Alice the Jail Bird

An Alice Comedy

Release Date : September 15, 1925

Running Time : 7:31

Synopsis

After stealing a pie, Alice and Julius are put on a chain gang, where they escape with the help of a friendly ostrich.

Characters

Alice and Julius

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Ub Iwerks
Rollin "Ham" Hamilton
Thurston Harper
Rudolph Ising
Hugh Harman
Camera
Rudolph Ising
Live Action Actor
Margie Gay

DVD

United States
Disney's Alice Comedies : Volume 2
Alice in Cartoonland

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 : The quality of the Alice shorts hits a new high, in my opinion, with Alice the Jail Bird. It’s not so much that the quality of the animation is so overwhelmingly great, or that the story is exceedingly original, but the gags are fast and furious here, and they make inventive use of the medium.

The story is actually quite simple. Alice and Julius are riding along on the back of a turtle (???), when they see a pie laid out in the top floor window of a nearby building. Julius speeds up the turtle by getting off to push, then gets to the top floor by standing on the turtle’s head while Alice cranks his tail to extend the turtle’s neck.

That’s just the beginning of the great gags. When the hippo who baked the pie sees the gang stealing it, she yells “Help! Polize!” and the police officer forms out of the incorrectly spelled “Polize.” He begins chasing Alice, Julius and the turtle, with Julius still seated atop the extended neck, and Alice opens the turtle’s shell to hide inside.

What follows is a cavalcade of gags during an elaborate chase sequence. The officer shoots at the gang, separating the turtle’s neck from it’s head where Julius is perched, so Julius reaches down with his tail and yanks more neck out from the turtle’s shell. Julius grabs one of the smoke rings from the gunshot and throws it back at the cop, who then proceeds to use his gun and the smoke ring as a unicycle to catch up more quickly. Julius turns the turtle into a boat, turning it over on its back and pulling off its arms to use as oars. The cop follows to land where Julius and the gang run into a tree with a hole in it, then pull the bark down like a window shade.

It gets hard to catch all the gags, as they come fast and furious during the chase sequence, barely giving the viewer a chance to breathe. This is similar to what I saw in the Ub Iwerks documentary, The Hand Behind the Mouse, of how Ub would pack his later cartoons with such rapid fire gags. You have to figure that Ub played a heavy part in this short.

The cop eventually catches the gang, by posing as a free lunch wagon, and drives them off to jail. Even there, there are more great gags. Julius and Alice are breaking rocks and a supervisor comes over to yell at them for moving slowly. While he yells at Alice, Julius notices that he’s pounding a nearby stump with his hand, so Julius places the rocks there and lets the yeller pound them. The turtle breaks a rock and reveals a pool ball, so he pulls off his tail and begins playing pool.

The inevitable escape comes when Julius uses his tail as a crane to lift his prison ball, then convinces an ostrich to peck off the chain and extend its neck so he can get over the wall.

After that, Julius again grabs a smoke ring from one of the guards’ gunshots, and uses it to float down the wall. But a cactus at the bottom convinces him to start flapping his arms to get back up. So, Julius begins flying, and picks up Alice to fly away as the short ends.

In all the shorts so far, there has not been one as packed with gags as this one. Every few seconds, there is another inventive gag, using words as a prop, or making use of effects like smoke rings or other crazy options. This has to be the funniest of the Alice Comedies yet, so we’ll see if the quality continues.


From Ryan : After stealing a pie, Alice, Julius, and a turtle friend of theirs are arrested. One gag I enjoyed was the scene when the sheriff caught the three of them in a paddy wagon, which he disguised as a free food stand. The sheriff hits himself and a star appears, which he pins to his chest as a badge. I also enjoyed the gag with the prison guard continually ordering Alice to chop rocks. Julius puts a rock under his hand as the guard pounds his hand in frustration. This is a pretty good cartoon that I enjoy watching.
From Kenneth Seward : This was great, the only 'Alice' short I've seen but I've heard of them for quite a while. Very imaginative of the animated medium where anything is possible. In addition to the gag with the sheriff mentioned above I also liked how characters could take off their hats and just place them in the air above their heads for a moment while they scratched their noggins. I'd give it a 9 just for the sheer wonderfulness of it's aesthetic.

Referenced Comments