Monday 7 May 2012

Classic Cartoons #5 - Steamboat Willie

I'm sure using this short film now will come back to bite me when I do my Bitesized Biography of Walt Disney and am in need of a short film to pair with it, but today's Classic Cartoon is the third Mickey Mouse cartoon, but the one that is often regarded as the mainstream debut of the famed mouse, the cartoon that put Walt Disney on the map - Steamboat Willie.

I'm currently amidst reading the biography of Walt Disney by Neal Gabler and what it stresses heavily, and what comes through when watching this short film, is how important this short film was to the early years of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Released in 1928, Steamboat Willie was the first Mickey cartoon to be distributed, and became a phenomenal success - much needed after a string of knock-backs and failures from the Disney studio; Willie provided them their big break. Steamboat Willie was the first Mickey to be synchronised with sound, and whilst that was surely a contributing factor in its success, another surely is the fantastic characters and timeless storytelling. Though quite the little sadist here, using animals as musical instruments, Mickey was and is a sign of the eternal optimism and childlike joy that Disney himself represented. The story, simple in premise, remains brilliant today, at 7 minutes, the short flies by and remains possibly the truest definition of a Classic Cartoon.

Inducted into the National Film Registry, to be preserved forever, in 1998, the starting sequence of the short is now widely recognisable for its prefacing of Disney animated releases. Steamboat Willie is the epitome of classic Disney storytelling.

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