The truth of the matter is that the majority of this short is a Donald and Goofy adventure. The short opens with Donald in the crow’s nest of the ship, looking around for whales. As is his trademark, Donald makes a mistake that leads to more frustration. This time, it’s taking time off from whale spotting to eat a sandwich, which gets stolen by nearby birds.
Mickey does get some time in this short, and it took me a minute to realize that he probably gets the most screen time in this short that he has seen in quite some time. Not only that, but it’s good stuff. Mickey is trying to throw some water overboard in the darkness of the sea, but it keeps boomeranging back at him. It’s a great bit, and allows Mickey to do some fine comedic acting, through the animator’s pencil, of course.
It also seems like a little different looking Mickey to me. His face is a bit more expressive, and I saw the careful consideration face that I remember from later shorts here for the first time. It was nice to see the old mouse back in action.
Soon enough though, we get back to Goofy, as Donald spots a whale and Goofy is in charge of firing the harpoon to get the whale. Yeah. You can imagine how that goes. My favorite gag is when Goofy sticks his arm down the cannon and ends up lighting his finger on fire, when it pokes through where the fuse should be. But there’s much more, including the obligatory harpoon launch where Goofy gets caught in the rope trailing behind.
This, of course, leads to Goofy being swallowed by the whale. Seeing Goofy and Donald try to deal with the situation is part of what makes them such a good team. Goofy doesn’t know what to do, which tends to make him do the wrong thing. And when Goofy does the wrong thing, Donald gets more frustrated, and thus funnier. It’s a classic comedy spiral!
Although I should be tired of the trio formula by now, I’m really not. I’ve seen many of them so far and there are more to come, but these three characters just work well together. There is a lot to the idea of having them interact in a working environment, something that started back in
Mickey’s Service Station and continues to entertain.
It’s also of interest that their jobs have gotten more and more complex or outlandish. It began with the mechanics, but since they have branched out to “ghostbusters,” whalers, boat builders, clock cleaners and more. The more they get together, the crazier their jobs get, and that makes the shorts so much fun.
I think a lot of the reason for the amount of detail in this short is that it may have been something of a practice for the animation required in Pinocchio – specifically the ocean scenes with Monstro the Whale. The sea in
The Whalers seems to have been carefully studied and is far more sophisticated than the depictions of the sea in previous Disney cartoons.