Pick Of The Week: MICKEY MOUSE Shorts

Exactly what it sounds like, the Pick of the Week column is written up by the Cinapse team on rotation, focusing on films that are past the marketing cycle of either their theatrical release or their home video release. So maybe the pick of the week will be only a couple of years old. Or maybe it’ll be a silent film, cult classic, or forgotten gem. Cinapse is all about thoughtfully advocating film, new and old, and celebrating what we love no matter how marketable that may be. So join us as we share about what we’re discovering, and hopefully you’ll find some new films for your watch list, or some new validation that others out there love what you love too! Engage with us in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook! And now, our Cinapse Pick Of The Week…

In Disney’s earlier days, their flagship characters like Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy starred in a number of great classic shorts, but in more recent times those cartoons ceased and these characters became something more like symbolic figureheads. Since 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the gang has rarely appeared in new cartoons, and when they did it usually wasn’t very good. It was an astounding situation; Mickey is one of the world’s most recognizable pop culture icons yet the character’s only active output seemed to be a poorly animated CGI show aimed at toddlers.

In 2013, a new Mickey Mouse series debuted. A friend enthusiastically posted a link on Facebook with the telling comment, “Wait, what’s this? A new Mickey Mouse cartoon that’s actually funny?!”

I was astounded by how right he was.

Mickey Mouse is an absolute triumph of both the character and short format, creating a new version of Mickey and his world that combines the best of both classic and modern sensibilities. The character designs, particularly Mickey’s, are informed by their classic iterations, but the animation style and sense of humor incorporates the sort of unhinged wackiness one might more readily expect from Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network than Disney.

This tone seems to come from the guidance of executive producer and co-director Paul Rudish, an animator known for his work on Genndy Tartakovsky caartoons like Dexter’s Laboratoy and Powerpuff Girls (and, yes, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic; because nobody’s perfect).

The shorts are standalone stories with no continuity aside from the characters’ personalities, which seems to be a throwback to the classic mold of random plotting. This lack of rules allows for maximum flexibility, allowing the characters to be put into whatever situations and environments the creative team can dream up, changing occupations or even nationalities at random. The shorts make the most of this unhinged approach: For example, this freedom allows Goofy to appear as a fry cook in one episode and a zombie in another. Additionally, the series takes on a very international flavor, with globe-spanning adventures in the US, China, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, India, Brazil, etc.

The humor of these new shorts, while still pretty gentle, is edgier than anything we’ve seen with these characters before. The jokes aren’t afraid to get sophomoric, and the animation often sells the laughs in exaggerated Ren And Stimpy fashion. Additionally, there’s plenty of winking at the audience with exaggerated expressions, cameos from Disney characters, and some more subtle or sophisticated gags, such as an appearance by a butcher whose shop has a pork reference on its signage, though he is himself a pig. One of the wildest setups slyly addresses the Pluto/Goofy paradox: when Pluto is hurt in an accident before a big dog show, Mickey comes up with the idea of running Goofy in the competition instead.

It’s clear that the series’ creators are having the time of their lives coming up with all these crazy and wonderful ideas, and their enthusiasm permeates every episode. Now three seasons deep, there’s a veritable treasure trove of these wonderful short cartoons.

These shorts are available on Youtube via the DisneyShorts channel. Additionally, Season 1 is available on DVD.

A/V Out.

Originally published at old.cinapse.co on July 29, 2015.

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