Alice's Orphan

An Alice Comedy

Release Date : January 15, 1926

Running Time : 6:26

Synopsis

Another outing for Julius as he finds an abandoned baby by a pond, adopts it, and goes almost crazy trying to care for it.

Characters

Alice and Julius
Pete
Oscar

Credits

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

Video

United States
Alice in Cartoonland
Disney's Beginnings (1920-1927)

DVD

Disney's Alice Comedies : Volume 2
Alice in Cartoonland
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

  • Also known as "Alice's Ornery Orphan."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : If you have ever been a parent or tried to take care of very young children, you will be able to relate to Alice’s Orphan. I’ve read reviews of this short that say that it is not good, or somehow a bit off center, but to me, this was a continued demonstration of how the Disney studio was starting to find it s way in story telling, similar to Alice’s Balloon Race.

Part of the reason for that is that at this time in 1926, the animators were beginning to do more storyboarding. This is a common practice today in all films and television, but at the time, it was not done for animation. Animators merely made up a story and started drawing, but the addition of the storyboard made for a more focused cartoon.

This short opens with Julius out ice skating, on an open pond with several other cats. He sees a female cat that he is stricken with, but she soon falls in a crack in the ice. Julius rescues her, assuming that he will be thanked and win her heart. But when she gets up, he sees that she is ugly, and in a bit of a mean turn, shoves her back in the ice and closes the hole.

It’s a funny bit, but it’s contradictory to the rest of the short. That would be my only complaint about this cartoon. Soon after, a woman leaves a basket next to the ice, and Julius notices it. Turns out, it’s a baby cat, and Julius picks the baby up and decides to take it back to his cabin.

Alice makes her only appearance in the short as Julius enters the cabin to show her the baby, and they name the baby Oscar. Soon, Oscar does what babies do, and Julius has to change his diaper and give him a bath.

The bath sequence is inspired, especially if you’re a parent. Julius gets to do all the things that parents wish they could do. He runs Oscar up and down a washboard, strips his skin off, wrings him out like a towel, and finally pours ink down his throat to give Oscar the black coloring back. It’s funny, brutal and endearing all at the same time.

Next, it’s time for dinner, and Oscar digs in with vigor. He starts shoveling food in with his hands, prompting a rebuke from Julius. In a cute gag, he yells “Hey” and the word floating in the air redirects Oscar.

Not that it matters, as Oscar laughs at Julius’ proper manners, even throwing the turkey at his erstwhile father. That’s enough for Julius, who decides to send the kid off to bed. Again, this is a great sequence, as Julius tosses Oscar up in the air, dropping him into a set of pajamas, then throwing him in the bed. Like any kid, Oscar cries, until Julius begins rocking him and singing “Rock A Bye Baby.” After a couple of false starts, he gets Oscar to sleep and the short ends.

I have to say, the storytelling and the gags in this short are the best combination that I have seen in the last 10-12 Alice shorts. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that this was when the storyboarding process began.

Another interesting thing to note is the diminished role of Alice. At least in the last short, she was part of the balloon race, but here, all she does is say hello to Oscar, then disappear. It’s clear that the animators and Walt are no longer interested in the live action parts of these shorts, but instead are focusing on improving the animation.


From David Gerstein at Ramapith : This is another one of those cartoons that the staffers remade elements of later on; check out Flip the Frog's "Little Orphan Willie" or Harman and Ising's solo "Big-Hearted Bosko" (the latter of which is on YouTube).
From Christian Redferne : This entry has many more elaborate sets than most previous Alice comedies. It is also my least favorite. I'm a fan of the series and I understand that the Disney humor in those days was very tentative. But it was hard for me to stomach a scene where Julius actually murders a female cat he originally saved from drowning just because, well, once he got a good look at her he saw she was ugly. To me that tainted the cartoon. Outside of that, the animation is good and the sets are elaborate, but once again we're cut off in an abrupt ending.

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