Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Wayward Canary

The Mickey cartoons of the 1930s have really hit their stride, taking cues from earlier Disney animation such as Oswald and Alice and turning the old gags into new fodder. That continues with The Wayward Canary, which takes the idea of animals running wild in the house to a new place with the addition of the canaries.

The thought is simple – Mickey brings home a beautiful canary as a present to Minnie. They start playing music and encourage the canary to join in, then it is revealed that the canary actually came with a flock of baby birds, who proceed to get loose from the cage and join in the fun. Of course, as in any good Disney production, something goes horribly wrong, and hilarity ensues.

The animation of the canary and its babies is superb. Seeing that many birds flying around Mickey and Minnie, going back and forth from foreground to background, you realize how difficult that had to be. Now, those effects would be done with computers, duplicating the birds. But in 1932, it was all done by hand, and done very well.

This is a repeat of some earlier shorts, in theme if not the entire story. Mickey’s Orphans and Mickey’s Nightmare featured his children running through the house and destroying things, whereas this features the canaries wreaking havoc. That makes this somewhat unique, and very interesting.

There are some interesting little Easter eggs hidden in this short as well. As the canaries are playing throughout the house, we see some framed portraits autographed and addressed to Mickey. One is of Douglas Fairbanks, and the other looks to be Mary Pickford, although I’m not certain on that one. But the inclusion of these is interesting, since Walt wanted Mickey to be a cartoon version of Fairbanks when he started out.

As has been the case with most of the recent Mickeys, the gags are fast and furious in this one. Watching the canaries run wild in the house, we get them dipping themselves in ink, so that they leave a lengthy trail everywhere they go, staining shirts, carpet and more. Pluto even gets into the action, as one of the canaries flips a hot coal from the fire into his bottom. And of course, Mickey and Minnie’s efforts to catch the canaries are just as funny.

The finale is cliché at this point as well, but it works, so why change? Pluto and Mickey chase the last canary through the yard, trying to save it from a cat while also trapping it. Predictably, they destroy everything in sight.

The fun of this short is seeing the creative ways that the animators had the canaries do their damage. Having them drop creative ink patterns on a shirt, or having Mickey run with flower pots on his feet are just a couple of examples. It feels like they took some extra time with this one to come up with more creative gags, and it shows.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. The pictures are indeed of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. But there's a reason for them specifically as well. Fairbanks and Pickford, along with Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, had just formed United Artists who were now Disney's distributor. So I'm sure it was just a little "thank you" from Disney to his new business associates.

  2. Another fun Mickey short, but, for me, not quite in the same league as "Touchdown Mickey" or "Whoopee Party". I guess Mickey bought the canaries from "Ye Olde Bird Store", featured in the earlier Silly Symphony, and it looks like the cat followed him home!

    I do wish the sound could be restored on some of these early cartoons. Some of them sound a little too shrill and this one suffers from it. Also the exploding Mickey head is back – I guess the only way to know when this opening stopped being used for certain is to see the real, original title cards.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.