28 January 2013

Mickey Mouse Mondays: Week 4: Plane Crazy

In terms of production, Plane Crazy was truly the debut of Mickey Mouse. While the film was not released until after Steamboat Willie's success and a post-production soundtrack was added, the antics and actions contained within are the first ever created for the world famous mouse. It is surprising to note that Plane Crazy was produced just a few short months before The Gallopin' Gaucho and Steamboat Willie. The short feels much more primitive than the two films released in 1928. Mickey as a character is almost completely undefined here, he is just a cipher for the pratfalls and mishaps that transpire. Ever savvy, Walt Disney was well aware of the short's faults and shelved it until the character was more established and he could use it more as a crowd-satiating stop-gap between current productions.

The short sees Mickey inspired by the exploits of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. With varying degrees of success he attempts to fly a plane of his own. His first vehicle fails to launch and while the second becomes airborne, it ultimately crashes. There are nary any gags to speak of in the short, the closest we get is Mickey mussing up his hair to look like Lucky Lindy and Minnie uses her bloomers as a parachute. The one saving grace visually comes from three point-of-view shots framed from inside the plane, the first as it chases down a cow, the second as it bounces between light poles, and the third as it crashes down to earth. Ub Iwerks's delightful sense of perspective is given brief opportunities to shine here.

All in all, Plane Crazy is a directionless short without much merit. The characters never connect, there is very little humor and most of the animation is rote and uninspired. Humble beginnings to be sure. While Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney would go on to worldwide fame and success, their first production does little to hint at the creative and commercial potential that lay ahead. It never really gets off the ground.

Viewing Verdict: Avoidable

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