The self-conscious nature of this cartoon would remain rare at Disney's
but would become one of the key features of the Warner Brother Cartoons
who would produce similar cartoons as You ought to be in Pictures (1940)
and What's Cookin' Doc? (1944). Both cartoons are tributary to
Gala Premiere, as is Warner Brothers' Coo-Coo Nut Grove (1936) which
features a number of caricatures of movie stars, as well.
Among the stars featured in Mickey's Gala Premiere I managed to identify
The Keystone Cops, Marie Dressler, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Maurice
Chevalier, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Harold Lloyd, Edward G. Robinson,
Clark Gable, Joe E. Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mae West, Greta Garbo, Bela Lugosi, Frederic March and Boris Karloff. Also featured is some
guy who has a striking resemblance to Prince Charles of Wales and who's
dressed up as a king.
The basic idea of this short is that everyone is arriving to Graumann’s Chinese Theatre to the premiere of Mickey’s latest short. The entire beginning of the short features caricatures of celebrities on the red carpet, like the Keystone Kops, the Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante and many more that I didn’t recognize. All of Hollywood has turned out to salute Mickey on his big night.
Mickey shows up as well, with Minnie, Pluto, Horace and Clarabelle in tow. Inside the theatre, everyone watches the short-within-a-short, Galloping Romance. This mini-short is really a rehash of The Birthday Party and The Cactus Kid, as Mickey and Minnie are playing music together until Pete kidnaps her and rides away. Mickey saves her, of course. What’s interesting is that despite the rehash, the animation appears to be new. It would have been easy to use old animation in this short, since it is not the focal point of the short, but Disney went to the extra effort to put in new work.
The ending of the short is the telling thing about it. After
Galloping Romance ends, Mickey is brought on stage and congratulated by the gathered masses. Finally, Greta Garbo herself strides on stage and plants a big kiss on our main mouse. At that point, Mickey wakes up in bed, revealing that it was all just a dream.
While Disney has used the “just a dream” premise before, I think here it reveals a great deal about the mindset of Walt. Here’s my amateur psychologist take: the short shows Mickey in his rightful place among the stars of Hollywood. Indeed, at the time, Mickey’s cartoons were every bit as popular if not more popular than the stars portrayed in this film. Walt’s asserting his place here. But he couldn’t help to be self-deprecating, and have it all turn out to be a dream.
There could have been a few other endings that would have worked – having Minnie get jealous of Garbo, for example. But the studio didn’t choose that ending or any other. By having Mickey’s stardom turn out to be a dream, it takes the arrogance out of the short and makes it adorable. It’s great work by Disney.
It’s undeniable, though, that at this point in 1933, Mickey is the biggest cartoon star of the day, and he belongs in the Hollywood pantheon. You can sense the shift that has taken place from the early Mickeys of barnyard life to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The current Mickey is a well to do man, living a suburban life. It obviously mirrors the transformation of Walt himself. But more on that to come.
In the meantime, enjoy Mickey’s Gala Premiere, and play name the celebrity. It’s a fun game to play, as you see all the stars rolling in the aisles. Enjoy!
For once the it-was-all-a-dream ending doesn't feel like a cop-out. I agree with everything you said about this, Ryan and would also add that this ending doesn't spoil the continuity of Mickey's world and character. For all his celebrity status in real world 1933, he remains popular because he'll always be the little guy within his cartoon existence.
It's not hard to see how the idea for this cartoon came about. Mickey's cartoons were tremendously popular, he was often receiving star billing and with his cartoons now being released by United Artists (Founded by Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D. W. Griffith) Mickey was almost literally rubbing shoulders with the stars. In fact it's interesting to note that Pickford's and Fairbanks' picture are two of the closest ones to Mickey's bed. Speaking of UA, the cartoon-within-a cartoon gives us a rare view of 'original' titles for Mickey shorts of this era.
I personally really the caricature of Will Hays. The caricature stills work today because it look hilariously like it's supposed to be Prince Charles!
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