Alice’s Balloon Race is a good example of this. Where Julius
started out as Alice’s companion who would do some fun gags here
and there, in the later shorts, he increasingly dominates the screen,
and pulls some of the same tricks that Felix does. Alice is merely
a side character in her own short, and Julius and his Felix imitation
take center stage.
This short has a fairly simple plot – Alice, Julius, Pete and
some others are competing in a balloon race. Straightforward and
easy to understand, right?
So, they begin the race, and of course, Pete cheats and knocks
Alice and Julius out of the sky. After the crash landing, they can’t
get their balloon back in the air, but Julius comes up with the
idea of having a nearby hippo sneeze them back up. He pulls pepper
out of nowhere (much like Felix and his magic bag) and forces the
sneeze that propels them upward.
Once they are in the air, the balloon bounces around as bad weather
sets in. Lightning terrorizes the balloon, separating the basket
from the balloon, and creating a corkscrew effect that pops the
Once they hit the ground, Alice is done for the short, just over
halfway through. Julius doesn’t give up, though, grabbing a dachshund,
and attaching his thought balloons to either end. That doesn’t work,
so after that crash, he inflates an elephant, after pulling a pump
out of nowhere. As he gets up he grabs a bird and catches up to
The final scene on my copy is a bit muddled, but lightning again
threatens Julius, chasing him off of the elephant-balloon, but Julius
hitches a ride on the lightning and gets back to the balloon as
the short ends.
I’m assuming that my copy is missing the ending, but all in all,
it’s not a bad short. There are some entertaining gags as well as
a story that moves through the entire short. The lack of appearance
by Alice is not bad, because she has not been a factor in most of
the recent shorts anyway.
What really stands out is how much Julius is becoming a copy
cat, no pun intended. His ability to pull tools out of nowhere is
a direct copy of Felix, and he even looks more like Felix in this
short than in others. This runs counter to everything you think
when you look at Disney animation. I’ve always thought that Disney
was the innovator, but at this point in his career, although Ub
has created some memorable gags and is pushing the quality of the
animation, the characters are largely derivative. That’s not a bad
thing, but it’s very interesting to note, since the later characters
would be so original.
We cut to Alice who is pacing the ground (in a rather Felix-like
manner). First Pete's balloon lands on her and then, after they
both pull themselves out from underneath, Julius's balloon lands
on Pete (this is slightly disgusting since this balloon is actually
a popped elephant and he looks pretty dead). Both Julius and Pete
crawl out from under the balloons and an angry Pete chases Alice
and Julius off into the horizon as we iris out.
In a way it's a bit of a cop out ending as it fails to address
the initial set up of the big prize for winning the balloon race.
I can only assume the prize was won by the mouse we saw at the beginning!
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