Disney Cartoon #31: "Ye Olden Days" (April 8, 1933)
by Albert Gutierrez
When I worked in Walt Disney World, I would have morning shifts at least once a week. Once they were done and I clocked out, I immediately went to the Disney Learning Center. There, I'd check my e-mail, briefly chat with the Abigail the desk girl, check out the Robin Hood VHS from her, and go into the TV room. If nobody was using the big TV, I'd stretch out across the sofa, relax, and just immerse myself in the Sherwood Forest. Occasionally I'd watch another film, but those days were few and far between. For example, I remember chatting with a fellow cast member whilst the two of us were watching Peter Pan. Another time, I was just about to start Robin Hood when a rather attractive cast member came in, saw I was using the big TV, and asked if I wouldn't mind watching The Little Mermaid instead. "No, go away, this is my Robin Hood time," I could've said. But she was cute and I was feeling generous, so for one afternoon, I settled on watching the love story that is Ariel and Eric.
As the end of my college program loomed closer and closer, I knew I'd have to buy Robin Hood for myself, as I never owned the film before. And so, a few days before my flight back to Jersey, I stopped at World of Disney and bought the DVD. Of course, I watched it as soon as I returned to my apartment, and found a little gem among the sparse DVD bonus features: the 1933 Mickey Mouse cartoon "Ye Olden Days." Now, the two animated pieces go hand in hand for me, I can't watch Robin Hood without watching "Ye Olden Days" and vice versa. It's like having a double-feature of yore, or even just having a short cartoon precede the main film. The two go together like white on rice, and I've grown to treasure "Ye Olden Days" as much as I have Robin Hood. And so, roughly six years after my first viewing of the cartoon, we take a look at Mickey's own medieval adventure.
A cast list is first shown, introducing us to Ye Wandering Minstrel (Mickey Mouse), Ye Princess (Minnie Mouse), and Ye Prince (Dippy Dawg), with the cast credit for Ye Olde King cut off. Mickey Mouse is then seen singing, as he rides his mule to the castle. Meanwhile in the throne room, Ye Olde King (unofficially Pete) is proclaiming his daughter's hand in marriage to the prince, a gangly and blinged-up Dippy Dawg. Such a union would bring together the kingdoms of Lollapazoo and Poopoopadoo. However, Ye Princess isn't too keen to marry Ye Prince, who tells her, "I'll know you'll learn to love me!"
"Never, never, never!" she cries, leading her father to send her to be locked in the attic, along with lady-in-waiting Clarabelle Cow. Minstrel Mickey hears her cries from the top of the tower, and climbs a tree to be closer. He serenades her and promises to take her away, then jumps up from the tree to the tower to save her. Ye Olde King begins the wedding feast, unaware that Mickey and Minnie have used Clarabelle's garments to hoist themselves down from the tower. However, they fall short of the ground, and are dangling by the king's window! Incensed that Mickey would do such a thing, he orders for him to be put in the guillotine (which was earlier slicing salami). Minnie proclaims her love for Mickey, leading the King to pronounce a duel between Mickey and the Prince.
The people of the palace prepare for the duel, with the Prince getting plenty of royal treatment, while Mickey must make do with some makeshift armor and his trusty mule. The two battle it out around the castle, with the King and Princess cheering on. The King doesn't seem to be taking any sides, just enjoying their duel as a sporting event, as is everyone else. Eventually, Mickey's mule defeats the Prince's horse, and Mickey himself finally rids the palace of the Prince of Poopoopadoo. As the cartoon comes to a close, Minstrel Mickey and Princess Minnie are carried off for a celebration throughout the land.
"Ye Olden Days" is another short that shows Mickey's transition from mischievous little devil to heroic and good mouse. However, is it Mickey or the Wandering Minstrel who's really heroic? In a rarity (or maybe a first) for Disney's animated shorts, there's a mock "cast list" in the beginning. This sets up a strange situation: are we watching a genuine story of the Minstrel saving the Princess, or is this a staged performance featuring our favorite Disney characters? But that is the charm of it all. The audience doesn't need to care if this story is "real" or not, there is still entertainment to be found. They can still be enthralled by a derring-do Mickey and a chorus of royal rabble-rousers. When we look at Mickey's filmography as a whole, it is actually quite uncommon to see Mickey and his pals out of their contemporary time period. However, when they do venture into another world - such as "Brave Little Tailor" or The Three Musketeers - we immediately accept the new roles they are placed in. It makes them all the more versatile and enjoyable.
"Ye Olden Days" wasn't the first time Disney has turned the minstrel into the hero. Back in 1928, Disney released "Oh, What a Knight," featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as a minstrel who again saves the Princess. There aren't many other similarities between the two aside from the opening shots and general "damsel in distress, underdog saves her" storyline. Therefore, I consider the two to be unique productions unto themselves, rather than "Ye Olden Days" being a direct remake of "Oh, What a Knight." However, Disney would experiment with remakes a decade later, when they re-animated shorts like "Orphan's Benefit" and "The Birthday Party" in color. Color would eventually be used in "Ye Olden Days," as it was one of many shorts colorized for Disney Channel broadcasts in the early 90s.
For anyone who already has Robin Hood on DVD, the cartoon is available there, with the colorized version on the 2000 "Gold Classic Collection" disc, and the original black and white on the 2006 "Most Wanted Edition." In addition, it can be found in 2002's "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White," as well as a compilation disc from 2009: "Walt Disney Animation Collection, Volume Three." Those two present the original black and white as well. In addition, you can check out Oswald's "Oh, What a Knight!" in his "Walt Disney Treasures" set, which is currently 825 points on DisneyMovieRewards!
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