Greetings! After the discussion of Jacques Tardi’s West Coast Blues in my last post, I wanted to turn to another gritty crime-thriller, Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot from 1939.
Now, if “Mickey Mouse” and “gritty crime thriller” don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, I would encourage you to think again. While nowadays, Mickey Mouse is essentially a mascot for the Disney corporation, in the 1930s and ’40s, he took down crime syndicates, solved mysteries, fought the Nazis, and more, all under the pencil of Floyd Gottfredson. If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion of Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic work, you can feel free to read my earlier post here.
At its core, Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot is a classic Gottfredson caper, beginning with Mickey being called in by police chief O’Hara (by 1939, Mickey had already helped the police several times) to assist in an investigation into a series of robberies. All the police have to go on is the fact that the sole target of all of the crimes is one particular type of camera, and a series of enigmatic notes signed “The Blot.”
I recently caught myself going through old papers of mine, when I came across some old pieces of tracing paper (I’ve never claimed to be much of an artist) that I had used around the 2nd or 3rd grade. Featured prominently on one of the pages was a tracing of a ferocious dogfight from a beloved childhood comic involving an intrepid pilot trying to take down a villainous pirate airship. This bold hero that I had so lovingly (albeit crudely) rendered was none other than who is arguably the most classic cartoon character of all time, Mickey Mouse, circa 1933.
Mickey Mouse is an interesting character to analyze. His fame and popularity have grown immensely over the years since his creation, but despite his ubiquity, relatively few know very much about what makes him tick which is in large part a result of Mickey’s massive success. Walt Disney made the conscious decision at a certain point to make the mouse a fairly one-dimensional character because he was quickly becoming less of a character and more a symbol for the ever growing Disney corporation. Between this tragic business decision and Mickey’s creation and introduction in 1928, however, lie some of the greatest comics ever written.
Disney seems to see a benefit in making live-action remakes of the classics. We have seen Snow White and Sleeping Beauty already, and Disney plans to bring Mulan back too. These movies have been hit-or-miss for audiences, but Cinderella was a step in the right direction. With a few movies under their belt, Disney finally shows the potential that all of these live action remakes have.
Cinderella seems like it would be a tough project to make in live action because it is a simple story with magical things going on in the background. At first glance, it could be brushed off as potentially cheesy or too childish because of the content, such as Cinderella talking to animals.
Despite this, it was actually handled really tastefully. All of the supernatural events still happen, but they are toned down to match the style of a live-action film. You aren’t forced to suspend belief because they do it very subtly. The animals do not talk, but they are clearly in a friendship with Cinderella. The cinematography helps too because it is done very romantically and makes everything look just a step above real life. There are shots of castles, fields, and forests the way they only exist in fairy tales.
Disney movies are usually a big success. Big Hero 6 is a Disney film that won the Oscar for Best Animated Film, but it did not have the cultural impact that most Disney movies do. This is unfortunate because the movie was an original piece of work that did many things right.
Hollywood is known for being a white man’s world. It is believed that women and other races do not sell tickets at the box office. This belief system has hindered many projects. George Lucas had many problems trying to get studios to let him make the movie Red Tails because it was an all black cast. It is an old way of thinking that is slowly changing.
Disney has had a good thing going by featuring women as lead characters. Over the years, they have also been moving towards characters that do not need a man to save them. They keep innovating and Big Hero 6 is a movie that also tried going into new territory. It features a half-American, half-Japanese family living in a town called “San Fransokyo.”