Animation Trails
June 30, 2021 posted by Charles Gardner

Hit the Beach (Part 1)

“Alice’s Day At Sea” (1924)

We’ve spent twelve weeks in an intensive program of building up, pumping iron, and generally getting our physiques into shape. Now that our bods are firm and toned, it’s time to show them off. And what more traditional place to do so at the commencement of Summer, but at the beach? This year, our vacation getaways will be of the aquatic variety, mixing turf and surf to allow for invigorating cooling dips or toasty lazy days of sunbathing – whichever suits your fancy. And we’ll see how our favorite characters of the past got through their respective encounters with the typical hazards of sunburn, out of control tides, attacking sea creatures, or merely trying to hold on to a picnic lunch.

From what has survived of material from the silent era, the earliest confirmed day of ocean frivolity I have encountered comes from one of the earliest productions of the fledgling Disney studios, in the first official production-line episode of the Alice Comedies series, Alice’s Day at Sea (Winkler Pictures, 3/1/24). Actually, this film’s activities on the sands all occur in a live-action wraparound, loosely attempting to copy the style of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies or the “Mickey McGuire” series. Alice’s dog (no, she doesn’t yet own Julius the cat) is awakened from his thought-cloud dreams of sawing wood by an alarm clock, animated with a face in stop motion. Fed up with the clock’s rings, the dog deposits the clock in a trash can, then self-slips himself through trick camera work into a traveling leash, finally summoning Alice with a bark at her window. The dog next appears in the driver’s seat of a two-passenger kiddie car, ready to conduct Alice to a day’s adventure. Alice takes a seat in the vehicle, then commands, “To the beach, chauffeur.” A few minutes later, the dog has piloted the two to the seaside. There, under the pilings of a pier, Alice spots an old sea captain asleep in the sun. She introduces herself, and asks out of curiosity if the captain was ever shipwrecked. The Captain spins a yarn, illustrated on black anf white chalkboard-style drawing, where his whole ship was scuttled by a giant octopus. Alice is intrigued, but doesn’t get to hear all the details, as another seafaring old timer calls to the Captain from a small boat along the shore, for whom the Captain had apparently been waiting for a day’s fishing. The Captain tips his hat and departs. Now Alice and her dog come across another rowboat resting in the sands ashore. She and her dog climb into its seat, and she sleepily yawns. “I wish I was a sailor.” Of course she falls asleep, leading to the animated sequence which takes up most of the remaining footage.

“Alice” (Virginia Davis)

A furious storm threatens a skiff piloted by Alice with treacherous waves and lightning bolts. The elements finally cause the ship to submerge bow-first at a 90 degree angle into the deep. Alice swims out the smokestack, with no concern for ability to breathe or diving equipment. There on the ocean floor, she observes a society of aquatic creatures not dissimilar to her own, with musician fish gathered around to watch another fish perform a shimmy dance, a mother catfish (visibly a distant relation of the Julius-to-be) leading three kitten-fish riding on little scooters, and a traffic “carp” conducting lines of fish through a busy intersection, while still finding time to tip his hat to a passing lady. King Neptune’s Zoo includes a variety of hybrid creatures, part land animal, part sea animal, including a featured “Sea Lion” consisting of a lion’s head and front paws attached to a fish’s tail. A sea cow (with a genuine bovine head) also offers fresh milk for sale. A giant fish suddenly appears, several times Alice’s size, and tries to make her into a Sundat brunch. Alice swims in a furious zig-zag course, then encounters a “sea-going hack” which she commandeers as a getaway car. The car is swallowed, but shortly thereafter, so is a swordfish, which Alice uses in a manner hidden to the camera but depicted with symbols of impact and pain in the fish’s abdomen to make a getaway. She ducks behind what she believes to be a rock, only to find it is a black octopus. Alice’s feet are shown in close-ip rooted to the ground, as if encased in a block of ice. The octopus wraps its arms around Alice as she struggles in vain, but the scene fades, as live-action Alice awakens from her dream, caught up in a fish net from the contents of the rowboat. The Captain returns from his day’s fishing to free her, and the two share a good laugh at her ridiculous dream.


A few years later, a more advanced and streamlined Disney production staff, now working under contract for Universal, produced an appropriately soggy epic for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, All Wet (10/31/27). Already, Disney was striving for and achieving new highs in quality for smoothness of animation and well-chosen posing, equaling and/or surpassing all current rivals. His animations of the character and watery settings are so well performed, they utterly blow away the rudimentary and downright crude work of Walter Lantz and Bill Nolan that was to follow when studio head Carl Laemmle stole away the Oswald project and cut the budgets a few seasons later, such as in the similar sound production, “Permanent Wave”, making the latter look as if it were drafted by a three-year old.

Oswald runs a hot dog stand along a busy shoreline populated with bathers. He spends most of his time either attempting to keep his very lively – and very canine – hot dogs under control to keep them from wandering off the stand, or trying to keep thieving kittens from stealing away his product. At one point, Ozzie fends off the kittens by detaching his ears, and batting at them as if the appendages were large fly swatters. A customer purchases one of Oswald’s red hots, which Oswald prepares by slicing open a bun, then coaxing one of the dogs to creep off the griddle and take a seat inside. The customer smacks his lips and is about to bite, when loud and aggressive barking emits from his bun to intimidate him. He cautiously tries again, producing more barking, then throws caution to the wind and chomps down. Pathetic dog whimpers emit from the tasty treat inside, and the customer doesn’t have the heart to proceed further. He places the bun on the ground, directing the hot dog to “just go”, and the hot dog waves thanks, and walks away intact. (This hot dog sequence would provide later inspiration for Mickey Mouse in similar setting in 1929’s The Karnival Kid.)

Now, another attraction raises Oswald’s attention – a passing female rabbit (yes, Oswald for once gets to pursue someone of his own species, instead of the cat who would become known as Ortensia), who gives him a flirtatious, over the shoulder glance. Oswald sees a circle of hearts around him, and hangs a sign on his booth reading, “Closed for the day.” Oswald follows the girl, but upon being pursued outright, she gives him a cold shoulder, giving Oswald the shudders. Secretly, however, she also sees hearts, and is merely toying with Oswald’s affections in her own game of feminine wiles. Dejected, Oswald kicks at the sand, then notices standing nearby a powerful and muscular life guard. Oswald gets an idea, and whispers a suggestion into the guard’s ear, which the guard at first rejects as preposterous – that is, until Oswald flashes a greenback in his face, which the guard can’t resist. In a moment, the life guard’s badge has been removed from the real guard’s chest and pinned to Oswald’s, as the real guard takes the day off himself. Knowing he will now appear more impressive to the ladies, Oswald puffs out his chest – only to have it sag to the ground from the added weight of the badge! Yet, although his “official” duties seem to get no more exotic than directing a kitten to a beach outhouse, the girl rabbit is duly impressed by Oswald’s new position, and decides to incorporate his duties into her next attempt at a come-on. Borrowing a convenient rowboat, she rows it out a distance from shore, then changes behind its hull walls into a bathing suit. Diving off the boat, but with a floatation ring around her waist, she calls to the shore for help, even though it is obvious she can swim perfectly fine. Oswald takes the bait, as the letters of the word “Help” sock him in the face, then point the way to the damsel.

As Oswald rows out to sea in another boat, the girl waits patiently for her rescue, unaware that a very large fish is circling her just below the water’s surface. The fish grabs hold of her feet, and attempts to pull her under. Now the girl’s screams reach a pitch of reality, as she is in genuine danger, and is also pulled from her floatation ring. Oswald leaps into the surf, just as the previously placud sea becomes unbelievably choppy. A large wave rises under the girl, floating her well above Oswald’s reach. As the wave descends, a twin rises under Oswald, putting the rabbits as far out of reach of one another as before. Several repetitions of these hazards occur, but the rabbits finally succeed in locking hands – until another wave rises directly between them, breaking the link. A final wave rises and breaks in a foamy crest between them, launching the pair back toward shore, where a cresting wave forms a roller-coaster slope to land them both safely on the sand. The girl lies motionless, until Oswald clears the water from her lungs by rolling her body up like a tube of toothaste from the feet, the watter jetting out of her mouth. The girl revives, and while Oswald smiles bashfully, she grabs him for a kiss that emits visible voltage of electricity and a small puff of black smoke. Oswalf wilts under its effect, until the letters of the word “smack” congeal into the shape of a boot and kick him in the pants, bringing Ozzie back to life. Oswald now embraces the girl for more passionate kissing, as the scene irises out.


Having now left the influences of the tyrannical Laemmle, Disney in 1929 would still well remember his creations for the Oswald series – and carry away a few of such ideas for liberal reuse in his new Mickey Mouse cartoons. One such result was Wild Waves (Mickey Mouse, 12/21/29 – Burt Gillett, dir.). It is first notable that it is hard to determine if recent restoration efforts on this film have misattributed its creation to the wrong director, as all sources indicate Gillett as at least primary director, while the likely “reconstructed” credits appearing on Disney DVD still use the old-style Mickey titles reading “by Ub Iwerks”, who in actuality may have already left the studio by the time of this production to form his own production company for Flip the Frog. The style of the animation is considerably different than the Iwerks vision, and closely resembles the overly round and pie-eyed version of Mickey that would later appear in “Fiddlin’ Around” – so the influence of Gillett seems apparent. Another strange factor in this cartoon is the absence of Walt as the voice of Mickey in several primary sequences, the studio apparently being at the time under the impression that Disney wasn’t much of a singer. And so, as in the later “Mickey’s Follies”, we get an appearance by the mysterious “singing Mickey” – a more nasal voice, possibly supplied by a woman, seeming very much out of character. (Was this Minnie voice Marjorue Ralston doubling?)

Mickey (without the need for a monetary bribe) serves as did Oswald as a beach life guard, spending his idle time serenading the local seals and pelicans on mandolin. His tall beach chair gets into the act, performing a wobbling dance under him, then collapsing. From a nearby beach licker rolls a clothesline of feminine underthings, as Minnie Mouse emerges in a striped swimsuit. She tiptoes her way to the shoreline, daintily dipping her toes into a small puddle in the sand, but intermittently dodging enormous waves that threaten to deluge her, unril one such wave pounds down upon her, and drags her in its strong current out to sea. Mickey runs to the end of a pier, carrying a life preserver on the end of a rope, which he swings in wide circular strokes to toss out to Minnie. Unfortunately, the preserver somehow has a boomerang effect, and only succeeds in sailing back around in a circle to hit Mickey in the tail, knocking him off the pier and onto the beach. Mickey runs to retrieve a lifeboat turned upside down on the sand (oblivious to the fact that wo pigs are pitching woo underneath it), and races for the surf. He has considerable difficulty launching the craft, as each time he puts it down in the water, the tide recedes, leaving him aground, then returns in an attempt to swamp the boat. The wave finally succeeds in driving the boat into the sand, dragging Mickey without a craft into the ocean. Mickey swims against the tide, traveling in a straight-line course as if boring tunnels through the wave crests like mountainsides. As he finally reaches Minnie, we are met with a nearly identical sequence to the cresting wave climax of Oswald’s “All Wet”, leading one to believe that Disney must have morgued at least his pencil drawings from the original production to recreate the wave animation so closely. The two finally safely reach shore, but Minnie is briefly traumatized and begins crying, leading Mickey to produce a hankie for her to blow her nose, then engage in two minutes of undistinguished song and dance along with seals, a walrus, pelicans and other sea birds, in typical meaningless 1929 fashion – simply to justify that it’s a sound cartoon. The traditional “My hero” kiss, and an iris out.


Hawaiian Pineapple (Terrytoons, 3/4/30) – One of those first-year Terrytoons, produced during a period when the few episodes surviving with original credirs appear to display no studio affiliation for distribution – so it’s uncertain if this film was part of the package distributed by Educational, or was originally marketed independently on a states rights basis. This may possibly mark animation’s first nominal visit to the land of the hula – at least, it was definitely the first in sound. This film, unfortunately, was thought to be too graphically violent for the kiddies by CBS, and never included in the Farmer Al Falfa show, with the result that only an edited copy from a surviving nitrate source has been handed down to us through a broadcast in Europe – with titles replaced in French, making reference, as did many others, to a recurring anonymous mouse character from the first-year productions as “Placide”. We begin with what would become standard cartoon atmospherics for any island cartoon – with a troupe of feline hula dancers performing in unison along the shoreline, a trio of surfing mice riding the rise and fall of the waves on surfboards, and palm trees swaying to the strains of Aloha Oe. Something is cut, and abruptly the print shifts to a spat between two romantically-involved monkeys, with the male recruiting a passing bird to use his hat as a nest to lay an egg, just to get the henfruit to use as ammunition to throw at his girlfriend. Enter “Placide”, who is about to take off before a crowd of onlookers for an ocean-hopping flight. His plane first encounters the obstacle of a flock of ducks (the leader of whom, for no apparent reason, is seen in one shot to be riding a small bicycle in mid-air instead of flapping his wings). This bird disappears for the remainder of the sequence, as other forward members of the flock catch up to Placide’s plane and hitch a ride on the plane’s tail flaps. Placide rids himself of these pests by performing a loop, catching the birds in his propeller and grinding them into powder. A rare exhibition of mid-air refueling is performed from a mid-point island by an elephant, who, true to recurring Terrytoon tradition, and long before Dumbo, is able to fly by merely flapping his ears. The elephant inhales gallons of fuel, flies up to meet the plane, then pumps out the supply into the plane’s tank by means of his trunk. Placide waves a grateful thanks, while the elephant descends back to Earth, using his shorts as a parachute.

Placide reaches the islands – the hard way, by crashing his plane directly into the side of an active volcano, breaking a hole through the mountainside and into the red-hot lava chamber. Placide emerges from the mountain’s crater, his back graphically on fire. (Here’s where the CBS censors obviously got upset.) Placide runs down the slope, and through a native hut, setting the structure ablaze and the natives scattering. Placide briefly flips the flames off his back, and tries to do battle with them in an exhibition of fisticuffs – but the flames resume their original position, and Placide collapses on the shoreline, just short of the cooling sea water, with the fire mounting in ferocity on his back. (This sequence, particularly due to its prolonged duration in time, is in fact painful to watch – perhaps, for once, the CBS censors were reasonably justified in keeping this film off the air.) A native maiden mouse in a tall elevated hut spots the trouble, and leaps off the hut platform into the ocean, where a large fish waits on the surface, equipped with a handle in his back for the mouse to grab hold of. Like a jet ski (though they probably hadn’t been invented yet), the maiden takes off to the rescue. Although she gives no signals to any others, she apparently is the leader of a volunteer fire department, as two more rescue vehicles immediately follow in her wake – one fish equipped with steam boiler, siren, and fire bell, and another three-fish powered hook and ladder team. Early animation being as prone to continuity errors as it was, these extra troops might as well have stayed behind at the station, as the maiden’s fish, now inconsistently carrying the fire bell itself, pulls up to the shore where Placide still rests after at least one very long minute with his bare back fully ablaze. The fish jets out a stream of water from its mouth to quench the volcanic flames, which diminish to last wisps of smoke. Atop the arc of water climbs Placide – seemingly none the worse for wear after two minutes of third-degree burning! He climbs aboard the fish to embrace his female rescuer (who is not even repelled by the smell of singed fur), and the troupe of dancers on shore sway them a farewell, as the couple ride astride the fish into the sunset.


Practically on the heels of the Terrytoon island hop, Charles Mintz would book passage for his current star Krazy Kat to the same destination, in Honolulu Wiles (Columbia, 7/17/30 – Ben Harrison/Manny Gould, dir.). At least one can’t call it a plagiarism – there is no plot stolen, as Mintz’s staff doesn’t bother to include a plot at all. Instead, the film is nearly a pure musicale or “dansical”, with Krazy, Kitty, and any other random jungle animal, native, or object that can transform inro a living, breathing being, endlessly dancing and swaying to variations on “Aloha Oe”. In fact, the whole island sways to the strains in a recurring long shot. (This gag, along with a few other shots, would be redrawn in Technicolor for the later Color Rhapsody, Swing, Monkey, Swing.) A few of the more creative visual ideas deserve note. Krazy uses a pair of mallets to play a chorus upon the bamboo poles of a native hit, as if playing a set of tubular bells – then crawls under the hit so that he can blow into the ends of the poles, now playing the hut like a panflute. Waves crash against the shoreline bluffs, but are actually “playing” the island like watery hands rhythmically beating a drum. (This gag would also make a reappearance in a later film.) Wave crests also transform into an endless loop of hula girls, as do swaying palm trees (in a gag lift from Walter Lantz’s “The King of Jazz” animated sequence from April of the same year – again giving an insight into just how short the production schedule was for a Mintz cartoon).

Island girl Kitty wears a grass skirt that can perform a hula independently of her, while she stands watching appreciatively with her panties showing. She also performs an interesting transformation, casting away her round earrings and bracelets to form four tires, while using her lei as a steering wheel, to putt along in a makeshift vehicle of her own creation. In an extreme close-up, Kitty gives Krazt a “come on” glance by causing one strand of her eyelid to coax Krazy near in the manner of a beckoning finger. Krazy rips a limb and foliage off a tree, which transform into an instant musical instrument – possibly a “banjo-lele” with a round-flat tambourine-like base, of the type often played by Eddie Peabody. Along comes an alligator (providing the only semblance of plot in the whole film). He grabs away Kitty’s instrument, inverting it on its handle and spinning the tambourine base to act as a sharpening wheel for him to grind his pointed teeth against. Krazy of course intervenes, and the battle moves to behind the trunk of a palm tree, then halts – as Krazy emerges with the old gag of producing an alligator bag for Kitty – out of which pop dozens of little alligators fleeing for their life, as we iris out. For reasons entirely unknown, this film apparently did not appear in Samba Pictures’ television distribution package – and we can’t blame that on the few natives who appear, as Samba had no qualms about releasing the far more clearly politically incorrect Kannibal Kapers.


By the Beautiful Sea (Fleischer/Paramount. Screen Songs, 1/23/31, Dave Fleischer, dir.,Willard Bowsky/E.R. Timinsky, anim.) – There’s almost more beach action in the title of this film than in the cartoon itself, but the gags and visual puns still abound at the usual Fleischer pace. A roasting summer day finds Old Sol using a cloud as a hankie to wip the sweat from his own brow. Thermometers rise past the setting,”Wow!!”, then extend to wrap themselves around their central shaft in loops to keep from breaking. A cat calls up his girlfriend, suggesting a trip to the beach to cool off – or is it to heat up with some romantic action? The cat’s car gives him no end of trouble, first needing a pail of water splashed in its radiator face to get going, then a whipping on its rear-end (after opening the trunk like a drop-seat) to keep it going. His girlfriend joins him from her upstairs window by means of an extendable wall that juts the room out over the car, letting her step neatly down into the seat directly from her window. Passing through a tunnel en route to their destination, the cat’s face emerges from the darkness covered in lipstick marks, while the girl suggestively smacks her lips. The car finds a cooler way than following the road to arrive where they’re going – demonstrating several types of dives into the bay off a cliffside, then dog-paddling the rest of the way through the water with its tires. The car decides it likes the aquatic element so much, it leaves its passengers on the surface, then dives to the bottom of the bay, finding what it is looking for – an underwater service garage. Or so it seems – as the car enters what appears to be the garage door, a row of teeth snap shut, as the structure transforms into a giant fish, who has just swallowed his lunch. On the surface, the two cats float motionless on the water. Well, not really, as an underwater view reveals that they have merely rested their backs on the tips of hidden rocks just underneath the water’s surface. A turtle passes by, and nips at the ankle of the female cat – who believes that her partner is getting too fresh, then gives the tomcat a smack in the face. The star from the impact of the blow transforms into the shape of various sea creatures, then finally into the bouncing ball, as the narrator invites us to sing. As the first chorus concludes, the cats recover the car, which is now minus its tires, but fully capable of running underwater, propelled by four fish taking the place of its wheels. The cats cavort over the lyrics for the typical transformational gags in the final verse, then a brief montage of water skiing and diving animals follows, with a hippo displaying the words “The End” on his trunks for a final splash (which, based on the suddenness of the present cut to the syndicator’s logo, probably ended in animated form in the original with the wave water subsiding to reveal the Paramount The End card).


Not all visits to a tropical beach locale are by choice. Mickey Mouse found himself at the mercy of the elements in The Castaway (Disney/Columbia, 3/27/31 – Wilfred Jackson, dir.). Amidst another sea of towering waves similar to those from “All Wet”. Mickey rides as the sole passenger of a lonely raft, presumably the victim of a shipwreck. With a pole placed in a notch between the raft’s boards, he has erected a signal flag, consisting of his shorts. Three seagulls fly by, two passing through the leg holes of the shorts, but the third getting caught inside them, yanking the garment from the mast. The gull briefly dances around in the briefs on the raft deck, to the tune of “Over the Waves”, then gets his wings out the leg holes and flies away with them. But Mickey’s troubles may be nearing an end, as, in a nicely dimensional shot, he catches intermittent glimpses of a nearby island between the wave crests. Spotting a passing swordfish. Mickey gets an idea. Lowering his tail to water level over the side, he wiggles his rear provocatively as a target for the fish’s spear. The fish lunges, but Mickey dodges, leaving the sword well-planted in the planking of the raft. Mickey then spanks the fish’s rear end, causing it to swim forward, propelling the craft to the island.

Mickey’s first thought is for food. Looking up, he spots in the trees a likely source. “Bananas. Am I hungry!”, he proclaims. He shakes the tree trunk, but no fruit falls, He throws a stick at the stalk, but it boomerangs and knocks Mickey into the tree trunk. However, the impact does the trick, and a goodly supply of fruit falls. Mickey ingests a few calories by squeezing bananas in his hand, jettisoning the fruit within out of the peel and into Mickey’s mouth by way of a high arc path. One such attempt, however, misses its aim, and knocks a spider from its sleep out of a web above. Mickey waits with open mouth for the fruit to arrive, then rears back in horror, as he realizes he was about to swallow the spider. Backing away, Mickey comes across a large wooden crate which has washed up on the beach from sources unknown. Inside, a water-logged baby-grand piano. (Just what was needed for a sound cartoon.) Mickey presses a key, producing a jet of water. He opens the wooden lid, and pours out a flow of live fish and seaweed. To fully dry out the instrument, Mickey wrings its keys as if they were dishtowels. Mickey pulls up a plank from the crate atop two rocks as a piano bench, and is about to test the instrument out – when it begins to play all by itself. Mickey lifts the lid again for another look, to find three fish left inside flopping around to produce the music. Behind Mickey approach three seals, who bark a greeting to call attention to their interest in the piano’s contents. Choosing three appropriately-placed piano keys, Mickey hits three notes on the keyboard, flipping each of the fish into the respective mouths of the seals. Now ready to perform, Mickey launches into a sort of tack-piano solo of “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep”, with the seals performing a tap dance along the sand. (Or should that qualify as a sand dance?) As the performance continues, a small striped feline (Tiger? Wildcat?) appears from a cave, and tries to horn in on Mickey’s party. He attempts to make it a piano duet, by pounding with his paws in non-harmonious discord upon two groups of keys in the piano’s upper register. Mickey pushes him aside and continues playing. Now, the kitten approaches the piano from the lower end of the note spectrum, producing sour bass notes more discordant than the previous ones.

Mickey shoves the little one under the piano bench – then suddenly, his notes all resonate in echoing, endless decay. The kitten has both paws depressing all of the foot pedals of the piano, accounting for the unwanted overtones. Mickey places the kitten on a small tree branch, which bends over the piano keys. The kitten bounces on the limb, letting twigs from the tree branch do the playing over a five note range on the keyboard with each bounce. All the while, a gorilla has been dancing his way toward the performance, and appears behind Mickey. The kitten catches sight of the ape, and rolls out of the tree, bouncing on the keyboard for a last few notes as a “kirtten on the keys”, then beats a hasty exit. Mickey also is intimidated by the ape’s presence, and relinquishes the bench to the intruder. The gorilla seats himself, and engages in a moody and pensive minor-key solo with both hands and feet, which becomes increasingly intense and aggressive. As Mickey struggles to hold up the piano under the gorilla’s weight, the beast stomps his way across the keyboard, and pounds upon the keys to the breaking point. Mickey ties to fend off the ape with fist blows to his posterior, but the tough hide doesn’t even feel his impacts, as the gorilla lays waste to the piano with a few final pounds. Mickey is about to clobber the gorilla with a rock, when the gorilla turns and catches him holding the weapon. Mickey tries to cover, juggling the stone and whistling a ballet quote as if merely performing a dance. He drops the rock on what appears to be a large boulder – but in reality is the back of a sleeping lion. Mickey is chased to a riverbank, where he hops onto a stone in mid-stream that he thinks is out of the lion’s reach. Blocking his escape to the opposite bank, an alligator emerges from the water. The lion also leaps at Mickey, but the mouse ducks, and the lion lands deep within the open jaws of the alligator. Mickey grabs the lion’s tail, and ties it in a knot around the alligator’s jaws, sealing the lion inside and rendering helpless his reptilian adversary. The gator submerges, and Mickey is left alone – until the stone starts to move – revealing itself to be the back of a large sea turtle. Mickey realizes this creature is a help rather than a hindrance, and waves the audience a “Toodle-oo”, as the turtle provides him with free transportation down the river and into the distance.


Despite his harrowing experience, Mickey was far from traumatized against ever seeing another grain of sand as long as he lived, and chose the shore as a site for some badly-needed group R&R in The Beach Party (Disney/Columbia, 10/28/31 – Burt Gillett, dir.). The whole gang’s along to join him, including Minnie, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, and Pluto. To the now familiar strains of the title song from Fleischer’s sing-along above, the gang enters against the rhythms of “By the Beautiful Sea.” Horace engages in the politically incorrect behavior of smoking a cigar, puffing black balls of second-hand smoke back at Clarabelle in the manner of a freight train, with Clarabelle adding clanks of her cowbell and long Moos to simulate the sound effects of such a train. Minnie brings up the rear, appearing to be wearing a large flowing hoop skirt, with legs and shoes appearing far below the hemline, making her appear to be almost twice as tall as usual. It is for good reason. The “skirt” is in reality a beach umbrella that Minnie is merely sitting on, the pole of which is held by Mickey, who reveals himself by raising the pole higher, allowing us to see that it was his feet, not hers, that were visible all the time. Horace takes the first plunge into the water off a pier diving board – demonstrating the impracticality of diving face-first while still attempting to smoke a lighted stogie. Pluto has to put up with the indignity of Mickey using him as a bicycle pump to blow up an inflatable inner tube, forcing a flow of air from Plito’s lips by pumping on his tail. Clarabelle tests the water with her toes at the shoreline, but breaks into shivers, finding the temperature not to her liking. Suddenly the waves take advantage of her stationary position, and knock her down with a few head-on impacts. Mickey, now afloat with the inner tube, decides Clarabelle needs the floatation device worse than he does, and tosses the ring for a bulls-eye on Clarabelle’s bottom. Clarabelle now floats along on her tail, supported by the inflated ring, giggling and yelling “Whee” as 90% of her remains high and dry. A rising wave, however, places her in a predicament, as the rubber ring snags on a submerged pier piling, and separates from Clarabelle. Not only does the ring get snagged – but so do Clarabelle’s bloomers – and the tide floats Clarabelle away against her best efforts, her tail presumably bottomless below the water surface. Mickey comes floating along and encounters the same submerged pier pole – to find himself snarled up inside Clarabelle’s bloomers as he floats back toward the shore. On land, Clarabelle hides partially concealed behind a rock, and brightens to see her bloomers wash up on the beach within reach. However, she reacts with a start as the bloomers begin twitching under their own power, and grabs a piece of driftwood, using it to clobber whatever is inside, then dumps out the dazed and battered Mickey.

Some ideas from this film would be remembered by the Disney staff for further exploitation in later pictures. For example, Pluto, investigating along the shoreline, encounters a passing crab, who clamps onto his nose and tail, sending Pluto into painful running spirals. (This germ of an idea would blossom into an extended sequence in the later Technicolor classic Hawaiian Holiday.) But the time for such frivolity has now passed, and Minnie, using Clara’s bell as a dinner bell, signals that it’s time to get down to some serious eating. The boys and Pluto return to the beach umbrella and picnic blanket at a double-gallop. A perfect opportunity is presented for the gang to demonstrate their utter lack of table manners. Horace first consumes an ear of corn with the efficiency and sound effects of a typewriter carriage – even engaging in the sound of several hits of the backspace hey to consume one kernel of corn he somehow missed. Clarabells has a thing for olives, and downs them by slapping the bottom of the jar to pop olives out of the top one at a time into her mouth. Her last slap, however, is too powerful, and she swallows the jar instead of the olive. Horace has moved on to a slice of watermelon, spiting out streams of seeds as if shot from the barrel of a machine gun. Mickey feeds Pluto tasty goodies by means of a game, flinging them past Pluto to let the pup fetch them before they hit ground. One toss goes farther than expected, landing a string of sausages into an oncoming wave. Pluto dives in after it, climbing back on shore with one end of the prize in his mouth. Bit something is holding him back from the other end. A harder yank reveals that Pluto has not retrieved the sausages at all, but has chomped onto one of the arms of a large octopus. (The idea of Pluto versus octopus would also give rise to another extended sequence in a later Technicolor production, “Pluto’s Playmate”.) The octopus attacks, chasing Pluto on land, and trapping the pooch as he attempts to hide under the picnic blanket. Mickey and the gang attempt to fend off the creature to allow Pluto to escape. Mickey flings a stack of dishes from the picnic place settings at the monster. But with eight arms, each dish is merely caught by a respective set of the octopus’s tentacles, then hurled back to crack upon the head of the frustrated Mickey. Horace and Claabele turn their outrageous eating habits into potential lethal weapons, spitting watermelon seeds and batting olives at the beast. The creature is irritated, but merely ducks out of the line of fire as best it can. Mickey comes up with the crowning weapon – an old anchor, with part of a hawser rope still tied thereto. Mickey flings it at the creature. The octopus ducks the passing anchor, then laughs aloud to the audience – but forgets to look out for the hawser rope, which wraps itself around the octopus’s neck, then drags the monster back into the ocean – hopefull tethered below to prevent further return. The gang cheers their victory, as Pluto emerges from under the blanket, with their coffee pot now balanced on his head. Pluto may be the first dog to become adducted to caffeine, as he discovers that every time he barks, a few swigs of coffee are poured from the pot, causing his to continually bark and pour himself hot stimulating drinks, as we iris out.

More palmy days from the 30’s, next time.

9 Comments

  • Beachin’ post, dude!

    In a 1969 interview with Michael Barrier, Carl Stalling said that he was the voice of Mickey in “Wild Waves”. So if Ub Iwerks had already left the studio by then, Stalling had not yet followed suit but would shortly do so.

    Whoever wrote the German subtitles to “Hawaiian Pineapple” obviously didn’t realise that “Placide” was supposed to be the mouse’s name (and neither did I, until today). So the French title “Placide aviateur” is translated as “Quiet pilot”.

    The song Kitty plays on the banjolele in “Honolulu Wiles” is “My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle” by Walter Donaldson and Grant Clarke, which appeared in the 1920 revue “Silks and Satins”. The Fleischers really missed an opportunity by not incorporating it into their Talkartoons.

    If you’re including castaway cartoons, then the silent era has “Alice Cans the Cannibals” (Winkler, 1/1/25 — Walt Disney, dir.), in which Alice and Julius are stranded on an island inhabited by anthropophagous natives; and “Professor Bonehead is Shipwrecked” (Gaumont, 27/12/16 — Harry Palmer, dir.), in which the same fate befalls the titular scholar. Both cartoons take place largely on a sandy beach with the appurtenant palm trees and coconuts. But I have a feeling your focus in this Animation Trail will be largely on cartoons that feature the beach as a leisure destination. To include every single shipwreck or cannibal cartoon of the ’30s would be, to coin a phrase, “Plane Dumb”.

    Any discussion of the beach in animation history should begin with “Cartoons at the Beach” (Edison, 8/9/15 — Raoul Barre, dir.), a 10-minute silent film with live-action footage framing four short cartoons. Two couples enjoying a day at the beach in their archaic swimwear sit down at a picnic table, where the girls find a newspaper whose comic strip page comes to life. In “Mr. Hicks in Nightmareland”, Hercules Hicks is at the beach looking at bathing beauties through his telescope; he dreams he’s married to an angel, but the nightmare begins when he wakes up and sees his real wife. In “The Kelly Kid’s Bathing Adventure”, a boy is skinny dipping when a goat comes along and eats his clothes; on his furtive way home he sits on a freshly painted bench and finds that the wet paint has covered the critical area, so with a bit of smearing he is able to proceed without embarrassment. The other segments don’t pertain to the beach per se. Well, maybe the last one, “Sand Microbes Flirtation”, depicting the sort of behaviour one wouldn’t ordinarily associate with asexually-reproducing microorganisms.

  • There was an earlier Terry’s Aesop’s Fable which I forget the title where Farmer Alfafa and his cat go to the beach. Trying to attract a girl who prefer the tan and bow-legged swimmers, Alfafa goes to the process of getting a tan and fracturing his legs to be bow-legged. Unfortunately, he attracts the attention of a monkey at the zoo (who just lost his mate) and is mistaken for another simian and ends up in the zoo.

    • “Springtime”

  • Another 1930 Terrytoon with a beach setting is “Salt Water Taffy” (Educational, 30/11/30 — Frank Moser and Paul Terry, dirs.) Here Placide the mouse is “Salty Maguire the gob”, a sailor responsible for rescue operations at a recreational beach thronged with cheering pleasure-seekers. No real story here, just a lot of fun in the sun. A hippopotamus soprano disrobes in a portable cabana and goes water-skiing, towed by a big fish. A sinister-looking mosquito in a top hat sharpens its proboscis and tries to get drunk on the blood of a sunbathing elephant, who swats it with his trunk. But when a female mouse in a one-piece swimsuit and high heels (must be a beauty pageant contestant) is menaced by an octopus and a shark, Salty fires a cannon at the marine creatures and saves the distressed damsel.

  • Oswald also hit the beach in “The Singing Sap” (1930), a cartoon which also featured Tex Avery’s first onscreen credit.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLw-bcPQJQ8

  • I’m always going to associate “The Castaway” with that one scene from Boardwalk Empire where Margaret’s boss describes the cartoon as an example of staying positive in the face of tough times (right before he shoots himself).

  • “Charley at the Beach” (1919 — Otto Messmer, dir.) is one of the Charlie Chaplin cartoons produced by the Pat Sullivan studio. After enjoying a “raspberry highball” at the Beach Café, Charlie (or Charley, if you will) ogles a couple of disrobing bathing beauties through peepholes in their respective cabanas, mischievously putting a bee into one of them. He manages to get his hands on some free hot dogs by tempting them with a passing cat; when the hot dogs bark and give chase, Charlie scoops them up and digs in. He then flirts with a beautiful woman reading a book; but when a crab pinches her bottom, she raises the alarm, and a cop chases Charlie into the blue-tinted ocean.

    Once in the surf, he places his hand on what he assumes is a “soft rock” but is really a fat woman’s behind. He flees when she warns him about her husband, who turns out to be a little milquetoast no bigger than a small child. Then he encounters a shapely woman holding a parasol. “Oh boy, what a peacherino! Hope she’s a blonde!” But he flees in terror when she moves the parasol to disclose a face with monstrously exaggerated African-American features. (At least it’s not a segregated beach.) A third woman warms to his advances but requires her mother’s approval. Mom, another fat woman, attempts to seduce Charlie herself by executing a series of grotesque hootchie-cootchie maneuvers. But when a passing eel slithering into her swimsuit, she (literally) stares daggers at Charlie and chases him back onto the shore, where he jumps into a trash barrel and, wearing it, runs off into the distance for the iris out.

    A fine print of this ribald cartoon, with piano accompaniment by Charlie Judkins, can be found on the “Otto Messmer’s Feline Follies” Blu-ray/DVD from Tommy Jose Stathes’s Cartoon Roots series.

  • Among the many lost Mutt and Jeff cartoons are “The Hula Hula Cabaret” (1919) and “Hula Hula Town” (1920). It’s reasonable to assume that these cartoons are set, at least in part, on a Hawaiian beach.

  • A later Alice Comedy is set entirely at the beach: “Alice Solves the Puzzle” (Winkler Pictures, 15/2/25 — Walt Disney, dir.). Alice (Margie Gay) needs only two 3-letter words to complete her crossword puzzle, but Julius the cat persuades her to put it aside and join him for a dip in the ocean. After changing into her swimsuit in a portable cabana, she and Julius leap into the surf and take turns on the high diving board. Refreshed after their swim, Alice changes back into her dress, and Julius dries off with a beach towel that moves of its own accord. Meanwhile, Bootleg Pete, a sinister collector of rare crossword puzzles, approaches on a pair a water skis pulled along by a pelican. Pete is a bear with a pegleg, the original incarnation of Disney’s longest-running villain. When Pete finds out that Alice’s puzzle is precisely the one he needs to complete his collection, he tries to wrest it from her, but she pops him in the snoot and flees to the top of a nearby lighthouse. Pete follows, and soon the poor girl is trapped. Then Julius springs into action, literally using his tail as a spring to bounce to the top of the lighthouse and join the fray. He beats the living daylights out of Pete, and with one final uppercut sends the peg-legged bear flying into the ocean, where he is impaled upon the spike on a buoy. A passing maritime policeman comes along, laughs at him, and pulls on his nose. Back on shore, Alice returns to her puzzle and, working out the solution, writes in those two last 3-letter words: T-H-E E-N-D!

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