From what I remember, the short starts out with Mickey driving a boat.
He must have been horsing around, because Peet comes up and yells at him.
Somehow, Mickey picks up Minnie's cow and puts it on the boat. Minnie runs
on the boat, so that she may retrieve her cow. Then, Mickey and Minnie begin
playing Turkey In The Straw on all the animals.
This short rocks! It is completely awesome! Watch it!
I rather dislike that the Disney Company's "official" version of the
cartoon - one released on laserdisc and video and shown on the Disney Channel
- is censored. The scene missing is as follows: Mickey, after pulling on
piglet tails while they're suckling and making them squeal to the "Turkey
in the Straw" tune, is then shown in the censored scene when he shakes the
piglets off their mom and kicks one remaining piglet off. He then plays
the sow's teats like accordion buttons to the tune.
I didn't realize for years that the censored version I had always seen
was not complete.
There was one gag planned, but never animated. After loading the cow
onto the boat, Mickey was to load the sow. You were to see the sow behind
a crate as Mickey hooked on the belt. The sow would then be shown being
lifted up, with her (previously unseen) piglets hanging on to her teats
for dear life. That would have been a fun sight gag, but my research indicates
that the scene was never animated.
Animation was part of the world of film since at least 1909. In that
year Winsor McCay performed in vaudeville theaters with "Gertie, the Trained
Dinosaur". The show was a sensation as the animated dinosaur appeared to
respond to McCay's commands. The next year cartoons began to appear that
told a story such as "Colonel Heeza Liar" which was the first cartoon series.
The first great animation innovator appeared in 1917, when Max Fleischer
introduced his "Out of the Inkwell" series. Fleischer's "Koko the Clown"
character interacted with Fleischer in live action. Of course, all animation
at this point was silent, and required accompiament by a piano or organ
when shown in a theater. Without sound the animated characters tended to
just be material for gags, and lacked personality.
Throughout the twenties Winkler Productions controlled the most popular
cartoons which included "Felix the Cat" and the "Out of the Inkwell" series.
Winkler also controlled the modestly successful "Alice Comedies", and later
the somewhat more successful "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" series. These were
both productions from Walt Disney Comics. Oswald, in fact, looks a lot like
a certain famous mouse.
Felix was the only popular cartoon of this period, and even he was considered
a filler before a movie, not a real character. This would all change in
1928. Winkler decided to squeeze Disney out of the production of the "Oswald"
cartoons by cutting his payments and stealing his animators. Disney had
to come up with something different. Which he did, resulting in the birth
of Mickey Mouse. However, the first Mickey short
Plane Crazy was a failure.
This short was silent and very much like an "Oswald" short. Why buy an imitation
Oswald when you could have the real thing? Disney had to come up with something
Max Fleischer had experimented with and released seven animated shorts
with some sound effects. These shorts had not generated much interest and
were quickly forgotten. (Fleischer went on to be the first animator to experiment
with color, and to compete with Disney during the 1930's and 1940's. The
most famous of his cartoon series include "Popeye the Sailor Man", "Betty
Boop", and "Superman".) Disney may have seen the Fleischer cartoons, or
he may have come up with the idea for a cartoon with sound on his own. Whatever
happened Disney was the first to try a complete cartoon with synchronized
sound. The gimmick worked, and people thronged to see "Steamboat Willie".
Mickey quickly became a phenomenon. However, I believe this isn't just
because he was the first cartoon with sound. I think it is because Mickey
had a personality. Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney had created an everyman, or
a reflection of their culture. In 1928 this meant he was a wild, musical,
scamp; willing to try anything. As the culture changed so did Mickey, and
he remained a culture touchstone until at least the middle of the nest decade.
Overall, one of the most important Disney cartoons, and more importantly,
one of the best!
The gags were great for such an early short and set the pace for future
Nevertheless, Steamboat Willie still is
a great cartoon, and a lot of fun to watch. It's still rooted in the silent
era, because lip synchronization had not been developed yet, making the
characters' vocabulary rather limited. And it still uses a comic strip-like
visual language to express the characters' feelings. Yet, the musical number
is both fresh and catching. When you've seen Steamboat
Willie, you'll be whistling 'Turkey in the Straw' for days, with
a smile on your face.
Steamboat Willie is a fun-filled cartoon.
No matter how many times I watch it, I never get tired of the song Mickey
and Minnie play. There are also some other laughs as well.
Also in this cartoon, Pete changes from a bear to a cat. (He's a cat
from that short on.) I guess the Disney Studio made that change because
the bear vs. mouse idea wouldn't be a good idea or they don't want to use
a character from the Oswald cartoons they didn't own.
Anyway, Steamboat Willie is a fun short,
and it's highly recommended for many generations. From a score of 1-10,
it gets an 11!
P.S. The sequence when Mickey Mouse taps his foot, whistling, and driving
the steamboat (at the beginning of the cartoon) is used in the new Walt
Disney Animation Studios logo.
Not too bad, but not too good would be my first assessment. Steamboat Willie, oddly enough, is much more derivative than the first two Mickeys, borrowing several gags from the Oswalds and even the Alice Comedies. The animation is good, although not as inventive as some of the sights we saw in
Plane Crazy or in some of the Oswald shorts.
So, is it the sound that made Steamboat Willie so popular? It certainly doesn’t hurt. The sound effects are key to the timing and comedy of the film, although the character’s voices are pretty terrible. The squeaks and grunts are frankly annoying, and probably would have been better served with musical cues instead.
It’s not the story, either. This is definitely the weakest story so far in the Mickey shorts, with Mickey serving as a first mate on a steamboat, captained by Pete, and all of the action stems from there. He picks up Minnie, a musical interlude takes up most of the short, and Pete finally implores him to get back to work towards the end.
No, the thing that makes Steamboat Willie work is the real every man sense the viewer gets from Mickey in this film. You’ll recall, that’s at odds with the intent that Ub Iwerks had for the new character. Ub
wanted Mickey to be a dashing hero, as seen in
Gallopin’ Gaucho. But the Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie is not that. In fact, he’s much like Oswald, trying to enjoy himself but being harassed by Pete as he does.
In this short, though, Mickey shows his human side, trying to please Minnie after a goat eats her music, by cranking its tail and turning the goat into a record player. Sure, it’s a gag straight out of
Rival Romeos, the Oswald short, but it gives a little glimpse into Mickey’s personality.
I’ve gathered from comments here and in other places that the musical interludes would become a crutch in the early Mickey films, and it’s easy to see how that would happen. In this film, Mickey turns all the animals into instruments, including swinging a cat around by its tail and picking up a pig and playing its teats like an accordion. Both of these are scenes that had been cut from the film, but they are intact on the Walt Disney Treasures DVD.
Strangely enough, I feel like this is the weakest of the first three Mickey films. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. But the animation, storytelling and characters are not as strong. However,
Steamboat Willie will always hold a warm place in my heart as the first Mickey film.
It still holds sway, though, over young kids. My son watched it with me a few days ago, and has been asking me to see it again every day since. My daughter loves it as well. They both saw some of the Oswalds and the other two Mickey films reviewed so far, but they keep coming back to
Steamboat Willie. Maybe this was the beginning of the Disney magic we all keep hearing about.
But the question remains ... would Mickey have been as popular without sound? I believe so, but it would have taken a much longer time. Remember, after Alice folded her tents and Oswald was taken away from him, Mickey Mouse was the first character that Disney could truly say was his own. I think he would have been loathe to give up on him without an extended fight.
On he other hand, would sound have survived without Mickey? It might have, but without the
ebullience and accessibility of Mickey's character it might have just been a passing novelty for cartoons. But the fact that the Disney artists were able to create so convincingly the illusion that the characters on the screen were actually making the sounds, married with the seductive personality of Mickey Mouse proved to be the marriage that catapulted him, and Disney, to fame.
I also think it's a really good idea for Disney's cartoon with sound. Mickey's on a boat that's carrying livestock which he uses to play music and entertain Minnie. It's unusual, but simple enough to be perfect for a short. Absolutely everything moves to the beat, the music is really catchy and comes from unexpected places. It's silly at the same time as being clever and funny. I even enjoy those funny squeaks and grunts! Compare this cartoon with the early Krazy Kat sound cartoons on David's blog or
Dinner Time (the Paul Terry sound cartoon that beat Disney to it
There is perhaps an over-reliance on music in early Disney cartoons rather than on action or adventure. It could be seen as a crutch or maybe it was just giving the public what it wanted. I still find there to be something absolutely irresistible about the match of music
synchronized with animated antics. I just love it! (what is a shame is when Mickey was ready for real adventures again in the mid-30's, they stop all too soon).
Even though I hate the expression, I think it is the use of music that helped create that special quality, that "Disney Magic", that people find, but can't quite define. The 'scientific formula' seems to have something to do with the blend of music and action combined with personalities.
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