Poster

The Mad Doctor

A Mickey Mouse Cartoon

Release Date : January 21, 1933

Running Time : 6:54

Synopsis

Mickey dreams that Pluto has been captured by an evil scientist who hopes to graft his head onto a hen's body. When Mickey tries to save the hound from the villain's castle, he ends up on the operating table himself.

Characters

Mickey Mouse
Pluto
Doctor XXX

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Animation
Johnny Cannon
Les Clark
Ben Sharpsteen
Tom Palmer
Hardie Gramatky
Jack King

Cut Scenes

Some scenes featuring skeletons were cut, but restored for later release.

Video

United States
Mickey Mouse
The Mad Doctor
Great and Minor Animation Vol. 1

Laserdiscs

Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume 1
Japan
Mickey Mouse : The Black and White Years

DVD

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

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 55: Oooh! Scary!
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 22: Classic Mickey
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 25
The Mickey Mouse Club : April 29, 1957

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 United Artists Pictures

Comments

  • British film censors once banned this short, considering it too frightening for younger audiences at the time.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Yesterday’s short, Building a Building, was nominated for an Academy Award. It may be heresy to say, but I think that The Mad Doctor, today’s subject, is far better. While Building a Building was a remake of Sky Scrappers, The Mad Doctor is much more original and very funny.

The basics of this one are that Mickey has a dream where Pluto is abducted by a ghost like figure, who turns out to be a mad scientist. The scientist has a plan to graft Pluto’s head on a chicken’s body and vice versa. Mickey pursues Pluto and gets involved himself, as the scientist captures him and is about to cut him open before he wakes up from the dream.

That’s the simple storyline, but there’s so much more to this short. For one thing, this has some of the best use of light and dark and lighting effects I’ve seen in any of the Disney shorts. Mickey’s entrance into the mad scientist’s castle is lit by torches, and we get side shots of him illuminated by a fire that really shows the rounded edges of the design and gives Mickey a depth that has not always been present.

One thing that is lifted from another Disney short is Mickey’s travels through the catacombs of the castle. This looks like a direct lift of the background from Egyptian Melodies, with Mickey replacing the spider in that short. It’s still a great effect, that calls into mind the modern day POV video games, again showing that Disney was ahead of their time.

Mickey’s constant battles with skeletons is the real central part of the short. We see Mickey fighting skeletons in a variety of settings, as they pop out of walls, from under stair cases, appear as ghosts, throw their heads at him and even form a spider that ultimately traps him. These skeletons are some of the most imaginative characters I’ve seen, and they are expressive, even while remaining skeletons. Great animation work.

The mad doctor is a great character as well. He is instantly menacing and his craziness comes across quickly. Something that should be ludicrous – grafting a dog’s head on a chicken – really gets scary. Pluto’s emotions are evident on his face and in his body, as an x-ray shows his bones collapsing in fear. Again, wonderful gags that really set the mood.

This has to be the scariest Mickey short so far, even if it does turn out to be all a dream. It manages to toe the line between funny and scary, much in the same way the Haunted Mansion does at the Disney parks. The skeleton designs are much more realistic and frightening than in other Disney shorts, but they show emotions that make them humorous. This is a fantastic short, and watching it as October dawns put a big smile on my face. A great way to kick off the Halloween season!


From Mac : Mickey's Good Deed, followed by Building a Building, Mickey scores a hat trick with The Mad Doctor, another of his absolute best. Great mix of silly and gruesome imagery for a really fun short. A few of my favorite chills include the staircase where each step turns out to be a coffin for an undead skeleton, Pluto's terrified x-ray and the really detailed and 3D skulls the skeletons pull off their own bodies to hurl at Mickey. Also I've gotta love the horrible scene of Mickey running up the ladder and right inside a skeleton getting trapped in a rib cage!

Again songs are playing a role in the story telling plus there's a chilling mix of darkness and magic in the scene of Dr XXX cutting Pluto's shadow in half. This is the kind of sinister fun we'll find in later Disney entertainment; e.g the Queen's transformation in Snow White, or, as you pointed out, The Haunted Mansion.

As much as I love this cartoon, I do feel it could have been even better with a couple of minutes extra footage replacing the cop out dream ending. I really wanted to see Mickey rescue Pluto and take on the Mad Doctor for a climactic battle in the lab. How much cooler would it have been if Mickey managed to escape the operating table after a near miss with the saw (maybe using the blade to cut his restraints). Even if they kept the 'all a dream in the end' finish, it would have been good to see Mickey take on the doc and have things get really wild before he woke up (maybe the Doc could have transformed into a monster using his potions or the whole castle could have exploded).

Still it's a wonderful cartoon and the closest I've seen to an appearance of comics Villains the Phantom Blot in a classic short (when Doctor XXX is in his hood kidnapping Pluto it really looks like him).


From T. Williams : Great Mickey Mouse short ...I Love the skeleton stuff! I recently found this uncut at Wal-Mart in a 2 for $5 video bin. The tape was called Cartoon Marathon. One of those 'Over 2 hours of cartoons!' tapes. Grab it while you can! Great Price!
From Jerry Edwards : Pluto is captured by an evil scientist and taken to an old castle. Mickey attempts to rescue him, in spite of vampire bats, skeletons, a giant skeletal spider, and the evil scientist. Just as a buzz saw is about to cut Mickey in two, he awakens to a mosquito biting him - it was all a nightmare and Pluto is safe. One of my favorite Mickey cartoons - an excellent mini-horror film, just full of scary creatures and frightening gags. The giant skeletal spider is definitely odd and scary. The only thing I dislike about the cartoon is the "cheat" of it turning out to be just a dream. Soon after Mickey enters the mad scientist's castle, there are recycled backgrounds and animation from the 1931 Silly Symphony Egyptian Melodies, in which part of the labyrinth's stone ceiling falls and just misses Mickey. I enjoy the colorized version because the colors are very interesting and give the cartoon a totally different feel. But I feel the black and white of the original short is much more effective.
From Ryan : This is definitely a wonderful short. It has a lot of suspense in it. You don't know what's going to happen to Mickey or Pluto. Will they get away or will they be cut up or have their brain transplanted into a chicken? As it says up above, British film censors thought this cartoon would be too scary for younger children and so they banned it (Apparently they weren't thinking about the older children, teens, or adults). Yeah right! This short wouldn't scare small children. Even though I never saw this cartoon (nor knew it even existed) until I was a sophomore in high school, I definitely would not have been frightened by it as a little kid. I knew it was just a cartoon and that the mad scientist wasn't real.
From Mike Swofford : Great horror images including one shot of Pluto with his "heart in his throat" that is completely horrific. Comical and macabre. Classic.
From Rich : This vintage Mickey Mouse short is one for the ages. Despite some of the recycled animation (from The Skeleton Dance and Haunted House), the animation is great, the gags were clever, and the sound was perfect. Not to mention that in the version I have, the sound is actually in better shape than the cartoon itself!
From Bill : Yes, I know, another "dream short" which many fans do not like for some reason. I think the dream shorts are a nice touch because they give the storymen a little more flexibility to write adventures for Mickey, especially if they want to go a little wild. (i.e Thru The Mirror, a great example of storytelling.) This short was very detailed in the background and the animation, especially with all those skeletons. The skeleton stairs and the andiron shadows in the beginning were brilliantly thought out and animated. Also, the storm in the beginning was excellent for 1933 animation. There were lots of things that go bump in the night for Mickey to avoid while trying to rescue his beloved Pluto. The best scene in this short is in the end when Pluto runs into Mickey's bedroom after he wakes and calls his name. Just to see the happiness on both their faces was priceless beyond words. That's a love that will live forever.
From Gijs Grob : Mickey's third horror cartoon and easily his best (the other two are The Haunted House from 1929 and The Gorilla Mystery of 1930). The plot is simple: it's night, the weather is foul and Pluto is kidnapped by an evil scientist. Mickey follows him into a creepy castle where he has to deal with several skeletons, including a ridiculous hybrid of a skeleton and a spider. Fortunately, it's all just a dream. Besides the horror, this cartoon also features elaborate designs and loads of special effects. It also has a strong musical element, as the mad scientist sings all his lines. Some of the gags are quite surreal and reminiscent of the Fleischer style, like the scientist cutting of Pluto's shadow and a lock locking itself. The cartoon also features a gag with many doors in one doorpost. This gag would be reused and improved by Tex Avery in The Northwest Hounded Police from 1946. The Mad Doctor reuses some footage of Egyptian Melodies from 1931.
From Andrew Johnson : This is one of my favorite cartoons! The gags are wonderful as well as the animation! I am only twelve years old, but with the diabolical scheme and hilarious footage, I have strong opinions on this masterpiece.

Referenced Comments