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From Ryan : This is definitely a
classic Mickey short. It's sort of like an "update" of the
Gaucho. Mickey has his gloves and black oval eyes. He rides a horse
(who is none other than Horace Horsecollar) instead of an ostrich. It was
kind of hard to tell since this is a black and white short whether or not
it took place during the daytime or at night. It sure looked like the sky
was dark, but I guess the only way I'd know for sure is if it were colorized.
One fun gag I enjoyed was where Mickey was chasing after Pete and Pete falls
of a cliff. A rock lands on him and smashes him. He then walks off like
The storyline of this short is very familiar – Mickey enters a cantina that is inhabited by Minnie. After some great dancing and musical performances, Pete enters, with his eyes set on Minnie. After a confrontation with Mickey, Pete kidnaps Minnie, and Mickey gives chase. Mickey manages to knock Pete off his horse and over a cliff, leaving he and Minnie to look over the cliff and wave goodbye.
It’s a simple story, and very much like
Gallopin’ Gaucho, but what’s interesting is the change in Mickey. In
Gaucho, Mickey is a swaggering bundle of bravado, who enters the cantina through the window, drinks a beer and smokes a cigarette. He’s rough around the edges and grabs Minnie to dance, not asking permission.
In The Cactus Kid, however, Mickey enters through the door, after riding in on Horace Horsecollar. He meekly enters and joins Minnie in a song, not joining in the revelry with a drink or cigarette like last time. He plays music with her, and when he gets a little fresh, tweaking her nose, Minnie fires back, throwing plates at him.
The old Mickey would have been more forceful, but this version of Mickey instead takes a couple of mugs that Minnie threw at him and uses them to do a Mexican dance, using the mugs as castanets. It’s quite the change from the mouse who grabs the girl and forces a kiss like he did in
Plane Crazy and
There are some good pieces of animation here, especially in Mickey’s personality. When he confronts Pete, you can see the courage or fear on his face depending on whether he has the upper hand. Right after that, there’s a great sequence where Pete knocks out the lights, and we only see the action through flashes from the muzzles of the guns the two are firing at each other.
The finale sequence is very much a retread of past Disney cartoons, with the horse chase echoing scenes from the Alice Comedies and Oswald. Mickey extends Horace’s neck to walk over and jump on Pete, just the way the other characters did in previous shorts. But the overall effect of having a Mickey that is more shy and somewhat of a loveable loser is a good one. It makes Mickey more relatable and interesting than the bravado Mickey, at least in my eyes.
I have to say though, that it would have been interesting to see the more aggressive Mickey in some of these later cartoons. How would things be different today if Mickey had continued down that path? Obviously, Walt felt that the public preferred this version of Mickey to the original version, but it would have been a very neat experiment to see the original version carried through.
I really like how Mickey is portrayed in this cartoon. He's really brave, but there's still a slight nervousness to him. As you point out, he's not as forceful and out of order as he was in some of his earliest shorts, but he'll still cheekily push things a bit too far – honking Minnie's nose! Maybe Mickey just learned a few lessons about women – when he forced Minnie to kiss him he always lost the girl.
It seems that as more effort is being made by Disney to increase the character and personality of Mickey, the less those elements are used in the Silly Symphonies. It's interesting to juxtapose the two side by side as I'm doing.