Delivery boy Mickey encounters Minnie washing clothes and singing. He stops for a quick song and dance with her. Meanwhile, Pluto gets tangled up in tar. Mickey sends a beehive flying; it ... See full summary »
Delivery boy Mickey encounters Minnie washing clothes and singing. He stops for a quick song and dance with her. Meanwhile, Pluto gets tangled up in tar. Mickey sends a beehive flying; it lands on his mule, who kicks Mickey's instrument-filled wagon into the air. He plays a march or two on the piano with Minnie, with many animals playing along. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
This pleasant, high-spirited Mickey Mouse cartoon offers a prime example of what made the series so wildly popular in the early talkie era: the mood is relentlessly cheery, the music is catchy, the dancing is non-stop, and even the worst things that happen can't phase our two leads, Mickey and Minnie. At this point the Disney animators didn't need to devise much of a plot or think up more than a couple of rudimentary gags; all they required was a basic premise and an excuse to quickly toss it overboard in favor of more singing and dancing. It looks primitive to our eyes, but it's still apparent why this formula kept people smiling during the worst days of the Depression. The Delivery Boy is a defiantly upbeat product of an anxious time.
When we first meet our hero, Mickey is steering his mule-drawn cart along a dirt road in a rural area, while Pluto gallops alongside. The cart is loaded with musical instruments but we never find out where Mickey is supposed to deliver them, because once he sets eyes on Minnie, who is busy washing clothes at an old-fashioned washtub, he stops his cart, abandons his mission, and embarks on a flirtation. (They may as well have titled this short Goofing Off.) Minnie sings "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" as she works, but as soon as Mickey joins her the tempo of the song accelerates and turns jazzy. Mickey gets so carried away he whacks a beehive to keep rhythm. The beehive flies through the air and lands on his mule, who responds by kicking the cart and sending the musical instruments every which way. But instead of chaos this leads to a concert: the instruments land conveniently near Minnie's farm animals, each of whom takes one up and joins in. Now they launch into a rousing rendition of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" with Mickey at the keyboard while Minnie beats a tambourine. (The gags in this sequence look like a dress rehearsal for the classic color short The Band Concert made a few years later.) Mickey is still rather callous at this stage of his development, knocking out a drum solo on the heads of ducks and on a turtle's shell, but everyone seems happy enough to play along.
In the last section of this short a touch of suspense is introduced when Pluto wanders away from the farm into a nearby road construction site, where workers are using dynamite to blast obstructions. When one of these guys lights a stick of dynamite and throws it, Pluto is only too happy to chase it down and bring it back. Strangely enough the men don't appreciate the dog's playfulness, so he carries his prize to Mickey and Minnie. Even when the dynamite detonates, leaving that poor mule totally hairless, Mickey and Minnie are entirely unscathed and still smiling, and still playing their music right down to a final gag at the fade-out.
The Delivery Boy is not an exceptional cartoon, but it sure is typical of its studio in all the best waysand some of the worst ways, too. The familiar Disney predilection for posterior-related comedy is evident throughout: Mickey plays the piano with his bottom, Minnie repeatedly bends over and exposes her patched panties to our view, and at one point she sits on her tambourine, which Mickey whacks. There's also a curious ethnic gag that feels like the kind of thing the Fleischer animators would use (more appropriately) in an Eastern urban setting. When Pluto enters the construction site he passes a series of warning signs in various languages, including French, German, Spanish, and Hebrew. Sitting atop this last sign is a turtle, who leaps up and performs a brief Semitic dance. Personally I find this gratuitous gag more odd than anything else, and decidedly uncharacteristic of the studio's house style, but fortunately the Disney staff didn't indulge in this sort of thing very often.
Within another year or two the Mickey Mouse shorts would improve in every way, with better story construction, smoother animation, and funnier gags, but a number of these early entries are still fun to see, while even the occasional rough edges are of interest to buffs. Besides, I just have to admire the spirit in anyone, real or imagined, who keeps right on playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever" after being blown sky high!
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