Back in the 1920s, during the late years of The Silent Age of Animation, an animator named Walt Disney was starting up a new animation studio after he got in a dispute with Universal over a character of his, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney, along with fellow animator Ub Iwerks, needed to come up with some new character ideas. Finally, he settled on one - a little mouse named Mickey.And the rest, as they say, is history.The classic Disney shorts, made during The Golden Age of Animation, centered around the adventures of a group of Funny Animals:
Mickey Mouse: The first and most recognizable of the cast, often depicted as a good-natured, optimistic fellow - but also a determined and often feisty fighter with elements of both Kid Hero and Badass. Intentionally designed with universal, broad appeal in mind. (Debut: Steamboat Willie, 1928note Although Steamboat Willie is usually given as the first Mickey Mouse short, the first short featuring the character was actually Plane Crazy which had a test screening on May 15, 1928, but failed to find a distributor. It was officially released on March 17, 1929. Steamboat Willie was the first widely distributed Mickey Mouse short as well as the first animated short to use synchronized sound. It was released on November 18, 1928.)
From roughly the 1950s through the mid-1990s, Mickey's more adventurous side was usually seen only in comics. Even today it's easy to meet many who are surprised that Mickey can be a more interesting character. Of course, if he wasn't, then how would he have held his initial fame?
2010's Epic Mickey by Junction Point, now owned by Disney, makes Mickey almost as mischievous as he was originally.
Word of God says that when not "acting" (the term used for when on screen in shorts and the like), Mickey and Minnie are married.
Donald Duck: The Ensemble Dark Horse, a hot-tempered waterfowl who often ended up being the Butt Monkey. (Debut: The Wise Little Hen, 1934). Though Mickey remains the face of the company, Donald is arguably the true moneymaker as far as long-term commercial success, spawning his own little corner of the Disney Universe that expands towards comics, cartoons, and video games.
Daisy Duck: Donald's love interest, with a similar - but more controlled - temper (Debut: Don Donald, 1937, as "Donna Duck")
Goofy: An anthropomorphic dog (though his species has been debated), and the world's biggest klutz. Often Too Dumb to Live. He was originally called "Dippy Dawg", but they wisely changed his name. (Debut: Mickey's Revue, 1932)
Pluto The Pup: Mickey's loyal pet dog. (Debut: The Chain Gang, 1930)
Other characters included Mickey, Donald, and Goofy's nemesis, Pete (sometimes known as Bad Pete, Black Pete, Pegleg Pete, Pistol Pete, and so on); Donald's rich uncle Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie; cheerfully egotistical Horace Horsecollar and his Grande Dame Clarabelle Cow; opera singer Clara Cluck; two mischievous chipmunks named Chip 'n Dale who often have a bone to pick with Donald; and many, many more.Also of note were the Silly Symphonies shorts, which were one-shots (usually, though a few of them got sequels, plus Pluto appeared in one and Donald debuted in another) set to popular music. Later, it primarily served as a showcase to try out animation techniques and technology before using them in the company's feature films. These were immensely popular in the 1930's and led to a Follow the Leader approach from rival studios, with Warner for example creating Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, and MGM creating Happy Harmonies, among many others. The Silly Symphonies shorts were responsible for Ridiculously Cute Critters becoming a staple of animation at the time.Occasionally, the classic characters would appear in feature films, usually anthology films like Fun and Fancy Free, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, and, most famously, the Fantasia films. In the '90s, Chip 'n Dale received their own series, as did Uncle Scrooge, Goofy, and Donald. Recently, they've made appearances in series such as Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and, most recently, Mickey Mouse, as well as the direct-to-DVD Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. Some of these characters, mainly Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, also feature prominently in the Kingdom Hearts games. The second game paid tributetoblack and white Disney shorts with the level "Timeless River".If you're looking to find all of these shorts, all of them have been neatly compiled into a series of truly excellent DVD compilations in a series of sets called the Walt Disney Treasures series. All of these collection DVD sets with the classic shorts included on them are convieniently listed below just for you:
The Adventures of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit: Made to celebrate the big comeback of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Disney, this DVD compiles the only 13 existing (of 26) Disney made Oswald cartoons, with some pencil tests for a 14th short (Sagebrush Sadie) that is currently lost and some other misc. extras as well. This collection also includes the first two Mickey Mouse cartoons (Plane Crazy, Steamboat Willie) three of the Pre-Oswald "Alice Comedies" live action/animation shorts, The Skeleton Dance, and a whole documentary on Ub Iwerks.
Mickey Mouse in Black and White Vol. 1-Vol. 2: Compiles all 74 of the black & white Mickey Mouse shorts, 34 shorts on Vol. 1, and 40 shorts on Vol. 2.
Mickey Mouse in Living Color Vol. 1-Vol. 2: Compiles all of the color Mickey shorts, 28 shorts on Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 has 18 classic shorts, the entire "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia, the entire "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of Fun and Fancy Free, Mickey's Christmas Carol, The Prince and the Pauper and the 90's Mickey Mouse short "Runaway Brain", Mouse Mania (a rare late 70's stop motion short made to celebrate Mickey's 50th Anniversary) and a whole truckload of other extras.
The Complete Goofy: Compiles all 46 of Goofy's theatrical cartoons.
The Chronological Donald Vol. 1-Vol.4: Easily the largest of the Walt Disney Treasures sets, these sets cover all of Donald Duck's theatrical shorts. Vol. 1 has 37 shorts, Vol. 2 has 33 shorts and a A Day In the Life of Donald Duck, a Donald Duck centered episode of the 1950's Walt Disney television series. Vol. 3 has 30 shorts, and Vol. 4 has 34 shorts and 10 modern "Mickey Mouseworks" cartoon shorts. That's 144 shorts.
The Complete Pluto Vol. 1-Vol. 2: Compiles all 52 of Pluto's theatrical shorts. Vol. 1 has 28 shorts, Vol. 2 has 24 Pluto shorts and three obscure shorts starring Figaro the Cat from Pinocchio.
Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, 1920's - 1960's: Compiles 32 misc. Disney related shorts, including the ancient Pre-Oswald Alice Comedies.
On The Front Lines: Compiles war cartoons done by Disney of the time period. This single disc has 31 theatrical shorts, the World War II film Victory Through Air Power and an old training montage video.
Silly Symphonies: Compiles the first 46 of the Silly Symphonies theatrical shorts.
More Silly Symphonies: The successor to the previous collection. Compiles the remaining 38 Silly Symphonies theatrical shorts.
That's 16 well crafted compilation DVDs to collect. Good luck finding them all, though, since they only saw a limited release. They're loaded with great extras and for the most part the films have been cleaned up really well, however so it may very well be worth tracking them down.For a full list of characters, see here.For noteworthy Disney staff, go here.For non-series specific Disney shorts, see Miscellaneous Disney Shorts.
Art Evolution: The earliest Disney cartoons were very crude-the construction of the drawings was just piled on top of each other, using lots of rigid shapes, straight lines and symmetry with rubbery limbs, making the drawings look flat and move in a very mechanical, floaty way. In the mid-'30s, this started changing when the animators like Fred Moore began using more pliable, organic shapes combined with line of action and more refined timing and squash and stretch, which gave them the illusion of mass and weight, as well as actual construction on the heads and bodies to allow them to look three-dimensional and properly turn them in space-compare Mickey from his earliest cartoons like "The Chain Gang" to the Mickey in "Pluto's Judgement Day" and "On Ice", or example. And in a brief time in the '40s, Fred Moore did away with the symmetry of Mickey's design in shorts like "The Little Whirlwind", making him look much more loose and organic, but also earning the moniker of "Drunk Mickey" from the animators (the original model sheets for Mickey's "Little Whirlwind" model even have some very questionable dialogue written on them related to drinking).
There are also numerous shorts which involve a run-in with a generic grizzly bear, such as the Mickey cartoon The Pointer, the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose, and such Donald cartoon as Good Scouts, Donald's Vacation and Dumbbell of the Yukon.
And the majority of Goofy's class in "Teachers Are People".
Brick Joke: Near the start of "Teachers Are People", Goofy confiscates a number of items from George, including a gun and grenade, the latter of which he drops in a water bucket (presumably to deaden the explosion if it happens). At the end of the short, the school blows up, and George is made to write "I will not bomb the school again" on the chalkboard.
Captain Ersatz: During the early '30s, Rudolph Ising of the Harman and Ising duo (who were both former employees of Disney) cooked up an incredibly blatant Mickey Mouse clone named Foxy for their Warner Bros. distributed animation studio. In fact, his image is proudly adorned on the main Captain Ersatz page. Fortunately, Walt himself got wind of the ripoff and personally asked Ising to stop using the character after only three measly shorts. However, Foxy was brought back for an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures called Two-Tone Town (albiet redesigned to look less like Mickey, while still having some similarities to a Golden Age rubberhose character).
Mickey: "Swell!" "Hot dog!" "Gosh!" "Oh, boy!" "Gee..." "Hiya, pal!" "See ya real soon!" "Y-y-y-yes, ma'am!" "For gosh sakes!"
Donald: "Hiya, toots!" "SO!" "Aw, phooey." "Aw, nuts." "What's the big idea?" "You can't do that to me!" "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!" "Well, I'll be doggoned!" "Why, you doggone stubborn little... (incoherent muttering/squawking)..." "WAAAAAAAAAK!!" "Uh-oh!" "That's the last straw!"
Goofy: "Gawrsh!" "Ahyuck!" "AHHHHHHHH-HOO-HOO-HOOEY!" "Somethin' wrong here..." (singing) "Ohhh, the world owes me a livin'... deedle-didle dodle-didle dum..."
Minnie: "Oh, my!" "Isn't that sweet!" "Oh, Mickey..."
To an extent, Figaro (in the shorts, he was typically shown as a foil for Pluto), even if he doesn't excel much past a Bratty Half-Pint.
Chekhov's Gun: As soon as you find out Minnie's car horn sets Mickey's Mechanical Man off, you just know it's going to get used in its boxing match against the Congo Killer in the 1933 short Mickey's Mechanical Man.
Also, both the gas leak and Pete's lighting his cigars in the 1936 short Moving Day. Put the two together and stuff blows up.
Depending on the Writer: Mickey and friends either live in the same neighborhood (shorts in the 1930s placed them in Hollywood, California), or in separate cities (Mouseton and Duckburg, shown as next to each other).
The 1992 series Goof Troop moved Goofy out of Mouseton to Spoonerville, but this has been written out of canon in more modern material?where Mickey and Goofy once again live in the same neighborhood.
Daisy comes close in "Donald's Dilemma", where she tells her psychiatrist "I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I didn't wanna live!" and is seen pointing a gun to her head. This is often edited out in modern TV showings...
Edutainment Show: Several Donald shorts of the mid-to-late '50s had an educational bend, one of the most notable being Donald in Mathmagicland, in which Donald learns that "there's a lot more to mathematics than two times two."
Also, Scrooge McDuck and Money, in which Scrooge gives lessons to his nephews on the history of currency and the capitalist economy.
The Everyman: All of the main trio, to some degree: Mickey (when he's not too good at being a hero), Donald (when he's not being too nasty), and Goofy (when he's not being too clumsy) have all functioned as everyday working stiffs in viewer identification scenarios.
Furry Confusion: Horace and Clarabelle started out as four-legged Talking Animals and became Funny Animals over the space of several cartoons. Pluto is usually a relatively realistic dog, but did say a few words in a few early appearances.
And then there's the ever-complicated issue of Goofy, which comes from determining what Goofy (anthropomorphic man-dog whose is treated like a human) is in relation to Pluto (non-anthropomorphic dog, who's treated like a dog), whom he is occasionally shown to interact with. While it's possible that anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic dogs may simply exist side by side in the Disneyverse, it still has odd connotations (imagine if some humans were kept as pets, and treated as such, alongside seemingly similar humans).
Garden Hose Squirt Surprise: In "Beezy Bear", beekeeper Donald Duck catches Humphrey the Bear siphoning honey from his hives with a garden hose, so he connects the hose to a garden hose spigot, squeezes it until the water bulges up inside, and sends the bulge racing toward Humphrey. But then the ranger arrives and gives Donald back the hose, resulting in a game of Hot Potato that leaves all three soaked.
Pretty much any time Jenny Wren (a shameless No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Mae West...except as a bird) appears (or cameos) in the Silly Symphonies shorts. Also, there's this gem from the classic Toby Tortoise Returns:
Jenny: "I like a man that takes his time..."
Although it should be noted that in the context that line was said in, she was talking to Toby Tortoise, a rather slow-moving and slow-witted fellow who just got knocked out of the ring beforehand.
The Goofy short Father's Day Off has Goofy's wife constantly cheating on him.
In Up a Tree, when Chip 'n Dale first look up their tree to see Donald climbing up it to cut it down, Dale says to Chip, "It's a duck with a big fanny!" (Though in the U.S., the term "fanny" is a euphemism for "backside" (the chipmunks obviously noticed Donald's backside), in the U.K., the term "fanny" is a euphemism for a certain part of a woman's anatomy (and thus was Edited for Syndication)).
Hollywood Magnetism: In the Classic Disney Short "Donald and Pluto", Donald Duck is a plumber who uses a magnet to retrieve his tools from atop a ladder. Pluto ends up accidentally swallowing the magnet, and spends the rest of the cartoon dealing with the various objects that are mysteriously following him around.
Human Popsicle: What happens to Pluto in "Rescue Dog" after the baby seal pulls him out of some icy water that he fell into.
Humanlike Foot Anatomy: Donald Duck and other ducks have a plantigrade stance, as do Pluto, Butch, and other dogs and cats.
Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar from the Classic Disney Shorts have a plantigrade stance even though more modern appearances always depict them with shoes. You don't see their back hooves anymore and their front hooves are drawn as hands, but in their really early appearances, you could see that they clearly exemplify this trope.
Goofy, Max, nearly all other Dogfaces, and even Mickey and Minnie Mouse have feet that look awfully like human feet. Mickey and Minnie also have hand and foot proportions that would be more appropriate for a Canada Lynx than for a mouse.
Idea Bulb: Goofy gets one when trying to think of what to do about Mickey's birthday cake.
Dale also gets two in Crazy Over Daisy when he and Chip try to think of a way to get revenge on Donald. The first bulb that Dale gets is small, but Chip dismisses it. The second bulb Dale gets is much larger and Chip approves.
The Donald Duck cartoons "Early To Bed" and "Drip-Drippy Donald". In those cases it isn't that Donald has insomnia as such, it's that external factors (a Bear Trap Bed, a dripping faucet) won't let him sleep.
Involuntary Dance: In "Trick or Treat", a witch casts a spell on Donald after he swallows the key to the pantry where he hid all the Halloween candy. The spell made his feet dance and kick in an attempt to remove the key, while the witch accompanied on the banjo.
Karma Houdini: A handful of shorts feature the Orphans, a group of obnoxious, cruel mice that look like little Mickeys. Their constant harassment of Donald (and sometimes Mickey) never goes punished. This contributes to some fans' view of them as The Scrappy.
Their cruel behavior won't go entirely unpunished though. Do you really think any of those little brats will get adopted? I can't see any parents lining up to adopt such mean-spirited kids, no matter how cute they are. Why do you think they're orphans?
Keep Circulating the Tapes: There are still a handful of classic Disney shorts that didn't make their way into the Walt Disney Treasures lineup, including two of Goofy's 60s shorts, Freewayphobia #1 and Goofy's Freeway Troubles ("How to Ride a Horse" and "El Gaucho Goofy" from the 40s aren't counted here, as they was technically part of other features, the former as part of The Reluctant Dragon (and can be found intact on Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes At Walt Disney Studios) and the latter as part of Saludos Amigos), Chip 'n Dale's three solo shorts (although they are available on VHS and some of them on DVD) and poor little "Susie the Little Blue Coupe" didn't get into the Disney Rarities set (although it has somehow made its way onto public domain DVDs like Bazooka Joes cartoons, as well as included on DVD releases of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and The Love Bug as extras and as part of a series of DVDs called "It's a Small World of Fun"). They have also only released a select few of the early Alice Comedies on the Disney Rarities and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit sets, but many others are available via VCI and Inkwell Images DVD collections. Also, the obscure Disney short about "Menustration" hasn't been officially released, but has fallen into the public domain. Donald is also missing two shorts from the 1960s ("Donald's Fire Survival Plan" and "Steel and America"), and two '60s oneshots "Scrooge McDuck and Money" and "It's Tough To Be a Bird" have also not received a release.
Most of the main cast's younger relatives were Bratty Half Pints of the highest order, Junior in Bellboy Donald (not so much P.J.), Huey, Dewey and Louie, Mickey's Orphans, and sometimes Goofy Junior (not so much Max), just to name a few.
Meaningful Name: Red, Huey's color, is the brightest hue, and blue is the color of dew, hence Dewey. This leaves Louie, and leaves are green.
On the other hand, it's not like all artists and translations are at all consistent about which nephew wears which colored cap... the nephews being indistinguishable or swapping their caps has even been a plot point several times. The earlier shorts also featured Dewey and Louie wearing orange or yellow, with only Huey consistently wearing red.
Obstacle Ski Course: "The Art of Skiing" has Goofy doing all kinds of variations of this, most memorably accidentally skiing backwards.
Old Shame: Director Wilfred Jackson disliked the early Mickey Mouse short "The Castaway", and from it's completion vowed to never again make another picture that didn't feel like a Disney cartoon, according to The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.
Out of Focus: Donald eclipsed Mickey in popularity through the late '30s and early '40s, and Mickey began starring in less and less shorts. There were no Mickey cartoons at all between Symphony Hour (1942) and Mickey's Delayed Date (1947) (granted, Mickey did appear in Pluto and the Armadillo (1943) and Squatter's Rights (1946), but they are considered Pluto shorts). And then after 1953's The Simple Things, it would be another 30 years before Mickey would appear again in Mickey's Christmas Carol.
Oven Logic: For some reason, Minnie's oven goes all the way up to "volcano heat." Goofy uses the setting to speed up baking the cake for Mickey's Birthday Party with explosive results.
Packed Hero: In "Modern Inventions", Donald Duck is wrapped in cellophane by a gift wrapping machine.
Pimped-Out Dress: Some ladies wore these, like the classical style dress in "The China Shop", to the short dress trimmed with white fur in "The Moth and the Flame", but the most oddly pimped out dresses are in "The Cookie Carnival", where the dresses are food based. One guy got a girl a nice dress just by mainly using eclair cream in the shape of a frilly dress.
Real Life Writes the Plot: "Out of Scale", in which Donald has a model train set in his backyard, is based on Walt Disney's own backyard train set.
Screw the Rules, I Have Plot!: In the short Toby Tortoise Returns, why didn't the game automatically go to Max Hare after Toby was knocked out of the ring by him? Instead, they just let the fight continue as if nothing happened.
Screwy Squirrel: Chip 'n' Dale on occasion; Huey, Dewey, and Louie in many of their early appearances; and Mickey's Orphans (the crowds of mouse-faced kids in nightshirts).
Squirrels in My Pants: In Moose Hunters, Donald and Goofy are disguised as a female moose in order to lure one over to Mickey so he can shoot it. After they meet a male moose and Goofy, in the moose costume's front, pretends to flirt with it, Donald, who is in the bottom of the costume, accidentally sits on a bee, which makes the bee mad and it dives into the bottom of the costume and stings Donald, while he hops around in pain and tries to get rid of the bee. This makes it look like the female moose that Donald and Goofy are disguised as is doing a samba dance.
Talking Animal: Chip 'n' Dale, Goofy's mynah bird Ellsworth (a comic book character, most common in the 1950s, who wears clothes and is personified as a wise-guy intellectual - yet lives in a birdhouse and flies).
They Have the Scent: Mickey is pursued by a pair of bloodhounds after he escapes from prison in "The Chain Gang".
Through a Face Full of Fur: In "The Army Mascot", Pluto turns green after swallowing a plug of chewing tobacco. He tries to swallow the green away, but it just comes back up. He then turns other colors as well, including, yes, plaid. Even his tongue!
Likewise, in such cartoons as "Alpine Climbers", "Lend a Paw" and "Mail Dog", which take place in a snowy area, there are times when Pluto turns blue from the cold.
Who Would Want to Watch Us??: In A Gentleman's Gentleman, Pluto buys a newspaper for Mickey, but stops to read a comic strip featuring himself on the front page. He laughs at his comic counterpart's misfortune, but then a similar situation happens to him.
William Telling: In The Tortoise And The Hare, the Hare shows off his speed by shooting an arrow, running ahead of it, standing under the target with an apple on his head, and letting the arrow split the apple in two.