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The Flying Mouse

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : July 14, 1934

Running Time : 9:17

Synopsis

A small mouse saves a butterfly from a spider's web. The butterfly turns out to be a fairy who gives the mouse one wish : to be able to fly. But his wish turns out to be not quite what he bargained for.

Characters

Flying Mouse
Flying Mouse's Mother
Fairy (unnamed)

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Animation
Marvin Woodward
Cy Young
Bob Wickersham
Hamilton Luske
Hardie Gramatky
Fred Moore
Nick George
Harry Bailey
George Drake
Leonard Sebring
Backgrounds
Carlos Manriquez
Story
Bill Cottrell
Music
Frank Churchill
Bert Lewis
Inbetweener
Ward Kimball
Voices
Billy Sheets
The Three Rhythm Kings
Marion Darlington
Marcellite Garner

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions I : Silly Symphonies
France
La Joyeuse Menagerie
Italy
C'era Una Volta un Topo
C'era Una Volta un Topo
Paperino e la Sua Banda di Paperi

CED

United States
Limited Gold Editions - Silly Symphonies

Laserdiscs

Japan
Once Upon a Mouse

DVD

United States
Dumbo : Big Top Edition
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Dumbo (Special Collection)
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Dumbo
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Blu-Ray

United States
Dumbo (Two Disc 70th Anniversay BluRay/DVD Combo Pack)

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 53: Silly Symphonies at the Zoo
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 23: The "Other" Mice

Original Animator's Drafts


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Page 8

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
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

From an interview with Dave Hand posted on Michael Barrier.com and reprinted here with the authors permission.) :

Once there was one idea I just thought was rather terrible, and I said so, and Walt fought me, and he got mad at me; and he could be rather unreasonable, at times. Of course, he was the boss, but he usually was very understanding. But not this time. So I took the idea—I didn’t want to—and went into the director’s room with it. Some time later, Walt came in and I said, "Walt, I still don’t like it." He said, "Oh, it’s a good one, Dave, you do it. Do it just the way we told it to you." So I did; believe me, I did. I worked hard to sell it to the animator, and he didn’t help. They’d just sit there and [say] "Yeah, yeah." Sometimes they wouldn’t know whether it was good or bad. The scene came out on the screen—we always had our previews, sneak previews—and the darned gag fell flat as a pancake. The next day—there was always a postmortem—I said, "Walt, I didn’t ever think that gag was any good." He said, "Jeez, Dave, you just didn’t do it right." So I mumbled to myself and thought, "You can’t win with Walt."

[The episode in question involved a scene in The Flying Mouse (1934). Hand described what happened in a letter to me in May 1975: "The mouse was being blown backward through the air, out of control. He was a sympathetic character in a sad plight. The ‘laugh’ gag was that his rear end would make a ‘bull’s eye’ into a large thorn sticking out of a rosebush stem. Now, for me, the idea itself was not funny—especially happening to a pathetic little flying mouse. But I had been previously overruled in story, so when the picture got to me, I decided to play the impaling idea down as much as possible. However, Walt caught up with me when I was getting it ready for the animator. We had more argument, and I lost. Walt insisted that I make the thorn long, dark, and sharp—and that the mouse’s rear end get buried clear up to the hilt. And further to this, that I have the music build up to a ‘screech’ accent. That poor mouse! The audience did not laugh at it, but it was one of the many instances where I found Walt to be surprisingly sadistic. He seemed to enjoy ‘hurt’ gags more than a lot of people."]


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The Flying Mouse is, on the surface, an unremarkable Silly Symphony. It doesn’t feature any real recurring characters or new innovations in animation. But there are things in this short that make it one of the most interesting Silly Symphonies I have seen yet.

Let’s start with the story. The basics are this: a young mouse, who yearns to do something different, tries to fashion some wings for himself. In the process, he ruins his family’s day, and becomes dejected. As soon as he does, though, he sees a butterfly being menaced by a spider, and comes to its rescue. The butterfly turns out to be a fairy, who grants the mouse’s wish to fly.

The granting of the leathery wings, though, does not solve the mouse’s problems. His new flying self is not accepted by the birds, and scares away his family. He gets mocked by a group of bats for not being a bat or a mouse, and ends up going away crying. His tears bring the fairy back, and she removes the wings, sending the mouse running back for joy to his mother.

Does anything about that story strike you as odd? Walt Disney, a man who came up in the world wishing to do something different, to take flights of fancy, if you will, puts out a cartoon saying that such wishes might not be good? The basic message of the short is that you should stick with what you know, and not wish to be different. That just seems very different from the normal message of Disney films to this point.

As I watched the short, this was the thing I could not get over. How would Disney agree with such a thing? After all, this was still 1934, and Walt was heavily involved in the production of the shorts. Sure, I imagine he was not as hands on as he might have been earlier, but this seems directly in conflict with Walt’s values of wishing upon a star and reaching for new ideas.

That conflict is hard to resolve, but should not obscure other interesting things about the short. For example, the fairy in this short is the predecessor of later fairies we will see, such as Persephone in The Goddess of Spring or the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. It’s a nicely drawn human figure, and shows Walt’s boys thinking ahead.

There is also the mouse character. The main character is a familiar design, and will be used again later in Disney shorts. It’s a different design than Mickey, and the first real 3-dimensional mouse seen in the Disney films. It will be used later in The Country Mouse short, if I’m not mistaken.

I have not said yet if I like or dislike this short, and that’s because I can’t make up my mind. The animation is good, the song “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Nothin’” is also good. But the message of the short leaves me stunned, and I find that hard to get over. Give it a watch and see what you think.


From Mac : I'm pretty sure the message of this short is supposed to "Be yourself", but lots of people think it comes across more like "Know you place". Most of the other storybook-like Disney shorts we've seen so far have been based on existing stories with messages so clear they've survived retellings for generations and still do to this day. This was an attempt at a new fable and I think the intended moral is muddled in the story telling.

Curiously, Merrit and Kaufmann state in their book that the story was adapted from a story from the 1600's; Jean de La Fontaine's "The Jay Dressed Up in the Peacock's Feathers" (which I'm pretty sure was taken from an Aesop fable). In this story a jay tries wearing some peacock feathers and is mocked for trying to be so oh-la-dee-dah by his peers and also for being a fraud by the peacocks. Here the message is clear: "Don't try to be something you're not because of vanity". In The Flying Mouse the vanity part of the tale is gone so it's more a tale of be careful what you wish for!


From Margos : Yes, it's what I've noticed as well. It really isn't supposed to be "don't be different," but more like "be careful what you wish for." I like this short, personally, although I find the design of the bats a little bizarre.
From 411314 : It could also be that you're all reading too much into it. Perhaps Disney didn't have a message in mind when he had the short produced and he just thought having the mouse go back to the way he was would be a good ending. In that case, he probably had the mouse want to go back to not having because having him lose the wings when he wanted to keep them would be a sad ending and Disney has almost always preferred happy endings.
From Johann Weiss : I don't know about you, but bats and mice both make me a little nervous.
From Jerry Edwards : Well done, interesting cartoon - but not among my favoites. Contains the song "You're Nothin' But A Nothin'" which was released on sheet music. The main reason this isn't among my favorites is the way I perceive the "hidden philosophy." The cartoon is telling me that you shouldn't strive for something you badly want. Also don't do a good deed, you'll be punished for it. Why should this poor mouse get nothing but grief as a result of wanting to fly and saving a fairy's life. She could just as easily given him butterfly wings or bird wings. I just don't like the attitude of this short - as I perceive it.
From Ryan : I didn't care too much for this short. I kind of felt sorry for the poor mouse when he gets his wings so that he can fly, but it doesn't turn out to be what he wanted. He gets teased by some bats and his own family mistakes him for a bat and dashes into their pumpkin house. The fairy in this short looked a lot like the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio."
From Super Secret Mario : I liked this short. The moral of it is to be yourself and not something you are not.
From Steve Taylor : Another way of looking at the moral for this short is "don't bother trying to improve yourself or be something unique, since other people won't like it." He had WINGS, for crying out loud!
From Jim and Joyce Quitter : We are an old couple in our 80's and can barely remember this cartoon. We had some help in finding the exact cartoon when we could not remember the source of the song "You're Nothing but a Nothing." We had gone around the house humming the tune and singing some of the words that we remembered. It was driving us crazy. None of our acquaintenances could help. We inquired from ASCAP and a really nice guy was good enough to direct us to this web site. Still haven't found the lyrics, but we're a lot wiser than we were before. Two old people made happy.
From Ilene : I saw this cartoon on the Wide World of Disney as a 4/5 year-old child, in 1961 or '62, and it has haunted me most of my life. He just wanted to fly, and really, what child didn't. But that song, "You're nuthin', you're nuthin', you're nuthin' but a nuthin', you're not a thing at all!" was horrific to my 4/5 year-old mind. Of course he was something! Anyone could see he was  something ... Anyway, that song lodged in my brain, erupting whenever I felt insecure about some new thing I was doing. I guess the moral of the story was supposed to be "be content with who you are--don't try to be something you're not," but I felt like the moral of the story was rather "Know your place. Don't strive for your dreams--you'll never fit in anyway."
From Gijs Grob : A musical cartoon about a little mouse who wants to fly like the birds. A blue fairy grants him that wish, giving him bat-like wings, but he soon discovers that these don't bring him any luck: he is not allowed to join the xenophobic birds, not recognized by his relatives and called "a nothing" by a group of crooked bats. Luckily, the same fairy releases him from his wings and in the end we see our little hero running to his mother in the sunset light. This cartoon is one of many silly symphonies that seem to aim directly at kids and that are rather moralistic. This seems to be a strong trend in 1934 and it gradually led Disney away from brashy humor towards sugary goody-goodiness. This cartoon is quite humorless, yet beautifully drawn. The blue fairy is a good try at the human figure (if not near Snow White, let alone the blue fairy in Pinocchio) and the mice are drawn much more realistically than Mickey. Moreover, The Flying Mouse is another stunning example of character animation: our main hero acts out his feelings mostly in pantomime. We can feel his joy, his embarrassment, his fear and his grief.
From Matthew Cooper : This short was on the same tape on which I saw The China Shop for the first time, along with a number of others (to name them all would go off topic, let's get back to this cartoon.) This short is very cute, and it has a very good moral: be yourself and don't wish to be something else. There are a few things I'd like to point out about the characters: The mice wear gloves like Mickey; but they dress in Donald Duck format (shirt but no pants.) The fairy looks slightly like the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio; but she looks even more like the goddess Persephone from The Goddess of Spring Silly Symphony. In fact, she is pretty much just Persephone with wings. Lastly, the spider who holds the fairy captive (as a butterfly) looks a lot like W.C. Fields, don't you think? Now, I'd just like to say that when my sister saw this cartoon with me, we sang "Nothin' But a Nothin'" for a while.
From Sydney Simmonds : I loved the scene when the mouse's sister's dress shrunk, but we don't see her at the end of the cartoon. But I know why: Well, the mother mouse dressed the sister mouse in a fancy dress so I think she went to a birthday and a sleepover party because if it was just a birthday party she would be in the end of the cartoon. This short does have a good moral in it. Moral: It is always best to be yourself.
From Nicole A.Y. : The philosophy I perceived was a little different from that of comments above(or below?) The little mouse wanted to have wings just because he saw birds are happy with wings, and to be happy, he needs a pair of wings. The ultimate goal of him is to be happy, but not to fly. So what he wished was a direction that far away from his "true self". What I mean is that, everyone has their own beauty, there're no need to change. Like those teen girls nowadays which are not satisfied for their own appearance, they should learn to accept it and discover their own unique traits instead of simply pretending to be someone that's not themselves. I like this story, in conclusion.
From Andrew : Looking back from age 54, I think The Flying Mouse has been the dominant theme in my life. You can say what you want about what it is supposed to mean, but the effect on me was to make me terrified of being different. I had the soundtrack on a record and my mother used to play it over and over for me: "you're nuthin but a nuthin. A Nuthin! A Nuthin!" Something prompted me to look it up this morning and I didn't know until today that it was a Disney cartoon. I have played out variations of the story over and over again in my life and I have never quite been able to shake it. Thanks, Walt!
From Ben R. : I saw this cartoon short with the mother mouse 1 sister mouse and 4 brother mice. There was a spanking scene when the mouse (wears a dress shirt, shoes but no pants) tries to fly with leaves and got blown backwards and got poked in the rear end by a thorn tree and fell in the tub and got his mom and sister wet and shrunk his sisters dress and his mother whipped his furry butt with his tail and the mouse is crying afterwards. That must've stung the mouses bottom especially with no pants on him.