It’s back to the barnyard time for Mickey in the latest short, Musical Farmer. In many ways, this is a throwback to some of the earliest Mickey shorts, featuring extended musical sequences, Mickey playing animals as instruments, and very little story. This short, though, does have the fun touches that the 1930s Mickeys seem to have in spades.
This short features Mickey as a farmer, obviously, but he manages to make farming fun in his own way. He tries planting seeds, only to run into some crows who are digging up the seeds and eating them. This part of the short is honestly not that good, as the animation of the crows is reused again and again, without any real differences.
The funniest part of the short begins when Mickey and Pluto stumble into a scarecrow, and hatch a plot to surprise Minnie. They climb inside the scarecrow, and scare poor Minnie half to death by walking over and surprising her. This was a very fun sequence, because it highlighted Mickey’s mischievous side again, something we haven’t seen since some of the earliest shorts, like Plane Crazy or Steamboat Willie.
Then, we get even more of a throwback, as Mickey ends up grabbing some nearby ducks and converting them into bagpipes to kick off the musical sequence. It’s been a while since we have seen Mickey using farm animals as instruments, but it was a staple of his earliest appearances. I wonder if PETA was around back then? They couldn’t have liked this sort of thing.
The musical number serves a good purpose here, as it prods the hens to lay eggs in time to the music. From that point forward, the short involves a familiar story, about the hen who can’t lay eggs. This is where the standout animation takes hold.
As hens all around her lay eggs by the dozens in time with Mickey’s tune, a hen named Fanny frets because she can’t lay an egg. The emotions on her face are spectacularly done by the animators. When Fanny finally is able to put out a huge egg, the joy is evident immediately. The work on this hen is the best of the short, in my opinion.
The finale of the short is quite wacky, and a little different than what has taken place throughout the rest of it. Mickey runs to get his camera, to take a picture of the egg. The tripod starts chasing him (???) like it was alive, and then once he gets inside the hen house, Mickey uses too much flash powder, and blows the feathers off the hens.
Musical Farmer is a bit disjointed, because the three segments are related, but very different in tone. The first part is a standard Mickey short from the early days, the middle is a musical sequence that is served by a story, and the final is something more like you’d expect from Alice in Wonderland than Mickey Mouse. That makes for a fun, but somewhat schizophrenic short.
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