Let me preface today’s review by saying that I have never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so there are lots of things in Mickey’s Mellerdrammer that probably go right over my head. That said, I think this is a short designed to be extremely funny.
Make no mistake – the Disney team is going for gags here. The story is that Mickey and the gang are putting on a play, a rendition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but that’s really the excuse for a rapid fire procession of gags. The entire short is constructed in a way that it offers each of the main characters a chance to get in some great gags.
There is a large cast in this one, as Horace and Clarabelle return for the first time in a while. That’s in addition to Mickey and Minnie as the stars of the play, and Goofy as the stage manager. The only member of the gang missing here is Pluto, but for good reason, as there is a large group of dogs that gets highlighted at the end of the short. Sticking Pluto in that environment would have made him less prominent, so it’s good that he’s missing from this short.
I had not seen this short before, and I have to assume that is because it so prominently features black face and racial stereotypes. Strangely, though, the caricatures in this short did not seem as offensive as in other Disney shorts. Even though Mickey dresses up in black face and dons a “black woman” wig, it’s not quite as bad. Now, I say that as a white male. I imagine that African-Americans may find this one a bit troublesome.
However, I think the intention was nothing of that sort, but instead was to focus on the fun that the characters were having putting on the show. Not being familiar with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I don’t know the story, but it seems like it involved Mickey and Minnie running away from the slave master, played by Horace. Horace is so convincing here as the villain, that the audience bombards him with rotten fruit and vegetables.
Clarabelle also gets a spotlight here, playing a mother fleeing with her baby in a driving rainstorm. The gags during this sequence go extremely fast, with every character joining in. Most of them come from the effects used to simulate the storm – Mickey banging dishes as thunder, Minnie popping popcorn to simulate rain, and Goofy shooting a fake thunderbolt down at Clarabelle. They happen so fast and furious that it’s hard to take them all in at once.
The finale scene is the patented chaos that ends most Mickey shorts these days. It’s started by a great gag, though, as Mickey and Minnie toss real dogs into fake dog costumes, which is hilarious. The dogs in the costumes bust loose when a cat gets free, and the set is knocked down and destroyed.
Mickey’s Mellerdrammer is funny, more so than the last few Mickey shorts that have been more emotional or serious. Kudos to the Disney team for making such a funny short in the midst of the Great Depression. I’m sure audiences loved it as much as I did.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.