Walt Disney Series: How Mickey Mouse Appeared?
In the next article from the series “History and Theory of Animation of the USA”, we will take a closer look at the serial works of Walt Disney. These long-term animation cycles have had a huge impact on the full-length production of the Walt Disney Pictures studio itself, as well as on many other animated films of the world working in studios in the UK, Italy, France, Canada and even Russia.
In 1920-1921, Walt Disney commissioned to take 12 short films – “Newman Laughter”. These are the only cartoons made completely by him, from beginning to end (as an artist, animator and author). These scenes from Kansas life were not particularly successful, but they allowed (materially) Disney to begin implementing his own idea – a series of adaptation of fairy tales. Reliance on a literary source and a narrative beginning will become key for the Disney studio for many years, especially in full-length animation (the first semi-animated film according to the original script “The Lion King” will be released only in 1994).
Disney on-screen tales were not illustrations for the beloved books of all, they represented the author’s animated interpretations of these works (Disney writers will not leave any literary source in their original form – since, like for movies, the script for the cartoon needs to be adapted). So there appeared “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Bremen Town Musicians”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Feeling the pressure of the comic book tradition and the Hollywood rolling system, Disney tried to connect all episodes of the series through cross-cutting characters – a boy, a girl, a bearded old man, a dog and a cat. Despite the difference between the plots of fairy tales, their places of action and the character layer, Walt managed to “shove” them into each. These cross-cutting characters were graphically unchanged. Disney gave every animator a dossier on all the characters – a large, medium, general plan. Thus, their identity was respected. Disney was one of the first to elaborate and tone the background in his paintings. Disney’s tales would undoubtedly have been a success with the public, but they did not get such a wide rental, this did not happen. Distributors did not recognize them as an integral series (for obvious reasons), but Disney did not lose heart. He released 9 more tapes, among which were Goldilocks, Puss in Boots, Cinderella and other tales. Disney enthusiasm led to the ruin of his enterprise.
The salvation for Walt Disney was the famous series “Alice Comedy.” Using the principle of the Fleischer brothers, Disney decided to place the real object in a conditional, drawn world. This “object” was the little girl Alice (for the entire time of the release of the series she was played by three different young actresses 4-6 years old). And again, for the plot, a literary source was used – “Alice in Wonderland” by L. Carroll, the so-called first series, which was released in June 1923, was also called. The episode had a game beginning and ending (falling asleep Alice and her awakening in the real world). After the first episodes, distributor M. Winkler advised Disney to introduce a new character – the cat Julius (this was done because of the popularity of the series about the cat Felix). Disney created a certain graphic stylization of his Julius under Sullivan’s Felix. And in the series “Alice’s Fishing Tales” the cat was already a full-fledged hero. At the end of 1924, they decided to remove the game scenes, and expand the role of the cat in Alice’s adventures. Julius sometimes even replaces her. An important aspect in the creation of this series is the prototype of the screenwriting department in production. A literary script was written for each series. “Alice’s Comedies” was released until mid-1927 (a total of 56 episodes). The last episode was symbolically called Alice in the Premier League.
The next serial project of Walt Disney was Oswald – a happy rabbit. His visual solution was a logical continuation of the cat Julius. The “O-shaped” style of the character’s appearance was the hedgehog of the cat Felix, but Disney showed brilliant mastery of the animator in the development of the plots and gags themselves. The plot was developed in literary form, then the entire script was translated into a storyboard in episodes. This practice was also included in the production of an animated full-length at the Disney studio (they also “dramatized” all the action in terms of sound and music). Disney also introduced sample albums here. They represent not only all the characters in the series, but also their typical movement patterns (by rotoscope). The creators were not afraid of the uniformity of all episodes, they sought their recognition, moreover, it is convenient for the speed of creating a multiplicate. The first series of Oswald’s adventures – “Poor Dad” – was completed in April 1927, but, without receiving the approval of the distributors, it did not appear on the screens. Therefore, the episode “Faulty Tram” (released May 1, 1927), where Oswald acted as an unlucky conductor, is considered the beginning of a rabbit saga. Already in the next series, “O teacher,” Oswald’s lover appears – the rabbit Fanny (who will become the prototype of Minnie, Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend).