I agree with pretty much all the comments you made on this one, Ryan. However, I do think that the horses are different enough from Horace. In the past Mickey's horse would have been Horace – think of
The Cactus Kid, but by this stage he's one of the 'humans'. Admittedly the horse designs are one of the weaker elements of this short.
This is a standard story of Mickey rescuing Minnie from outlaws in the Wild West. But it does not come off as standard, because the storytelling is done so well. Particular attention is paid to the characters, and their lines early in the short are paid off later.
For example, Minnie begins the short on her own, driving a wagon with horses through the desert. When she meats a puddle, Mickey comes by and offers to help, but Minnie intones that “I can take care of myself,” in an unconvincing fashion. Mickey ends up having to help anyway, but it’s a refrain that Minnie will repeat throughout the short.
At the end of the short, though, after Mickey has saved her from Pete’s clutches and she is alone with him, she repeats the mantra again. This time, though, it takes on new meaning, as she is referring to her ability to take charge and kiss Mickey on her own. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition and a character moment for Minnie that we don’t see often in these films.
Another interesting moment comes when Minnie is being chased through the desert by Pete. Mickey is perched on a hill above, and of course catches sight of Minnie and goes after her. Before that, though, we get a shot of him daydreaming about Minnie, and seeing her in the smoke of his fire. Mickey embraces the smoky vision only to get a lungful of smoke in return.
But that single moment, the brief pause in the action, connects the viewer with Mickey more, and provides us his motivation, rather than relying on familiarity with the character to do so. It may not seem like much, but for storytelling, it is a big leap forward.
Why do I focus on this aspect? Because as the Disney studio was preparing to work on a full length feature, storytelling was critical. You could not sustain a full length film like Snow White on the basis of gags or familiar characters in familiar settings. A strong story had to be the goal. You can see them trying to work towards this in the Silly Symphonies and the Mickeys of this era.
Artistically, this short shines as well. There is some great work here, and inventive use of the camera. We get some wide panoramics of the desert vistas, and tight close up shots of Mickey and Pete grappling over Minnie. All are very well done.
It is disconcerting, however, to see the horses Mickey and Minnie are riding. They look just like Horace! Kind of a weird thing to see one of their best friends turned into a piece of livestock. If you can get past that, though,
Two Gun Mickey is a good step forward in storytelling for the Disney crew, and well worth a watch.