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The Golden Touch

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : March 22, 1935

Running Time : 10:04

Synopsis

Greedy King Midas is granted his wish that everything he touches turns to gold. He learns his lesson, however, when everyone and everything he loves, including food, turns to gold as well.

Characters

King Midas
Goldie

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Norm Ferguson
Fred Moore
Music
Frank Churchill
Voices
Billy Bletcher

Source

Based on the story "King Midas"

Milestones

The final short directed (directly, at least) by Walt Disney.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 12 : Disney's Tall Tales
Germany
Verrückte Musikanten
France
Silly Symphonies Volume 1
Italy
Silly Symphonies Volume 2

Laserdiscs

Japan
The Tortoise and the Hare
More Silly Symphonies

DVD

United States
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 5 : The Wind in the Willows
Timeless Tales Volume 3
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Zauberhafte Marchenwelt 4
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Walt Disney Le Fiabe 2
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Walt Disney's Fables : Volume 4
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 50: Storyteller Mickey
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 7: Storybook Silly Symphonies
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 17
The Mickey Mouse Club : November 17, 1955

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

  • One cannot help but see a minor characterization of Walt in the character of the King; especially in the raised eyebrows which were a trademark Disney expression when he was displeased with something.
  • A curious mythology surrounds this short. Walt Disney had decided to give one more shot at personally directing a short. He huddled Norm Ferguson and Fred Moore together and came up with this, a variation on the story of King Midas. However, the results were so badly received by the public that he never personally directed another one. It was said that the best way to get Disney's goat, when he was less than thrilled with another animator's work, was to mention "The Golden Touch."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : We’ve discussed before how the Silly Symphonies are a sort of proving ground for Walt’s ideas, and how the animators could experiment with their craft. It’s also the place where the animators are getting their skills ready for the grandest experiment of all – a feature film in the form of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Golden Touch, today’s subject, is one of those experiments. But unlike others we have seen before, the new thing is not some form of animation or camera trick. Instead, it’s the seriousness and raw emotion of the subject matter that is so striking about this short.

The story of King Midas and the golden touch is a familiar one. A king who loves gold is offered the chance to turn everything he touches into gold. When he accepts, though, he finds that it is a curse more than anything else, because he cannot eat, he cannot touch another person and he cannot live a normal life.

This short follows that script, but it is extremely emotional and serious. The opening of the short features a minute and a half close up of King Midas, singing about his love of gold. It’s a fantastic piece of animation, because the camera never moves, but as a viewer, I was fascinated the entire time.

A little elf, Goldy, appears to offer Midas the golden touch. But there is more malice than whimsy in Goldy’s emotions, which adds a touch of fear to the proceedings. Midas’ desperation to get the golden touch is also stunning, because it is not as cartoonish as you would expect. You feel the raw emotion of this desperate man, and it’s almost frightening.

The predictable happens next – when Midas goes out to celebrate he turns half the garden to gold, to his delight. But, when he sits down to indulge his insatiable appetite; he cannot, because the food turns to gold. It’s the next sequence that is so very real and beyond the level of what we’ve seen before from Disney.

Midas returns to the mirror, but this time sees a golden Grim Reaper menacing him, and flees. This is not a cartoon reaper, but one that is definitely going to take his target. Midas runs back into his gold room, and Goldy reappears. The delight that the little elf takes in the King’s predicament is understandable, but a little scary.

In the end, Midas trades his entire kingdom for a hamburger, a more contemporary take on things. It’s only at the end that there’s a little comic relief, as Midas’ clothes shrink up and he devours the burger.

Throughout this short, though, the prevailing sentiment is dread or revulsion. It’s set up like a classic horror tale, to be honest. The achievement of real emotion beyond laughter in a cartoon was an important step for Disney to take. The scary Evil Queen from Snow White would not have been possible without first taking the steps taken in The Golden Touch.


From Nic Kramer : You know I happen to like this film, too. I like how they sorta tease the censors near the end.

However, back when the film was released, the director, Walt himself, wasn't so happy about the results and decided to never direct a cartoon ever again.


From David Gerstein at Ramapith : Walt may not have been happy, but another oft-repeated legend about the cartoon—that it was unsuccessful–seems to be bunk. There were numerous book and comics adaptations of it dating from the 1930s to the 1950s; if it had flopped, publishers would have had no interest in it after its initial release!
From Mac : I wonder if the 'unsuccessful' rumor stems from Disney's own dissatisfaction with it. It may have been popular enough with audiences, but maybe Walt and the staff at Disney considered it a failure because they didn't achieve what they wanted from it as a film. I've always quite liked the cartoon myself, although I always wonder what happens to cat. Midas turns him to gold, throws him in the air and he seemingly never returns to earth.

I'm not sure exactly what it was that Walt hated about the cartoon. Maybe it could be that Midas remains such a selfish character. An important factor of the version of the Midas story that I grew up was that Midas accidentally turned his own daughter to gold and was filled with regret. In the cartoon, Midas only grows to hate his curse because he himself is going to die.


From Tom Wilkins : I try to think of things that can knock us out of our boots and into reality. No matter what goes on, everything is about money, and to be quite honest with you, you can't worship two masters ... you can't worship both God and money (it's in the Bible). Then, just a few months ago, I saw this cartoon for the first time.

As King Midas counts his gold coins in the beginning, he loses count after he sneezes. Midas then goes into a tune bragging about how much gold he has and how much more he wants ... sure sounds like today's athletes! So, he wishes for the golden touch, where everything that he touched would turn to gold.

Out of nowhere appears Goldie the fairy. Once he appeared, Midas panicked and grabbed as much gold as he could, fearing he would lose some of it. Goldie demonstrated the touch by touching Midas's cat and turning it immediately to gold (after which the cat was psychologically dysfunctional once getting snapped out of the golden touch). Of course Goldie thought Midas was crazy for making that wish and gave him advice warning of a golden curse. Stubborn Midas further exclaimed, "My kingdom for the golden touch!" and "Give me gold, not advice!" Goldie gave up at that point and granted Midas the golden wish.

Ironically enough, the cat, who was now scared of anything that would touch him, was being called (and later chased) by Midas. The cat went up an apple tree, but Midas crashed into it head first, knocking loads of apples on him. Once they struck Midas, they turned to 18K gold. However, the cat was the last thing to crash on Midas, turning it to gold ... again. Midas became euphoric and celebrated by touching flowers, a birdbath, and water coming from a fountain (as well as the fountain itself). He proceeds inside and shows off his enormous ego by looking at himself in the mirror (and his image applauds), even touching one of his two front teeth ... turning that to gold, too. However, this is where the fun ends.

Midas gets hungry and prepares for a big meal. (What is it with these big characters in the Silly Symphonies of the first half of the 1930's?) First, he touches his chair and his napkin (turning them into gold) before he eats. Little did he know that once he put the spoon in the grapefruit, the squirt nailed him in the eye and upon contact, turned to gold coins. Midas thought nothing of it, so he tries to have a banana only to have it sliced in gold coins instead. He tries a drink of water ... and nearly chokes on the gold. At this point, Midas was beginning to see that gold was not what he wanted after all. In one final last-gasp attempt of pleasing his stomach, he tries to bite into his turkey ... only to have that coated in 18K gold. Midas is now ballistic, so he touches all the food on the table and turns that into gold, too ... so he knocks the table over.

Returning to the mirror wondering what had gone wrong, that same image who earlier applauded Midas became the image of death ... a skeleton in a king's robe immediately after he asked if "the richest king in the world is going to starve to death." Midas could not escape. He wanted to rid the shadow of death so bad that he ran in sheer panic downstairs to the counting room, screaming for Goldie to reappear. Goldie now has all the right to rub what Midas arrogantly said into his face.

"Is this the brave man who bellowed 'give me gold, not advice'!" Goldie snickers. Midas pleads for Goldie to take away his golden touch and get him a hamburger, which Goldie sarcastically replies, "With or without onions?" Eventually, Goldie accepted the offer to Midas that would take back the golden touch...in exchange for everything he possesses. Once Goldie leaves, it only takes seconds for the golden empire to fall; and with amazing strobe light animation, the castle crumbles, the king's robe and his crown were gone, and his underwear shrunk before pleading to spare it!

Midas finally had his hamburger appear in front of him, but he wanted to touch it just to make sure it did not turn to gold. It didn't. The hamburger stayed put, and once Midas checked it out, he got his wish ... with onions. (One thing to keep an eye on at the end of the film is that Midas also lost his gold tooth that he touched when he looked in the mirror the first time.)

I'm also 100% positive that Goldie raised Midas's taxes through the roof after this cartoon was made. Definitely a cartoon with an extremely valuable lesson included.


From Andrea Larson : Great cartoon. It sure would be cool if I could turn everything I touched to gold. I could sell it and pay for my entire college education. It certainly would suck if the food I touched turned to gold.
From Jerry Edwards : I consider this one of the worse Disney cartoons ever. From reference books I've read, Walt had been criticizing his cartoon directors severely and decided to direct this cartoon to "show them how it is done." Walt failed miserably. Years later, Walt was still overly sensitive about this failure. One animator, after being severely criticized by Walt over something, replied, "Yes, we all make mistakes. You directed The Golden Touch!" Walt stormed out of the room, but returned later and declared, "Don't ever mention that cartoon to me again if you want to continue working here!" I have always enjoyed the King Midas story. I felt it had an important moral, told in an entertaining way. But the Disney version just stinks - the ending of the king giving up his golden touch and everything else he owns for just a hamburger is so stupid that it irritates me everything I even think of it.
From Rachel Newstead : Frankly, I don't understand why this cartoon is trashed so thoroughly by everyone from animation insiders to hardcore fans. Because Midas, stripped of his gold, begs for a hamburger at the end? If you understand Walt's sense of humor, it's not so jarring. He had a long tradition of modernizing (and Americanizing) classic stories, dating back to the Laugh-O-Grams days. I thought it was rather amusing, actually, with the king sitting there in his underwear, his crown replaced with a Happy Hooligan-like tin can hat.

This cartoon, on the whole, is actually on a par with other Silly Symphonies of the day, and is certainly more watchable than Father Noah's Ark or Lullaby Land. It also shows some unique Disney personality touches in the person of King Midas. Any other studio would have made the king a one-note character, but Disney's Midas is more subtle--you could see the insecurity lurking beneath his greed.

I'm confused about the "director" credit in this cartoon. An animation director generally does the key sketches in a cartoon, and Walt hadn't drawn a line since the mid-twenties. What exactly did Walt do on this picture that differed from his normal contribution? No history of animation tells us precisely. me everything I even think of it.


From Jeremy Fassler : I hate this cartoon, but I find it more watchable than Father Noah's Ark or Lullaby Land. It's the worst cartoon ever. King Midas is an annoying guy and Goldie the fairy is much much worse. The animation is not impressive, for Fred Moore and Norman "Fergie" Ferguson. Please don't see this unless you want to find out why Walt got mad when his staff mentioned it.
From Steve Segal : I agree with Rachel Newstead. I like this cartoon and have never understood why it's so despised. It's not one of the all time classics and it is a bit too long, but it is fun. I especially enjoy all the different ways stuff turn into gold like a water fountain spouting a spray of coins and King Midas bending the corner of his gold sheet napkin. I understand Disney's job as director involved working the exposure sheets, much like Bill Hanna's job on his co-directing efforts.
From Jeff Wiener : Aw c'mon guys. This cartoon isn't so bad. In fact, I think it's great. I did feel a bit sorry for Midas at the end because he lost everything due to his insatiable greed. However, I suppose Midas deserved what he got. But he could have been left with just a little bit more than a hamburger with onions, don'tcha think? The scene where Midas looks into the mirror and sees a skeleton dressed in his own royal robes has a bit of chilling quality. The part where he changed the cat into gold was a bit tasteless. I love cats and as a result, found this scene a bit offensive. Goldie certainly was a spritely little character. I liked the way he said 'Toodle OO', just before he disappeared.
From Rasmus Jung : It was funny! I think every old Silly Symphony cartoon is enjoying to watch.

But it was very fun to watch, and told you a very serious teaching about the golden touch ... But WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAT! It just disappeared, so was it supposed to die or did it just disappear as gold? I think that Disney could have let it return to its old form, in the end of the cartoon.


From Baruch Weiss : This short might be okay for the young people but I don't know about the old people!
From Gijs Grob : One of those moralistic Silly Symphonies of the mid-thirties, this weak entry was the last cartoon to be directed by Walt Disney himself. Here, the greedy king Midas is confronted by the moralistic goblin 'Goldie' who grants the king the golden touch, which, naturally, soon becomes a curse to the king. In the end he exchanges everything for the ultimate American dream: the hamburger (with onions). In spite of his greediness king Midas is quite a likable character. Most notably so, when he's singing "the golden touch" while dancing and playfully touching everything to gold in his garden. The weird thing is that the king can easily touch his own clothes without turning them to gold.
From Tanya : To answer your question, it was bashed (in my opinion) because it is very inaccurate! I like it, but after translating Ovid, it is way off.

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