Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Orphan's Benefit

I was watching Orphan’s Benefit, the latest Mickey Mouse short today, and I kept thinking that there was something familiar about it. So, I looked it up, and there’s a good reason for that. This short was remade seven years later, with the same title, and pretty much the same plot. I had seen the 1941 version before, but the 1934 version is very notable.



The main thing to see in this short is the transition from Mickey, the solo star, to the leader of the gang. Mickey rarely even appears in this short, and he does not drive any of the action. Mickey shows up to introduce the event, prompt Donald on his lines, and play piano for Clara Cluck. Other than that, he’s not involved.

Instead, the action is borne by the side characters. Donald Duck makes his crossover from the Silly Symphonies to a member of Mickey’s supporting cast here. And it’s likely this short that won him the recurring role in the Disney pantheon. The animators had the brilliant idea of having Donald attempt to recite “Little Boy Blue” and be interrupted by the orphans. Combine that with Clarence Nash’s vocals, and you have comedy gold.



Here is where we see Donald’s famous temperament for the first time. His signature angry stance of one arm out in front and the other swinging back and forth is on display here. This is where we see Donald become the character he is today. He really is the most fully formed character from the beginning that Disney produced.



That’s not the only cast member getting an upgrade here, though. Goofy appears alongside Clarabelle and Horace as part of a dance troupe. But this is no longer Dippy Dawg. Goofy’s trademark hat, his nose and face have all taken the shape that they would retain for his solo shorts. It’s a much more expressive and well done Goofy here, and he has now joined the gang.



There are also appearances by Clara Cluck, who would return in the remake of this short, but is not part of the Mickey gang as a whole. She makes other appearances throughout the Mickeys, but is not the featured character like Donald and Goofy will become.



Other than the promotion of Donald and Goofy, this short is as a whole unremarkable. There are some fun gags, but it’s really a take off on the old performance shorts we have seen going all the way back to Alice’s Wild West Show. It’s a make shift stage with some silly vaudeville acts, just like many other shorts we have seen. That doesn’t mean that it’s not funny, but it’s nothing spectacular. Still enjoyable and well worth viewing.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


3 comments:

  1. Is there going to be a review of "Mickey's Steamroller"? You skipped that one.

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  2. Look closely at Goofy's chin—or lack thereof. He's not *quite* himself in ORPHAN'S BENEFIT yet... his eyes aren't quite as sleepy as they would later get, either.
    For me, the last "Dippy" is really MICKEY'S FIRE BRIGADE—and Goofy's mature model really kicks in with ON ICE. Just look at them side-by-side...

    Interestingly, the name Goofy (originally "Goofie") was used in marketing as early as 1934, and the name Dippy would occasionally be used in marketing as late as 1941.

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  3. I've always thought of this as a pretty good short, but not all that special. Watching them in order though, it's much better than I gave it credit for. The gang really comes together here (with Clarabelle, Horace and Goofy's act being the highlight for me).

    The hoards of Mickey-kids are no longer his nephews, but orphans. I suppose because Morty and Ferdie made their screen debut the same year, this made them the 'official' nephews and the millions of others needed some distinction!

    Of course Donald blasts onto the screen with his fiery temper in this one. This is one of the things that makes the short so good. Everyone knows Donald now, but at the time this character was so original and funny. He's a bit more of a kid in this one being half the size of Mickey, reciting nursery rhymes and getting told to behave himself.

    We've seen some similar hens before (like the leading chicken in Funny Little Bunnies), but this is the first appearance of Clara Cluck. I know Disney has done acts-on-the-stage cartoons before, but I can understand why they wanted to do this one since it's a great opportunity to bring together all the new, old and updated characters. The orphans, Mickey, Minnie (in a brief cameo at the ticket booth), Goofy, Clara, Clarabelle, Horace there's a lot of 'em, even without Pluto and Pete!

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