Alice Solves the Puzzle

An Alice Comedy

Release Date : February 15, 1925

Running Time : 6:47

Synopsis

Alice and Julius are playing on the seashore when Pete comes around, gets Julius drunk and tries to steal a crossword puzzle from Alice. Julius has to sober up to come to the rescue.

Characters

Alice and Julius
Pete

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Ub Iwerks
Rollin "Ham" Hamilton
Thurston Harper
Camera
Mike Marcus
Live Action Actor
Margie Gay

Milestones

The first appearance of the character who would later metamorphize into Pete; also the first appearance of Margie Gay, the second actress to play Alice.

Video

United States
Before Walt
Disney's Beginnings (1920-1927)

DVD

Alice in Cartoonland
Alice in Cartoonland
Disney's Alice Comedies : Volume 2
Before Walt

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: Combination live-action and standard animation
Sound Mix: Silent
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by M. J. Winkler Productions

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Today’s short, Alice Solves the Puzzle, sees the debut of two notable figures in Disney history. One is still around today, in various forms, while one is merely a footnote, but an important one.

The short opens with Alice struggling to solve a crossword puzzle. But wait, this is not the Alice we know and love!

Yep, it’s the debut of Margie Gay as Alice, replacing Virginia Davis. Even hardcore fans like myself probably have never seen pictures of Gay in the Alice shorts, as most of us have only seen Alice’s Wonderland or the films that Disney released on their Disney Rarities DVD. Virginia Davis is such a part of the fabric of the Disney lore, that it’s hard to realize that there was more than one Alice.

So, as Alice continues, she cannot solve the last word on the puzzle. The still unnamed Julius shows up and tells her to blow off the puzzle and take a swim with him. It’s at this point I noticed something interesting. As in past films, the camera pans out, and Alice switches from the live action Gay to an animated character.

However, what was interesting to me here, is how much Margie Gay looks like an animated character already. Virginia Davis had her curls and various bouncing dresses and moved her arms in varying directions, so when the animation took over it looked stiff and unrealistic. Margie Gay, on the other hand, has her hair in a short bob that doesn’t move, her dress is straight up and down smock, or a bathing suit in this instance, and her movements are very limited. For some reason, this struck me while watching the animated sequence.

While Julius and Alice are playing off the diving board, we are introduced to a major figure in Disney cartoon history – Bootleg Pete. The card here tells us that Pete is a collector of rare crossword puzzles, but for Disney historians, he’s much more. Pete is currently seen today on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but he’s been a thorn in Mickey’s side for decades, as Pete, Pegleg Pete and other incarnations.

Here, he’s a water skiing bear, who gets a rude reception when he chases after Alice to get her puzzle. Pete chases her up a lighthouse tower, and Julius has to bounce up to save the day.

There are some cute gags in this short, and it’s clear that Walt and his animators were moving now to almost all animation, minimizing the contribution of the live action Alice. But they are starting to build a repertory of characters. Julius has been around, but the dog from the Laugh-O-Grams shows up here again, as he has intermittently since Ub came on board. Pete’s appearance is the first of many. It will be interesting to track the development of these characters as we move forward.

Overall, Alice Solves the Puzzle is entertaining, but it’s not as gag packed or well done as some of the last Virginia Davis shorts. Oddly enough, you kind of miss her when she’s gone, and that’s no slight on Margie Gay. But the curly haired moppet is my mind’s eye picture of Alice, so not having her there is a little disconcerting. But, onward and upward, with more to come tomorrow.


From Ryan : Here it is! The first appearance of Pegleg Pete (who was then known as Bootleg Pete). In this short, Pete is a collector of crossword puzzles and discovers that Alice's puzzle is missing from his collection. The version of this short that I own has a poorly synchronized soundtrack added to it. Apparently, when this short was rereleased sometime in the 30's or 40's, Disney added a soundtrack to it. I think it was better off left the way it was.
From starsweeper : Lucy Maud Montgomery, famed author of 'Anne of Green Gables' took her kids to see this movie in Uxbridge, Ontario on August 22, 1925. I really like this journal entry because it shows how the Alice Comedies were received by audiences of the time:

"The film was a good one ... detailing the adventures of a cross-words puzzle "fan" was the most excruciatingly funny thing I ever saw. I laughed until my cheeks ached and I felt young again. I am thankful I have never lost the power to become a child again at will. We were just three kids together there tonight ... we had a good time, howling over it, and a lovely drive home, the three of us in the back seat, and had almost as much fun talking the movie all over again."