The key areas that tend to build that reputation here are the personalities of the characters that come through and the way that the character of Oswald is built through the action. I know that you can say that about some of the Alice shorts, but in the first few Oswald shorts, you see a character developing that is hapless yet cocky, who tries to do the right thing for selfish reasons but tends to get things to work out in the end.
This is the genius of the Disney animators – imbuing character into their drawings. For example, take the hot dogs that Oswald is selling at the beginning of the short. He has issues with the dogs sneaking off the table, and then his first customer can’t eat the hot dog because it screams for help and makes motions to discourage him.
It’s touches like this that make the Oswalds different than the Alice shorts. While Julius was a somewhat developed character, he mainly was a gag factory. You didn’t feel for him like you do Oswald. In
All Wet, Oswald again meets his girl, and tries to impress her, but she’s not falling for it. The look on his face and his dejected, slumping attitude make you feel sympathy for him.
He gets the idea to be a lifeguard, paying off the lifeguard to take his badge. He has to redirect a young boy who needs a bathroom, but other than that, has no real lifeguard duties. The girl is impressed and heads out to sea and fakes her own drowning to draw Oswald in.
The plan backfires, though, as a fish grabs her and pulls her under. The panicked Oswald manages to reach her and fight to grab her as the waves pull them apart. The nice thing here is you can clearly see the fear and trepidation on Oswald’s face as he rows out to rescue his girl.
The waves toss them back on the beach, and Oswald rolls the water out of her, earning him a farewell kiss as the short ends.
Now, this is not the most original or groundbreaking short, but the return to
the quality of the first few shorts after the Xerox of
Great Guns is a heartening development. If you are following along with me, the Oswalds are really the first time we have seen the style of animation that you would expect in the Mickey Mouse shorts. It’s amazing to watch it develop.
Again this is a reissue cartoon which means missing scenes! I have no idea what else might have been in this cartoon originally, but I would guess at an extended rescue sequence (maybe with more scenes of the fish). The flow of action from the shot of Oswald and Fanny going up on the wave to the shot of them flying through the air doesn't seem very smooth to me.
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