Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mickey's Kangaroo

The Mickey Mouse we see in Mickey’s Kangaroo is a Mickey in transition. This is his last black and white short, before we return to glorious Technicolor in the Mickeys (I incorrectly stated that it was Mickey’s Service Station. My apologies). But there is much more.

The story of the short is that a friend has sent Mickey a kangaroo. The question of why Mickey has friends in Australia and why that person would think to send him a kangaroo will remain one of the mysteries of the Disney imagination. The kangaroo is a boxing kangaroo, and between Hoppy the kangaroo and its offspring, they do a number on Mickey and Pluto.



What was more interesting to me, though, was watching Mickey in this short. As I mentioned, the short opens with a box containing the kangaroo arriving in the mail. Mickey reads the tag that says his address is Hollywood. This is not the first time Mickey has been identified as living in Hollywood, but it is odd when looking at the rest of the short.

The rest of the short is set in a barnyard setting. It’s sort of a throwback in that regard. Pluto runs into a chicken coop, Mickey boxes the kangaroo in a barn, and there is livestock all over the place. That seems a little off when thinking of living in Hollywood, even in 1935.



So we see Mickey in transition from his barnyard days to the life of a Hollywood star. But also, as we’ve seen in recent shorts, he’s moving away from being the center of attention. This short is really more about Pluto, and his character makes a bit of a change here.



We see Pluto as normal, barking and playing with Mickey, until the kangaroo shows up. Once he starts getting tormented by Hoppy and her son, a new side of Pluto emerges. It’s a strange side, in my opinion.



Pluto breaks the fourth wall, speaking directly to the viewer, leaning into the camera, and uses a menacing voice. This voice tries to convey Pluto’s thoughts, and speaks about how he will get rid of the kangaroos. Frankly, it’s just weird. We’ve seen Pluto with the devil on one shoulder and angel on the other, and this is really just another version of that. But for some reason, it seems a little odd.

It’s definitely an experiment. Towards the end of the short, the small kangaroo and Pluto manage to make up, and the menace in his voice goes away. That sort of redeems the character from his earlier growling voice, but it still is strange.



Notice I haven’t talked much about the gags or story of the film. That’s because there’s not much to talk about. The gags are not that great, and aside from the Pluto experimentation, there’s not much else of note. The one other interesting note was that the kangaroos make a honking sound, that to me sounded a lot like the Road Runner. Don’t know if that means anything or not, but it was interesting. Mickey’s Kangaroo is an okay short, but definitely not one of my favorites.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


2 comments:

  1. After watching Disney cartoons for years, this was once the final classic-era Mickey short I had left to see. Unfortunately when I finally saw it, it wasn't worth the wait and it's not a cartoon I care much for at all. I think a lot of the problem stems from my own thoughts about boxing – I just don't understand the point of it! Seeing Mickey punch an animal in the head, even when it's supposed to be a game and even though he's a boxing kangaroo, well, it's just wrong to me. Mickey can't even get a tune out of him!

    Also Pluto's inner voice talking to the audience is completely unnecessary. His thoughts are already communicated by his actions. It's obvious what's going on and there isn't even any humour added (as there is with Pluto's shoulder angel and devil).

    Watching these cartoons in order, it's interesting to see how much better the animation is getting especially in terms of squash and stretch. However, Mickey is boring in this short - just letting himself get punched around with a smile on his face. It sucks!

    I do wonder if there is an inside studio story on where the idea for this cartoon came from. The kangaroo comes from Leo Buring... Scrap that! This link explains everything:

    http://www.2719hyperion.com/2008/08/freeze-frame-mickeys-kangaroo.html

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  2. And what names the studio's wallabies had... Poucho, Leapo and Hoppo (i.e. Groucho, Chico and Harpo—call me a dumbbell, I only just noticed the pun).

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