Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hot Chocolate Soldiers

The last short we’ll cover in 1934 is not really a short at all, but part of a feature. As part of the Jimmy Durante film Hollywood Party, Walt Disney and his team created a five minute short called Hot Chocolate Soldiers, that featured Durante narrating a tale of soldiers made of chocolate fighting an army of pastries. Sounds delicious, right?



Having not seen the movie, I can only judge this short on its merits. It’s not too bad, but there are some things that have to be described as confusing. For instance, why do we assume that the chocolate soldiers are the good guys?



From the beginning, these soldiers march through the streets, literally banging the drums of war, and getting the populace fired up for the attack on the pastry army. Why are they attacking? What did the pastries ever do to them? It’s an odd form for a Disney cartoon to take, as most of the past shorts have featured lots of exposition or character to explain why actions are taking place.



Then, there is the battle itself. This is where the gags fly fast and furious, and they are quite good. Watching the projectiles from the pastry knock the chocolate soldiers down and take chunks out of them like hollow Easter bunnies is very funny. My favorite gag is the launching of marshmallows right after they’ve been heated, which leads to the pastries being stuck against the wall.

But there is another confusing moment as the soldiers are knocked down from scaling the wall, and it looks like they are beaten. A soldier bearing a white flag pushes a chocolate bunny to the front of the pastry castle. Of course, it’s the old Trojan Horse bit, but this time with a chocolate bunny hiding a cadre of soldiers.



What kind of army does that sort of thing? It’s one thing if he had not waved the white flag, but to signal surrender and then pull the Trojan Bunny? Classless.

Of course, I’m partially being tongue in cheek, but this is a different approach for Disney. From the get go it seems as though we are supposed to root for the chocolate soldiers, but their actions are far from clear on that point.

Even more confusing is the ending. As the soldiers are greeted in the streets with a similar parade to the one that saw them off, the sun beats down on them, melting the soldiers into a gooey river of chocolate as the short ends.



As far as messages go, I dare you to find one in this short. In all honesty, it was probably tacked on to the Disney schedule as a means for Walt to strike up a friendship with one of the bigger studios, so we shouldn’t expect big things, but it’s still surprising. Hot Chocolate Soldiers is worth watching just to see if you can figure out what’s going on, but it’s not a vital piece of the Disney oeuvre.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


6 comments:

  1. Er... pastries? Bunny?

    The enemies were gingerbread men and the Trojan creature a pigeon last time I checked! (-:

    Meanwhile, here you can see the short with its original Mickey prelude:

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  2. Thank you for the correction, David. I stand by my description of the gingerbread men as pastries (it's a baked good, right?) :)

    It looked like a bunny. What can I say? The copy I was watching is not the best quality. Thanks for the correct info.

    Weird short. Just weird.

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  3. Never trust a sun with a face! This is the most messed up Disney cartoon ever – I love it! You'll find the link David posted offers better image quality, so you'll be able to see it clearer, but that Trojan Horse isn't any old pigeon – it's a representation of the Dove of Peace! I'm not convinced we're supposed to root for either side in this cartoon, just enjoy the gags, the song and this silly take on the futility of war!

    The funniest gag for me is when the soldiers are marching home – one the drummers is missing his head. I also get a kick out of the soldiers riding on easter chicks to war. Everything else in the cartoon is confectionery, but these are portrayed as real birds - talk about messed up! Lucky none of the chicks catch fire or get blown apart - it would've been much more gruesome to see on them take a hit.

    BTW, I'm not going to get mixed up in the discussion over whether or not gingerbread men count as pastries. One of you might hurl giant, flaming marshmallows at me!

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  4. Mac, I'd have loved to see a chick take a hit — and end up as a tiny, sizzling roast on a plate.

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  5. I think I'm going to install hot flaming marshmallow cannons as a defense system at my house.

    It's cheaper than an alarm system or monitoring fees.

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  6. You dared us to find a point.... and here it is:
    It's the futility and pointlessness of war. They go and win a war that we don't even know why they're fighting. We don't even know if they're the heroes or the villains. And even after they're victorious, they still lose out.

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