Mickey's Mellerdrammer

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Mickey's Mellerdrammer
Mickey's Mellerdrammer FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byWilfred Jackson
Written byWilfred Jackson
Walt Disney
Produced byWalt Disney
StarringPinto Colvig
Walt Disney
Marcellite Garner
Billy Bletcher
CinematographyWilfred Jackson
Walt Disney
Edited byWilfred Jackson
Walt Disney
Music byOliver Wallace
Production
company
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • March 18, 1933 (1933-03-18) (U.S.)
[1]
Running time
8 Minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Mickey's Mellerdrammer is a 1933 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by United Artists. The title is a corruption of "melodrama", thought to harken back to the earliest minstrel shows, as a film short based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin and stars Mickey Mouse and his friends who stage their own production of the novel. It was the 54th Mickey Mouse short film, and the fourth of that year.[2]

The cartoon shows Mickey Mouse and some of the other characters dressed in blackface with exaggerated lips; bushy, white sidewhiskers made out of cotton; and his usual white gloves.

Plot[edit]

In Mickey's Mellerdrammer, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy (known then as Dippy Dawg), Horace Horsecollar, and others present their own low budget light-hearted rendition of the 19th century Tom Shows for a crowd in a barn converted into a theater for the occasion.

Horace Horsecollar plays the white slave owner Simon Legree. Minnie plays the young white girl, Eva. Mickey plays old Uncle Tom with cotton around his ears and chin, and the young slave girl Topsy. Clarabelle Cow plays the slave woman Eliza. Goofy plays the production stage hand.

The cartoon opens with Mickey and Clarabelle Cow in their dressing rooms applying blackface makeup for their roles (Mickey originally used a small dynamite to black up his face). The cartoon is much more focused on the Disney characters' efforts to put on the play, than an animated version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The cartoon contains many images of Mickey and the other characters using makeshift props as sight gags.

The cartoon closes with the characters coming out for a bow, and Horace Horsecollar's character is pelted with rotten tomatoes. When Goofy shows his face from behind the stage, he is hit with a chocolate pie, leaving him in what appears to be blackface, as Goofy laughs making the cartoon to end.

Racial stereotyping[edit]

Stereotyped characterizations of black people were then common. Mickey's Mellerdrammer was one of many films and cartoons of its era that referenced Uncle Tom's Cabin, and features Mickey in blackface.[3] Henry Louis Gates Jr., wondered how the cartoon evaded censorship of miscegenation, given that Mickey and Minnie portray Tom and Eva, and are "as they say, an item, and unmistakably so." (Additionally, Mickey is seen cross-dressing in the role of Topsy.)[4]

In the beginning of this short, Clarabelle Cow appears in her dressing room applying lantern soot to her face and leaving an exaggerated area around her lips white. Mickey Mouse then takes a more "comical" approach to applying the makeup: He puts a firecracker in his mouth and lights it, which explodes, causing the ashes to paint his face black while leaving a large area around his lips white.[5]

Reception[edit]

Motion Picture Herald reviewed the cartoon on July 1, 1933, saying, "This time Mickey, the inimitable, stages an "Uncle Tom meller", with assorted animated mishaps in the accepted, and approved, Mickey fashion, while the antics of the animated audience contribute not a few of the laughs. It is good cartoon material, and the youngsters, old and young, should enjoy it."[6]

Voice cast[edit]

Home media[edit]

The short was released on December 7, 2004 on Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume Two: 1929-1935.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kaufman, J.B.; Gerstein, David (2018). Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History. Cologne: Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8365-5284-4.
  2. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  3. ^ Reynolds, David S. Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America, 243. W. W. Norton & Company
  4. ^ Reynolds, 244
  5. ^ VolterraChannel (August 17, 2010). "Mickey Mouse - Mickey's Mellerdrammer - 1933" – via YouTube.
  6. ^ Sampson, Henry T. (1998). That's Enough, Folks: Black Images in Animated Cartoons, 1900-1960. Scarecrow Press. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-0810832503.
  7. ^ "Mickey Mouse in Black & White Volume 2 DVD Review". DVD Dizzy. Retrieved February 19, 2021.

External links[edit]