04 February 2013

Mickey Mouse Mondays: Week 5: The Opry House

The Opry House is a simple delight released in 1929. The plot sees Mickey and Minnie working and performing at a local vaudeville show. The short opens with Mickey out front of the performance hall, sweeping the entryway. Here he gets into some very Chaplin-esque pantomine with his broom, which in his hands becomes a rifle, a flute (playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy"), a dancing partner, and a horse. Disney and Iwerks exhaust nearly every conceivable role the broom can play in a brief, fluid sequence. The following gag that sees Mickey attempting to push a very rotund patron through the front door does not maintain the wit or invention of the broom bit.

The short is still a little too enamored with its integration of sound, an understandable flaw considering its vintage, but the gags incorporated just to highlight the soundtrack slow the proceedings down a bit. A sequence showing the house orchestra playing on their raggedy equipment falls back on gags similar to those performed with more gusto in Steamboat Willie the year before. A drummer pounds away on his instrument, then pulls the tails of three cats to punctuate the tune. The saving grace of the bit is how perfectly ramshackle the band sounds playing their tune.

However, there are a number of bits that utilize the soundtrack that are also great visual gags in and of themselves. This marriage is where the potential of the Mickey shorts comes into focus. For example, there is an absolutely splendid piece that closes out the short, showing Mickey playing an animated piano. The two performers, musician and instrument (along with a third, a dancing piano stool) parry with one another, Mickey ultimately resorting to fisticuffs with the keys to play his composition. The three then end their performance by taking a bow, showing that their antagonism was just part of the act. It is a wonderful piece of animation and visual humor.

Viewing Verdict: Worthwhile

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