Poster

Mickey's Orphans

A Mickey Mouse Cartoon

Release Date : December 9, 1931

Running Time : 7:03

Synopsis

A bunch of orphan kids (depicted as kittens) are left on Mickey's doorstep in a basket. They make life into hell as Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto try to give them a Christmas party.

Characters

Mickey Mouse
Pluto
Minnie Mouse

Credits

Director
Bert Gillett
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Joe D'Igalo
Dave Hand
Norm Ferguson
Jack King
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Tom Palmer
Hardie Gramatky
Ben Sharpsteen
Dick Lundy

Awards

Nominated for an Academy award (Short Subjects - Cartoons.) The award went to "Flowers and Trees."

Cut Scenes

Some scenes of orphans firing popguns and breaking glass and chinaware have been cut.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 5 : Disney's Best of 1931-1948

Laserdiscs

Disney's Best of 1931-1948
Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume 1
Japan
Mickey Mouse : The Black and White Years

DVD

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

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 2: Mickey Landmarks
The Mickey Mouse Club : October 24, 1956

Original Animator's Drafts


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

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

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The streak of pure fun in the Mickey cartoons continues with today’s short, which is one of the absolute best of the Mickey black and white shorts. In Mickey’s Orphans, we get our first Christmas themed short, and an amazing piece of work that shows Mickey as a “parent” for the first time as well.

The basics are that a cloaked figure leaves a basket full of kittens on Mickey’s front door, in the middle of a snowstorm. The snow itself is a wonderful piece of effects animation, but the heartwarming scenes of Mickey getting ready for Christmas, playing “Silent Night” on the tree with a candy cane and the fire roaring inside are just wonderful.

Mickey brings the kittens into the house, where they proceed to wreak havoc everywhere. There’s a slight difference in the animation from the opening scene of the kittens, where they appear out of the basket to Pluto, to later scenes where they are much bigger, about half the size of Mickey and Minnie. Perhaps just a problem with not following a model sheet, or were they using model sheets yet? I’m not sure.

The scene that gave me the biggest laugh, though, was Mickey and Pluto pretending to be Santa and a reindeer. Seeing Mickey ride in behind Pluto with a sack full of toys was a delight to behold. It really showed what a good use for Mickey is, to be a person who spreads joy and finds the silver lining.

This short also gave me an insight into the limitations of Mickey. There’s no doubt in my mind that you could do this exact same premise with Donald as the homeowner and it would be funnier than this. Donald would not put up with the rampant destruction that the kittens caused in Mickey’s house, and his frustration would feed the humor. It’s easy to see how the animators were worried about having Mickey be too angry.

For example, we see the kittens sawing up couches, knocking over vases and shooting down dishes. But never do we see Mickey or Minnie show any concern or anger over these developments. That keeps the short feeling fun or happy, but it’s not entirely realistic. Since realism is not the goal, it’s fine, but you can easily see how a different character would have played this short.

The finale scene of Mickey and Minnie unveiling the Christmas tree, only to see it savaged and torn to shreds by the kittens, is a fitting cap to the short. The point here is just to have mass chaos, fast moving gags and good natured fun. All of that is achieved in spades.

It does seem that the 1931 Mickey shorts have started to fall into a good pattern that features a lot more dialogue and acting from Mickey, beyond just the singing that he did earlier. The more recent shorts feature great gags, clear storytelling and a sense of light hearted fun that makes them true classics.


From Patrick Malone : One thing that Disney definitely seemed to have a handle on (and which you'll see time and time again as you go through the shorts) ... the destructive power of young children in large numbers.
From Mac : This is the first Disney cartoon we've seen set at Christmas time and, as Patrick says, the first featuring hordes of destructive children.

Alas, the earliest Disney Christmas cartoon is the lost Oswald Empty Socks. I know very little about this cartoon other than the synopsis printed in "Walt in Wonderland", but it appears to have some similarities to Mickey's Orphan's since it features Oswald playing Santa at an orphanage. It may also be the first to feature a mob of infants since the orphans in this one manage to set the building on fire! An even earlier Disney depiction of rampaging kids may have been featured in another lost Oswald; Poor Papa.

I really like this cartoon, especially that early "Silent Night" scene with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto in their nice, warm house. It's impossible not feel all Christmassy at that point!

One scene I always misread is the little kitten nervously whispering to Minnie. I always think that he's asking to go to the toilet until Minnie quietly takes to get him a candy cane!

Although the short is all in good fun, I can't help but feel a little bit bad at the end when Mickey and Minnie's beautiful Christmas tree is reduced to a skeleton. I've often felt that the fade to black (rather than the usual iris out) is a little abrupt, but a look at the animator draft on Hans Perk's blog suggests that nothing is missing. Maybe I just think it's abrupt because I'm still reeling from what happens to the tree!


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Mac, I had the same reaction about the kid whispering to Minnie. Then I saw his diaper, and wondered why he'd ask to go to the toilet. Funny bit!

And yes, the destructive power of young children is not to be underestimated. Come to my living room if you doubt it.


From Chris Beck : The orphans may make life into hell for Mickey and friends, but one has to wonder what possessed Mickey to give them hammers, axes, saws, and miniature cannons for Christmas in the first place!
From Joe Manning : Watching this cartoon really made me feel grateful that I only have two cats. They can really be a handful, but there must've been about 20-25 kittens in that basket. Imagine how many litter boxes Mickey and Minnie would have to clean. Yikes!
From Jerry Edwards : One of the few Disney cartoons that I truly detest. I find nothing humorous in the delinquent kittens destroying the house and ruining Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto's Christmas. BAH!! HUMBUG!!
From jasonC : Ahhh!!! Such a great cartoon! I love to see these absolutely adorable kiddies acting like psychopaths. And poor, helpful, well-intentioned Mickey and Minnie are completely defeated by their own kindness. It's a great parable for parents. And a fun thing for young hellions to watch. This seems to be one from a little sub-genre that could be called "Mickey-is-overwhelmed-by-an-army-of-babies". I mean, the irony is brilliant: pitting the cute against the cute. And I really love how at the end there is nothing for Mickey to do but laugh, which is a true lesson (for those of you who look for morals in you stories).
From Ryan : I have always loved this classic short. I can see why it won an academy award. Mickey and Minnie are the new owners of a huge litter of kittens (anyone want to guess how many there are?). As Mr. Joe Manning pointed out above, Mickey and Minnie will have a helluva lot of litter boxes to clean out. Why they'll probably spend more money on food for the kittens than they do on themselves. I watched a segment of the news last night, and there was a trailer house that had been evacuated because there was so much animal waste scattered around. Let's hope that doesn't happen to Mickey and Minnie.
From Lee Suggs : I think this is the first Mickey short set during Christmas. It interesting that the first such short would deal with Mickey and Minnie getting abused by cats! Of course, small animals abusing Mickey and his gang is a common theme in many classic shorts. (Orphan's Benefit, for example, twice!) I wouldn't say this is a short with deep meaning, but it is amusing. It's also positive that Mickey and Minnie are so good natured. The Christmas Tree in this short is fun too! I'm always impressed by how festive the animators made it look with just black and white shading.
From Chris Purdue : This short is not one of my very favorites, but it is one of Disney's first Christmas themed shorts in a sound cartoon. I agree with Lee Suggs. I like how festive the black and white Christmas trees look. Although I am legally blind, I can see the detail if I look closely at the screen. Although I don't love the early black and white Mickey cartoons that much, I would give this one a seven on a scale of one to ten. And I do like the scene where Mickey dresses as Santa.
From Gijs Grob : It's Christmas and a poor lady drops by Mickey and Minnie's house to leave a box at their doorstep. This box contains an endless quantity of little kittens who are taking over the house within seconds. Soon, the house is near complete destruction. This is partly Mickey's own fault, because dressed up as Santa he gives the little brats toys like hammers, saws, drills, axes, guns and canons. This is a real gag cartoon and the first with many brats causing havoc. No musical routine is involved, but as soon as the box with kittens is opened, the gags roll in like they never did before. The kittens even manage to give the ever cheerful Mickey and Minnie a dismayed look, albeit only at the end of the cartoon. The little kittens would cause havoc again in Mickey's Revue(1932) before being replaced by the little mice in Mickey's Nightmare later that year.
From Bill I. : I liked this short for many reasons. One, I believe it's the first "Christmas" short. It's strange but Walt did not make many holiday cartoons. Anyway, this short had little kittens instead of the baby mice in later shorts. Second, it was loaded with action and gags from the start. And third, it is important because it shows that Mickey and Minnie, even in the depths of the depression, still share all they have with strangers. I don't understand why when Mickey dresses as Santa he gives the kittens all those "tools" of destruction, but it was those tools that gave rise to all the great gags. I really did not like the ending when the orphans destroyed that beautiful Christmas tree. Other than that, it was enjoyable.
From Baruch Weiss : This short's ok, but it's not one of my favorites. For one thing, I'm not a fan of Black & White cartoons and for another thing all those kittens did was turn Mickey and Minnie's quiet home into a mad house!
From Virginia (Igalo) Morgan : As a child, our family followed all of my uncle's cartoons - Joe D'Igalo. Mickey's orphans was my favorite. Joe added the D' to his name after completing art school in Chicago. After attending art school, where he met Walt Disney, he went on to work with Disney.

Mickey's orphans was one in which he spoke about years later. We watched all of his cartoons and were thrilled to see his work in collaboration with other animators. He spoke of his wonderful ventures with Disney and Warner Brothers. His later career was in commercial art with Wilding pictures in Chicago, where he produced work for NASA and other government programs.

After retirement, my uncle retired in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was born. He opened a gallery displaying some of the best watercolor work of his life! As a child, he would send me unfinished watercolor paintings, for me to complete and return to him for critique! To watch him quickly doodle a cartoon was the highlight of his visits!

Thank you for the history of the animators of early Disney cartoons!


From Matthew Cooper : First, I'd like to point out that this short is very similar to (and nearly a remake of) Mickey's Good Deed because it also has Mickey playing Santa for a group of orphan kittens although, they are not given to him, he sees that they are poor and tries to give them a Christmas. Now, here is my opinion on this short. Usually, I don't care much for the old black and white cartoons but, this is one of my favorites. The antics these kittens cause for Mickey, Minnie and Pluto are plentiful and they come fast and funny. The concluding gag where Mickey and Minnie show the kids their Christmas tree and they rush and wreck it makes one say "Oh, poor Mick! ey and Minnie". NOTE: Why did they cut out the scene where the orphan's are firing popguns at the glasses and china? They were not shooting Mickey, Minnie, Pluto or each other. It was just household objects. If there was any scene that should have been cut, It should've be the one where the kittens stick hot embers down Mickey's shorts and he screams!"

Referenced Comments