Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Short Subject: Steamboat Willie (1928)



The very first synchronized sound cartoon.


This short is a prime example of Disney doing what Disney did best back in the day and that is pushing the medium of animation forward.  I like that all aspect of sound were incorporated here including, music, sound effects, and dialogue.  It’s certainly not deep or clever dialogue, but it’s there, and of course the whistling from Micky is iconic and is used today as the studio’s animations logo.

The different activities in the short are fun to watch like Mickey feeding the cow so it’s big enough to fit in the crane.  We also get a lovely sexual harassment gag with the same crane grabbing Minnie by her underwear to get her on the boat.  You’re dead if you only aim for kids indeed Mr. Disney.

Along with the more risqué content since Mickey was not the studio’s mascot yet and could get away with that kind of stuff there’s also the fact that Mickey doesn’t win in the end, subverting the good always wins trope that is far more common for Mickey than any of the other fab five.  There’s no throwing Pete over the side and taking charge of the steamboat Mickey just gets tossed below decks to peel potatoes, and the closest thing he gets to a victory is throwing a potato at the annoying parrot and presumably drowning it, though given the animal abuse going on in this short that should not come as no surprise.  Also with the plot of ’The Gallopin’ Gaucho’ I’d hate to think about what Minnie is suffering with at the hands of Pete off-screen.

Okay aside from taking this way too seriously as an adult with modern standards it’s still a very well done short.  The animation while certainly not as refined as it will become has its humorous moments.  The use of sound in all is forms in engaging, especially as ‘Turkey in the Straw’ is placed in various ways with different animals and objects, showing the versatility of the sound department.  For me it deserves its place as one of the major influences on modern animation as we know it.   

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