Saturday Matinee #107: "Ozzie of the Mounted" (March or April 30, 1928)
Published January 19, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
I bought the new Oswald the Lucky Rabbit mug at the Disney Store last week. Needless to say, I've never been more excited for drinkware than I was when I bought that mug. Perhaps I was excited because it's a 3-D mug, so it feels like Oswald is trying to run out of the mug every time I pick it up. But I think I enjoy it most because it's one more thing I can add to my small, but growing, Oswald collection. For the longest time, this consisted solely of "The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" on DVD. But in the past year, I've been trying to get more merch, not necessarily everything Oswald, just trinkets and things I might enjoy. It started when my siblings and I each bought Oswald plushes to give to each other for Christmas 2011.
An Oswald pin soon joined, followed by two mini plushes whom I've named Oscar and Oswin (in my world, they're Oswald's nephews). A cousin managed to get me the Rabbit Ears that promoted Epic Mickey II, which sit proudly (and nostalgically) on top of my television. Disney Store also had an Oswald ornament this past holiday season, which I eagerly bought in a two-for-one sale with the Steamboat Willie counterpart. Unfortunately, I missed out on the Oswald chaser from the vinylmation series, but I'm hoping we'll see a Funko Pop figure in the future. And now, all this Oswald talk has made me wanting to watch some cartoons with everyone's favorite lucky rabbit. Since it was Alex McVetty of Hidden Mickey Monday who pointed me in the right direction for the Oswald pin, we'll take a trip to Canada and check out "Ozzie of the Mounted," eh.
On a cold, wintry day, Ozzie of the Mounted is ordered to capture Peg-Leg Pete, a bandit who seemingly does not have a peg leg at all. Rather, it's an alias, along with Putrid Pete and Kid Pete. While riding his mechanical horse (but not the one from "The Mechanical Horse"), Oswald collides with Pete. The crash knocks him clear out of his Mounties uniform, but Oswald still retains his revolver. He holds it up and threatens to shoot Pete, who dares him to do so. Oswald shoots, and the bullet bounces off Pete's stomach and back at Oswald. Pete then begins thrashing Oswald, before escaping with stolen sled dogs.
Oswald tries his best to fix the mechanical horse, but loses his head in the process. Fortunately, it drops back down right onto his shoulders. Oswald then fixes his horse... but it explodes and breaks apart. In frustration, he kicks it... and it puts itself back together. The chase is on, with Oswald and his horse chasing Pete and his sled dogs. Various sight gags occur, especially with Oswald and the spring from his mechanical horse. Even Pete and his sled dogs have troubles, before getting separated. Likewise, Oswald loses his mechanical horse. Unfortunately for Pete, he runs into a bear who decides to chase after both him and Oswald. As the two run from the bear, Oswald runs on ahead and signals to Pete to run to safety inside the Jail. Pete makes his mad dash and makes it, but just before Oswald shuts the door, the bear runs inside, too. Pete swears to a laughing Oswald that he will get his revenge.
Based on the credits, this cartoon was sourced from a 35mm print at the Netherlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, this 35mm print of "Ozzie of the Mounted" suffers from being slightly incomplete. Several scenes jump frames, suggesting that tiny pieces of footage might have been cut out or lost. This is especially apparent at the end, as we never see Pete and the bear actually run into the jail, only that Pete is still being beaten up and waving his fist at Oswald. Still, this may be the only surviving copy of the cartoon, so we should be glad that the majority of it still exists. Ten of his Disney shorts no longer exist, having been lost to the ages, while only a minute of footage from "Sagebrush Sadie" exists.
Animation historian Jerry Beck also provides commentary for this short, where he notes that Harman-Ising remade the short for "Looney Tunes," nearly shot-for-shot, as "Big Man from the North" and featuring Bosko. Although DisneyShorts.org gives this cartoon an April 30 release date, Beck says this cartoon was released during March 1928. Regardless who is correct, "Ozzie of the Mounted" came after Walt's fateful New York trip, where he learned he lost the copyright to Oswald, along with his animation staff. Mickey would emerge only months later, as Walt copyrighted "Mickey Mouse" and "Plane Crazy" in May.
One of my favorite moments in the cartoon is when Oswald loses his head, as seen above. He's done everything he could to fix his horse, and it decapitates him. Such a moment should be life-threatening, but because this is a cartoon, it's hilarious. And there's a slightly refined dignity to it all. When Oswald loses his head, he's slightly confused when it bounces back on his shoulders. But all's well that ends well, and he continues what he was doing anyway. The moment perfectly encapsulates why the cartoon world can be a fun place to live. You can lose your head, if only temporarily, and gain it back again without worrying about any side effects. I feel this short really takes delight in messing around with Oswald. He's not only lost his head, but in other moments, his tongue gets stretched beyond belief, as does his body. When the bear bites into him and lets go, Oswald goes flying, and lands like a basketball. He suffers a lot more physical gags than Mickey ever did, and still turns out okay.
As always, Oswald's shorts can be found in "Walt Disney Treasure: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit." Given that I've covered three previous Oswald cartoons, you should probably know what the DVD case looks like already. But if this is your first time here, you can consult those articles ("The Mechanical Cow", "All Wet", and "Ocean Hop") to see what it looks like. However, one image that never gets tiresome is...