Today is the anniversary of a great Mickey Mouse short, Moving Day. Released June 20th, 1936, Moving Day was directed by Ben Sharpsteen. Sharpsteen is responsible for some of my favorite Disney animated shorts, including the cutest Silly Symphony of them all, The Cookie Carnival. I’ll be exploring a lot more of his work in upcoming installments of this series.
Sharpsteen started at Disney as an animator in 1929 and quickly became invaluable, producing some of the studio’s most memorable work. He animated on over 100 short films in the 1930s and directed in some capacity on each of Disney’s first five animated features. He was also from my neck of the woods in northern California, so I automatically like him.
From the late 1920s to early 1960s, Walt Disney made the best animated shorts in the industry. Other production studios like Warner and MGM also did amazing work in the genre, but I’ve always preferred the calmer, sweeter Disney pictures.
It used to be that when one visited the cinema, he would see a newsreel and a cartoon before the feature presentation. All movies were led by a cartoon, not just movies for children and families. It was part of the cinema-going experience. These shorts were made decades before my birth, yet became such a timeless staple of the of popular culture that I still grew up watching them. Just now we’re starting to see a return of theatrically-released shorts, but only in front of animated features. How I wish that Disney/Pixar and other studios would go back to producing dozens of shorts a year instead of one or two. I would certainly go to the movies more if a cartoon led every feature.
One of the things that continues to fascinate me about classic animated shorts is the physics of the cartoon universe. Not only did animators anthropomorphize anything and everything, but there seemed to be rules. Cartoon characters could break the rules of our physical universe, but still had a set of their own. Gravity exists only after you realize that you’re no longer on the ground. Fragrance can be visible, and when something smells good, a character may float involuntarily. A ‘toon can be flattened like a pancake, but will return to his original form when he re-inflates himself. When two cartoon characters get into a fight, they’ll be surrounded by a dust cloud (or in a very intense fight, a tornado).