Last week, I wrote about how Bringing Up Baby would make for a great Mickey Mouse short. After pondering the humorous sequences that could emerge from such a short, I thought about other movies that reference Disney, or even include footage from Disney shorts or films. We're so used to seeing our favorite characters solely within the Disney universe that when they occasionally stumble outside, we're both surprised and delighted. These non-Disney appearances and references range from Mickey Mouse as a guest attending MGM's Hollywood Party (1934), prisoners watching "Playful Pluto" in Preston Sturges' satirical comedy Sullivan's Travels (1941), and a shout-out to Disneyland in 1993's Jurassic Park. Usually these references and appearances serve to establish the historical time period within the film, like a theatrical screening of Dumbo appearing in Spielberg's 1941. Occasionally, and sometimes with the audience unaware, the Disney appearance in a non-Disney film is for character development. Such is the case with 1938's "Mickey's Trailer".
Mickey Mouse harasses Jimmy Durante in this 1934 MGM film
It's a peaceful morning as Mickey emerges from the front door and proclaims, "Oh boy, what a day!" He then pulls a lever, and the environment begins to change. Trees shrink, the fence folds up, the yard and roof disappear, and a little jalopy emerges, with Goofy in the driver's seat. Suddenly, the mountain range and lake fold up and we see the true backdrop: a city dump. Mickey gives Goofy the motion to go, and Goofy starts driving along, singing "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain." Mickey's then seen in the kitchen, as he's preparing breakfast, with help of a waterfall and cornfield that they pass by. Goofy then entices a cow with some hay, while Mickey gets some milk. In the bedroom, Donald is sleeping until an alarm clock pulls away his blanket. He stretches about, still tired, and retreats back to his pillow.
Mickey cheekily presses a button on a wall, and the bedroom is transformed into a bathroom, with Donald enthusiastically taking a bath. Before his bath is done, Mickey transforms the room into a dining area, with Donald fully dressed. Goofy puts the car on cruise control (I assume), and joins the two for breakfast. Unbeknownst to the three, the car then goes down a closed road, leading to rocky terrain. Every attempt Goofy makes at eating is thwarted by drawers that open and shut. Mickey and Donald eat their corn typewriter-style, and Goofy tries to do the same. However, his struggles to pull the fork out of the ear of corn lead to him getting electrocuted (the fork ends up in an electrical outlet), with the corn popping (this scene is sometimes edited out of broadcasts). The three soon realize that nobody's driving the car, and Goofy runs out to regain control.
As Goofy jumps back into the driver's seat, he accidentally unhitches the trailer, sending Mickey and Donald on a rollercoaster ride back down the road. Donald attempts to call for help on the phone, only to find himself hanging over the cliff, with Mickey struggling to grab onto anything in the path that will slow them down. The trailer then comes barreling down towards some railroad tracks, and narrowly avoids hitting the oncoming train both times. Goofy is blissfully unaware of all that's happened, and when the trailer finally reaches the jalopy and hitches itself back on, Goofy looks back and tells the disheveled Mickey and Donald, "Well, I brought you down safe and sound!"
"Mickey's Trailer" is one of my favorites, but not necessarily in its original cartoon form. As a young child, I would "watch" the short through the stereoscopic View-Master, which is how I knew the cartoon best. It was one of several slides we had for the toy, and it wasn't until our house finally got cable (and thus, the Disney Channel) in 1994 that I eventually saw the cartoon short one day. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in the fully-animated version, and to this day, I can still point out which shots in the short were recreated in the View-Master slide. However, these shots weren't completely faithful to the original short, they were sometimes combined, or contained less detail than the cartoon. Still, the View-Master slide makers did a great job of capturing the best moments of the short, such as the one seen below. It was actually taken by pointing the View-Master at a light, and holding my cell phone (in camera mode) at one of the eyepieces. The quality isn't too good, but you get an idea of how View-Master took two existing shots (already seen earlier in this article) and combined them together.
A vintage View-Master slide, and one of the images you can see
Looking at the short itself, there is a lot of broad physical comedy that falls under the "Man vs. Technology" type of story. Donald Duck was already foiled by technology a year earlier in "Modern Inventions" (which I promise I'll cover eventually, I keep bumping it down in favor of another short), and this time, he gets to share in such hardships with Mickey and Goofy. But to call it a "versus" story is a bit of a misnomer, they're not actually battling the trailer or the gadgetry within. Instead, it's Goofy's own clumsiness that makes tragedy befall Mickey and Donald. He leaves the car in cruise-control on a rocky road, then unknowingly unhitches the trailer and sends them spiraling off. The comedy that ensues would normally be dangerous, especially as Disney would revisit the "vehicles on the edge of a road" idea in One Hundred and One Dalmatians' climactic car chase. Here, it's used for gags and laughs, even if we know everything will be fine in the end.
The trailer itself is rather remarkable, as it is depicted as being - "Doctor Who" alert - bigger on the inside! Whenever we see shots of Goofy driving the trailer, it's a humble little yellow oval that follows, but every shot within shows areas - and space-saving technology - that would be much too big for it. Perhaps Disney was thinking of transcendental dimensionalism before "Doctor Who" ever did. The "bigger on the inside" joke would also be seen in non-Disney fare such as the eponymous trailer of the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz comedy The Long, Long Trailer (1953) and the Union-Jack-emblazoned tour bus of 1997's infamous guilty pleasure Spice World (yeah...). It even returns to Disney in an early "Goof Troop" episode ("O, R-V, I N-V U") that features a bigger-on-the-inside RV designed by Max and Pete. Remarkably, that bit of continuity is revisited again in a few scenes from 1995's A Goofy Movie.
But all this talk about trailers and RVs have nothing to do with character development, which I mentioned at the beginning of this week's Saturday Matinee. To find that connection, we take a look at the 1983 film The Outsiders, featuring supporting character Two-Bit Matthews, played by Emilio Estevez. Estevez had previously co-starred in Disney's Tex (1982) with Matt Dillon, but would be better known as Gordon Bombay in the Mighty Ducks Trilogy from the 1990s. For his role in The Outsiders, Emilio Estevez opted to always wear Mickey Mouse t-shirts, as he envisioned Two-Bit as a "laid-back, easy-going guy", This is something easily seen in both the film and the novel, and having Mickey Mouse be Two-Bit's emblem helps support the characterization. Two-Bit may be a greaser, but he's a nice guy who rarely ever does anything nasty unless provoked, just like Mickey in his early shorts. In the film, most of Two-Bit's screen time is devoted to him having fun and implying that he never has anything serious to do.
The back of the center head is Emilio Estevez, and the back of the head on the right is Tom Cruise, both watching "Mickey's Trailer."
When "Mickey's Trailer" appears on the television in the Curtis household, Two-Bit stops what he's doing (teasing Ponyboy) and sits down in rapt attention. It's meant to show not only his "fascination" with Mickey Mouse, but the very apparent "child at heart" quality of Two-Bit. He may be a hardened Greaser who'll pull out a switchblade and threaten a Soc, but at the end of the day, Two-Bit still enjoys a good Mickey Mouse cartoon and doesn't care if it's considered kid's stuff. He wears Mickey Mouse both as a sign of his own childlike nature, but also in defiance to the expectations of what a "greaser" should be. Granted, none of that has to do with "Mickey's Trailer" itself - it was simply the cartoon Francis Coppola decided to use in the scene - but it shows just how influential Disney can be for all people.