Monday, November 30, 2009

Mickey's Steamroller

I skipped one! Yes, a big thanks to Nic Kramer, who pointed out in the comments that I had skipped Mickey’s Steamroller, an earlier short in 1934. I started watching and then promptly forgot about it when I was summoned away. With all due apologies, let’s take a look at Mickey’s Steamroller before we finish up the 1934 shorts.

This one is mainly notable for the full introduction of Mickey’s nephews, Morty and Ferdy. Although they are not referred to as such here, they would go on to be famous in comic books and some shorts. It’s interesting that Mickey’s nephews were never as big as Donald’s famous trio of Huey, Dewey and Louie. But they were fun characters.

The mischievous duo is out for a stroll with Minnie pushing the carriage, when they run across Uncle Mickey in his steamroller. The two kids are being kids – beating each other up, stealing things from each other, etc. – but seeing the steamroller brings them together in awe.

Mickey gets distracted by Minnie, of course. It’s a very cute distraction, as he offers her some candy, which turns out to be conversation hearts. When Minnie reads the one that says “Kiss Me” out loud, it results in a chase around the parked steamroller that leaves it unattended.

Morty and Ferdy take advantage and start a rampage with the steamroller. This is where the short shines. Morty and Ferdy’s interactions with the steamroller are the best part of the short. We have the twins being shot up in the air by the whistle, then sucked down through the smoke stack. The firelings make a return to menace them, and there’s even a moment when they burn the rope that Mickey has lassoed them with. This is a fun sequence, even if a little destructive.

Mickey is a fervent pursuer, though. He lassoes the steamroller and gets sucked along, taking lampposts with him in a great gag. He ties the rope to one lamppost, but it does not hold, and sucks each successive lamppost down and out onto the street with it.

The ending features the steamroller turning the tables on Mickey, before everyone crashes into a building. Rather than being upset with his nephews, though, Mickey just smiles at them. What? These kids destroyed half of the city, and leveled a building, dragging him through the streets. It’s an odd way to end the short.

The whole thing seems a little disjointed. There are good gags in the middle section when the boys have the steamroller, but the rest is pretty mediocre. I was hoping when I saw Morty and Ferdy that there would be a bit more to do with them, but alas, they disappear for a while after this.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. This is actually the *only* golden age short to show much of Mickey's nephews. After this, they appear prominently in a crowd scene in BOAT BUILDERS (1938)—and then that's it!
    They had their names in the comics a few weeks from their 1932 debut there, with "Ferdy" more typically spelled Ferdie.

    Re: Mickey being OK with the boys' destruction—yep, more watering down. In the book adaptation (Mickey Mouse Movie Stories Vol. 2, 1934), the end is revised so the kids get bawled out!

  2. Glad to help. I really like this blog.

    I agree this is not one of the mouse's better shorts, though I too like the scene of Mickey offering Minnie candy hearts.

  3. I agree that it seems odd that the kids don’t get a talking to at the end of this one. (Don’t try this at home kids!) But, like the earlier shorts where the animators wreak destruction mostly on Minnie’s house, all ends in smiles among the resulting debris. ^_^ Such is life in cartoon-land.

    Perhaps they’re speaking to their audience. Would the entertainment value for kids be as great if it ended in a scolding? ^_^;;;


  4. BTW, I was wondering if you were going to be commenting about "Hot Chocolate Soldiers"? It's worthy of mention along with the other 1934 Silly Symphonies.

    This is a Disney Studio animated short stuck into an MGM film by the name of "Hollywood Party." It also features some interaction between Mickey Mouse and the real Jimmy Durante.


  5. Despite it not being too popular here, I personally think this is one of Mickey's underrated classics. I do have to admit that it ends rather suddenly – an entire building has been destroyed, but the kids just happily play see-saw using a plank of wood and Mickey's head. A case of no one quite knowing how to end it I think! It's also kind of odd that Morty and Ferdie didn't have a starring role in the cartoons again – I kind of get the feeling that the intention was to use them again after this short, but it just never happened.

    Ryan, I agree with Brian that you'll probably want to check out "The Hot Choc-late Soldiers", one of the weirdest Disney cartoons going:


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