The Castaway

A Mickey Mouse Cartoon

Release Date : April 6, 1931

Running Time : 7:26

Synopsis

Mickey's shipwrecked on a desert island with bananas, wild animals, and a piano.

Characters

Mickey Mouse

Credits

Director
Wilfred Jackson
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Rodolfo "Rudy" Zamora
Frenchy de Tremaudan

DVD

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

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 50: Storyteller Mickey
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 15, 1956

Technical Specification

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

Released by Columbia Pictures, Inc.

Comments

  • Some of the animation was reused from the 1930 Mickey short, "Wild Waves."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I’ve never seen Cast Away, the Tom Hanks movie where he spends 2-3 hours talking to a volleyball, but I have to say, I think Mickey Mouse’s version, The Castaway, has to be more entertaining. I think Mickey has a much better plan on how to survive being marooned on a deserted island.

The premise of this short is pretty simple – Mickey gets cast off onto an island, and proceeds to interact with the animals he finds there. There is, of course, the conveniently placed crate that contains, what else, a piano! He plays the piano and fights off some seals, a tiger, a monkey and a lion before finally escaping on a turtle.

This is a very fun short, although there are not a ton of gags, and none nearly as good as Traffic Troubles or some of the other funny Mickey shorts. There’s a tone of happiness that is set almost from the beginning, as Mickey is tossed by the waves on his little raft. Even though things are bleak, Mickey is smiling. It is this cheerful optimism that makes Mickey so appealing.

I’ll admit to a groan when I saw Mickey had rescued a piano and set it up on the beach, but rather than just go into silly dancing, the piano is a piece that furthers the story. The piano serves as a point of interaction for Mickey and the animals, not as a way to start a lavish musical number.

For example, when a small tiger cub wanders out of the jungle, he is constantly struggling with Mickey over who will play the piano. The cub first tries to play on the extreme ends of the keyboard, then pushes the foot pedals and finally hops on a tree that bends down to hit the keys. It’s a fun little sequence that allows the animators to have some fun with Mickey’s expressions of happiness quickly turning to frustration.

There’s also some seals that show up to do a little dance when Mickey first gets the piano working. I’m not entirely sure, but they look very similar to the seals from Arctic Antics, the Silly Symphony. Could be reused animation again, but I’m not 100% on that.

Of course, the idea of a main character on a desert island is not new for Disney. Alice Cans the Cannibals featured much the same idea, as well as some other Alice shorts. Neither is the jungle interaction new. Mickey did a similar turn in Jungle Rhythm. The Castaway, however, is the best of this idea so far.

The final sequence featuring Mickey running from the monkey then the lion is the best part of the short. He manages to distract the monkey by spinning a rock on his finger, then tosses the rock aside only to hit the lion. The lion gives chase and Mickey gets him to swallow a log, before evading him by jumping on a rock in the river.

An alligator then menaces Mickey from behind, and just as the lion pounces towards our hero, he moves aside and allows the lion to fall into the alligator’s mouth, then ties the mouth shut with the lion’s tail. A great, funny sequence to end the short.


From Mac : There's a couple of interesting things about this cartoon. First up is that there is at least one alternate version. I mentioned in the comments for Pioneer Days that David told me that at least the scene of the piano being washed ashore was timed differently. In fact this has been noticed by others elsewhere on the web who have mentioned a version shown on the Disney Channel (before the colorized version appeared) which included 3-4 of extra seconds of footage in this scene (also the sound on this scene doesn't quite sync up with the action on both the DVD and colorized version).

The other thing is that Walt didn't like this cartoon. From "The illusion of Life": "Wilfred Jackson never forgot the sidewalk post mortem after his first picture, The Castaway. 'Walt had his hat way down and his coat up around his ears', he recalled. 'I walked by and I heard Roy saying, "Walt I don't know if we should release this, it doesn't look like a Disney picture." ' They released it of course, but Jackson learned his lesson; he never made another film that could be called un-Disney."

Ever since I first saw it, I've always enjoyed this cartoon and wondered what Roy and Walt didn't like about it. To me, it seemed like another enjoyable early 30's Mickey. Watching them in order, however, something does stand out about this one. Most of the cartoons we've been watching recently have a nice flow to them, but this one is quite broken up: We start with Mickey getting washed up on the island. Then a piano washes up (pretty contrived) so he can play it and interact with the animals. Then he gets chased and escape from some ferocious animals with no indication of how he gets off the island (did the turtle just carried him all the way back to the barnyard). Maybe the slightly disjointed feel is what disliked about this one?

There's also some pretty cheap reuse of animation which doesn't always blend in so well as in previous cartoons. Some of the seal animation is straight out of Wild Waves and maybe Arctic Antics too, as you mentioned. Early animation of the ape is recycled from Jungle Rhythm which is inconsistent with his next scene where he's suddenly a massive gorilla. Also Mickey's appearance changes when he's fooling around with the rock trying to act all innocent with the lion, looking like he did in earlier shorts (not quite sure if this is reused from an older cartoon or not though).


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I read what you had written here about how Walt did not like this cartoon. That was very interesting to me because it's so similar to other shorts, like the Alice in the Jungle short.

I'm not entirely sure what is so "Un-Disney" about this short. I agree that it's disjointed, something that continues with the short I looked at today, The Delivery Boy. It seems as though the Mickeys are very inconsistent now, since the transition from the all singing, all dancing Mickey to the story focused shorts.


From Jerry Edwards : Mickey is shipwrecked on an island after being adrift on a raft. Mickey plays a piano that has washed ashore, until a gorilla destroys it. Mickey manages to escape from the gorilla, a lion, and an alligator. He then floats downstream on a turtle, on which he was standing - thinking it was a rock. A fun, action packed short. Enjoyed several of the gags, including Mickey finding three fish inside the piano, playing the piano from the inside. He hits keys that throws each fish to hungry awaiting seals.
From Ryan : In a way, this short is somewhat like the 1929 short Jungle Rhythm. Mickey plays music (except this time on a washed up piano instead of using animals as musical instruments) while several animals dance. In fact, if you've seen both this and Jungle Rhythm, you'll notice that the scene with the two apes dancing was recycled from that very short.
From Bill : I really enjoy the early Mickey shorts and this is no exception. Mickey is on a raft and he appears very small in proportion to the raft. I like the bloomers for the sail and the gulls flying through them. He ends up on an island. As usual this shorts has some nice music and funny gags. I especially liked when Mickey threw the boomerang and it hits him in the butt, then he hits the tree and the bananas hit him in the head. Another big size difference is when Mickey hits the box on the beach with the piano in it he looks small. I agree with Ryan, there is reused animation from Jungle Rhythm. A very simple story line, but Mickey pulls it off in style. I think cartoons today are just so overly complicated and involved; they seem to miss the simple point of just being funny.
From Gijs Grob : Mickey is a castaway, stranding on a tropical island. Luckily, a piano is washed ashore, as well, so Mickey performs for the jungle animals. Unfortunately, a little tiger disturbs him, and a great ape wants to play the piano, too, wrecking the instrument. The Castaway was a short made out of rest material, and it shows. Nevertheless, this short contains nice effect animation of waves washing ashore. It also reuses some animation of dancing sea lions from Wild Waves (1930).
From Christian : If you look at one of the hats on the Many Hats of Mickey bonus feature from the Three Musketeers DVD, you'll find a colorized version of the ending from this cartoon. I'd give it a 6 out of 10.

Referenced Comments