Clock Cleaners

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Clock Cleaners
Mickey Mouse series
Clock Cleaners.png
Theatrical release standee placard
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen
Produced by Walt Disney
Voices by Walt Disney
Clarence Nash
Pinto Colvig
Music by Paul J. Smith
Oliver Wallace
Animation by Chuck Couch
Frenchy DeTremaudan
Al Eugster
Wolfgang Reitherman
Bill Roberts
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 15, 1937 (1937-10-15)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 8 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Preceded by Hawaiian Holiday
Followed by Lonesome Ghosts

Clock Cleaners is a 1937 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The cartoon follows Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy working as janitors in a tall clock tower. The film was directed by Ben Sharpsteen and features original music by Paul Smith and Oliver Wallace. The voice cast includes Walt Disney as Mickey, Clarence Nash as Donald, and Pinto Colvig as Goofy.[1][2][3]

Clock Cleaners is one of Disney's most critically acclaimed short films. In 1994, 1000 members of the animation field voted Clock Cleaners as the 27th greatest cartoon of all time.[4]

Synopsis[edit]

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are assigned to clean a tall clock tower. Mickey is outside cleaning the face with a mop by riding on the second hand. Goofy is inside the building cleaning gear teeth with a large toothbrush. Donald (singing "Hickory Dickory Dock") starts to mop the mainspring, ignoring several warning signs. He gets the mop caught and springs it loose.

Meanwhile Mickey, now cleaning inside the clock, comes across a sleeping stork which he tries unsuccessfully to remove. Mickey is left hanging on a rope outside the tower.

Back inside, Donald is getting the mainspring back into place with a mallet, but he struggles to get the very last piece in place. Donald gets furious at the spring and asks "What's the big idea?" The spring seems to respond with an echo of Donald's question. Donald gets into an argument with the spring, but it knocks him off. Donald gets his head stuck in a gear on the balance wheel shaft. When he finally is free from it, the oscillation makes his body continue to move.

Now outside, Goofy (singing "Asleep in the Deep") is cleaning the outside bell. While he is cleaning the interior of the bell, it becomes 4:00 pm, causing two mechanical statues to come from inside the tower and ring the bell four times. The first figure, resembling Father Time, startles Goofy, but when he looks out he sees no one and continues cleaning. The second figure, representing Lady Liberty, rings the bell from the other side. After the third ring, Goofy is determined to be ready for the next time. He is ready to attack, but when he sees Lady Liberty, he chivalrously apologizes. But Goofy is standing between her torch and the bell, and gets a big knock to the head.

This puts Goofy in a dizzy lovestruck stupor for the rest of the film. Mickey is alarmed when he sees Goofy almost fall and tries to save him. At each turn Mickey is just barely able to save Goofy. At last the two of them fly through a window, land on the mainspring which Donald has finally managed to put back together, then all three land in the same gear in which Donald was stuck earlier.

Censorship and bans[edit]

Donald confronts the talking mainspring

During the 1990s, Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association persuaded Wal-Mart to discontinue the sale of the VHS tape "Cartoon Classics: Fun on the Job!", which included "Clock Cleaners", due to two perceived uses of inappropriate language by Donald Duck. During his fight with the mainspring Donald responds to the taunting by saying "Oh yeah, says who?" and then threatens the mainspring, calling it a "snake in the grass". However, due to the nature of Donald's voice, some believed that he was instead saying "fuck you" to the mainspring and calling it a "son of a bitch". It should be noted that Disney would not have been allowed to release the cartoon in theaters if the foul words were actually used; the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 was heavily enforced then and would have prevented Disney from doing so.

Due to this controversy, when the film was released on the Walt Disney Treasures DVD set Mickey Mouse in Living Color (2001), Donald's line was redubbed with the line "Awww, nuts!", originally from the On Ice soundtrack. The edit is made obvious by the sound of Pluto barking in the background. The "snake in the grass" line was also redubbed. The same edits occur on several later DVD releases, including The Great Mouse Detective (2002) which included the cartoon as a bonus feature in reference to that film's climatic battle in and around Big Ben, Funny Factory with Goofy (2006), and the bonus Epic Mickey DVD (2010).

Other DVD releases have kept the original line, such as Alice in Wonderland: Masterpiece Edition (2004) which included the cartoon as part of the TV special "One Hour in Wonderland", and Have a Laugh!: Volume 2 (2010) which also included the film's original RKO title cards. More recent broadcasts of the cartoon on Disney Channel have also included the original line.

Releases[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Clock Cleaners at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Clock Cleaners at The Encyclopedia of Animated Disney Shorts
  3. ^ Clock Cleaners at the Big Cartoon DataBase
  4. ^ Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing. ISBN 1-878685-49-X.
  5. ^ "Mickey's Crazy Careers" at The Encyclopedia of Animated Disney Shorts
  6. ^ Clock Cleaners at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ The Great Mouse Detective (1986) at Amazon.com