Disney Cartoon #58: "Out of Scale" (November 2, 1951) - published February 11, 2012
by Albert Gutierrez
"Ch-Ch-Ch-Chip 'n' Dale! Out of Scalers!" Wait, what? Shouldn't I have said "Rescue Rangers"? Perhaps if I were talking about a 1990 episode of the popular cartoon series. Instead, I'm talking about a Chip 'n' Dale adventure that occurred thirty-nine years earlier. Their diminutive nature naturally led to great sight gags involving size. Whether they were chipmunks residing in a tree, or young bachelors meeting lounge singer Clarice, Chip 'n' Dale could always be counted on for some mischief. This week's Saturday Matinee takes a look at one of the rare shorts in which Chip, Dale, and Donald all benefit from the mayhem they cause.
Donald Duck is playing conductor on his model train set, which he happily guides through his model town Canyonville. He pulls the train into the station to refuel on water for the steam engine, as well as to plant new trees, all in perfect scale. However, he soon comes across a normal-size tree that is not in scale at all. This won't do at all. Donald leaves to get a shovel to dig out the tree. However, while he gathers his tree-removal supplies, Chip 'n' Dale are gathering acorns to store in their tree. They drop off a batch, then run to the next yard to get more. Donald returns and digs up the tree, placing it on his train to be relocated. When Chip 'n' Dale return, their tree is much smaller than before. Donald hears them bickering, and chases them away.
Chip 'n' Dale run off into Canyonville, where they hide inside one of Donald's furnished houses. They are delighted to find everything is just the right size for them, from the sofa to the kitchen table. Donald eventually finds them, but when he sees how perfectly scale they are to his town, he decides to let them stay. He even dresses up as a milkman to give them two bottles of milk, also to scale. As Chip 'n' Dale decide to climb into bed and take a nap, Donald decides to start having some fun. He uses a hose, sheet of aluminum, and soap flakes to make it appear like there is a snow storm. He then makes the gate open and shut repeatedly, which causes Chip to send Dale out into the storm to shut it.
However, Donald decides to turn up the heat on a lamp, so that Dale assumes it is hot and sunny. Dale and Chip argue about the weather, before Chip sees that Donald is behind it all. They unplug his lamp and then scamper away on the train. The tree goes flying, and eventually lands right on the track, with the train running straight through. Donald's irate, there's no way this tree will fit in his model town. But Chip 'n' Dale have an idea, and pull out a sign that they attach to their tree: "Giant Redwood." Donald's delighted that this tree is now to scale, and he happily rolls by on his train, leaving Chip 'n' Dale free to live in their own home once again.
"Out of Scale" is a genuine delight from start to finish. Unlike most other Donald vs. Chip 'n' Dale shorts, there is no real maliciousness between the fighting friends, and we get a feud that is played more for laughs. The short ends on an "all's well that ends well" message, showing a compromise between the characters that we don't often see. Donald gets his scale tree, Chip 'n' Dale get their home. I'm sure they probably still stay at Donald's place on weekends.
What I always loved about the Chip 'n' Dale shorts were that they were characters that often were kept to scale. Unlike the anthropomorphic mice, ducks, and dogs, these chipmunks always remained tiny. But even with their short stack, they had large minds. Most shorts saw them besting Donald or Pluto, effectively turning each adventure into another example of the little guy standing up to The Man. It appeals to the underdog in all of us; Chip 'n' Dale's ingenuity in their shorts prove that brains can often succeed over brawns.
This week's Saturday Matinee is dedicated to Marielle, one of Thursday Treasures' guest writers. A week ago, I bothered her for an hour about which Disney cartoon short was her favorite. She initially decided on "Thru the Mirror," the Mickey Mouse short where he falls asleep reading Alice Through the Looking Glass and encounters a Wonderland of his own. However, after watching that short online, we saw a link for a Spanish version of "Out of Scale." Curious to see how such unique voices like Donald, Chip, and Dale would sound in Spanish, we clicked the link. Both of us were already familiar with the short, and were immediately amused by Donald's newfound Spanish accent. Upon hearing Chip 'n' Dale say, "We don't know!" in Spanish ("No sabamos!"), we were in tears from laughing so hard. Their voices were already cute to hear in English, but hearing them in Spanish (along with Donald's own incoherency) made them absolutely adorable. I highly recommend checking out alternate language options for any Disney shorts and films you may have. It can provide a wholly different - and sometimes more enjoyable - viewing experience.
"Out of Scale" first made its DVD appearance on "Classic Cartoon Favorites, Volume Four: Starring Chip 'n' Dale." This 2005 compilation disc also included eight additional shorts featuring the rascally rodents, and is also the only DVD to feature "Two Chips and a Miss" and "Chicken in the Rough." In 2008, the short returned to DVD, in two different releases. The more prominent release was "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 4," which featured "Out of Scale" among its 31 classic shorts. That two-disc set also includes ten "Mickey Mouse Works" shorts featuring Donald Duck (a couple even with Chip 'n' Dale). It's been long out of print, so your best bet for watching "Out of Scale" on DVD is the next release.
"Out of Scale" was also featured as one of two bonus shorts (the other being "The Brave Engineer") in the Disney Movie Club exclusive release of 1949's So Dear to My Heart. It's understandable why both would be included. They both feature trains, which figures semi-prominently in the film. But "Out of Scale" also holds a slightly larger connection to So Dear to My Heart than "The Brave Engineer." Donald's scale-model town and train are reminiscent of Walt's own Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which he had set up in his backyard. In addition, Walt originally envisioned a traveling exhibition which would allow guests to peer into 1/8-scale replicas of the sets used in the film, which were intricately detailed and ornate. Only one model was made, Granny Kincaid's cabin. Eventually, the idea of a traveling exhibition morphed into the theme park that we all know and love today: Disneyland.
And, of course, for my fellow Gen-Y readers who grew up with "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers," be sure to check out the similarly-themed and same-named episode "Out of Scale," which was briefly mentioned at the beginning of this article. It can be found in "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers, Volume Two."