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Disney Cartoon #46: "The Fabulous Baseball Diamond" (June 26, 1981) - published November 19, 2011

by Albert Gutierrez

If you've been following From Screen to Theme's "Where in the World," you'll notice some mischievous Muppet Mayhem courtesy of Animal. Inspired by Animal's wacky irrelevance changing seemingly-normal pictures, we'll be bringing some of that irrelevance here to Saturday Matinee. Each Saturday in November we'll try to find wacky irrelevance in Disney shorts or movies.

This week's irrelevance is baseball.

"Baseball?" you ask.

Yes.

Disney always had a rather healthy history with sports. They depicted various different sports in their shorts. Mickey Mouse was a coach for a mechanical boxer in 1933's "Mickey's Mechanical Man." Donald Duck plays golf in 1938's "Donald's Golf Game," an activity that gets referenced six years later in 1944's "Donald's Off Day." But it was Goofy who often took on the job of learning a new sport. Several of his "How to..." shorts featured sports. Baseball, football, swimming, etc. Given this week's topic, it's rather fitting that his first "How to..." short was all about baseball.

Outside of the classic characters, Disney also made sure to look at baseball from another point of view. 1946's Make Mine Music included the short "Casey at the Bat," based on the Ernest Thayer poem, originally written in 1888. Casey's historic strike-out would be redeemed in Disney's own sequel, 1954's "Casey Bats Again." In that short, Casey is now managing his own baseball team: his nine daughters.

Not many of Disney's live-action films were baseball-focused, at least not outside the past 25 years. 1989's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was the first example I could find that involved baseball. Russ Thompson's baseball gets caught in the shrinking machine, which helps make it work. Later, the kids mime a game to clue the parents in. Five years later, Disney would remake the classic 1951 film Angels in the Outfield, now starring Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The success of the film prompted two direct-to-video sequels - Angels in the Endzone and Angels in the Infield - although Disney's most well-known baseball movie in recent years is 2004's The Rookie.

But where does baseball fit within the Muppet canon? I originally planned to look through the different "Muppet Sports" sketches, hoping that baseball was covered. Instead, I rediscovered the Fabulous Baseball Diamond!

The Fabulous Baseball Diamond is from 1981's The Great Muppet Caper. I hadn't viewed the film in several years; not by choice, merely by lack of having it on DVD. A quick trip to the store and with a wallet $10 lighter, I finally had my opportunity. And what a zinger that movie is! While The Muppets Take Manhattan will always be my favorite, I think The Great Muppet Caper is the funniest of the films. Amidst a rather absurd storyline about a fashion designer's missing jewels is a running series of gags and puns, all done with the classic Muppet-esque style that made their television series so popular.

And that's where the Fabulous Baseball Diamond comes in. It serves as nothing more than a Macguffin, but leads to a lot of hilarity and word fun. The diamond is on display at the Mallory Gallery, where Nicky Holiday and his henchwomen Marla, Carla, and Darla plan to steal it. However, the Muppets learn of the nefarious plot, and decide to stop them. When they apprehend Nicky and his women, someone gets the idea to toss the diamond around like a baseball. This leads to an all-out game of sorts, with the Muppets having fun and Muppet sportscaster Louis Kazagger giving his usual commentary. It's not the greatest of gags in the movie - that honor goes to Kermit & Piggy's argument about her acting abilities, right in the middle of the movie - but truly one of the most memorable.

I think at this point in the Mayhem series, you'll have realized that everything chosen has relevance. After all, these past three Saturday Matinees have deliberately been injected with Muppet Mayhem to prepare us for an entire week of all things Muppets! So stick around! Next week, we'll zero in on the most Muppetiest Muppetness ever Muppeted!

 

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