Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thru the Mirror

Again, we’ve reached one of the classic Mickey Mouse shorts, Thru the Mirror. As a viewer or a fan of these cartoons, certain images stay in your mind. One of those is the image of Mickey in this very short. It features some iconic images and is just plain fun.

In many ways, this hearkens back to the early days of Mickey and the Silly Symphonies, in that there is a brief set up but the majority of the short is dedicated to Mickey entertaining the audience with a series of dancing and gags. It’s a throwback in that way, but very much a more modern cartoon in others.

As Mickey goes through the looking glass, he is immediately presented with a whole different world. Chairs have eyes, stools act like dogs and everything is alive. In that way, it diverges from the old cartoons. In the early 30’s, there would be no explanation for why inanimate objects were coming to life to join Mickey’s reverie. Now, more consistency and story logic are on display. It’s an important distinction.

That said, the short is really about the gags and how Mickey interacts with the crazed characters of the mirror world. After clearing the chair, he takes some gruff from a telephone, in a fun way, and then leads into the most fun part of the short.

There are two elaborate dance sequences that happen next – one with a pair of gloves and the second with a deck of cards. Each is magnificently animated, with fluid motion and spectacular shots. The shot of Mickey with the gloves is one that sticks in your mind, but the way the camera moves around, shooting Mickey from above or the side, is what makes the card sequence so memorable to me.

There’s also the new things that are done with the cards. First with the shuffling of Mickey in the cards, his “peacock” show, and then when the cards turn against him. Watching Mickey dance with the queen and then swordfight the king is a delight to behold.

My favorite gag comes after that, when the cards are chasing Mickey out of the looking glass world, and begin throwing their suits at him. No, not their pinstriped Armanis, but the hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds get pulled off the cards and thrown at Mickey. It works in reverse as well, when Mickey turns on a fan and starts blowing the suits off the cards.

It’s innovative gags like this that make Thru the Mirror so fun. True, there’s not a story here, but it’s explained – this is a dream sequence, and it’s Mickey’s dream self in this world. That adds a needed layer of subtext to make it more believable and easy to swallow. That itself is a new thing for Disney, and makes this short so much better.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. I would say that there is a story, it's just not the type of story where one event leads to another which leads to another and so on and so forth. Rather, there's one event that mostly leads to a bunch of other random ones. Previous Mickey Mouse shorts were like that, but I much prefer this one over most of those ones. I'm not sure why. I guess maybe because all the events are within the context of an event other then "Mickey's holding a party where people sing and dance". By the way, when Mickey falls into the water on the globe, is it King Neptune that pops out at him?

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  3. Recent cartoons in the series have focussed more on the other characters in Mickey's world rather than the mouse himself, so it's good to see such an enjoyable cartoon in which Mickey is the star again. One thing I've noticed in the cartoons lately is that, with the exception of Mickey's Grand Opera, the Mickey cartoons look a little flatter than the Silly Symphonies. It seems that in the Sillies, there are more special effects and cels are more likely to have shadows, dark areas and highlights afforded to them than in the Mickeys.

    BTW, that is indeed King Neptune who pops out the globe!

  4. Yes, that's what I thought, I mean about the King Neptune thing. What does "BTW" stand for? By the way?

  5. 411314 - Yep, BTW stands for "by the way."

    Here's an interesting thought: with that new "Epic Mickey" game for the Wii being slated for this September - one that explicitly derives its storyline and concept from a sort of "alternate universe" look at the first 7-8 years of Mickey Mouse...I get the sense that this toon in some way might be a huge influence on that project, subtle or otherwise.

  6. That is interesting! But why this toon in particular, as opposed to other old Mickey shorts? Hmm, yes I'm just imagining Mickey encountering anthropormorphic furniture on his way to find Oswald.


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