Saturday Matinee #125: "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line" (July 30, 1942)
Published May 25, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone. While many in America look to this May weekend as the beginning of the summer season, the end of school, or the day when the ole barbecue grill can be lit up, we must first remember that Memorial Day began as a commemoration for soldiers lost in the Civil War. Now, we pay tribute all those who lost their lives serving in our Armed Forces. Of course, that shouldn't stop anyone from busting out that ole barbecue grill. After all, outdoor potlucks have been a traditional way of celebrating Memorial Day since the holiday's inception. Grilling on the barbecue or frying at the stove are mainstays of summer. And, appropriately, frying is the topic of this week's Saturday Matinee. We'll be taking a look at the educational short "Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line," which showed us just how bacon could help win the war.
Minnie Mouse has just finished frying up some eggs and bacon (in the same pan, no less), but doesn't know what to do with the leftover bacon grease. Its pungent aroma draws the attention of Pluto, who would like for Minnie to pour the waste fat into his bowl of dog bones. Minnie is about to comply when the radio tells her not to. Fats can help win the war! Fats make glycerin, which can be used for explosives. The radio then shoots some fat facts to Minnie and Pluto in order to convince them what to do with the fat. Every year, for example, two billion pounds of waste fat is thrown away. If it were conserved, they could make ten billion rapid-fire cannon shells - which could circle around the earth six times!
"It's a little munitions factory," the radio tells Pluto. "Meat droppings sink Axis warships." Most importantly, saving a pound of waste fat can provide a clip of cartridges for "some boy at the front." We then cut to a shot of a saluting Mickey, who is Minnie and Pluto's boy at the front. Pluto valiantly rejects the bacon fat on his bones, and instead, they pour it into a clean, wide-mouth can. Once a pound has been collected and preserved in the freezer, Pluto takes it to a local butcher who is doing his patriotic duty by collecting fats for the government. Rather than accept money for the fat, Pluto takes wienies, much to the butcher's amusement.
"Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Line" is not meant to be some grand masterpiece of any kind. It was a message, brought to life through Disney's animated characters as they related to the American audience. Watching shorts like these today seem almost strange, but saving waste fat was a common-place occurrence. In my experience, the practice of saving bacon grease in the freezer continues to this day. I obviously wasn't around during the 1940's when such a practice was in its heydey. But after I fry something in a pan, I'll often put the leftover oils and grease into a container, which goes in the freezer. It was something I always saw when I was younger, as my parents would always save bacon grease the same way. I never really knew why they saved it, nor what they did with it once a container was full. Saving the grease obviously was something they grew up with, even though they grew up after the war. Looking back on it now, it's probably a tradition that kept up for so long since they have no reason to doubt it.
This actually harkens back to the well-known "Pot Roast Story." As the story goes, a young woman was making pot roast by cutting off both ends of a roast and sticking it into the pan. Her husband asked her why she cut off the ends, to which the young woman replied that her mother did it that way. But the young woman then began to wonder why the end pieces would be cut, so she called her mother one day to ask. Her mother replied that she learned that from her own mother, the young woman's grandmother. The young woman then called up her grandmother, who simply told her, "the roasts were always bigger than my pot, so I cut the ends to make it fit." An amusing story, but one that shows how a slight change to the norm can become the norm over time. Saving bacon grease is my "pot roast," so to speak.
Of course, saving bacon grease or frying oils won't garner me any money at my butcher's, but it was still a valuable practice in the war years. "Out of the Frying Pan..." served as one way to inform the American audience on the values of changing their norms in order to preserve their way of life. Save the bacon grease now so that when the war is won, things will go back to normal. This is the kind of forward-thinking modus operandi that went into many educational shorts. "Do it now, you'll benefit later." The same treatment can be found in the five-for-four war bond shorts, or the pay-your-taxes shorts. Food, and its uses, were another way to appeal to the audience. Other shorts from the era that focused on how food helps were the aptly-titled "Food Will Win The War" and "The Grain that Built a Hemisphere."
This short also features one of the more evocative images from the Disney wartime era: Soldier Mickey. While Donald Duck was given a series of shorts that showed his military escapades, Mickey Mouse was largely absent from the war scene. He was largely absent from the theatrical scene as well, headlining only three shorts between 1942 and 1943, with no new shorts in 1944 or 1945. This absence became just as real as those of Disney animators who were drafted or signed up. Fortunately, Mickey did make a return, although it wouldn't be until 1946 in "Squatter's Rights."
"Out of the Frying Pan..." can be found in "Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines," released in 2004 with a print run of 250,000. However, the short also is in the public domain, and can be found for free on YouTube, or as a download from the Internet Archive.
Saturday Matinee #124, Pedro Week: "Mr. Duck Steps Out" (June 7, 1940)
Published May 18, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Pedro Week! Much like last month's week dedicated to Alex McVetty, this week has been focusing entirely on everyone's favorite Gamer Tuesday writer, Pedro Hernandez! By now, you should know a lot about Pedro. He likes Beauty and the Beast and The Sword in the Stone, and his favorite theme park memory was his day at Animal Kingdom. Given how important and live-changing this theme park trip was, it seemed only appropriate that Saturday Matinee celebrate another character going out for a good time. We take a look at one of Pedro's favorite shorts by stepping out for a date with Daisy in 1940's "Mr. Duck Steps Out."
Donald is getting ready for his date with Daisy. Armed with a box of chocolates and ready to cut a rug, he gest ready to leave. Also prepared and equally eager to have a night on the town are his nephews: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Donald tricks them into marching back into the closet, which he locks. Donald then continues on his way, unaware that the three have cut a hole in the wall (!) in order to get to Daisy's house. When Donald arrives, the boys are gracious for his gift of chocolates. Naturally, Donald chases after them, but Daisy finally emerges from the kitchen. To save face, Donald says he brought them with him. He then bribes them to leave by giving them money for ice cream.
Now alone, Donald tries to get fresh with Daisy on the couch, only to be interrupted by his nephews once more, now back with the ice cream. Quick-thinking Donald decides instead to ask Daisy to dance the jitterbug with him. They get along well until one of the nephews decides to cut in. Donald sends him back to the couch and continues his dance with Daisy. But now, the boys are all intent on getting a dance with Daisy, be it one at a time or all at once. They sabotage Donald's latest dance with Daisy through popcorn, ultimately using the beat he's popping with random household objects to create a live band. Perhaps now they just want to have fun, rather than dance with Daisy. Daisy doesn't seem to mind, she's having quite a ball. And by the end of the date, everyone's happy. Maybe Donald should bring his nephews out more often.
Donald and his nephews have already battled before, namely in their introductory short, "Donald's Nephews" (1938). However, this would be the first of three shorts from the classic era in which they interact with Daisy. The other two shorts in which all five ducks share screen time are 1941's "The Nifty Nineties" and 1954's "Donald's Diary." In all three appearances, Daisy doesn't seem to mind Donald's nephews; she finds them to be absolutely adorable. Granted, their appearance in "The Nifty Nineties" is little more than a cameo, while "Donald's Diary" rewrites history somewhat and seems to establish that the boys are part of Daisy's family. Thus, we can only look to "Mr. Duck Steps Out" to see how Daisy feels about them. And she obviously holds as much affection for them as she does Donald.
I've always been a huge fan of the Donald vs. His Nephews shorts, and this is a rarity among them, as everything ends up okay for everybody. Donald has a successful date, the nephews had their ice cream earlier, and were even allowed to stick around and play. Happy endings usually aren't common for Donald, he almost always loses in his one-upmanship with whomever he is rivaling, be it the boys, Chip 'n' Dale, Spike the Bee, etc. It's refreshing to see everything work out by the end.
"Mr. Duck Steps Out" was first made available on DVD in a 2004 compilation disc entitled "Mickey and Minnie's Sweetheart Stories." Later that year, it was released in "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume One." 2006 saw it released a third time, now in "Classic Cartoon Favorites, Volume Ten: Best Pals - Donald and Daisy." All three releases are out of print.
Saturday Matinee #123: "My Heart Was An Island" (December 10, 1960)
Published May 11, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Whenever I want to take an adventure, but simply don't have the time, I often turn to one of my favorite Disney films, Swiss Family Robinson. I've mentioned the film quite a few times here at Saturday Matinee, ranging from my Holiday Celebration Countdown (Saturday Matinee #51) to the 1960 Disney Studio Album (Saturday Matinee #63) to the thematically-related "Sea Salts" (Saturday Matinee #89). I'd say it's time to revisit our favorite shipwrecked island, and what better way than through its theme song? "My Heart Was An Island" may not be as well-known as "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" or "A Dream Is A Wish," but it's one for the ages. The seven lines of lyrics are only heard once in the film, and not even heard in their entirety. As Mother Robinson is putting up her new curtains, her song trails off when the scene shifts back to Ernst discussing some books he's read. However, the full recording of the song is available on the DVD, allowing us to hear Dorothy McGuire's complete take of the song.
My heart was an island on a stormy sea
Till my golden ship of dreams came to me
Filled with the wondrous joys that love brings to light
So when you are lonely, under stormy skies above
Your heart will be an island till you find someone to love
My heart was an island on a stormy sea
Till you found my heart and gave your love to me
The song was written by Terry Gilkyson, a well-known songwriter of the era best remembered by Disney fans for "The Bare Necessities" from 1967's The Jungle Book. Gilkyson actually composed additional songs when the film was in development, but the majority of them were dropped when the Sherman Brothers were later assigned to the project. As the story goes, Walt told Richard and Robert a basic summary of the Kipling classic, but not to read the novel at all. Rather, they would write more songs to go along with Gilkyson's "The Bare Necessities." As high a praise as the song received, Gilkyson's overall contributions to Disney films does seem overshadowed by the Sherman Brothers, who certainly ruled the roost at the studio throughout the 1960's. However, Gilkyson's work is still memorable today. In addition to "The Bare Necessities" now serving as one of the Disney standards, Gilkyson's other work include "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" from Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, "Savage Sam and Me" from the Old Yeller sequel Savage Sam, "Thomasina" from The Three Lives of Thomasina, "The Moon-Spiners Song" from The Moon-Spinners, and "Thomas O'Malley Cat" from The AristoCats. And, of course, "My Heart Was An Island" from Swiss Family Robinson.
The song itself is a simple, but effective, melody that occasionally repeats in the film. I'm not entirely sure whether the melody was first developed by composer William Alwyn, then adapted into a song by Gilkyson, or if Gilkyson created the song for Alwyn to sometimes weave throughout the film's score. Either way, we hear its familiar tune at key points in the film, reminding the viewers that of both the frenetic and excited pacing, as well as the heart and love of the family. Within the Disney Songbook, "My Heart Was An Island" likely won't set many hearts afire, and even within the film, it's not as well-known as the oft-played "Swisskapolka." But for me, the song conveys a hopefulness that can get the family through the toughest of times. Its allusions to love and companionship also remind me of one of Hugh Grant's lines from 2002's About A Boy:
Every man is an island. And I stand by that. But clearly some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean, they're actually connected.
As mentioned earlier, the complete recording of "My Heart Was An Island" is available on the Swiss Family Robinson: Vault Disney Collection DVD. The DVD itself is one of Disney's best, and one I hope gets re-released to Blu-Ray.
Saturday Matinee #122: The Evolution of "Dunk the Mayor" (1965 to 2006)
Published May 4, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Recently, I was talking about the Pirates of the Caribbean film series with some friends. We were a varied bunch: I took yearly trips to Walt Disney World, some of them went every few years, and one of us had never been at all. But one thing we all had vivid memories of was Pirates of the Caribbean. Naturally, we remembered the 2003 film, and its three sequels. But we also remembered the attraction quite well. Not necessarily out of riding it over and over during trips (well, I did), but from the very old "Sing-Along Songs" VHS tapes. The "Heigh-Ho" edition included the attraction's theme song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)" coupled with footage from the attraction itself. For much of my childhood, watching that tape was my way of riding the attraction. Fittingly, it wasn't until Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl hit theatres and DVD in 2003 that I learned just where that footage was originally used.
We have to go back 45 years, to January 21, 1968. Disney Ambassador Marcia Minor was our host for that night's mouthful of an episode: "From the Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow." The hour was dedicated to a behind-the-scenes look at how New Orleans Square, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tomorrowland were designed and constructed. The highlight of the episode included a ride-through of Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with dialogue and sound effects. Much of the ride-through footage would later see new life in the aforementioned "Sing-Along Songs" edition of the attraction's theme song. And they would serve as inspiration for some shots and moments throughout all four Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Take, for example, the famous "dunk the mayor" scene. While we don't see the full storyboard for this scene, you can catch a glimpse of it when Walt Disney was showing Julie Reihm the maquettes and models for the then-upcoming attraction. This shot, as well as the actual model, were first shown in Disney's "10th Anniversary" episode, from January 3, 1965.
When we return to the 1968 episode, we see some WED Enterprises footage with the Imagineers working on several animatronics. They bring special attention to the "dunk the mayor" scene, showing us the unstripped animatronics in a testing phase. The narrator makes special note that every 20 seconds, the mayor has to be dunked and raised.
Naturally, the next stop is the actual attraction, where we see these animatronics in action. For Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in 2005, the entire attraction went through a major rehab, which included new costumes, an aspect of the scene that has been periodically changed every so often. The following year, 2006, saw the inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World's attractions. The dunking scene has a whole new context now, rather than pirates demanding to know where the town treasure is buried, they want to know where the town is hiding Captain Jack Sparrow. And to add even more political correction (earlier, pirates were chasing girls, now the headstrong girls chase the pirates), the negligee-holding pirate has a treasure map he doesn't want Captain Jack to find.
Within the Pirates films, we nearly didn't even see the mayor get dunked, as they cut it out of the first film. This scene would have taken place after Captain Jack gets slapped by Scarlett and Giselle, and before he tells Will they must find Gibbs. On the Curse of the Black Pearl DVD, you can see this short piece in the "Deleted Scenes" section. However, the filmmakers found a way to reuse the scene, and digitally edited out Will and Captain Jack when they incorporated this shot into Dead Man's Chest. Now, it precedes Gibbs interviewing pirates for positions on their crew.
All this talk of Pirates of the Caribbean makes me yearn for the latest film, which isn't due for theatres until July 10, 2015. In the meantime, I'll just have a marathon of the first four films, all of which are available on DVD and Blu-Ray. And, of course, I'll have to search through my VHS tapes for the one that started it all for me: Disney's Sing-Along Songs. Ironically, this version does not even feature the "dunk the mayor" scene. But I can always watch that on the DVD and Blu-Ray for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, as it includes an 18-minute excerpt from the 1968 episode from which the ride-through footage originated.
Saturday Matinee #121: "Snow White Premiere Newsreel" (1937)
Published April 27, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
If you were to watch a Movietone newsreel today, you would find it to be just as shallow, just as empty, and just as non-newsworthy as the plugs we see on the likes of "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood." However, due to their age, as well as the era from which they came, entertainment newsreels have a significant historical value. They sometimes stand as the only documented footage we have of important events, whether it be a new footprint at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, or the premiere of a little animated film you may have heard of: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Let's take a trip back to 1937 and attend the high-profile premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre.
Picture it, December 1937. A Path� News camera is on hand to film the spectacle and attendees for the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In attendance, we find Marlene Dietrich (ironically, one of several now-legendary actors voted "box office poison" that year) and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. George Arliss tips his hat towards the camera. Gossip columnist Louella Parsons shows up, not yet rivaled by Hedda Hopper. Stage actor Preston Foster smiles slyly. And famed child star Shirley Temple arrives escorted by two of the Seven Dwarfs. Also from the Disney stable are the very slim Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and a more-accurate rendition of Donald Duck. Walt Disney also shows up, looking as dapper as usual, as our newsreel comes to a close.
Newsreels were the theatres' way of informing an audience quickly, even if they weren't timely. Unlike today's live "at the scene" footage, these reels were compiled largely from footage cut and edited together, then joined by a narrator. The premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took place on December 21, distributed at the time by RKO Radio Pictures. The studio also distributed Path� News, one of several entertainment newsreels from the era. As such, it was only natural that RKO send a Path� camera to the premiere in order to document such an important undertaking. After all, many trade papers of the time predicted the film to be Disney's Folly, though we all know today that the film pretty much smashed those expectations and became one of the greatest Cinderella stories in Hollywood.
This newsreel is currently only available on the 2001 "Platinum Edition" DVD of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If you're interested in seeing footage from other Disney film premieres on DVD, the "40th Anniversary Edition" and "45th Anniversary Edition" DVDs for Mary Poppins includes footage from its premiere, while we get a few narrated clips from Pete's Dragon in its 2009 documentary "Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic." In addition, the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films contain short featurettes about their film premieres, all of which were held at Disneyland. Also, you can check out Pedro Hernandez's "Disney Film Premieres" article from 2012 for a look at some mid-90s Animated Classic film premieres.
Saturday Matinee #120, Alex Week: "Tangled Ever After" (January 13, 2012)
Published April 20, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Alex Week! If you haven't already noticed, this week has focused entirely on everyone's favorite Hidden Mickey Monday writer, Alex McVetty! We've been taking a look at some of her favorite things, be it raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. No, wait. That's Maria von Trapp's favorite things. As we close out this week, we're reminded that some of her favorite things include the Disneyland Dole Whip, alligators who prefer to stay clean, lizards who prefer to be called dragons, and robins who get ready to celebrate Valentine's Day. And, of course, what better way to belatedly celebrate Valentine's Day than to attend the wedding of Princess Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert? This week's Saturday Matinee takes a look at one of Alex's favorite shorts, 2012's "Tangled Ever After."
Picking up some months after the end of the film, Rapunzel and Eugene finally walk down the aisle! Everything is perfect, from the table settings to the tie-in merchandise to Punzie's mile-long train behind her dress. But before they can say "I do," Pascal and Maximus lose the wedding rings. A brief nightmarish sequence in which the whole kingdom goes up in smoke temporarily runs through the sidekicks' minds (and gives us the Queen's only line) before they give chase. Naturally, within the course of their chase, they cause a chain reaction that wreaks havoc on everything that was once perfect. And not since the Pastoral Symphony has a large river of wine come barreling down through the land. All seems lost, until a well-aimed tip of the tongue captures the ring. By the time Pascal and Maximus return to the ceremony, they are nearly unrecognizable. But they make it, and nobody dares to question what happened. All that matters is that Rapunzel and Eugene are married. Then, of course, the cake gets knocked through the door...
"Tangled Ever After" is the first of its kind for Disney, an animated theatrical short that acts as a direct follow-up to an animated theatrical film. None of the other films in the "Animated Classics" canon can boast such an accomplishment, although one film almost did. Actually, the "one that started it all" very nearly did. When the studio made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they excised a few notable sequences that were well into the animation stage, including a bed-building sequence and the song "Music in Your Soup." Up until 2009, many believed that the sequences were removed and archived. When searching through the archives, Disney's research team actually discovered story sketches that would have framed the bed-building sequence into a theatrical short entitled "Snow White Returns," with the dwarfs building Snow a bed for an upcoming visit. As we all know, such a short never materialized, although the dwarfs continued making appearances in World War II propoganda shorts (such as "All Together" and "Seven Wise Dwarfs").
With "Tangled Ever After," we don't have a short comprised of formerly-deleted scenes, but a nice "epilogue" to the full film. After all, Tangled ends with Eugene and Rapunzel discussing how she finally said "yes" to his proposal, but we don't see the wedding itself. This short acts as that post-script to the story, allowing us one more chance to visit the characters. In addition to retaining the voice cast, this short also kept the same directors - Nathan Greno and Byron Howard - which helps maintain a continuity between the film and the short. Whether we see additional shorts remains to be seen, although I certainly wouldn't mind a Tangled 2 if the right story could come along.
"Tangled Ever After" was released to theatres in January 2012 with the 3-D conversion of 1991's Beauty and the Beast. However, it didn't make its debut on home media until October of that year. Disney decided to pair up this short with a new selection of bonus features on the Diamond Edition release of 1950's Cinderella, on both Blu-Ray and DVD.
Saturday Matinee #119: "Colors of the Wind" Multi-Language Reel (November 13, 1996)
Published April 13, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Sometimes, if I've watched a movie enough, I'll switch the audio option to a foreign language. This gives me a chance to experience a favorite film as I would in another culture, even though it's not a very effective learning tool to become fluent within that language. My familiarity with key phrases or bits of dialogue from the film would allow me to mimic the words, but not enough to fully understand if someone came up to me and asked a completely random question in that language. For example, the DVD for Mulan includes a Mandarin Chinese audio track, which I occasionally listen to, to make the film "more Chinese" in my viewing experience. But I would be hard-pressed to recite back any of the dialogue with the proper inflection and tone that the language requires. However, being exposed to these languages allow for a greater appreciation of the universality of Disney. I can think of no better example than the multi-language reel for "Colors of the Wind" from 1995's Pocahontas.
This special reel features the film's signature song first sung in English, followed by dubs in sixteen additional languages. I took a look at a few key phrases from this multi-language reel, and translated into English what they were singing in their home language. You can see that the essence of the song remains in every language, even if it's not a direct repeat of what was said in English the first time. After all, when any work is translated into another language, it will be modified to fit the vernacular and colloquial ways of speaking. For example, look at our own way of asking "How are you?". We can say "How do you do?" or "What's up?" or "How's it hanging?". Likewise, in another language, a phrase like "colors of the wind" may not have a local equivalent, and so another term may be used.
Let's start with the first dubbed lines, by Anita Skorgan of Norway:
Du tror du eier jorden som du tr�r p�
med d�de ting du tar i kongens navn
According to Google Translate, this becomes:
You think you own the earth that you tread on
with dead thing you can claim the king's name
It's quite close to the original lyrics, which are:
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
Another great example are the two versions of French used in the reel: French Canadian and Parisian French. Both translate "colors of the wind," with French Canadian asking it as a question, while Parisian French makes it a statement. One would expect that since both are "French," there would be no change. But notice how French Canadian says "toutes les couleurs" while Parisian French says "en mille couleurs." Both mean "all the colors." But in isolation, Parisian French's "en mille couleurs" would literally translate into "in a thousand colors."
Peux-tu peindre avec toutes les couleurs du vent?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Il peut peindre en mille couleurs l'air du vent.
He can paint with all the colors of the wind.
What follows are some of my favorite translations: Swedish, Turkish, and Slovak. First is the original lyric, followed by its translated version. I then took that translated version and re-translated it into English, showing how the lyrics change between languages. Some of the phrases was a bit awkward ("strawberries taste have been in the sun"), so I've taken the liberty of modifying the translated English (given to me by Google Translate) into phrases more akin to conversational English.
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
En vildkatt blir en stj�rnbild mot din kind
A wildcat is a constellation against your cheek
(English / Swedish / Translated English)
Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Ormandaki �amlarin i�inde koş-
In the pines, in the forest, run!
(English / Turkish / Translated English)
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the earth
G�neşte olmuş �ilekleri tat-
The taste of strawberries in the sun
(English / Turkish / Translated English)
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the bluecorn moon
A tie� neuvid�s jak vlk vyje na mesiac
And also see how a wolf howls at the moon
(English / Slovak / Translated English)
This multi-language reel is available on several of Pocahontas' home media releases. It was first included in the 1996 Deluxe Edition CAV LaserDisc. In 2005, it was among the many supplements found in the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD. Finally, last year's 2012 Blu-Ray release saw the extra available not on the disc itself, but through Disney's "Virtual Vault," a streaming option that requires connecting your Blu-Ray player to the internet via BD-Live. I'll refrain from voicing my disapproval at Disney for not putting the extra (as well as plenty of others) on the disc itself.
NOTE: Spelling for foreign language lyrics courtesy of "Pocahontas - Official Multi-Reel FANDUB" by Ranee L MacIntosh (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8cJLOl7MK8)
Saturday Matinee #118: "Mickey Down Under" (March 19, 1948)
Published April 6, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
G'day, mate-ineers! I thought I'd fancy a trip to the land down under with my favorite mouse. No, I'm not talking about Jake, the kangaroo mouse from The Rescuers Down Under. Naturally, I'm talking about Mickey, and his 1948 trip to Australia in the aptly titled "Mickey Down Under." Not much of interest really happens, but the short is significant in Mickey's own history. Let's read on and discover what's so important about Mickey's one-time visit to the land down under.
Mickey and Pluto are trekking through the Australian wilderness, hoping that Mickey's trusty boomerang can prove helpful. He throws it towards a bushel of bananas, expertly chopping one down, peeling it, and sending it into his eager mouth. But the boomerang may be more trouble than its worth, its return trip sometimes causes trouble for Pluto, and later Mickey. Needless to say, the boomerang seems to take on a life of its own, much to Pluto's annoyance. Try as he might, Pluto cannot seem to rid himself of the troublesome object.
As Mickey searches for Pluto and his boomerang, he instead comes across a large egg. Our curious mouse decides to take it with him, until he bumps into the egg's mother - a very angry emu. As Mickey tries to clean the egg of all its dirt and debris, he only works to ire the mother even more. She attacks him as best as awkward emus can, with Pluto and the errant boomerang to the eventual and unintended rescue. Now with the boomerang ever on their tails, Mickey and Pluto run away as quickly as they can.
"Mickey Down Under" is a rather standard short, as I said before, nothing much of interest happens here. Mickey and Pluto visit Australia, if only to have some boomerang gags and give Mickey a cool hat. But even the gags don't feel as exciting as they appear. The first half deals with Pluto's own troubles with the boomerang, none of which stand out. When Mickey faces off against the large emu, we get some fun issues involving scale. For once, Mickey could be seen as the proper "mouse size" when compared to the large flightless bird. But this gag is just as fleeting as the others, and none really remain with the viewer. Actually, I take that back. One of the best parts about this short occurs in a very minor scene. After Mickey has realized he took the emu's egg, he offers it back to her, then notices a spot of dirt. He attempts to pull out a handkerchief from his pocket, but in his nervousness, causes the entire contents of his pocket to spill out. Among the contents are marbles, a yo-yo, kite string, a whistle, and his Swiss Army Knife. Just take a look below:
These objects really don't mean much in the context of the gag. The audience would naturally be amused to see everything *but* the handkerchief fall out. Mickey does succeed in pulling out the handkerchief, but I was still concentrating on the extra bits. These are all playthings (Swiss Army Knife excluded) for children, and Mickey - as far as we know - is an adult. Thus, the gag suddenly becomes a strange reminder of Mickey's multi-generational appeal. Children would be delighted to see that Mickey still carries with him some marbles in case a game ever got underway. Likewise, the yo-yo's universal appeal remains unmatched (even if I've never mastered it beyond the ability to pretend to hypnotize friends). The Swiss Army Knife remains something very much more adult-oriented than for children, but also shows that he's within an age that not only knows how to use it, but carries it around regularly in case he has a need for it. Perhaps that may be far-reaching, but at this point in Mickey's career, he's grown into a responsible young man - after all, Mickey is nearing twenty years old in this short.
Twenty years old is also where we get to the significance of this short. This would be Mickey's first appearance with a new voice. By 1948, Walt Disney had been growing too busy to continually voice the character. Years of smoking made it harder for him to attain the high falsetto for which Mickey was known. In addition, Mickey had made very few appearances in the recent years - the past two years had only seen two shorts ("Squatter's Rights" and "Mickey's Delayed Date"), along with the 35-minute "Mickey and the Beanstalk" in Fun and Fancy Free. However, Walt knew he would have to hand off the vocal responsibility of Mickey to someone else if the character were to continue. Starting with 1948's "Mickey Down Under" and ending in 1977, Jimmy MacDonald voiced Mickey Mouse. The only exceptions during this 29-year span were Mickey's appearances on the original "Mickey Mouse Club," when Walt returned to the voice - noticeably deeper, but still with that special Waltness.
"Mickey Down Under" has made an appearance on three Disney DVDs, four if we count international releases. The original U.S. DVD for The Rescuers Down Under did not contain the short, although it was included on most of the international releases, including - appropriately - the Australian release. Despite Disney's release of The Rescuers Down Under to Blu-Ray last year, they didn't include the cartoon among the supplements. However, there are still the other three DVDs to consider. First, and best, is 2004's "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse In Living Color, Volume Two." The cartoon was later included in the first volume of "It's A Small World of Fun!", released in 2006. Both the original short and an edited version (whittled down to a mere two and a half minutes) were included in 2010's "Have A Laugh: Volume Four."
Saturday Matinee #117: "Hello Aloha" (February 19, 1952)
Published March 30, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Afternoon, Matineers. Yours truly is currently enjoying a ten-day vacation, and has decided to celebrate by taking a virtual trip to Hawaii. "How?" you may ask. Well, I could always put Lilo & Stitch into the DVD player and enjoy the quirkly young girl with her equally odd "dog." Or, I could track down the fourth Hayley Mills Parent Trap movie, in which she, Barry Bostwick, and the Creel triplets attempt to run a beach resort. If we wanted to go completely old school, there's also Saturday Matinee #21, "Hawaiian Holiday," which takes us back to 1937, back when Hawaii was still a U.S. Territory. But I think the most enjoyable way for me to experience Hawaii would have to be in a 1952 Goofy short, appropriately titled "Hello Aloha," which translates either into "Hello Hello" or "Hello Goodbye" depending on how you want to use the latter word. For now, I'll be redundant and proclaim "Hello Hello" to Hawaii...
Meet George Geef, your everyday working man. He needs a vacation, don't you think? All that paper-pushing will get to him eventually. Yes, a vacation is exactly what he needs. Geef daydreams about taking a cruise, and finally does. At last, he has a chance to relax, to say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the city, and just lounge around. He walks barefoot on the beach, picks up a plentiful helping of fresh fruit and turtle eggs. Why, he even has time to listen to a seashell and read a message in a bottle. It says "You're fired!" but that's not important. He quit, anyway.
Geef then builds a straw house, complete with hammock... and torrential rain. But he doesn't care, he's on vacation. Let him sway back and forth, painting tranquil strokes on a canvas, tapping out his genius in a novel. Best of all, he can celebrate at a luau with the natives. Grade A coconut milk is available, along with local favorite shark fin soup. A hula dancer entices Geef to the top of a volcano. Wait, what? Volcano? No, something's wrong. This isn't rest and relaxation... it's a sacrifice! As the narrator so aptly puts it, "Geef knew the friendly natives wouldn't throw him into the volcano - but they did."
Rather than identifying the character as Goofy, he's known simply as George Geef. This helps make him the everyman rather than the lanky, clumsy character with which audiences were more familiar. Thus, Geef's actions here are not as comedically awkward, for lack of a better phrase. He's actually quite graceful in his movements, comedy results more from his reaction to humorous events rather than him instigating them. Goofy might pick up the seashell and not know how to listen to it; Geef knows what to do, and is rewarded with a tidal wave emerging from within the shell. This is the Goofy closer to "my" Goofy from the 1990's "Goof Troop." The everyman persona really fits Goofy better than the strictly-clumsy character. It added a dimension to him that is still lost on Mickey and Donald, who've settled into their more one-sided personalities (the hero one and the tempermental one, respectively).
One thing you may notice about this cartoon in comparison to others is the special on-screen credit to "Harry Owens and his Orchestra." Rather than give them a credit with the rest of the crew, this is actually superimposed with the title of the cartoon. I haven't encountered this in other shorts (at least not in recent memory), but it is quite important. Harry Owens was a popular bandleader of the era, particularly for his work at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. Appointed as music director, Owens immersed himself in Hawaiian culture, composing original songs with a Hawaiian flair. He's perhaps best known today for the song "Sweet Leilani," featured in the 1937 Bing Crosby film Waikiki Wedding. Owens and Crosby had already maintained a longstanding friendship when Crosby approached him to include the song in his film. It was a huge success for both, earning Owens an Academy Award for Best Song and Crosby his first gold record.
"Hello Aloha" has only made three appearances on DVD. Naturally, it was included in Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy, originally released in 2002. It was also included in Volume Seven of "Classic Cartoon Favorites," entitled "Extreme Adventure Fun." Its final DVD appearance was in Volume Three of the compilation series "It's A Small World of Fun!" Disney has been very resistant towards releasing their classic shorts to Blu-Ray, or even for free on YouTube (aside from "Have A Laugh" edited versions), so the lack of any new media releases since 2007 has been quite frustrating. Hopefully, the studio will decide to re-introduce consumers to these classic shorts in the near future, especially in high definition.
Saturday Matinee #116: "Tummy Trouble" (June 23, 1989)
Published March 23, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one of Disney/Touchstone's most successful films of the 1980's. To celebrate, Disney recently released the film to Blu-Ray, and a special screening of the film will take place April 4 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. But in the meantime, we'll celebrate early by taking a look at the first of three "Roger Rabbit" theatrical shorts made after the film's huge success. "Tummy Trouble" was released to theatres in 1989, where it was attached to Disney's summer comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Roger Rabbit is once again tasked with babysitting young Baby Herman. In an effort to placate the crying tot, Roger pulls out a rattle for Herman. The baby decides instead to swallow it. Roger panics, and we are taken to St. Nowhere, a winking nod to the popular 1980's hospital show "St. Elsewhere." There, Roger melodramatically visits Baby Herman, before deciding it's feeding time. He gives Baby Herman the bottle, and in the process of burping him, procures the rattle. Roger accidentally swallows it, causing Baby Herman to cry once more. However, Roger realizes he can shake his derriere and produce the calming rattle sound which Baby Herman loves. The surgeon comes in, sees that Roger is now the one with a swallowed rattle, and proceeds to take him to the operating room.
There, they attempt to operate on Roger, who does his best to avoid getting the surgery. In the meantime, Baby Herman wants another bottle. Nurse Jessica prances on by with a cart full of them, although this cart isn't very sturdy as one bottle falls. As it rolls down the hallway, Baby Herman crawls after it, eventually getting to Roger's operating room. The whistle has blown for lunch, and all the doctors rush out. Roger is pleased to see Baby Herman, until the baby sees a large radioactive contraption, confusing it for a bigger bottle. As Baby Herman tries to get to that bottle, he ends up activating a laser, which converts into a rocket, sending him and Roger all about. After a madcap race around the hospital and quick trip skyward, Roger and Baby Herman land safely (all things considered), with the rattle safely out of Roger and a bottle for Baby Herman. All is well... until Roger gets the hospital bill.
In the wake of his feature film, Roger Rabbit's cinematic career was really taking off. "Tummy Trouble" came one year after the phenomenon that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and he would later be integrated into the Disney theme parks. 1990's "Disneyland Fun" prominently featured Roger rubbing elbows with Mickey and Minnie, even being present for the morning opening of the park. That same year, his second short, "Roller Coaster Rabbit" was attached to Touchstone's high-profile comic strip adaptation Dick Tracy. His last short to date, "Trail Mix Up," was released in 1993, and a fourth, "Hare in My Soup" was never produced. Likewise, the proposed prequel Who Discovered Roger Rabbit has remained in development hell for decades. In recent years, we've seen some progress on the prequel front, but as far as I know, it's still a long way away.
In the meantime, we have to make do with Roger's few-and-far-between shorts and feature film. The limited amount of Roger Rabbit material allows us to continually revisit the three shorts and film, finding all the nice little easter eggs that the filmmakers included. I had been watching "Tummy Trouble" for years (we had the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids VHS), and still wasn't aware of a lot of the fun in-jokes that the short contained until I acquired the DVD. One of the earliest Disney references is a portrait of the Three Little Wolves (from the 1936 Silly Symphony of the same name) that is on the wall at the house. Later on, Baby Herman's room includes an x-ray of Mickey Mouse, his shorts and shoes hanging about, and Dr. XXX (from 1933's "The Mad Doctor") emerging from his portrait. Later on, as the surgeon wheels Roger through various doors (and various -ologies), the final door is for Burbank, where Walt Disney Studios is located.
Aside from Mickey's shorts and shoes making a cameo, we also see Droopy resuming his elevator attendant job, now transferred to the hospital. Animation director Richard Williams provides the dog's deadpan delivery. Droopy, an MGM property, has a Disney connection beyond his Who Framed Roger Rabbit and "Tummy Trouble" cameos. His original voice actor was Bill Thompson, who not only voiced Droopy from 1943 to 1957, but also worked at Disney, voicing various roles in animated films and shorts. Some of my favorites from his varied characters include Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit, Peter Pan's Mr. Smee, and everyone's favorite park ranger, J. Audobon Woodlore.
"Tummy Trouble" and Roger's other two shorts have been included as bonuses on both the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Saturday Matinee #115, Wreck-It Week: "Croissant De Triomphe" (March 12, 2013)
Published March 16, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Doesn't Mickey Mouse look adorable sitting there on his little Vespa and crying out, "Allons-y!" before racing to Minnie's rescue? I have to admit, this is Mickey at his cutest. But he's also doing much of what we expect him to do: save the day. That's the character he's become. No longer the mischievous little miscreant who turns animals into instruments, Mickey Mouse has come a long way. He helps people, he resuces Minnie, and he brings croissants to irate diners. One could say it's his duty. And here at From Screen to Theme, during Wreck-It Week, we could say it's his... HERO'S DUTY.
Rather than spoil this newly-released short for you, we will only be providing a half-summary.
It is a beautiful day in Paris, as Minnie is managing her caf�. However, most of her patrons wish to have a croissant with their coffee. But, alas, Minnie has run out! She calls frantically to Daisy, who runs her own patisserie. Send more croissants! It's Mickey to the rescue, and he boards his little green vespa to bring croissants to Minnie. Will he make it? What will he encounter? And, omagosh, can we understand French?
"Croissant de Triomphe" is the first of nineteen planned shorts for television and internet distribution. The short debuted online less than a week ago, and two more are already planned for release. The first, "Yodelberg," features Mickey and Minnie at a mountaintop chalet. The second, "No Service," takes us to the beach where Mickey and Donald are admonished for not wearing shirts or shoes. The look for these shorts are reminiscent of the "Melody" and "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" design, which stylizes these characters based on shapes rather than the more detailed and traditional look. It's an aesthetic that may take getting used to, although I fell in love with it immediately. Mickey has always been a character of evolution, going from trickster and scamp to hero. He's been radically re-designed a few times already, although most will point to Fred Moore's 1939 re-design as the definitive look of Mickey, refusing to accept anything else. Personally, I'm glad to see Mickey looking a bit out-of-the-box. It suits the entire look of this short film, and I'm very excited to see what else Disney has to offer in this design.
What remains to be seen is if this design will sit well with audiences in the long run. After all, when Warner Bros. tried to re-design the Looney Tunes as "Loonatics," there was an overwhelming amount of negative response. In a sense, Disney has faced some of that as well. I remember reading quite a few Amazon.com reviews for Mickey's Twice Upon A Christmas (2004), which was the first major project to feature CGI Mickey and friends. Some reviews were mixed, others made no qualms that they hated the look. I think one even mentioned that it made their children cry. In retrospect, some of those complaints were justified, but others are still over-the-top. I've purposely avoided reading anything online about the response to this short, perhaps so I can live in some optimism that this radical new design stick around for awhile. Mickey Mouse is a jack of all trades, his appearance should reflect that occasionally. If we wanted Mickey Mouse to stay the same, we'd still be watching a rubbery black-and-white rapscallion who delights in cruelty to animals.
Truth be told, for me, the best thing about this short is not the radical new design, but the wonderful little nods to Disney's past. The minor characters all look like something out of Silly Symphonies, the cops harken back to old "Goofy" shorts in which multiple renditions of him taught us sports, and we even have a cameo from some fairy tale royalty. This short is a celebration of everything Disney did right in the past, while presenting it to an audience in a bold, new way. It is the "keep moving forward" that Walt followed. We see that present here, along with that sense of, "I know where I'm going, 'cause I know where I've been." This is not just some wink-winky nod to the past in a "remember this?" fashion. This is taking the past and appropriating it for a contemporary audience. I can't think of a better tribute.
Naturally, this short is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray anywhere. But fear not! This web-exclusive is available for viewing from Disney's official web site, and will surely make the rounds on Disney Channel sooner rather than later:
Croissant de Triomphe on Disney Video
(Please note: the above links are currently only available for U.S. readers. For non-U.S. readers, a quick visit to YouTube will lead you to the short.)
Saturday Matinee #114: "The Fox Chase" (June 25, 1928)
Published March 9, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
While most Disney fans may be checking out Oz, the Great and Powerful this weekend, yours truly will be spending time with Os, the Lucky and Comical. It's no secret how much I enjoy the adventures of Mickey's older brother; I'm forever advocating for Disney to do more with him beyond the "Epic Mickey" video games. Heck, I've suggested time and again to my friends that Oswald get his own television series on Disney Junior, going so far as to conceptualize one myself: "Oswald's Sandwich Shop," in which our lucky rabbit runs a sandwich shop with girlfriend Ortensia and three characters of my own creation: nephews Oscar and Oswin, along with Mintzy the Fox, a "frenemy" who works at the shop but secretly wishes to take over. It is Mintzy that really inspired this week's Saturday Matinee, as we take a look at Oswald's "The Fox Chase."
Fancy a fox chase? Oswald and Ortensia certainly do. As they and others ready their horses for the big chase, the fox points and laughs at the hounds, also gearing up to chase him. Oswald can't seem to control his horse; they face the wrong direction, then don't run when everyone else does. In fact, Oswald's horse knocks him right off, and causes trouble whenever Oswald wishes to mount him. While Oswald attempts to mount his horse, the fox is gaining considerable lead over the hounds. He masterfully jumps over a brick wall, as we see a variety of hounds make their way over, each in their own creative way.
Oswald tries to tie a ladder to his horse's tail in order to climb him, but the horse runs off. In frustration, Oswald yells "WHOA!", and the word manifests itself, effectively stopping the horse. Oswald successfully remounts the horse and continues the chase, just as the fox moves a pond for the hounds to jump into. He even causes a basset hound to accidentally knot itself when chasing him. As the fox runs off in a new direction, Oswald and his horse manage to catch up and follow. Eventually, the untangled basset hound becomes Oswald's new steed, albeit one that needs balancing.
The fox takes refuge inside a hollow log, continually bopping two dogs - and Oswald - on the head whenever they approach. Oswald then decides to roll up the log like a tube of toothpaste, only to reveal an angry skunk pushed out. In fright, Oswald and the hounds run off, just as the skunk pulls up his stripe to reveal... the clever fox.
"The Fox Chase" exists today thanks largely to a 16mm print sold to private collectors. Thankfully, the condition is better than one would expect, although we still see dirt and lines aplenty, results of aging and other factors through the decades. However, that it exists at all is a miracle in itself, especially since so many of Oswald's shorts are lost to time. The history of "The Fox Chase" itself is quite interesting, as relayed by Jerry Beck in his commentary. He notes that the cartoon premiered at the Colony Theatre, an important venue in Disney history. This would be where Mickey would make his own debut five months later. Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks were deep into their secret production of "Plane Crazy" when "The Fox Chase" was in theatres.
The sport of fox hunting would be used throughout other Disney projects, albeit without the expectedly gory finale (it traditionally involves the hounds killing the chased fox). In the United States, fox hunts were often just a "fox chase," done for sporting rather than pest control. That is likely why this short film goes by that name, although other Disney projects are routinely called Fox Hunt. This includes a 1931 Silly Symphony and 1938 Donald & Goofy short, both called "The Fox Hunt." A fox hunt also plays a significant part during the animated sequence in 1964's Mary Poppins.
Finally, the 1981 animated feature The Fox and the Hound turns that convention on its head, showing audiences how a friendship can develop between the two animals meant to be enemies. Much like Oswald's "Fox Chase," 1981's The Fox and the Hound sanitizes the source material. The ending in Daniel P. Mannix's original novel is far more depressing than the hopeful Disney ending. Mannix had the obsessed hunter and Copper chase Tod to exhaustion and death. Disney's version instead suggests an understanding between Tod and Copper more along the lines of "we'll be parted, you and me, but remembrance will keep us friends." (This quote originated from the Hallmark Hall of Fame's 1987 telefilm The Secret Garden - based on the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic - as the last line spoken by Dickon to Colin and Mary).
As always, Oswald's shorts can be found in "Walt Disney Treasure: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit." And, as always, you can count on Oswald to cheekily moon the audience when he pronounces...
Get to it, Disney...