Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mickey's Amateurs

We’ve seen a lot of recycling in the Mickey shorts. That’s to be expected, because Disney was under contract to release a certain number of shorts every year, and many of those had to be Mickey shorts. So, it’s not surprising that allowing the animators to return to familiar settings or gags would speed up that process.

Mickey’s Amateurs, however, is seemingly a high point of retreads, although it turns out pretty well. Again, we have Mickey hosting a show on stage in a theatre, a setting we have seen multiple times before. Mickey’s show consists of Donald trying to recite a poem and failing, which has been seen a couple times before. And we have Clara Cluck singing, which we have also seen previously.

That said, it all works out pretty well. This isn’t the most innovative or original short, but it’s a fun time with some familiar characters. Mickey in this short is the most like Walt I can imagine. As he keeps saying, “Okay, okay,” to calm down the crowd or the performers, he seems so much like Walt on the old Disneyland TV show.

Donald tries to steal the show here, but he’s not featured as much as in other shorts like this. It’s amusing to see him first try to butter Mickey up with a gift of an apple, only to take it back when his recitation of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” fails. His second attempt, when he comes to the stage dressed in a disguise and ends with an out of control machine gun firing all over the stage, is no less memorable.

The midsection, with Clara Cluck singing while Clarabelle Cow plays piano, is less entertaining. Clara is not a terrible character, but she’s not as well drawn as the Fab Five. It’s funny to see her frustrated and chasing the microphone, but in the end, not as endearing as Goofy or Donald.

Goofy being my favorite character, his sequence in this short is my favorite. Dressed as a bandleader, he comes out with a one man band contraption that obviously goes wrong. Watching him try to keep up with the craziness is what I love about Goofy. It’s a good peek forward into his own solo series.

I’ve seen some poor reviews of Mickey’s Amateurs and I can understand that. It’s not original, as I said, and it doesn’t feature a sequence that is particularly memorable. The most “original” part of the short is at the end, when Donald tries to push his way through the iris as it closes to black. He fails, of course, but it’s the first time we’ve seen Disney push the fourth wall like that.

However, I would have to say that Mickey’s Amateurs is a fun time, just not a fantastic short. When you compare it to others in 1936-37, it doesn’t measure up, but that’s a very high standard.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. I have to agree that this isn't the most original of shorts and as such isn't the very best, but it's still a fun time with the characters, In fact when I rewatched it just now, I was surprised by how good it was. I enjoy all the characters' set pieces, even the two buxom Claras have a very entertaining act.

    There are a couple of odd things about this short. One is the appearance of Pete as one of the amateurs. I think this is the first time he's participated in something along with the gang, rather than someone out to get them. The other is how Donald is treated like a child early in this short. This made sense in his second appearance in "Orphans' Benefit", but now he's an established 'adult' character, it's a bit late for this to happen. Luckily Donald's character is so strong we soon forget this discrepancy and enjoy him throwing tantrums and shooting machine guns at the audience.

    I also agree that Goofy has the best scene. There's some great frantic animation when his 50 piece band goes haywire. It looks really painful too has poor Goofy is violently choked, knocked about and repeatedly smacked in the crotch!

    When I was a kid my favourite thing in this cartoon was Donald getting caught in the iris out. I'd never seen a character play with this before and I found it be amazingly creative. Since then I've seen tons of cartoons that break the fourth wall like that, but I still get a kick out of this scene!

  2. Fun fact: Pinto Colvig "co-wrote" this particular cartoon.


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