Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mickey's Delayed Date Part 3

Pity Mickey Mouse. By the time this cartoon was made, his best years were behind him. Except for "Mickey and the Beanstalk," which was started before the war, all that was left was the kind of domestic comedy that was already old hat in radio, B-movies and would eventually become a staple of TV sitcoms.

After the war, Jack Hannah was promoted to directing Donald Duck. He re-invigorated those cartoons with sharper timing, stronger conflict and introduced new characters into Donald's world. Jack Kinney was still directing Goofy and while Goofy was increasingly put in suburban situations, at least they were satirical. As a director, Charles Nichols was not particularly daring in terms of staging, timing, gags or graphics. Mickey, in Nichols hands, became a fall-guy, someone who had to struggle to deal with life's little setbacks. Ho-hum.

Apparently there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm for Mickey during this period, as there were no Mickey cartoons made at all in 1949 and '50 and never more than two in any other post-war year. By contrast, there were 5 Donalds and 5 Goofys in 1953, the year of Mickey's last cartoon.

The animation is this cartoon is not remarkable, and it's telling that the best animation is probably on Pluto and not Mickey.

Bob Youngquist draws the Mickey and Minnie well but he's not given anything particularly interesting to do with the characters. Minnie comes off as a little shrewish, probably due to the social mores of the time rather than anything having to do with Youngquist.

Harry Holt handles just a couple of Mickey acting scenes in the beginning. His work is very pose oriented and Mickey's face is a bit mushy. Holt is much stronger on the action scenes he animates when Mickey's running on the street.

George Kreisl might do the best animation in this cartoon with his work on Pluto. He's excellent at making Pluto's face expressive. He's not afraid to go off model as his design sense makes for pleasing drawings. Kreisl gets the last shot of the cartoon, and an animator didn't get the fade-out unless he had the full confidence of the director.

George Nicholas is almost as good. He gets the typical sequence where Pluto gets frustrated interacting with something, which dates back to Norm Ferguson's animation of Pluto and the flypaper in 1934. He also gets some strong action scenes of Mickey chasing his top hat. He also brings a strong sense of design to both characters and isn't afraid to distort them as a result.

Jerry Hathcock seems versatile, handling both Mickey and Pluto well. Hathcock gets some good acting and action out of Pluto. By coincidence, Jenny Lerew recently posted a drawing Fred Moore did of Hathcock's son, Bob.

Marvin Woodward brings up the rear, handling the Mickey-Minnie relationship scenes the same way he did in Mickey's Birthday Party. He's given the strongest Mickey acting scenes in the cartoon and does them justice before Kreisl gets the fade-out.

At the time this cartoon was made, only Woodward had extensive feature experience, though Youngquist worked on Fantasia. The rest were strictly shorts animators, though Kreisl, Hathcock, and Nicholas would get their licks in on features during the '50's. Later Mickey cartoons benefited from stronger animators like Moore and Ferguson, though that was an indication of their falling status at the studio.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you have also singled out George Kreisl's work on Pluto, as those expressions in this cartoon are the highlight for me too. Having drawn the Disney standard characters for the last 20 years myself for consumer products and WDW paraphernalia, I must admit I always enjoyed the opportunity to draw Pluto. Though admittedly the Pluto cartoons were never among my favourites, I find him to be a particularly expressive character to draw, having facial features that are far more fluid to work with than the others, especially Mickey and Minnie.

The mice are very difficult to maintain consistency with in their design, trying to get the balance of mouths, eyes and muzzles just right in changing views and expressions. That is why I continue to marvel at the way Fred Moore, Les Clark and only a precious few others were able to draw them with such a consistent visual appeal. As I mentioned in the other thread, I find their appearance in "Mickey's Delayed Date" a bit watered down from their earlier looks in the other cartoons you've profiled such as "The Little Whirlwind" and "Mickey's Birthday". Ironically, I believe that Donald's appearance just kept on getting stronger and he really was at his best in "The Three Caballeros" and into the postwar years in the Jack Hannah shorts as you mentioned.

Unknown said...

Any idea of Kreisl did "straight art" as well as animation? I came across a painting posted on eBay that has been for sale there for a long, long while. This is because, while being from the hand of an obviously gifted artist, that artist is currently listed as being unknown. The signature clearly reads "Geo. Kriesl," though. It is, truly, a very good painting, of a quality almost any museum featuring American art would be willing to give a home. This is why I am led to believe that the artist must have been animator, George Kreisl. I have been unable to locate information on artwork from any other genres that have been attributed to him. If you, or anyone else reading this, happens to know of the existence of such work, I would be wholly indebted to you to learn of it, especially if you can point me to a place where it can be viewed.