Mickey Plays Papa is a short that features a couple of left turns, but is all the better for it. It also features some great gags, very good animation, and some of the best work on Pluto I have seen in the Disney shorts. It all adds up to make a good gag short, if not all that memorable in the long run.
I say that this short takes some left turns, because the opening sets the viewer up for a vastly different experience than what actually happens. The opening scene features a stormy night outside Mickey’s house, with a mysterious figure creeping into view. Immediately, expectations have you ready for a haunted house or mystery story. In fact, Mickey and Pluto are in bed reading such a story, a murder mystery. It’s the arrival of the mysterious stranger that changes things.
The stranger leaves a baby on the front porch, and the child starts crying, which sends Mickey and Pluto into fits. The cries sound more like screams, which play right into the mystery/ghost vibe established early in the short. It is amazing the work that the animators do in this early part of the short. All the shots feature incredible darkness and establish the mood of dark and creepy.
Then, the baby appears, and the mood changes. Mickey and Pluto set about to entertain the baby, with disastrous results. As a parent, watching Mickey’s struggles to get the child to stop crying were quite funny. I particularly enjoyed Mickey trying to be Charlie Chaplin, to no avail.
Pluto takes over the next sequence as Mickey figures out that the baby is hungry. Pluto, hearing this, brings the baby his bone. Again, a great gag. That’s followed by a few minutes of Pluto doing all sorts of things, from swallowing a duck toy to ending up in a trunk.
The finale of the short comes when Mickey is trying to figure out how to get the baby his bottle. In an accident, Mickey gets the nipple of the bottle stuck on his nose and can’t get it off. He finally is able to pull it off, but the resulting force sends him crashing into a bookshelf. When he emerges, his nose is stretched out, and that causes the baby to laugh, finally. Mickey takes advantage and does his best Jimmy Durante impression to close the short.
Besides the great gags, the other thing that impressed me with this short was the depth of the animation. The characters have more dimensionality and look more rounded than they have in some of the previous Mickeys of this era. The opening shots of the stranger creeping around Mickey’s house are so well done that they look realistic. It’s a great compliment to the gags that make this one worth watching.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.