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This cartoon is something of a milestone in the realm of Disney
character history: it marks the first occasion when Mickey Mouse and
Donald Duck appeared together in the same film. The irritable duck in a
sailor suit who appears in Orphan's Benefit doesn't quite match the one
we expect, however. In this, his third short, Donald has the elongated
bill and smaller head that marked his earliest appearances, before the
Disney crew arrived at his now-classic design. But the familiar
short-fuse attitude is in place, and quite ready to detonate. What's
most striking about this short is how quickly and completely Donald
overshadows the beloved but comparatively bland Mickey, who, in this
very first teaming, is instantly reduced to the role of straight man.
Like many cartoons of the period this one is built around a variety show, a loosely organized Vaudeville-style program that allows the writers plenty of leeway for gags without any need for a plot. This particular event is, like the title says, a benefit for the local orphans' home, but it's not a fund raiser as such; it's a show put on strictly for the orphans themselves, which means that the audience is made up entirely of young, identical mice, seemingly hundreds of them, all looking like miniaturized versions of Mickey. Here, as in other shorts of the era, the Disney technicians proved to be especially good at animating amazingly detailed crowd scenes involving lots of complicated action in all corners of the frame, which is one reason they were the envy of animators at every other cartoon studio in the world.
Back to the show: the kids in the house are rowdy at first, but they manage to settle down and enjoy the entertainment for the most part. They watch politely as Clarabelle Cow performs a ballet, accompanied by Horace Horsecollar and Goofy, the latter two clad in loincloths. And they listen attentively as a rotund hen named Clara Cluck cackles her way through a song. But they seem to take an immediate dislike to Donald Duck, or perhaps it's more accurate to say that they soon take pleasure in tormenting him. Donald's intended contribution is the recitation of poetry. His first selection, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," comes off well enough, but he pushes his luck when he launches into "Little Boy Blue." This selection provokes a kid in the crowd to react with a Bronx cheer, so of course Donald loses his temper and has to be dragged offstage by the dreaded Hook. He returns periodically throughout the program and tries to finish his recital, but every time he reaches the line about blowing that horn the kids razz him -- and, eventually, hurl bricks, eggs, and other objects.
Comic hostility between the rowdy kids and the increasingly exasperated duck is what drives this cartoon, and makes it enjoyable to watch. Along the way there's a show biz joke that some viewers might miss: early on, when Donald is first thrown off stride by a sassy boy in the crowd, his nose suddenly turns bulbous as he exclaims: "Am I mortified! Am I mortified!" in the style of Jimmy Durante. The gag doesn't quite register because there's no attempt to make the duck sound like Durante; he still sounds like Donald Duck, so the point is obscured. But that's a minor quibble. Orphan's Benefit is an amusing cartoon that would make a nice lead-in to any good '30s feature film. Toss in a newsreel and a comedy short and you've got a full evening's entertainment.
Now I do very much enjoy Orphans' Benefit in colour, the colours are beautiful on the eyes, but I did and still do find the character designs on the stiff side. Although Donald and Goofy do look somewhat different with Donald's head I think elongated and Goofy doesn't have a chin the character designs generally are more fluid. The black and white animation is crisp and clear, and the music is wonderful, the Lucia Di Lammermoor sextet being clucked was a great touch but the best music for me was actually in the classic acrobatic dance between Clarabelle, Horace and Goofy. The story is well paced and never dull but for me it all feels on the routine side. The gags fare better, there are a few that are either over-familiar or some may not get(it took me ages to get the Jimmy Durante gag), but most of them are spot on, with the best being the Little Boy Blue gag between Donald and the Orphans. Of the cartoon, the least effective character was Mickey, who apart from introducing the acts and accompanying in the Lucia Di Lammermoor scene plays secondary to Donald's hilarious frustration and the cute yet bratty orphans. Even the acrobatic dance was more memorable than Mickey in all honesty. Just for the record, I like Mickey, but he is bland when sidelined. Overall though, this is a very good cartoon. 8/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon done by the Disney
studio. There will be spoilers ahead:
In 1934, Disney did this short, Orphan's Benefit, in black and white. They then basically redid the short as "Orphans' Benefit" in 1941, this time in color. The shorts are both fascinating, though I like the earlier black and white just slightly more because the use of shadow is better.
The two shorts aren't exactly the same. The character designs are a bit different, particularly with regard to Donald Duck, who actually steals the short. Various characters also have a bit more clothing (Goofy has a shirt in 1941, Mickey has a shirt and a tie and so on). There's generally a little more detail in 1941.
There's a very quick caricature of Jimmy Durante by Donald in the 1931 version and there are changes in direction for some of the bits of animation. The orphans, as always, are thoroughly obnoxious in both, with Donald getting the brunt of their "charming" behavior This short is available on the Disney Treasures Mickey Mouse In Black and White, Volume Two. Most recommended.
This is the original black and white 1934 cartoon (there is a color
remake of the 1940s). Here, Mickey and his friends put on a benefit
show for orphans. The plot line for this story sounds touching and
meaningful enough, but the orphans themselves were actually pretty
mischievous with no redeeming qualities. They torment poor Donald Duck,
who tries to recite nursery rhymes for them. Donald got the brunt of
all the mean jokes and gags from the orphans.
While the animation of this stark black and white short is very nice and seeing Mickey team up with Donald Duck and Clara Cluck is a treat, the overall cartoon is not very entertaining or funny.
LACKING EVERY AVAILABLE luxury except for that of the Technicolor
process which was already standard in the Disney SILLY SYMPHONIES
Series, this entry into the MICKEY MOUSE Series presents the
viewer-ship with a veritable kaleidoscope of movement, characters and
gags. It is also a milestone in the evolution of Mickey from being the
focus of mischief and the brunt of so many jokes himself.
OPENING SCENES PORTRAY near gala, white tie and red carpet event. Missing only the standard string of searchlights sweeping the skies to an fro, the event is clearly done up as a sort of mirror of the hero worshiped Hollywood scene of the mid '30's Depression Era America.
THE MULTI-FIGURED animation scenes are very pleasing and a treat to the eye; owing to the intricate and carefully balanced imagery. The repetition of action for the purpose of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out the gags, can and does tend to get a little tiresome; but the overall effect is still good and purposeful.
WHETHER IT WAS intentional or not, the on-stage talent show served to give a chance for trying out a newly found potential cartoon star. Having made his screen debut as a supporting player in THE WISE LITTLE HEN, Donald Duck does his best to launch his career. The antics and contortions he goes through in this animated one reeler are complete, though his arsenal was yet to be developed. It is indeed a true example of a microcosm of what is yet to come.
THE PHYSICAL APPEARANCE of the Duck is also just a bit underdeveloped. He is considerably shorter, slighter and in possession of a longer, thinner bill. He displayed the trademark sailor suit, which also had been his wardrobe of choice in the previously mentioned SILLY SYMPHONY first appearance of 1934.
AS FOR THE "orphans", they are nothing more or less than a cookie cutter proliferation of a younger, smaller Mickey Mouse. Each and every little Mouse acts exactly the same and is equipped without boundless energy that is complemented by that devilish little imp image that was once the trademark of Mickey Mouse, himself.
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