Saturday Matinee #94: "Mickey and the Goat Man" (May 18, 2002)
Published October 20, 2012
by Albert Gutierrez
Last week, we looked at how Disney re-introduced Daisy to their fans through the "Mickey Mouse Works" and "House of Mouse" series. I had such a blast revisiting that era, that I decided to dedicate the rest of October's Saturday Matinee to these cartoons. This week, we'll take a look at how Mortimer Mouse, the smarmy rival, is revisited and personified for the late 90's. From the Walt era, Mortimer had one singular appearance: a 1936 short appropriately titled "Mickey's Rival." However, when "Mickey Mouse Works" began, they decided to bring back Mortimer as a recurring foe for Mickey once more, complete with his signature "ha-cha-cha." Of the Mortimer shorts created for "Mickey Mouse Works" and "House of Mouse," my favorite is "Mickey's Mix Up." However, we'll take a look at a more unique cartoon from the series: "Mickey and the Goat Man." This 2002 short was intentionally done in the vein of an old black & white Mickey Mouse cartoon, right down to the opening titles...
At the Hyperion Theatre, Mortimer Mouse headlines the vaudeville show, with Mickey Mouse as "the world's happiest sidekick." However, Mickey's not so happy, and he tells Mortimer he plans to quit. The two argue backstage, before going on to perform. It's a lot of silly dancing, with Mortimer constantly throwing pies in Mickey's face. The act isn't too hot, though, and the pair are thrown out of the theatre. Mortimer and Mickey decide to go on to Alaska, hoping to find a new venue to perform. On the way, they stop to pick up a hitchhiking Minnie Mouse, heading for Hollywood. Mortimer abandons Mickey on the side of the road, speeding away with Minnie.
Mickey ends up in the middle of nowhere (as the sign dutifully points out), but fortunately gets picked up by a goat man driving a van. Also in the van... Mortimer and Minnie! Minnie and Mickey hit it off really well, while Mortimer's slimy attitude causes Minnie to punch him out. The goat man arrives at his home, where he forces Mickey and Mortimer to perform for him. Minnie tells Mickey to perform badly for the goat man. Mortimer performs well, while Mickey keeps messing up. This makes the goat man insist that Mortimer stay to perform, while Minnie and Mickey are free to go!
"Mickey and the Goat Man" comes from a 2002 episode of "House of Mouse" that intentionally celebrates all things black and white. Two other cartoons featured in the episode include 1932's "The Whoopee Party" and a clip from 1930's "Pioneer Days." The short does a great job of emulating an old cartoon. It's not just in the old-style animation either, but in the entire presentation. The cartoon has wear lines and is riddled with dirt, grain, dust, you name it. Even the soundtrack is made to sound old and muffled. Whether that's due to the original soundtrack or the quality of the YouTube upload I watched, it's still effective. The only thing that really distinguishes this cartoon from a real black & white Mickey cartoon is the voices. I grew up listening to Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor as Mickey and Minnie, and always associate their voices with 80's to 00's Mickey. Hearing those voices come out of a black & white cartoon just doesn't fit as well as I expected it to.
I really like the conscious efforts they did to honor the past. The theater is named after Disney's Hyperion Studios, while all the characters feature the signature pie eyes. I always associate with black & white Mickey, even though some of his most popular color shorts are of pie-eyed Mickey, like "Brave Little Tailor" or "Lonesome Ghosts." Likewise, Minnie Mouse is sporting her flower hat, her headpiece of choice throughout the 20's and 30's, before a 1940's re-design that gave her the poofy bow. Mortimer's design is still similar to his "Mickey's Rival" and "Mickey Mouse Works" appearances, although his long pants have the buttons and shoes just like Mickey. My favorite nod to the black and white era is the Goat Man himself. He's an oversized version of the goat from "Steamboat Willie," who Mickey turned into a victrola after eating some sheet music. This makes the role reversal here quite amusing, as now Goat Man is telling Mickey to do the performing.
It's during this performance that we see a lot of homage to early animation. Mickey stretches and contorts himself to avoid Mortimer's pies. The "squash and stretch" principle has been a staple of animation since its early years, although its wacky style eventually would lose its favor with the audience. And the animators, I suppose. The desire to create realistic movement led to animation as a whole to no longer be as wild and crazy as we see in black & white cartoons. Then again, I'm only thinking about Disney animation, which made great strides towards realism in their animated features. I'll have to revisit some non-Disney cartoons again to get a vague assessment of how it evolved. Unfortunately, the extent of my non-Disney animation from the Golden Age era only stretches to a couple "Looney Tunes Golden Collection" and "Tom & Jerry" DVD sets.
Overall, I enjoyed this modern homage to classic animation. It's not the most exciting "House of Mouse" cartoon, but is one that I greatly enjoyed watching. Generally, whenever movies are made that consciously want to re-enact a bygone age or filmmaking style, they spend too much time aware of their imitation. They seem to always include something that is telling the audience, "See this? We're doing it like they did!" In "Mickey and the Goat Man," these details and nods are more subtle, so that viewers unaware of these references can enjoy the cartoon on its own. And some of them, like the one below, are completely original to the cartoon. Mickey Mouse has never been, nor shall he ever be, a sidekick. It's so nice to see historical fiction like this, it helps remind viewers that the homage is just that.
Like many other "Mickey Mouse Works"/"House of Mouse" cartoons, this one is not available on DVD.