Monday, September 7, 2009

The Barnyard Olympics

I will admit that sometimes I get jaded doing this blog. Watching year after year fly by, with the shorts that I’m watching not always being entertaining, makes this feel like work more than a hobby, which is what it is. When I envisioned doing this, I thought I would be watching funny cartoons and writing about them. I think now, with the advent of the new Mickey style, I’m where I thought I would be all along.

The Barnyard Olympics, the latest short, helped me come to this realization. This short is all about wacky fun, from the first frame to the last. It is a classic Disney style short, in that it features great storytelling, follows a compelling character all the way through, and features wonderful gags and animation.

The thing that makes this one stand out to me is the way that Mickey and his antagonist are matched up throughout. After some brief scenes of the other events going on in the Barnyard Olympics, we get to see Mickey competing with a larger cat, probably Pete, although it’s a different design.

And by the way, it would be tempting to pass over those early scenes, but they contain some wonderful gags. There is a boxing ring where a goat is refereeing between two bruisers and ends up getting clocked himself, then we switch to the same scene in a wrestling ring, and the combatants and goat get tied up in knots, literally. Both are great scenes, but don’t linger too long, getting the joke in and getting out.

But as I said, it’s the interplay between Mickey and his adversary that makes things work here. Pete (I’m assuming it’s him) tries many things to keep Mickey from winning the triathlon event they are competing in. My favorite is right at the beginning, when he knocks Mickey backwards onto a crate of soda bottles, and Mickey keeps running on top of the spinning bottles like a treadmill. It takes a shot from Clarabelle’s noisemaker to get Mickey going.

The race itself is a burst of energy, with the constant motion of the characters and the stopping points for gags making for a fun combination. From the stripping of Mickey’s boat in the rowing segment to the mashups of the various bicycles in the final segment, each piece deviates from the norm and makes the short better for it.

When Mickey wins, as you know he has to, it’s because Pete accidentally catapults him over the finish line and into the winner’s cup. And in the victory celebration, is that Oswald down in the left corner, under the cup? It makes for a great finish to this fantastic short, easily one of my favorites so far.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. I would just like to say that I understand exactly what you mean when you said that you feel like it is more like work. I have been following along with you since July (first I caught up) and I watched farther along because I want to watch every Disney film ever made chronologically but progress as fast as I can without missing details and everything. I thought I would feel differently when I reached the first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but I didn't feel quite like how I expected. I have been reading all your comments and I must say that I am glad that you are taking on this challenge. Are you still going to continue after this year is over, though, because it says on your information thing that you are trying to do it in a year, but you still have quite a ways to go. I can't even do it by the end of this year and I've been going through it around a dozen cartoons every day, not including the days where I don't have enough time to get through much or even one. I hope you don't give up, because I enjoy reading about your exploration through Walt Disney's work. I know I won't give up.

  2. Sorry to hear that at time this blog has seemed like a bit of chore for you, Ryan. Luckily we're entering what many consider the Golden Age of Disney animation so hopefully it'll be more enjoyable for you from now on.

    There's a lot I can say about this great cartoon, but I'll limit it for now to two wild theories I had when watching. The next Mickey cartoon, "Mickey's Revue" features what is considered to be Goofy's first appearance. In "Revue" the running gag is that Goofy keeps laughing whenever anything goes wrong. However, I wonder if the character that will become Goofy can first be spotted one cartoon earlier in "The Barnyard Olympics".

    In the detailed opening scene of the crowds, a character turns around and excitedly notices the audience in the cinema. Being able to notice and do the impossible is a typical trait of Goofy and it looks just like him (minus the buck teeth) too! Then in the scene where the referee keeps getting punched, we hear Pinto Colvig's distinctive Goofy laugh whenever anything goes wrong. I wonder if Goofy's running gag from "Mickey's Revue" was held back from an idea they planned for this cartoon? Although, in "Revue" the design is different with 'Dippy Dawg' being much more elderly looking.

    The other thing I've been pondering about is the final scene. I think it reuses animation from a much earlier silent era Disney cartoon. Check out the drawings of the characters – those bodies and five fingered hands sure look like 20's designs to me. It's an odd mix really since it appears a 1930's cow and pig's head have ben placed on 1920's hippo bodies! You can even see what looks like the old top-hatted version of Pete! I just wonder what cartoon it was from originally.

  3. I agree with Mac on that final scene. Something looks unmistakably '20s about that final scene—in fact, I'd almost peg some of the figures as being animated specifically by Hugh Harman.
    The final year of Alices included ALICE'S AUTO RACE and ALICE'S CHANNEL SWIM, neither of which I've seen. Both featured sports events, presumably with big crowds of onlookers. Perhaps the crowd here was lifted from one of those earlier shorts.

  4. Good thinking, David. This scene does appear to give us a tantalising snippet from a lost cartoon and I agree that the two sporting competition Alice Comedies are likely candidates. I also agree with Ryan that the little character in the left looks like Oswald, but am leaning towards the theory that it's a look-a-like from one of the scarce later Alices. It's interesting to see the Alice era Pete design cheering along with the rest at the right of the screen.

  5. Just back from a week's vacation guys, so catching up here.

    I didn't mean to insinuate that this is a bad gig by any means! I love doing it, it's just that sometimes the blog takes on a life of its own, and when you are trying to analyze things that are not great, it's hard to slog through it.

    That said, this is a lot of fun. The Barnyard Olympics is definitely a fun one.

    David and Mac, I hadn't thought about what you're saying for the final scene, but reading your thoughts, I have to agree. It does look very much like reused animation. David, it does have a 1920s look to it, only updated slightly. I wonder if this was unused animation that was tweaked?


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