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Saturday Matinee

Disney Cartoon #20, Pirate Week: "Shanghaied" (January 13, 1934)

by Albert Gutierrez

To finish off From Screen to Theme's week devoted to pirates, we're going to take a look at the 1934 cartoon "Shanghaied," a late black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon!  The short was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon released that year, which was also Mickey's last to consist solely of black and white cartoons.  "The Band Concert," Mickey's first color cartoon, would be released literally one year, one month, and ten days after this short.

As the short starts, a band of pirates are singing on deck of a pirate ship, captained by Peg Leg Pete.  Pete's crew sings of how "the captain's got a girl," who turns out to be a kidnapped Minnie Mouse!  Also kidnapped is Mickey, who Pete threatens with some chewing tobacco.  He then tries to woo Minnie, but she angrily kicks him as he tries to kiss her.  Mickey breaks free of his ropes, grabs a swordfish, and challenges Pete.  Pete instead opts to spit tobacco juice at Mickey, but one spit backfires and he gets hurled into a desk.  Pete and Mickey then begin sword fighting, something rather difficult for Pete, as his peg leg has been replaced by a wheeled chair.  

Various gags abound during their fight, during which Mickey manages to free Minnie.  The two run from the captain's quarters to the deck, where Mickey hoists Minnie up to safety at the top of the mast.  Pete then calls his crew, and they chase after Mickey.  However, Mickey's loaded a cannon with various pots and pans, shooting them at the crew.  He then lifts a stove and propels it towards them, courtesy of some rigging.  Meanwhile, Pete is climbing a rope up towards Minnie, and so Mickey sends some signal rockets his way to dispose of the captain.  Mickey shoots one last cannon, with a harpoon, which ends up hitting all of Pete's crew in the pains, hoisting them up like they were on a clothesline, with Pete at the end.  With the boat now under their control, Mickey and Minnie set sail for safer waters.

In my very first Saturday Matinee, I talked about how I enjoyed black-and-white Mickey more than color Mickey, because of his "rambunctious and uninhibited" nature.  I still stand by that, and even gave a cut-off date of 1932.  While that was probably too specific of a date, it's a ballpark figure, as his first few years feature a more wild and crazy Mickey.  Shortly before Mickey turned to color, his black-and-white self was becoming nicer.  1934's "Shanghaied" shows an example of Mickey being heroic rather than mischievous.  This is early on in the Heroic Mickey personality, and what better way to celebrate that than having him save Minnie against a band of pirates?

They're never really called pirates in this cartoon, although it's very apparent.  A peg-leg captain with a scraggly unshaven crew...not to mention a cannon.  A cannon!  And the term "Shanghaied" stemmed from the nautical practice of coercing men into becoming sailors - usually by tricking them, beating them up, and usually kidnapping them.  It's loosely applied here, the kidnapping aspect, that is.  I can imagine the short being named a few other things ("Mickey and the Pirates," "Swashbuckler Mickey," even the inaccurate, "Mickey the Pirate"), but "Shanghaied" does bring an immediate recall of pirates and the seven seas.  Too bad they didn't call it "Mickey's Parlay".

"Shanghaied" is one of ten (!) shorts featured in the "From the Vault" section on the DVD set it arrives in: Walt Disney Treasures' Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume Two.  The infamous "Vault" is - in Walt Disney Treasures terms - a sign that there is politically incorrect material that has since become offensive in today's society.  In "Shanghaied," there is Peg-Leg Pete's use of chewing tobacco, as well as two instances of blackface.  The first lasts literally less than a second, when some ashes fall on Peg-Leg Pete.  In the second, a black shark that is bothering Pete towards the end features prominent and exaggerated lips.  As Leonard Maltin notes in an unskippable introduction, these types of caricatures were acceptable then, but are considered offensive now.

The DVD mentioned above is out of print, having been limited to 175,000 copies back in 2004.  And given the politically incorrect nature of the short, as well as the general public's rather polarizing view towards vintage black-and-white cartoons, it's unlikely to see another release on DVD (maybe on Blu-ray, one can hope).  In the meantime, check it out (make sure it's the one that runs 7 minutes and 8 seconds) on that good ol' website that rhymes with ZooChoob, MooStoob, NewReub, BlueFood, LouCrood, and ShoeDrood.


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