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Saturday Matinee


June 22, 2019

Disney Cartoon #23: "The Birthday Party" (January 7, 1931)

by Albert Gutierrez

Continuing with last week's trend of covering black and white Mickey, this week at Saturday Matinee, I'll cover 1931's "The Birthday Party."  I hadn't seen the cartoon until the "Vintage Mickey" DVD came out, and it's since become a treasured favorite of mine.  In addition, I opted to cover this cartoon instead of my originally scheduled short (Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions") as tribute to the most excellent birthday celebration I had this week in Walt Disney World.  It was a magical three-day excursion throughout the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot.  But enough about me, let's see how Mickey celebrated his birthday seventy years ago!

As the short opens, Mickey is walking along the road to Minnie's door.  She hears him and prompts all the guests to hide before he gets there.  They scatter around and hide, with one particularly rotund guest crouching down with a tablecloth over the back, pretending to be a table.  Mickey arrives, and everyone surprises him.  Another guest brings out the cake, and Mickey blows out his two candles, resulting in the cake ending up all over the guest's face.  Minnie then tells Mickey to open his gift: a piano!  The two of them sing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" - a popular song of the time.

As they sing and play, the other characters dance about, before Mickey and Minnie get their own opportunity to cut a rug.  This is followed by Horace and Clarabelle also showing off their dancing skills.  Mickey then gets a solo on the xylophone, and we get various gags with this particularly memorable sequence.  He masterfully strikes each note with his mallets, and the song evolves from Mickey's own playing to a battle between him and the xylophone, who attempts to evade him before becoming a bucking bronco.  Mickey rides around on the xylophone, who eventually throws him off.  As Mickey lands, his head gets lodged into a goldfish bowl, as the others laugh on and the goldfish swims around to a smiling birthday guest.

Like many of Mickey's early shorts, the focus is on music, and thus, the shorts are a celebration rather than a specific story being told.  This is not a hindrance to the short at all, especially as it's all about Mickey's birthday.  It actually makes it superior to the 1942 remake, which was updated to include Donald and Goofy, who got his own subplot involving the cake.  Don't get me wrong, I love the remake too.  But in the 1931 original, we get a better feeling of camaraderie among the characters.  For instance, take Mickey and Minnie's repetitive conversation of "I'm fine, how are you?" and "I'm are you?" from the 1931 short.  To me, it feels more natural than the 1942 version, in which Mickey tries to get a kiss out of Minnie when she opens the door.  He seems like a romancing lothario in that short sequence, and feels rather out of place.

The song used in the cartoon, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" is from 1928, and was a popular jazz standard of the time.  For me, I always associate the song with this short cartoon, as well as 1938's classic, Bringing Up Baby, which I highly recommend watching as well.  Thanks to its own screwball comedy nature, Bringing Up Baby itself feels like it would work extremely well as a black and white Mickey short.  Can you imagine a Paleontologist Mickey running around Connecticut with Socialite Minnie, digging around for an intercostal clavicle?  Or even Mickey and Minnie out on the golf course, arguing about running boards and cars?  And there certainly would be a wink-winky meta-reference when Mickey tells the cop his associates are "Mickey the Mouse and Donald the Duck"!

The short is available in two sets: The much-rarer and more-valuable is "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White - The Classic Collection", which was mentioned last week as well.  However, that set is near impossible to find now.  While I generally stay away from the cheap compilation discs, I was actually surprised when Disney released "Vintage Mickey" in 2005.  It's a single-disc set that contains nine of his black and white cartoons, including "The Birthday Party" and the cartoon that introduced Mickey to the world, "Steamboat Willie."  And, even though it's not Disney, if you want to see Bringing Up Baby, there's an excellent two-disc DVD from Warner Bros., but it's also available in the "TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Romantic Comedies" set.



Past Saturday Matinees

Mickey Mouse
     - The Band Concert (1935)
     - Birthday Party, The (1931)
     - Boat Builders (1938)
     - Brave Little Tailor (1938)
     - Building a Building (1933)
     - Clock Cleaners (1937)
     - Croissant De Triomphe (2013)
     - Get a Horse (2013)
     - Hawaiian Holiday (1937)
     - The Jazz Fool (1929)
     - Lonesome Ghosts (1937)

     - Mad Doctor, The (1933)
     - Magician Mickey (1937)
     - Mickey and the Goat Man (2002)
     - Mickey Down Under (1948)
     - Mickey's Delayed Date (1947)
     - Mickey's Steam Roller (1934)
     - Mickey's Trailer (1938)

     - No Service (2013)
     - Orphan's Benefit (1934 and 1941)
     - Shanghaied (1934)
     - Steamboat Willie (1928)
     - Steamboat Willie Revisited (1928)
     - Thru the Mirror (1936)
     - Ye Olden Days (1933)
     - Yodelberg (2013)

Donald Duck
     - Beezy Bear (1955)
     - Chips Ahoy! (1956)
     - Donald's Diary (1954)
     - Double Date Don (2001)
     - Grand CanyonScope (1954)
     - How to Have an Accident in the Home (1956)

     - Lighthouse Keeping (1946)
     - Modern Inventions (1937)
     - Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940)
     - No Hunting (1955)
     - Sea Salts (1949)

     - Goofy and Wilbur (1939)
     - Hello Aloha (1952)
     - A Knight for a Day (1946)

Chip 'n' Dale
     - Chips Ahoy! (1956)
     - Corn Chips (1951)
     - Out of Scale (1951)

Humphrey the Bear
     - Bearly Asleep (1955)
     - Beezy Bear (1955)
     - Hooked Bear (1956)
     - In the Bag (1956)

     - All Wet (1927)
     - The Fox Chase (1928)
     - The Mechanical Cow (1927)
     - The Ocean Hop (1927)
     - Ozzie of the Mounted (1928)
     - Trolley Troubles (1927)

Alice Comedies
     - Alice's Wonderland (1923)

     - Adventures in Music: Melody (1953)
     - All the Cats Join In (1946)
     - Ben and Me (1953)
     - Bueno Nacho (2002)
     - A Cowboy Needs a Horse (1956)
     - Daisy's Road Trip (1999)

     - Disneyland Showtime (1970)
     - Disney's Electric Holiday (2012)
     - Epcot Film (1966)
     - Evolution of the Dunk the Mayor scene (1965-2006)
     - Feast (2014)
     - Figaro and Cleo (1943)
     - The Flying Mouse (1934)
     - Football Now and Then (1953)
     - General Hospital - The Introduction of Lucky Spencer (1993)

     - Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (1964)
     - Grievance of a Starmaker (2002)
     - The Hardy Boys: The Stranger (1956)
     - John Henry (2000)
     - The Little Matchgirl (2006)
     - Max's New Car (2001)

     - Mickey and the Firefighter (1993/2002)
     - Muppet Mayhem: Baseball
     - Muppet Mayhem: Clapboard
     - Muppet Mayhem: Soap
    - My Heart Was an Island (1960)
     - Oliver and Company VHS Preview
     - Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Firing Lane (1942)

     - Paperman (2012)
     - Scrooge McDuck and Money (1967)
     - Seven Wise Dwarfs (1941)
     - Snow White World Premiere Newsreel (1937)
     - Tangled Ever After (2012)
     - Three Notable Disney Commercials (circa 1950s and 2002)
     - Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom (1953)
     - Tummy Trouble (1989)
     - Victory Through Rocket Power (1991)

     - War Shorts (1941-1945)
     - Welcome to the Future

Pixar Shorts
     - Geri's Game (1997)
     - Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
     - La Luna (2012)
     - Toy Story Treats (circa 1996)

Silly Symphonies
     - Father Noah's Ark (1933)
     - Music Land (1935)
     - Peculiar Penguins (1934)
     - The Skeleton Dance (1929)
     - Three Little Pigs (1933)
     - Tortoise and the Hare (1934)

     - 100th Week Retrospective
     - Animation Sequence Analysis: Beauty and the Beast
     - Animation Sequence Analysis: Robin Hood
     - Animation Sequence Analysis: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
     - Animation Sequence Analysis: Sword in the Stone

     - As the World Turns and Disney
     - Beauty and the Beast: A Look at three versions of the story
     - Beauty and the Beast: Theatrical Reviews Trailer
     - Beauty and the Beast TV Spots
     - Bedknobs and Broomsticks
     - Casablanca scene of The Great Movie Ride
     - Happy Holidays from Saturday Matinee!

     - Cinderella vs. Cinderella III
     - Colors of the Wind Multi-Language Reel
     - Comparing Three versions of Alice in Wonderland
     - Deleted Disney
     - Disney Classics: Timeless Classics
     - Disney Classics: Modern Classics
     - Disney Classics: Television Classics

     - Disney Family Movie Night - Summer in June
     - Disney Studio Album: 1960
     - Frozen Review
     - Golden Girls go to Walt Disney World
     - Golden Girls Pilot Episode
     - Great Movie Ride Week One: Mary Poppins

     - Great Movie Ride Week Two: Singin' In the Rain
     - Great Movie Ride Week Three: Raiders of the Lost Ark
     - Great Movie Ride Week Four: The Searchers
     - Great Movie Ride Week Five: Alien
     - Great Movie Ride Week Six: Footlight Parade

     - Great Movie Ride Week Seven: Wizard of Oz/Fantasia
     - Great Movie Ride Week Eight: Casablanca
     - Heffalumps and Woozles vs. Pink Elephants on Parade
     - "It" Moments
     - Life Comes to Fantasy
     - Lion King Bloopers and Stand by Me

     - Live Action Character References
     - Muppets through Films
     - The Newsies' Santa Fe
     - Peter Pan's deleted song, "Neverland"
     - Remembering Steve Jobs
     - Saving Mr. Banks Review
     - Sleeping Beauty Backgrounds

     - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' first trailer
     - Song Showcase: Three Essential songs in Pete's Dragon
     - Spaceship Earth video
     - Spot Marks the X (1986)
     - Special Song Showcase: Disney's Greatest Love Songs

     - Step in Time from Mary Poppins on Broadway
     - Thor: The Dark World Review
     - VHS Deluxe Collectors Sets for Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin
     - Walt's Sweetheart Team - Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten
     - The Watcher in the Woods
     - A Whole New World Recording Session

Winnie the Pooh
     - Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966)


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