Poster

Jungle Rhythm

A Mickey Mouse Cartoon

Release Date : November 15, 1929

Running Time : 6:47

Synopsis

Mickey plays music with various jungle animals.

Characters

Mickey Mouse

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Music
Carl Stalling

Milestones

First use of the theme song over main titles.

DVD

United States
Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2
Germany
Mickey Mouse in Black and White Volume 2

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 60: Mickey's Boogie
The Mickey Mouse Club : December 27, 1955

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono : Cinephone
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by Celebrity Productions, Inc.

Comments

  • The Disney Channel once banned the cartoon in the belief that it contained cannibal caricatures, although none actually appear in it.
  • The scene with the dancing apes appears to have been reused in the 1931 short, The Castaway.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Jungle Rhythm is the latest Mickey musical number, and this one is a little different. Although it still suffers from the issue of having no real conflict or plot, you can see the story influence starting to creep in. With just a few minor tweaks here or there, Jungle Rhythm could have been as good as any of the Oswald shorts.

The basics are that Mickey is riding an elephant through the jungle, on a hunt. He climbs down from the elephant, shoots at a bird, which flies away and leaves him in a confrontation between a bear and a lion. A group of animals nearby starts playing music, using Mickey’s accordion that he left on his elephant, and the lion, bear and Mickey begin dancing. The rest of the short focuses on the musical numbers.

The outlines of a story are there. There is the brewing conflict between Mickey and the lion and bear. The music serves a purpose, in bringing that conflict to an end. But there is still something missing, such as near the end, after Mickey has abused no end of animals as his instruments, he does the same with a lion. The lion is obviously perturbed when Mickey pulls out his tongue and plays it like a bass, or when the mouse pulls out its whiskers. But the short ends before anything happens, leaving a question mark as to how Mickey escaped an angry lion.

It’s also interesting how many motifs from prior Disney efforts are repeated here. The jungle theme is something we have not seen since the Alice shorts, but it was very popular in those films. Alice riding an elephant and hunting in the jungle was a staple of early Alice shorts.

Also repeated here, I think for the first time since Steamboat Willie, is “Turkey in the Straw” as a musical piece. Mickey plays the song on some animals, similar to the way he did in his debut. It’s interesting to see that, since most people today think of that song as the iconic piece of Steamboat Willie, but here it’s repeated in a much lesser known context.

I also have to say that Ub Iwerks’ silly dancing numbers are constantly amusing. We get two monkeys in one sequence and two ostriches in another. We also get a lion that pushes its mane down to use as a grass skirt and become a hula dancer. All three are great flowing animation that are fun to watch, even if they’re not necessarily story driven.

I must confess, I am a story guy. I pick apart movies today the same way I am doing to these films, so I probably focus on that a little much. But much of the reason that I am a story person is because of the Disney films. Story is always a strong point of the features, so that’s what I am used to. I think watching the shorts is a great introduction, though, because it really is helping me to see where many of the things I came to love about Disney came from.


From Mac : After the last couple of Silly Symphonies, this Mickey cartoon seems a little simple with no special effects (like the reflections in Springtime) or that sense of depth found in Hell's Bells. It would be interesting to compare this cartoon to the Oswald short Africa Before Dark, but unfortunately it's a lost cartoon (there is a slim chance that this one still exists, but no copy could be found for the DVD). Lucky for us some of the story sketches are reproduced in "Walt in Wonderland" so we can still compare to some degree.

Both shorts have a very similar opening scene with Mickey and Oswald riding their elephants. the difference is that Mickey is dancing and playing the accordion while Oswald, safari hat atop his head, is holding his gun and the elephant is riding a bike! This gives us a clue how the two shorts will differ. Mickey's is mainly a jungle-based musical short with no story whereas Oswald is starting out a simple story which is basically an excuse for lots of silly visual gags with animals and hunting.

Oswald doesn't run into trouble with the lions until the climax of the short where he is chased by a pack of them. He escapes on his elephant (better story structure here – returning to what we had seen at the start) who is able to use its ears as wings to fly off a cliff (Dumbo anyone?) over which the lions fall!

I wonder if a slightly different end was planned for Jungle Rhythm, but was cut (maybe to keep costs down) because it seems rather abrupt how it cuts from Mickey and the lion to a previously used scene of applauding animals. Of course that's just a possibility I have no idea! It would have made a cool ending if the lion reacted furiously to Mickey pulling his whiskers out and completely cornered him. Then, just as it looks like Mickey is going to be mauled to death and eaten, the lion just grabs him, turns him into a musical instrument and gets a few more notes out of Mickey to the delight of the animal audience.


From Jerry Edwards : Mickey finds himself surrounded in the jungle by a lion and a bear, but his music soon has all the jungle animals dancing. In spite of the scene change to a jungle, it's still a pretty "typical" singing and dancing Mickey cartoon. Some of the animation in this short is very poor, compared to earlier cartoons. In a couple of scenes the animals are not animated and are just unmovable cardboard cutouts as part of the background, with no life at all. The results make it appear that there were some "cost cutting" done in this short.
From jasonC : I guess I feel very differently from Jerry Edwards about this cartoon. I love the "singing and dancing" stuff. I could watch these cartoons all day long. This cartoon is a particularly good example of what I admire about the spirit of these old animations -- the bounciness and the playfulness. The music and non-linear action gives the animators a framework and the liberty to do what they want, similar to what a great tapdancer does. I think too many critics judge these cartoons by the quality of the "story". What is the point of that? Clearly the story here is very simple. The art and the humor and the beauty of this cartoon lies in the animation -- check out the expressions on the faces of that cute little jungle cat and Mickey when they interact. This cartoon is a universe of tiny, amazing moments, precisely contained and rendered using deceptively simple techniques. I count this as one of my absolute favorite cartoons. But I suppose if the story-arcs and gags aren't sophisticated enough for you, then maybe you should watch Pinocchio instead.
From Ryan : This short was okay, but I wouldn't call it one of my favorites. It was mainly just music and dancing. There were some various fun gags such as when Mickey grabs a branch off a tree and starts playing it like a saxophone. Another would be where a lion puts his mane around his waste and puts a snake around his neck and does the hula.
From Bill : I am in complete agreement with Jason C. Many people judge these early Mickey shorts on the "quality" of the story. Many people lose sight of the fact that these early Mickeys or any of the Mickey shorts were made to entertain and make you laugh. The slap-stick humor and great sight gags are what it is all about. In fact, the basic story and the music and dancing are just what toons today are sorely lacking. Gags like when Mickey pulls the gun out of his shorts or jumps out of his shorts. And what I thought was the best gag; when the "Hear No Evil, See No Evil Monkeys," appear, the last monkey covers his nose to say "It stinks!" Yes, some of the animation is rude in the early shorts, but I think the rubber hose is just classic toon. You can also tell that Ub Iwerks had a hand in this short; his drawing style is unmistakable. Oh, to go back to 1929 again!

Referenced Comments