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Gamer Tuesday

May 29, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Farewell to Snow White's Scary Adventures Week: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Fighting Game (Mickey Mouse in Runaway Brain)

With each passing day, gaming is becoming a very common activity for everyone to enjoy with friends, family or just by themselves. In fiction, gaming is often used as a device for two characters to bond and let their interactions develop them in the narrative, while in other pieces of fiction it is used to present the character as someone that has no ambition in life and would rather spend his/her time playing a game over doing something substantial. Today's Gamer Tuesday article is going to be an unique one as rather than taking a look at a game that was released in the market, we are going to be highlighting a game that only exists in a fictional universe that was used to convey an element of the character. I am of course talking about Disney's Runaway Brain starring Mickey Mouse!

Runaway Brain, first released in theaters in 1995 during the theatrical run of A Kid in King Arthur's Court, is easily one of the darkest shorts Mickey has ever starred in, and one that presented him in the most unflattering way. Throughout the decades, Mickey Mouse has been presented as a lover, a mischievous little guy, a fighter and a hero to all. Runaway Brain does away with all of that and instead he is presented as the no-good slacker boyfriend, a very common character archetype made popular in the 90s, that causes a lot of trouble for himself and Minnie Mouse.

This is where the concept of video games as a narrative device steps in. When we first see Mickey, he is clearly obsessing over his game, yelling loudly while his dog Pluto cheers him on. His eyes have a clear black ring around them, indicating that Mickey has been playing for a very long time. Surely enough, Mickey Mouse is portraying the negative image of a gamer, a very bold move on Disney's behalf, considering Mickey's status as cartoon icon and corporate mascot.

Now, just what game is Mickey obsessing over so much? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Fighting Game! If that sounds outrageous, trust me, the creators of Runaway Brain truly went there for the sake of a joke. This is easily one of my favorite gags in the short, simply because it says SO MUCH in so little time that it might be easy to miss its references. First off, this Snow White fighting game is a parody of two very popular fighting games from the 90s: Capcom's Street Fighter II and Midway's Mortal Kombat series. The Snow White fighting game seems to be referencing Mortal Kombat more than Street Fighter, a really bold choice as Mortal Kombat is one of the most violent fighting games on the market, and its release in the 90s inspired many a controversy, including the creation of the ESRB ratings board.

Now onto the small details of this brief segment. Mickey Mouse is playing as Dopey. In the bottom of the screen there are seven character slots, one for each of the dwarfs (Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey, Sneezy, Happy and Bashful). Only Dopey's slot, however, has his portrait. The rest of the slots have tombstones with RIP (Rest in Peace) written on them. This indicates that Mickey has lost six times prior to the match he is currently playing, and Dopey is his last character standing.

Dopey is fighting off against the Old Hag version of the Evil Queen in a dungeon-like setting. When we first see the game in action, Dopey is performing a kick attack on her. The way he attacks her seems to be inspired by Lui Kang's (Mortal Kombat) infamous bicycle attack. As Minnie Mouse enters the scene and steps in front of the TV, the Old Hag is launching apples at Dopey, referencing how fighting game characters have a missile attack of sort (such as Street Fighter's Ryu's signature move, the fireball known as the Hadouken).

Mickey's game ends when the Old Hag hits Dopey with an apple due to Mickey being distracted by Minnie's anger. Finally, the game controller Mickey is using seems to resemble the design of the Sega Genesis controller. The scene runs for exactly 40 seconds, ending when Minnie disconnects the game in order to gain Mickey's attention. Yet, in those 40 seconds we got an unflattering portrayal of Disney's most beloved creation, a moment of plot development that leads to the short's main conflict and a fairly accurate portrayal of a typical fighting game from the 90s.

What makes this scene stand out is the choice of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a fighting game. That truly does the scene for me and for a lot of people. The film is to this day seen as one of Disney's finest films, the first film that launched an entire legacy of films, shorts, TV shows, theme park attractions (its attraction at the Magic Kingdom will be closing down for good this week) and many more. This short, though, isn't afraid of poking fun at Snow White's legacy at the Walt Disney Company, creating a Mortal Kombat parody using the film's likeness for a far stronger impact on the audience.

To take an initiative from Albert Gutierrez's Saturday Matinee column, here are the places you may find the short. As explained at the start of this article, Runaway Brain was originally released in front of A Kid's in King Arthur's Court. Later, it was attached to 1997's George of the Jungle. In the United Kingdom, the short played before Lilo and Stitch in 2002. During the 90s it was never featured on any home video release. Runaway Brain would finally be available on home video through the release of Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol.2. Unfortunately, that set has been out of print for years and it is hard to find.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, on the other hand, can be found on almost every media outlet out there. Even if all versions of the movie have been sent to the fabled Disney Vault (including its recent 2009 Blu-Ray), it is a movie that is quite easy to find, and has aired on television several times.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Fighting Game... doesn't exist. Though, wouldn't it be great if Disney was gutsy enough to release it as a full game? I would certainly pay to play it...


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