Disney Cartoon #21:
"Hawaiian Holiday" (September 24, 1937) & "Andreas Deja Discusses Hawaiian Holiday" (December 19, 2006)
by Albert Gutierrez
Memorial Day weekend is often considered the start of summer vacation, and what better way to kickstart the season than to take a holiday to Hawaii? Unfortunately, I can't take you all to the likes of Oahu, Kauai, or Lānaʻi, but we can visit Hawaii throughout the magic of Disney animation. A few animated shorts were set in the exotic locale, and 2002 gave us the animated feature film Lilo and Stitch. For this week's Saturday Matinee, we'll visit the beaches of Waikiki circa 1937, with the Mickey Mouse short, "Hawaiian Holiday."
It's summer time, and Mickey and the gang are out on the beaches of Waikiki to have some fun. Mickey and Donald respectively play the guitar and ukulele, Minnie does a hula dance, and Goofy attempts to catch some waves. He can't coordinate himself with the water, often resulting in crashes and other mishaps. Back on the beach, Mickey's hands dance along the guitar (strangely only with three strings), and Donald takes his turn at hula dancing. His grass skirt catches fire, and he dashes about the island trying to put it out. A random starfish ends up on his derierre, and he tosses it away.
Pluto chases after the starfish, but ends up buried neck-deep in sand, a fate that awaits him again after his meeting with a crab who often snaps back at him. Meanwhile, Goofy continues to attempt surfing, and succeeds for a time, before the wave falls out under him and his board drifts away, only to prop up right on top of him and in his wetsuit. He finally makes it, until the wave literally grabs the surfboard from beneath him and slaps him back onto the shore. The gang laugh, as Minnie does a final hula dance, giving a lei to Goofy.
Most of the events in "Hawaiian Holiday" are quite incidental, there's not overall story to the short. Given that the characters are seemingly on vacation, that makes sense. I wouldn't mind seeing Mickey and the gang having an 8-minute adventure of some sort, but it's nice seeing the characters just relaxing and having fun. If there are any real "stories" to this short, it would be Goofy's failed attempts at surfing and Pluto's two encounters with the starfish and the crab. Mickey unfortunately has little to do aside from strum his guitar.
What's most striking about "Hawaiian Holiday" are the watercolor backgrounds. They are both very colorful and yet still muted when compared to the foreground. It gives a rather ethereal quality to their location, as if they are both there and not there. The backgrounds are probably the best part of this short, and the use of watercolors would later be emulated in 2002's Lilo and Stitch. In fact, there's a great bonus feature on "Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto, Volume Two" in which Disney animator Andreas Deja discusses "Hawaiian Holiday." He makes note of the watercolor backgrounds immediately, and even shows some brief comparisons of the Lilo and Stitch backgrounds to those of "Hawaiian Holiday." The aforementioned featurette actually looks at the entire cartoon, with Deja providing commentary throughout, occasionally freeze-framing the short to show how the animators did a certain action or scene. This featurette is quite valuable, as it offers a great analysis of the short as well as background information and lessons in animation.
"Hawaiian Holiday" can be found on two DVDs: the out-of-print "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color" as well as the compilation disc "Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume One, Starring Mickey." And if you're interested in Andreas Deja's dissection of the cartoon, check out "Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto, Volume Two." In addition, the short itself - but not Deja's analysis - might be found on that well-known website whose rhymes I've run out of at the moment.