Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boat Builders

The trio shorts are some of my favorites, no doubt. The team of Mickey, Donald and Goofy makes for great comedy, because they are so different. Although Lonesome Ghosts is probably my favorite example, Boat Builders is a pretty good one.

As usual in these shorts, it involves the three working together on a job. You probably guessed, but this one involves building a boat. The twist, though, is that this is a “pre-made” boat, and the boys are trying to produce it from a kit. That is where the comedy lies, as the instructions say that it’s “so easy a child could do it” – a line that gets repeated often by Donald and Mickey throughout the short.

What makes the trio shorts so good is that each character gets their own little spotlight within the short. Not only that, but the gags for each character are different, making each one a little character study that really gives the audience an idea who that character is. For example, Mickey’s role in this one is as the good natured captain, and he has a small bit where he extends the mast of the ship while standing on it, ending up like a scarecrow. But Mickey, as always, smiles and laughs his way through it.

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, Donald’s bit of the short involves him getting frustrated. A little twist in this short is that both Goofy and Donald’s predicaments are indirectly caused by Mickey. Donald is trying to paint the rudder, but Mickey installs the wheel at the same time. Mickey turns the steering wheel, causing Donald to get tangled up in the swing he’s using to lower himself and caught up in the rudder.

My favorite, though, is Goofy’s interaction with the masthead figure. As was the norm on old ships, the masthead is an attractive lady. Goofy, being who he is, mistakes the figure for an actual woman. His interactions with the figure are hilarious, as we see the Goof handling the ladies for the first time. Even though it’s a fake lady, Goofy still tries to turn on the charm, with hilarious results.

The end gag is pretty good as well, as Minnie tries to christen the ship with a bottle of champagne. She ends up whacking the ship so hard that the fold up kit begins folding up on our heroes as they sail out to sea. Again, great work by the animators because this sequence is flat out hilarious.

The closing scene of the three in the water illustrates their character again so beautifully. Mickey merely chuckles, Goofy is somewhat bewildered, and Donald is angry. In a simple scene, the animators communicate to the viewer exactly who these characters are. To me, that is what made Disney so successful, is the focus on character and story over flash. Boat Builders is a good example of that.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


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  2. A wonderfully crafted cartoon. I've watched this one so many times since I was a kid I almost feel like I've watched it to death. However, whenever I do re-watch it, I always enjoy it again.

    This is one of the few Disney cartoons I've seen on the big screen as it was attached to prints of 'Meet the Robinsons' in cinemas. I was surprised, but delighted, by how well it was received by the audience. People were obviously pleased to see it and were really enjoying it. Goofy in particular got a great audience reaction. Similarly, when I recently saw 'Princess and the Frog', the 'Steamboat Willie' clip that played as part of the 'Disney Animation' logo got an excited reaction.

    I think there's still a strong and immediate appeal to be found in the early Mickey and co design and animation that can really delight. Perhaps the fact that they're seen fairly rarely nowadays adds to this effect when they do pop up.


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