The first short produced starring Mickey Mouse, the short was made in 1928 not long after Walt lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and like those was originally silent. it was drawn and animated entirely by Ub Iwerks in two weeks. The short was shown to a test audience and MGM executives, but Disney was unable to secure a distribution deal for it. (Iwerks himself said the short wasn't much different than what was being done at the time). Not giving up on the character, Disney began production of a second short, The Gallopin' Gaucho, but during the production of that the studio also began working on a third Mickey short, and the first to be planned to have sound, Steamboat Willie. That short landed a distribution deal, and gave the then declining animation industry (cartoons were falling out of popularity at that point) the kick in the pants it needed, and made Mickey an instant star. Plane Crazy was promptly dubbed with sound over it and became the fourth Mickey short given wide release. It is important not only because it's the short for which Mickey was created, but also a prime example of his original characterization — here, he's a very self-confident, adventurous but overambitious mischief maker who attempts to fly a plane, inspired by Lindbergh (although Mickey himself, as stated above, is based on Douglas Fairbanks). In the meantime, Minnie Mouse joins for a ride as Mickey loses control of his homemade plane. Hilarity Ensues.
"Plane Crazy" provides examples of:
- All Men Are Perverts: Mickey at one point tries several times to get a kiss from Minnie and eventually resorts to smooching her after scaring her by deliberately letting her fall out of the plane and then catching her. Later, he laughs at Minnie using her panties as a parachute.
- Canon Discontinuity: Downplayed. While Disney is perfectly willing to acknowledge the existence of Plane Crazy, they prefer to view Steamboat Willie as Mickey's debut cartoon, even though Plane Crazy was produced a few months prior. To be fair, while Plane Crazy is the first Mickey Mouse short to be produced, Steamboat Willie is the first to be distributed and to premiere to the public (Plane Crazy would not be released until 1929).
- Characterization Marches On: Oh yeah. Mickey is much more of a jerk than he later became.
- Episode on a Plane
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Hey, Mickey almost crashed his plane into Felix the Cat! note
- MacGyvering: After his first plane crashes, Mickey is downbeat...until he finds a jalopy nearby. He gets creative and immediately turns it into a makeshift airplane.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The camera zoom near the end was impossible to achieve with Disney's rigid stop motion camera of the time, so he and Iwerks improvised the effect by stacking the background on a pile of books, adding more to the pile per frame to give the illusion that the camera was trucking in towards the background, rather than the other way around.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: An instrumental of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Hail to the Chief" is used early in the picture.
- Pun-Based Title
- Running Gag: The "Mickey grabbing a cow's udder and getting milk squirted in his face" gag would be recycled for several other black & white shorts.
- Whole-Plot Reference: This short is essentially Mickey's attempt to emulate Charles Lindbergh aka "Lucky Lindy", who was a pop culture staple of the time because of his solo flight over the Atlantic.