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The Robber Kitten

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : April 20, 1935

Running Time : 7:48

Synopsis

A discontented young kitten tires of being mothered at home and runs away seeking adventure as a highwayman. A scary encounter with a genuine robber, however, soon sends him flying home to Mom.

Characters

Ambrose
Ambrose's Mom
Dirty Bill

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Animation
Bob Wickersham
Marvin Woodward
Hardie Gramatky
Hamilton Luske
Bill Roberts
Story
Bill Cottrell
Music
Frank Churchill
Voices
Billy Bletcher
Clarence "Ducky" Nash

DVD

United States
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 5 : The Wind in the Willows
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Germany
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
France
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Italy
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 33: In the Nursery with the Silly Symphonies
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 8
Donald's Quack Attack: Episode 63
The Mickey Mouse Club : October 13, 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

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : When talking about The Golden Touch, we discussed here how the short was a step towards features, as it focused on character and using more mature themes. The Robber Kitten follows that tradition, although it is much more cute and sincere than The Golden Touch. Still, The Robber Kitten is all about character.

The titular kitten is a great design, reminding me somewhat of Figaro from Pinocchio. Butch, as he is called in the short, is a kitten very adept at playing cops and robbers at home. But, rather than take a bath, he wants to escape and become a real robber.

Snatching a bag of cookies, Butch takes off, but he soon runs into a real bandit, Dirty Bill, played by a bulldog. This is where the short turns into a fun look at the two characters. Butch and Dirty Bill hit it off, but we get to see a little more about who they are, as the majority of the short is the two of them sitting in the forest talking.

Dirty Bill extols the virtues of robbery as a career, and Butch joins in. Butch spins a yarn about the stagecoach he robbed that morning, which is a complete fabrication. It’s a cute touch, because the opening scene of the short is Butch holding up a toy stagecoach. Then, when he recreates the story for Dirty Bill, it’s acted out in the animation. The loot, really the cookies that Butch took, is made out to be jewels and gold.

Of course, Dirty Bill starts threatening Butch, who turns tail and runs back home, jumping into the bathtub he had run away from in the first place. It’s a great story, that has no standout animation or new and exciting components.

What makes this one somewhat interesting is the fact that the two main characters don’t perform any action, with the exception of Butch’s “flashback” to the stagecoach robbery. Instead, the story is all about the two of them talking. That’s difficult to pull off, but it is done well here.

Again, this is a step that had to be taken to get to features. If Disney were unable to hold audience interest in conversation, then they would not be able to carry a story through an entire feature. What’s interesting to watch through these Silly Symphonies is how they are taking steps to work on these things. First we saw the human figure of Persephone in The Goddess of Spring, then the mature themes of The Golden Touch, and now how to hold interest in a simple conversation. All of it is building my anticipation for Snow White, and we’re still a long way from there.


From Mac : Despite a few moments that are a bit too cute for me (especially Ambrose's voice and acting in the final scene "Wanna scrub my back?" blecch!), this is actually a really good cartoon. It's the personalities that really pull it off.

There's some excellent characterization on display with Dirty Bill taking a shine to the kid who tries to act tough and looks up to him as a hero. The portrayal of this friendship makes it all the more scary when Dirty Bill turns nasty, as Ambrose's really does seem to have some loot. When you think about it – it seems a tricky thing to pull off. A murderer palling around with a kid who's only play acting, but it's done very well.

This short gets extra points from me for making Ambrose's tale so ridiculous it ends with him doing the Tarzan yell! One thing I wondered about this cartoon is the stage coach's crest bears the message "Body by Fisher". I've since looked it up and it's a jokey anachronistic reference to an automobile coachbuilder that I had never heard of before!


From Jack Bumble : This short really relates to my childhood. I was a mischievous little guy and I often stole things from people including cold-hard cash. I never ran into anyone like Dirty Bill though, but I had a friend who was an excellent pickpocket (later got arrested and sent to reform school). When I was finally caught stealing a toy at my local toystore, the security guard showed me a video about shoplifting and the consequences. It just scared the bejesus out of me and I quit stealing from that day on. I guess this would be my favorite short.
From Jerry Edwards : Fun, enjoyable cartoon. I had this in black and white from the Mickey Mouse Club for years before I found the original color version. The color definitely adds a great deal to the cartoon. The opening of Ambrose robbing a stagecoach driven by his toys is quite similar to the more recent opening scene of Toy Story.
From Ryan : While I am not a big fan of the "Silly Symphonies," I liked this short. It had a good plot and the animation was wonderful. The kitten ran like the wind after his mother wanted to give him a bath. Cats sure hate baths!
From Jeremy Fassler : An OK short. The song that Dirty Bill and Ambrose sing is kind of catchy, if a little stupid. Overall, not one of my favorites.
From Dino Cencia : A great short! This is one of my favorites, and I give it a 920 out of 920.
From Matthew Cooper : This is a very good cartoon, and also one of my most favorite Silly Symphonies! The only thing that I find odd about this short is that while Ambrose and his mom are cats and Dirty Bill is (probably) a dog, the passengers and driver of the stage-coach that Ambrose robs in his fantasy are people! This cartoon must have been made around the time of The Three Little Pigs because if you look closely in the scene where Ambrose runs past his mother, you can see a picture of a cat being booted off a wall labeled FATHER. That same joke was in the Three Little Pigs, except the picture was a string of sausages. To sum it up I'd like to say that Ambrose's toys shown at the beginning remind me of Pinnochio.
From Gijs Grob : The Robber Kitten is one of the more annoying entries in the Silly Symphony series, despite the strong characterization of the little rascal Ambrose (or 'Butch' as he is preferred to be called) and the experienced robber Dirty Bill. It's a slow-paced, childish cartoon dripping with morality. The setting is vague and pretty unconvincing: Bill is clad in a mediaeval Robin Hood-like costume, while Ambrose is clad in 17th century fashion. A much sillier world as that of in The Cookie Carnival was brought with much more bravado. All too typical for the Silly Symphonies of the mid thirties, The Robber Kitten is nothing more than beautifully animated pulp.
From Tom Wilkins : I must say that I am not too thrilled with either name. Ambrose (well, Butch) fantasized about the gangster life by shooting some of his toys with his toy gun. Through all of this, the kitten is disturbed because he does not want to be named Ambrose anymore, since he wanted to portray gangster life (which movies were very popular back in 1935) in the real world. Despite the mother kitten's orders for him to come down and take a bath, Ambrose plays the average teenager of our decade by sneaking around the bath behind the mother's back, snatching all the cookies out of the cookie jar and into his little bag, and exiting out the window, where coincidentally he falls into the awaiting barrel of water. (So much for not wanting a bath.)

During Ambrose's travels, he runs into Dirty Bill, an animal that is not worth description because he is so hideous looking. Despite his looks, the two become friends...or so we thought. After Ambrose shares a story hallucinating on how he robbed a stagecoach, one of the much shorter climaxes of the Silly Symphonies take place. Bill pulls the Benedict Arnold out of his hat and wants to take what he thought were jewels in Ambrose's bag. Of course he got the unwelcomed snack instead as the kitten flew like Desmond Howard back into the house and into the bath, where Mom was about to give Ambrose a brush spanking.

The moral: Listen to your mother, my children! Ambrose sure learned his lesson the hard way - his crazy antics cost him a chance to appear in the 1935 award winning Disney classic, Three Orphan Kittens.

Oh - and one thought on Dirty Bill: he never took a bath and he never will? Could this be why he is so successful at robberies...all because he stinks so bad? Where's his mom to tell him he needs a bath?


From Mike : While not one of my favorites I can at least appreciate that he does learn his lesson at the end. I personally would've loved to have seen Dirty Bill get caught by a sheriff.

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