Mickey's Birthday Party is a very loose remake of the 1931 Mickey cartoon The Birthday Party. It borrows the basic situation and some gags, but doesn't re-use any animation and expands on things such as the cake gag considerably.
It seems that every one of these shorts reveals another "unknown" animator. Marvin Woodward animates an awful lot of this cartoon and does a great job. His Mickey and Minnie are very appealing and solidly drawn. His work is not as flamboyant as some other animators' scenes in this cartoon, but Woodward gets all the Mickey and Minnie acting scenes. The characters are likeable and you can really feel the relationship between them.
According to Alberto Becattini, Woodward started at Disney around 1931. He's got work in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, The Three Caballeros, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, but what scenes did he do? I can't think of any, yet he was clearly a very capable animator.
The mysterious Shafer (who is probably Milt Schaffer, but not definitely) handles most of the Goofy scenes with James Moore picking up the rest. These scenes could easily come out of a two-reel comedy as they're close to slapstick sitcom. The animators manage to make the cake gags believable, even though they're fairly cartoony and Goofy is an appealing victim of his own ineptitude.
My admiration for Les Clark continues to rise. Here, he gets away with some risque breast gags with Clara Cluck and Donald. I'm surprised that the Hays office let this get through, considering how skittish they were about udders just a few years before.
When Clara is dancing, there are some extreme visual accents used for a single frame to really hit the musical beat. Take a look at this drawing. Her rear, breasts and shoulder are all pushed uncomfortably, but because it's for a single frame it doesn't bother you at normal speed. Clark does all of Clara's dancing scenes and they're full of this kind of distortion to match the musical beat.
I'd have to know more about Clark's feature work, but I wonder if he might not have had more freedom on the shorts. It doesn't seem that he was often the lead on a feature character, so he was forced to make his work fit in with other people's. Maybe that watered it down. On the shorts, Clark's characters exude confidence and liveliness. Were those qualities present in his feature work?
Can somebody define what the Music Room was? My understanding is that it was where the directors and the composers worked out the timing and score of the cartoon, but why are the first scene (which is just a background) and 4.1 (Minnie putting on lipstick) credited to the Music Room? Were there artists and animators assigned to it?
I'll talk about Ken Muse, Riley Thomson and Bernie Wolf in a future entry.