For Mickey’s second color short, Mickey’s Garden, the animators took another crack at marginalizing the main mouse. Mickey is the “star” of this short only in the sense that it’s his name in the title. The real stars of this one are the bugs in his garden.
The idea is that Mickey has bugs in his garden, and is going to all extremes to get rid of them. He has concocted a brew that he sprays at the bugs, driving them away. As is always the case with any good Disney cartoon, something goes horribly wrong. Pluto chases a bug and falls back into Mickey, who gets sprayed with his own poison.
At that point, we enter Mickey’s fever dream, and Mickey becomes a secondary character in his own short. Instead, we are treated to the rampage of the bugs, as in Mickey’s dream, everything grows to titanic proportions, including the garden and the bugs.
This is where Mickey is really a marginal part of the short. The bugs are the focus, drinking from the bug poison as though it were alcohol, tying themselves into knots, and chasing Mickey and Pluto around the garden. The problem this time is that the bugs are just not that compelling. As a viewer, you don’t root for them or enjoy watching them.
Instead, it’s somewhat confusing, because of the natural affection that viewers have for Mickey, you want to root for him. But here, he’s the one threatening the bugs, who have loveable, cuddly designs for the most part. It’s very incongruous, because the “hero” is the one threatening the characters who appear the most.
I think that disjointed premise makes this one come off flat to me. Pluto is in the short, but he’s not featured much, merely there as the way to get Mickey sprayed with the insecticide. Mickey doesn’t speak much in this one, but wrestles with the bugs and does end up with his typical Pluto embrace at the end.
Honestly, it’s sort of disappointing to see the degree to which Mickey has been moved to the side in his own shorts. At least in The Band Concert he was the central figure, as the action swirled around him, sometimes literally. Here, he could easily be replaced with another character, and nothing would change about the short. It’s easy to see why so many future shorts would focus on Pluto or Goofy and Donald. This is not the same Mickey we saw in earlier shorts.
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