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Three Orphan Kittens

A Silly Symphony

Release Date : October 26, 1935

Running Time : 8:55

Synopsis

Three kittens are heartlessly abandoned during a snowstorm. They try to take refuge in a nearby house and playfully begin to tear the house apart.

Characters

Three Orphan Kittens
Mammy Twoshoes

Credits

Director
Dave Hand
Asst. Director
Jack Cutting
Animation
Bob Wickersham
Fred Moore
Hamilton Luske
Ken Anderson
Story
Bill Cottrell
Joe Grant
Music
Frank Churchill
Voices
Lillian Randolph
Marcellite Garner

Awards

Academy Award winner (Short Subjects - Cartoons)

Cut Scenes

A black doll exclaiming "Mammy!" was cut out of this short.

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions II : How the Best Was Won : 1933-1960
Germany
Meister-Cartoons von Walt Disney
France
Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de Walt Disney
Italy
I Capolavori di Walt Disney

Laserdiscs

United States
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions II : How the Best Was Won : 1933-1960
Japan
The Three Little Pigs
The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : More Silly Symphonies

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 27: Meow! The Disney Cats
The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 1: Award Winners
Donald's Quack Attack: Episode 9

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 : I talked yesterday about Music Land, and how it was a strong story that played off of and integrated the music. That is not what Three Orphan Kittens is, but it still is a great example of how the Silly Symphonies series can work. And it features some top shelf animation that show the Disney crew honing their craft as well.

Three Orphan Kittens is much more like the “cute” shorts that we have seen, such as Water Babies or Funny Little Bunnies. It features, oddly enough, three orphan kittens, who are stuck in the snow, but find a way into a house, where they find warmth and a table being set for dinner.

Of course, the kittens proceed to wreck everything. The dinner table sequence is not particularly memorable, because it doesn’t feature great gags. There is good stuff there, but nothing that particularly stands out. It’s just cute, with kittens fighting with pies, getting stuck in a bottle and the like.

After the dinner table, the kittens head to a little girl’s room, where they get into a battle with the toys. Again, nothing really stands out, but it’s just cute little gags. The kittens duel with a baby doll and other toys, and one of them gets knocked into a nearby pillow, causing a feather to fly into the air.

That is what starts the most interesting part of the short. The lead kitten chases the feather, and the movement of the camera follows him. I know that sounds like nothing special, but it is almost as though the rooms themselves are moving, because as the cat goes from room to room, there is no cut. It is what we’d call a tracking shot in cinema, but here it’s something new and different.

Then, the feather lands on a player piano, leading to the next great sequence. The cats try to get the feather as it bounces along the keys. The lead kitten, entranced, plays a tune on the piano that fits the mood of the scene. It’s a clever bit, as he plays a creeping song as he creeps up on the feather, then a crescendo as he crashes forward and the feather flies away. It’s very well done.

Ultimately, the damage the cats do catches the eye of the housekeeper, who is preparing to throw them out when the little girl sees them. Then, the cats get their comeuppance. The girl dresses them up like dolls and treats them like babies, forcing a bottle in the lead kitten’s mouth as the short closes.

The feather sequence is the real standout of this short. The way the camera tracks the lead kitten through that scene is remarkable, and to follow it up with the piano gag is great work. A little more work like that in the beginning of the short would make this one a classic, but as it is, it’s just another “cute” short in the Silly Symphonies series.


From Mac : It's a little too cute and about kittens (I'm not a big cat fan!), but I can still stomach this nice little cartoon. My favorite bits are the same as yours. The parts where the backgrounds are animated to show the changing perspective as we follow the kitten look great and throughout the cartoon we see a few more of those deeper, richer colors creeping into the Disney cartoons (although not quite so much as Pluto's Judgment Day). I also like how the main kitten is suitably embarrassed to be dressed up as a baby at the end!

I think this cartoon may introduce a new character into the world of animated cartoondom too: Mammy Two Shoes. The stereotype of the fat black maid had already existed for decades in America when this cartoon was released . However, this is the earliest cartoon I know in which the maid's face is never seen. In a cartoon that shows an animals point of view, it makes dramatic sense that we only ever see the (droopy stockinged) feet and arms of this dominating figure. Disney would use the character again in a few other cartoons, but the same idea, based on the same stereotype, would be used much more famously (and to even greater comic effect) in the Tom and Jerry cartoons. I'm not sure where she was first called Mammy Two Shoes (probably in Tom and Jerry). References to the Disney version often call her Aunt Delilah (perhaps a reference to Aunt Jemima who is the same basic stereotype?), but the little girl in this cartoon calls her Mandy (not Mammy).


From Jerry Edwards : Three kittens are discarded in a snow storm, but find refuge in a warm house. After several mishaps that result in broken dishes, the kittens are about to be thrown out by the maid. But the little girl of the house rescues the kittens by asking to be allowed to keep them. The unusually high animation design and use of perspective is considered the key to this short winning the Oscar. Although nicely done and enjoyable, I just don't consider this short Oscar quality. I would have chosen Music Land myself.
From Ryan : Overall this short was good. I thought it was kind of cute. One thing that puzzles me is that the mother was black and her daughter was white. How the heck did this happen? Perhaps she was adopted.
From Ettore D'Agostino : In this short the use of perspective is extraordinary. in some sequences look at the background: it's not stationary, it moves while the point of view changes. The movement of the camera is not so complicated such as in the ballroom sequence from Beauty And The Beast, but they had not CGI technologies.
From Baruch Weiss : This was the first of three shorts starring the politically incorrect maid Mammy Twoshoes. Although a similar maid appeared in the 1943 short Figaro and Cleo she was known as Aunt Delilah; perhaps she is a sister to Mammy Twoshoes!

Referenced Comments