Well, here we are. The Two Year Anniversary. I must say that there was quite a turnout in voting this year. There were 21 votes in all but really it’s no surprise what won. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Steamboat Willie. Before we dive in, I feel that I should talk about the signifance of this short. It’s the first publicly released Mickey short. It has earned it’s iconic status and in my opinion paved the way not only for future Mickey shorts but for further Disney shorts in general. Lest we not forget that this was one of the first shorts to use sound. Reading up on this makes me appreciate the short even more and to me shows how much dedication went into this short.
The plot for this short is a bit simple and relies mostly on visuals to tell the story thrown in there. When we start the short, we see Mickey at the wheel of the ship. Leading the audience to believe that Mickey is the captain of the ship but that isn’t the case. As the real captain, Pete who out of all the characters looks the most drastically different here then he does today. Mickey is sent out to the back of the ship and they later make a stop to pick up livestock. Apparently, the docking station has a name and it’s Podunk Landing. Minnie comes up running but misses the boat but using a crane. Once on board, Minnie drops a guitar and sheet music for Turkey In the Straw and that starts one of the best parts of this short as the two mice turn the livestock into instruments as they play Turkey In the Straw on the various animals. Later Captain Pete hears this and it ends with Mickey peeling potatoes. Again, the plot is simple but I think that what makes it work and the characters for this being one of the earliest outings for them is a highlight. There are just so many iconic moments and honestly there’s a reason why with just within Disney itself that this short has been referenced all over from the parks in Fantasminc to other shorts.
It’s so funny that this image right here is the one that is perhaps the most iconic image from this short, when we only see at the beginning. Of course though, the first thing people see can stick with them and I’m guessing that was the case here as most of the merchandise based on Steamboat Willie has Mickey wearing that hat. Just look at my Steamboat Willie stuffed animal.
I have to say to go a bit off topic, I don’t care for when I see that image colored as it just feels wrong. Such as this one, here
I don’t know, call me a purist but I feel like this image should be in black and white only. Now as for Mickey in this short, one must remember that this was one of his earliest outings and it showed more of his playful side and I have to say that I think at this point that he hadn’t been fully realized as a character yet. I guess you could say this was the start of his scamper personality. Which is shown especially when we see Mickey and Minnie playing Turkey In the Straw on the various animals.
Now with Minnie, it’s harder for me to determine what role she had. As again like Mickey, I don’t know that she had been fully realized as a character yet regarding the time of this short’s release. I’d say at best, she like Mickey was playful at best. Really, this short wasn’t so much about the characters. Rather it was more or less showcasing the sound during the Turkey in the Straw number.
Now before we get too far into this section. As it is perhaps the most important aspect, I want to share this little snippet about the sound as I think is quite important. Walt traveled to New York City to hire a company to produce the sound system. He eventually settled on Pat Powers’s Cinephone system, created by Powers using an updated version of Lee De Forest’s Phonofilm system without giving De Forest any credit, a decision he would later regret. The music in the final soundtrack was performed by the Green Brothers Novelty Band and was conducted by Carl Edouarde. The brothers Joe and Lew Green from the band also assisted in timing the music to the film. The first attempt to synchronize the recording with the film was a disaster. Disney had to sell his Moon roadster in order to finance a second recording. This was a success with the addition of a filmed bouncing ball to keep the tempo
Fun fact, the little diddy that Mickey is whistling is called Steamboat Bill which was made famous by baritone, Arthur Collins and this is kind of where the short take it’s name as the short’s title is meant to parody the Buster Keaton Steamboat Bill Jr. As you see the title for the Keaton film was a reference to Steamboat Bill. Now for this review, I took a listen to the actual song and I may have try and find a way to use it in a a future Music Fridays (maybe songs that inspired Disney). It’s a pretty good song and I like it. Here take a listen.
Perhaps, my favorite part of this short is Turkey In the Straw. It’s just so silly and fun. How can you not enjoy this number. It’s filled with happiness and joy. It’s just so silly and fun that I find it hard to dislike this number. Again, just the various ways the animals are used as instruments. It’s quite a neat idea and all of the different sounds that came out are so cool. I would love to travel back in time when this short first premiered to see the peoples’ reactions when they heard the sounds for the first time. As we have to keep in mind that this was one of the very first sound cartoons. I should clarify by this I mean that the sound was synchronized.
My Final Thoughts
Actually before I get to My Final Thoughts, I’d like to share this really cool poster for Steamboat Willie with you guys. I found this through Google.
It almost feels like a classic MGM movie poster of all things. That aside, I do believe that this short still holds up today. I find very little to dislike about this short. The only issue I have with this short is something that I can’t even fault it for as the characters weren’t fully realized yet but still, this is the earliest Mickey short,so I can forgive that. I have to say that out of everything my favorite moment is Turkey in the Straw. As I said above, it is just so much fun. Now how to close out this my Two Year Anniversary. Well, I guess the best way is to just thanks everyone at Manic Expression that I has read my blogs and everyone that has kept me going. If your reading this, you know who you are. I know, with a song.