I’ve always shared a connection with Mickey Mouse. My Mother’s maiden name was Maus, which for those who don’t know is the German spelling of the word “mouse” and had a fondness for Mickey which translated into growing up with a fair amount of Mickey memorabilia around the house. Despite my Mom, I wasn’t really a Mickey fan as a kid, I’ve always been more of a Looney Tunes guy and if I did go Disney it was for the Disney Ducks. I knew there was good Mickey stuff out there, but by the time I was born he had been transformed into a character so saccharine and wholesome that he was completely bland and devoid of personality so my interest went elsewhere.
Fast forward to 2013 when rising superstar animator and creator Paul Rudish is tapped to create a new series of Mickey Mouse shorts. Rudish already had an impressive résumé, working his way up under the likes of Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken on their various projects at Cartoon Network and then as one of the co-creators of Sym-Bionic Titan along with Tartakovsky. Disney wanted the shorts to be easily digestible peices of media that could be spread across multiple platforms from traditional TV to the internet. Rudish in reinventing Mickey for a new generation looked back to the earliest works with the character and injected his interpretation with the same bit of spunk, light sprinkling of mischief, and a strong sense of derring-do that had made the character famous in the first place. Mickey had life in him once again.
The series has proved immensely popular, winning multiple awards. I first learned of this series when One of Us’ very own Beau posted the first short released, Croissant de Triomphe across social media catching my eye. Thirty-three shorts released so far I thought it would be fun to go through and pick out my top five favorites, but before we dive into the five, let me mention briefly:
Honorable Mention: Goofy’s First Love
This is the only one to have Uncle Scrooge in it (once again voiced by the great Alan Young). I wish I liked this one better so I could put this on the list proper as I am a huge Scrooge fan, but as much as a fan as I am I couldn’t bring myself to give it a bump over several more deserving cartoons. Still, the fanboy in me couldn’t let it go without at least a passing mention.
5. Tokyo Go
The second short of this new interpretation I ever saw, this one stood to me as proof that this series was going to be more than just a one time fluke. This entry as well as the next one on this list are part of a sub-set in the series where they show just how universal the characters are by placing them in foreign locations and having them entirely in the language of that place. Not only does this help build international audiences, but it also spreads a little culture and helps bring the world a little closer as we all can sit and enjoy the same cartoon no matter who you are or where you come from.
Onto the short itself, I love the sense of speed in this one, it makes me feel like I’m in motion every time I watch it. Top it off with clever gags, including a video game one that had me dying of laughter the first time I saw it and you have a real winner on your hands.
4. Mumbai Madness
What pushes this one to its exalted position isn’t the great pacing and visual design (although both are top notch), what really impresses me is the music and the overall sound design. I love the music and I love how it changes in quality and intensity depending on the angle we are viewing. Its a little thing you normally only hear when a song is being played in real time in a movie or TV show that really adds to the realism as you can picture that is what it would actually sound like were you at the same place/same position as the character. This is almost never done in animation and it is what really makes this one feel alive to me.
3. Fire Escape
Sometimes all you need is a string of well placed gags to make a classic, and that is what we got here. It isn’t the most original, but all the gags hit and they have perfect timing. Nothing much more to add here, the cartoon speaks quite well for itself.
2. Workin’ Stiff
The kids might be laughing at all the slapstick, but this one is really for the adults in the room. Everybody whose been out on the grind for a job or works in an office knows about these interviews/meetings full of corporate jibberish and stuff that has no bearing on the actual job you are expected to perform. It is a song and dance nobody seems to actually enjoy, which makes it all the more puzzling why so many businesses operate that way. There is a little bit of wish fulfillment during Goofy’s freakout for anybody whose been through a horrible interview and perhaps more than a bit of social commentary as the gang works so hard for a job that no one could possibly want. Of all the shorts, this is the one with the most to say.
1.The Boiler Room
Everything comes together for this cartoon. Brilliant art direction and animation combined with clever writing to make an exciting and hilarious adventure. It makes something epic out of the mundane, transforming building/home maintenance into the herculean effort it can feel like at the time. It also plays with space as well as the nature of reality, you could honestly sit and have a long debate about if what we saw what actually happened, it was all in Mickey’s head, or some weird combination of the two. The kicker here is there is no rest for our hero. Right after all that struggle Mickey is not rewarded with rest, but another vexing task to overcome, and as he cries we laugh, we laugh because we know that pain.
Agree with my list? Hate my picks and think my face is stupid? Either way, let your voice be heard and sound off in the comments below with your favorite shorts.
Dedicated to the memory of Kathy Eckes. I wish I could have shared my love of these cartoons with you. You are ever in my thoughts as I watch them.