Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lion Down

1951’s cadre of Disney shorts kicks off with my favorite character, Goofy, again getting into trouble for trying something new.  This time, however, it’s not a case of the “How To” formula being resurrected.  Instead, this is a straight up adversarial short, just like the recent Pluto and Donald Duck outings.  The opponent for this outing is a mountain lion, Louie, who we have seen previously in Lion Around and Hook, Lion and Sinker.

There seems to be a lot of these secondary characters being utilized during this era of the Disney shorts.  Between characters like Spike the bee, Bent Tail the coyote and now Louie the Mountain Lion, Disney has a sort of bench set of characters to match up with their big stars.  In this case, they have to go a bit out of their way to make it happen.  Goofy tries to hang up his hammock on his rooftop park, but is unable to do so because he lacks a second tree.  So the Goof heads out to the forest on the edge of the city to retrieve another tree, managing to pick Louie’s tree.

The scenes of Goofy in his urban habitat are a reminder of how far the character has progressed since his original appearances in the Mickey Mouse shorts as a dim witted barn animal dog.  Now, he is the Everyman, living in a nice apartment in a major city.  His outdoor life is limited to this rooftop grassy area where he can lay out his hammock.  That presents problems when trying to plant the tree, with some great gags about digging into the roof and having lamps and furniture coming out.

Where the comedic tension gets really dialed up, though is when Louie starts trying to throw Goofy off the roof.  It’s a startlingly aggressive pose from one of the adversary characters, but it’s so funny.  Goofy manages to survive repeated attempts to throw him over the side of the building, but the back and forth over the hammock involves some “real” stakes.  That makes it a short with more over the top humor than we’re used to in the Disney works, and honestly seems more like something you’d find in a Warner Brothers short.

There’s no mistaking this for the frantic energy of Looney Tunes, but Lion Down is as close as Disney has come in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  That is a good thing because there is an energy to Lion Down that some of the more mundane shorts have not had.  I enjoyed this short and actually laughed out loud for the first time watching these cartoons in many months.  It shows that Disney’s artists had the ability to create some great shorts, provided that they were able to push some boundaries.

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