Oh Mickey, you’re so lame

Pub date June 5, 2007
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

In 1938, 13 years before a cinematic Alice visited Wonderland, Porky Pig flew to Wackyland, a Salvador Dalí painting come to life. Determined to find the last dodo bird on earth, he wandered through this surrealist landscape to the rhythm of the marijuana ditty "Feeling High and Happy." In 1931’s One More Time, Mickey Mouse’s ears grew bigger and his tail bushier as he transformed into Foxy, a police officer who then chased the Prohibition-era villains who had kidnapped his girlfriend. In 1943’s A Corny Concerto, Elmer Fudd tried his luck as an orchestra conductor, only to be defeated by his tuxedo, which left him practically naked while he tried to introduce two Johann Strauss Jr. waltzes.

If all this sounds good to you and you’re tired of Walt Disney’s plethora of unimaginative, didactic, and patronizing cartoons, then you’re in for a treat. For more than 25 years, Portland, Ore., film archivist, historian, professor, and writer Dennis Nyback has been searching for rare films in the catalog The Big Reel as well as in thrift stores and flea markets. "F@ck Mickey Mouse" is the title of a 16mm film program Nyback has assembled to showcase, as he puts it, "rare cartoon precursors that beat Disney to the punch, imitators that ripped him off, and parodies that made vicious fun of some of Disney’s greatest animation shorts."

Nyback’s program reveals a world that is funny, bold, and completely out of control. A world that isn’t afraid to turn Little Red Riding Hood into Red, a hot dancer, or Snow White into Coal Black, a maid in 1940s Harlem. It also includes perhaps the most daunting example of Disney’s God-bless-America approach, Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942), in which Donald Duck dreams that he is a Nazi. I don’t want to give away the cartoon’s disturbing ending, so I will just quote Nyback: "It does suggest mindless jingoism."


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