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The Chain Gang (1930)

6.5
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Mickey Mouse escapes from prison.

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Pinto Colvig ...
Hounds (voice) (uncredited)
...
Mickey Mouse (voice) (uncredited)
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Storyline

Mickey Mouse and several other characters are on a prison chain gang, guarded by Pegleg Pete. They break rocks for a while, then Mickey breaks out a harmonica and everyone starts making music and/or dancing. Soon there's a jail-break, and Mickey's on the run, tracked by bloodhounds (including his future pet, Pluto, in his first appearance). Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prison | mouse | rock | horse | bloodhound | See All (59) »


Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 August 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Sträflingskolonne  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first appearance of Pluto. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Full House: Take My Sister, Please (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Mickey gets away with plenty.
31 December 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'The Chain Gang' is a delightful Mickey Mouse short from his early sound period. I was surprised that this one features Mickey in prison (on a chain gang, no less), and we're never told how he came to be there in the first place. The cartoon manages to imply that he's guilty of something, rather than stitched up.

I'll just address a couple of points that modern viewers might miss. IMDb viewer Ron Oliver says that Mickey performs something called 'the classic "Prisoner's Song"' (I must have missed that one) in this cartoon. That's not correct. Mickey and the other inmates perform a maudlin waltz-time ballad that was very well-known in 1930, when this cartoon was made: so well-known that Disney didn't even bother to have his voice artists sing the words, apparently figuring that cinema audiences would recognise the song from its melody alone.

The song which Mickey and the others are performing has a lyric which begins like this: "If I had the wings of an angel, / Over these prison walls I would fly...". Since I recognised the melody, I thought it quite funny that these cartoon inmates were performing this particular song.

Many of the early Disney toons were quite vulgar, with gags featuring racial stereotypes or crudities such as Mickey playing a melody on a female dog's nipples. The nearest we get to such things in 'The Chain Gang' is one visual gag quite early in the toon. When the warder (played by Big Pete) threatens Mickey, the mouse raises one hand in a placating gesture with fingers splayed. Then he turns his head into profile to look at his own hand. At this point, Mickey grins mysteriously and then drops his hand. If you look closely, for one brief instant Mickey's head and hand are in just the proper position so that he's thumbing his nose. In the 1930s (and earlier) the gesture of thumb to nose was considered extremely vulgar in the United States; if Disney had tried this gag a few years later, with the Hays Office in place, he likely wouldn't have got away with it.

I shan't spoil the end of the cartoon for you. It was a big surprise for me, since Mickey ended up someplace unexpected. I'll rate 'The Chain Gang' 7 out of 10. Now that nobody recognises (nor stigmatises) the nose-thumbing gesture anymore, parents can put this cartoon on their family viewing list.


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