Western Animation: The Golden Touch

"Is the richest man in all the world to starve to death?!"

"Give me gold, not advice!"

The Golden Touch is a 1935 Silly Symphonies short directed by Walt Disney, and was the last cartoon he ever directed, for reasons explained below.

The plot is similar to the original King Midas fable, albeit updating it from Ancient Greece to the times of Medieval Europe, obviously to keep in vogue with the fairy tale settings of the Silly Symphonies. The short begins with King Midas bragging and singing about his vast riches, which prompts a smug little elf called Goldie to appear and give him the Golden Touch, albeit with warnings that Midas ignores. Initially, Midas is thrilled at his newfound gift, but quickly discovers its side effects when he discovers that it turns whatever he eats or drinks into gold, prompting a Villainous Breakdown and him surrendering his power, kingdom and riches for something to eat.

The short is notable if just for the scorn it received from Walt himself. Apparently, during the making of Snow White, Walt realized that it had been years since he had last directed a short cartoon, and decided to try it again with this cartoon to see whether he was good enough to direct Snow White himself, working on the project in secrecy with only two animators, Fred Moore and Norm Ferguson. Unfortunately, upon release, "The Golden Touch" was an immediate flop. Reasons included that the short was stiff and lethargically paced, and that Midas came off as too one-dimensional and too unsympathetic for audiences to care about him. As such, Walt immediately disowned the cartoon and forbade anybody from ever bringing it up around the studio. This failure was also so hard on him that he gave up directing cartoons altogether, stepping aside to become a full-time producer.

Tropes:

  • Adipose Rex: King Midas.
  • Anachronism Stew: Hamburgers were not invented until the 19th or 20th century, well after Midas' time.
  • And I Must Scream: It's implied that the cat was fully aware when he was turned into gold.
  • Anti-Villain: King Midas. He's extremely greedy, arrogant and rude, but otherwise doesn't do anything actively evil or harmful (barring willingly turning his cat into gold), and once the detrimental effects of the Golden Touch come to bite him in the rear, prompting him to surrender his kingdom and riches, he finally comes around humbled by the ending.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Midas gives up his whole kingdom and riches to Goldie, all just so that he can have a hamburger to eat. Fortunately, he gets just that — with onions, to his delight.
  • Blessed with Suck: Midas, when he realizes that the Golden Touch will turn anything he tries to eat or drink into gold. The cartoon even provides the page image.
  • The Grim Reaper: A golden version of him appears during Midas' breakdown.
  • Hold The Unsolicited Ingredient: When Midas begs for a hamburger in exchange for his kingdom, Goldie sarcastically asks "With or without onions?" At the end, Midas seems to be happy that his hambuger has onions.
  • Ironic Echo: "Give me gold, not advice!" When Goldie reappears, he reminds Midas of his own words.
  • Karmic Trickster: Goldie.
  • Lighter and Softer: This adaptation removes the tragic story element of Midas accidentally turning his daughter into gold in favor of him just breaking down from not being able to eat anything (which unintentionally makes him less sympathetic). The story tone is also slightly more comedic than the original fable.
  • Man In The Mirror Talks Back: Happens twice. The first time, Midas' reflection applauds him when he plans to turn the universe to gold. The second time, depicted in the image page, it turns into The Grim Reaper and nods when Midas asks "Is the richest man in all the world to starve to death?"
  • Naked People Are Funny: Subverted when Goldie starts to take Midas' underclothes, but relents when the king begs to keep them.
  • Our Elves Are Better: This one can give you the Golden Touch.
  • Plot Hole: Appears so, but it's actually not. The Golden Touch seems kind of random, but it's actually just absurdly specific:
    • The tips of Midas' index fingers and the front of his face (including the inside of his mouth) turn things into gold — and only those body parts.
    • An object turned into gold also affects anything softer that is touching it. For example, Midas' cat turns to gold when it's on a tree that Midas touches, but changing water in a birdbath doesn't affect the birdbath itself. Gasses are generally exempt.
    • Midas touches his own body and clothes without turning either into gold. The sole exception is when he deliberately transforms one of his teeth. Presumably he is protected from unintentionally altering his self.
  • Satiating Sandwich: "My gold, my kingdom for a hamburger sandwich!"
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Goldie does leave Midas his underwear, and he also puts onions on his hamburger.
  • Smug Snake: Goldie, of the non villainous variety, as he takes clear pleasure in humiliating a greedy egotist like Midas.
  • Treasure Room: An early example.
  • (Anti-)Villainous Breakdown: Midas when he realizes he can't eat anything.
  • (Anti-)Villain Song: The opening song, as well as the little ditty Midas sings when he discovers the power of the Golden Touch.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: What really triggers Midas' breakdown is that everything he touches, even food he tries to eat or drink, turns into gold. It even turns to gold if he bypasses touching it with his hand and tries to chomp on it!