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Western Animation / The Golden Touch

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"Is the richest king 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 story from Greek Mythology, 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.


"The Golden Touch" provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Midas may have been a hedonist in the myth, but he was just foolish and irresponsible, not an arrogant jerk like he is here, and he didn't willingly turn animals into gold either.
  • Adapted Out: Bacchus and the Greek gods, who gave and removed Midas's curse in the original myth, are not present and are replaced by Goldie the elf. Midas's daughter who he accidentally turns to gold is removed as well. The rest of the original Midas myth, such as the incident where his ears are turned into those of donkeys, is also dropped.
  • Adipose Rex: King Midas is portly, likely due to all the time he spends counting money and the extravagant feasts laid out in his banquet hall.
  • Anachronism Stew: Hamburgers were not invented until the 19th or 20th century, well after Midas's 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.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: To indicate that we shouldn't feel too bad for Midas is that when his cat just wants to enjoy the day and keep away from the Golden Touch, he tries luring him towards him. When the cat refuses to play along, Midas hunts him down.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Everything you touch turning into gold seems great until you realize that includes anything you try to eat or drink.
  • Big Eater: Midas planned on eating the entire table's worth of food all by himself, which makes him realize his power is a curse, as he can't eat ever again.
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerize: Some rereleases of the Cartoon cut most of the opening sequence and start with Midas singing about having "The Golden Touch". This has the added benefit of young children not seeing the king turning his cat into gold.
  • Broken Aesop: While the story seems to be trying to teach a lesson about greed and the consequences of it, it seems hollow when the ambiguity of Goldie's intentions comes to light, particularly when the elf makes off with all of Midas's possessions just to release him of the curse.
  • Canon Foreigner: Goldie the Elf is a unique creation for this adaptation and replaces Bacchus and the gods in the role of giving and taking away Midas's curse.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: By his own admission, Midas cares not for women. His being the only person remaining when Goldie takes his castle implies he was unmarried.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog:
    • Cat in this case. The king's cat knows that Goldie is no good and tries to flee from him as well as from Midas once the king gets the Golden Touch.
    • The birds immediately flee when they see him approaching their birdbath. They are confused when he turns their water into a gold foam.
  • Flipping the Table: Midas angrily flips his golden table after he turns all his food into gold.
  • Gold Is Yellow: Zig-zagged. Many of the golden objects, whether turned gold by Midas's touch or not, have realistic tones and shading. However, some objects, such as the gold coins, appear more yellow due to their simplistic shading. This is probably due to the coins being drawn and inked, while the more "golden" objects are painted.
  • The Grim Reaper: A golden version of him appears during Midas's breakdown.
  • Hidden Depths: Midas may be a selfish, greedy jerk, but twice he is quick to offer up his kingdom to Goldie for something that, debatably, is comparatively small in relation, the first time being for the Golden Touch itself, the second to be relieved of the curse and to simply have a hamburger to eat that won't change to gold. Doesn't make him much more sympathetic, but it is notable.
  • Hold the Unsolicited Ingredient: When Midas begs for a hamburger in exchange for his kingdom, Goldie sarcastically asks "With or without onions?" In the end, Midas seems to be happy that his hamburger has onions.
  • Hope Spot: There is one moment where the cat successfully outruns Midas and makes it up a tree, too high for him to climb. Then Midas touches the tree, which turns it, the fruits, and the cat into gold.
  • Ironic Echo: "Give me gold, not advice!" When Goldie reappears, he reminds Midas of his own words.
  • Karmic Trickster: Goldie is friendly to Midas at first and gives the king a fair shake with a warning about the danger of unmitigated greed before bestowing the Golden Touch at Midas's insistence.
  • Kick the Dog: The first thing Midas decides to touch to see if he has the power Goldie gave him is to use it on his cat, the same cat Goldie used it on earlier as a demonstration. Not, say, his table or a door, but a cat that clearly did not want to be turned into gold again.
  • Laughing Mad/Cry Laughing: Midas, upon discovering that the Golden Touch prevents him from eating or drinking.
  • 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.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The Golden Touch seems kind of random, but it's 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's 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. The sole exception is when he sticks a golden fork into a turkey, but only after the fork is turned into gold—the turkey doesn't turn into gold until he tries to bite it.
    • 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.
  • The 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 a skeleton and nods when Midas asks, "Is the richest king in all the world to starve to death?"
  • Midas Touch: This being an adaptation of the Trope Maker, this one's a given.
  • Minimalist Cast: The short has only three characters in it: Midas, his cat, and Goldie.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Subverted when Goldie starts to take Midas's underclothes but relents when the king begs to keep them.
  • No Love for the Wicked: In the opening number, King Midas mentions that he has no interest in romance, simply because he Loves Only Gold. While he's not exactly villainous, he is shown to be a selfish Jerkass in this part, before his development later on.
  • Our Elves Are Different: This one can give you the Golden Touch.
  • Regal Ruff: Amusingly, King Midas's cat wears one, implying that Midas is so rich that he's able to afford such a fancy accessory for his pet!
  • Satiating Sandwich: "My gold, my kingdom for a hamburger sandwich!"
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: The cat attempts to flee after Midas gains his Golden Touch and wants to test it on him. He sadly fails.
  • Schmuck Bait: Goldie demonstrates the Golden Touch. He then tries to warn Midas that he doesn't want a price for it because the Touch itself is a curse. Midas is too greedy to think this may be a bad idea.
  • Smug Snake: Goldie, of the non-villainous variety, as he takes clear pleasure in humiliating a greedy egotist like Midas.
  • Taken for Granite: The Cat suffers this twice; once by Goldie and once by his owner, King Midas.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: None of the food Midas was going to have for lunch got to be eaten, thanks to his power.
  • Throat-Slitting Gesture: During Midas' breakdown, his shadow turns into The Grim Reaper, who pulls this gesture while making a "shhhhlck" sound to taunt the king that the Golden Touch is will be his own undoing.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Goldie allows Midas to keep his underwear and also puts onions on his hamburger.
  • Treasure Room: An early example where the short opens on Midas merrily counting gold coins in his treasury.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Midas when he realizes he can't eat and drink anything. And then he really loses it when he imagines himself becoming a gold skeleton after starving to death.
  • Villain Protagonist: Midas
  • Villain Song: The opening song, as well as the little ditty Midas sings when he discovers the power of the Golden Touch.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Midas's pet cat is never seen after being turned into gold a second time by the king. Presumably, Goldie took him along with the rest of Midas's possessions, but it's not made clear where the cat went or whether he was restored to normal (though it's at least shown that Goldie has the ability to do it).
    • We also never see whether or not Midas had any staff in his castle — and he must have had at least some, seeing how he obviously didn't cook his meal himself — leaving it up into the air as to whether or not Goldie took them as well, or if they'd just left the castle after doing their work for the day.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Could almost be called "What The Hell, Hero: The Cartoon"...
    • Midas. Incredibly rich king who only wants to be richer with the ability to transform anything and everything he touches to gold for himself. When he gains the ability to do so, he turns his cat into gold, deprives the birds of their bath and its water after turning them to gold, and only thinks of what will happen to him when the curse starts to rear its ugly head...
    • Goldie. After showing the effects of the Golden Touch (on the cat, no less), he launches into a rant about the evils of gold and greed without even showing or explaining to the king WHY it's a curse. Considering Goldie winds up taking everything the king owns and leaving him with only a hamburger, maybe this was intentional.


Video Example(s):


The Golden Touch

King Midas learns the hard way that having the golden touch wouldn't let him eat anything at all

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Example of:

Main / BlessedWithSuck

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