the same song could be used in the Tom and Jerry cartoon, "The Zoot Cat" to show just how out of touch Tom is for enjoying it!

  3. The thing that you keep overlooking in your reviews of these films is that they were the absolute peak of the moviegoing experience in the period they were made.
    It took the live action cinema till 1931 or so, with such films as "Public Enemy" with that fast talking James Cagney setting new standards of "modern" screen acting, to catch up with what Disney was doing since 1929.
    Disney was ALWAYS a leader in cinema, from the early talking era until the day he died.
    These early cartoon sound shorts are easily as important as the later Warner's Bugs Bunny and Tex Avery shorts, or the later UPA shorts----but why? THAT'S the question.
    The point is not what bores you, looking back on these films 80 years later, compared to whatever standard you hold these films to---but what makes these films great.
    It's your blog, and you're free to express your opinions, as you're doing, but I can't help but feel you are often missing the point.

  4. BD, I agree it is a little weird to see Mickey shaving. Especially after you've seen the rubberhead character in the parks.

    Mac, I agree that this is a fun one, but not one of the best, and the early walking sequence is tops.

    Anonymous. What can I say? I've tried to explain before what I'm doing here, but let me try again. I understand that these shorts are the peak of the moviegoing experience in the 1930s, as you said. There's no doubt about that. Nor have I tried to call that into question.

    However, I cannot suddenly put myself into the mind of a 1930s filmgoer. It's just not possible. I can't unwatch the Bugs Bunny, Tex Avery or UPA cartoons that came after. I try to watch the cartoons with an unbiased opinion, and evaluate them honestly.

    My goal here is to watch the shorts and eventually the features, to see how they are evolving, and moreso, to see things that I haven't seen before. Some of these shorts I have seen, and some I have not. My reviews are reflecting my honest opinions of the shorts, nothing more than that.

    As I've tried to make plain, I am not an animation historian, nor do I pretend to be one. I don't know what makes the films great. I try to read what I can and put that in the reviews when available, but if you are looking for John Canemaker's or David Gerstein's perspective on the greatness of these films, you can find that. I'm approaching this from the point of view of someone who has not spent their life studying this stuff.

    The comments section here is where I ask you guys to give your opinions. If you have an idea what makes this stuff great, please go ahead and share, and we can discuss. I want to learn, honestly.

    My ultimate goal is to gain more understanding of Walt, the man, and how he influenced the course of Disney, the company and the animation studio through his films. I hope you'll keep reading, and we can have more discussions. Call me out if you think I'm wrong, but let me know what you think the right answer is to the questions you pose, so we can discuss it.

    Whew. That's enough from me.

  5. Well put, my friend. You are providing a service here, and I applaud you for that. I didn't mean to be too harsh.

  6. Nor was I, sir. Just wanted to make sure everyone understood the perspective (or lack thereof) that I bring to this.

    That said, I am interested in what you said about WHY these shorts were so great. Can you expand on that?


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