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Alice the Whaler

An Alice Comedy

Release Date : July 25, 1927

Running Time : 6:06

Synopsis

Alice and Julius on board a whaling ship where they have to deal with a temperamental cook as well as harpooning a whale.

Characters

Alice and Julius

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Ub Iwerks
Rudolph Ising
Hugh Harman
Friz Freleng
Les Clark
Ben Clopton
Norm Blackburn
Camera
Rudolph Ising
Live Action Actor
Lois Hardwick

Video

United States
Alice in Cartoonland

DVD

Disney's Alice Comedies : Volume 2
Alice in Cartoonland
Alice in Cartoonland
Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s

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 : So today we end the Alice Comedies, at least on this site, but fear not my friends, we will move forward into a new world of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, not with trepidation, but with courage. Or, with a DVD player. Something like that.

Speaking of new, I neglected to mention in my Alice’s Circus Daze review that we have a new Alice. Lois Hardwick took over the role beginning with Circus Daze and lasted the remainder of the series unless I’m mistaken. Of all of them, Hardwick is probably the best actress of the bunch, but she gets very little screen time, because at this point, Walt and his animators had lost interest in the live action parts of the shorts, and were focusing almost exclusively on the animation.

Alice the Whaler starts like all good Alice shorts do, with the patented Alice dance party. The deck of Alice’s whaling ship is alive with her dance as well as the dance of her animal friends. It’s a cross species dance-a-palooza.

The main story of the short, though, is very lacking. The main focus seems to be on a mouse character, who gets orders from a grumpy cook. The mouse fights off some dishes that end up crashing on his head from the bumpy waves. Then, the cook orders him to go and get some eggs.

The mouse decides that in order to get eggs, he needs to lasso a bird from the mast of the ship, so he does so. Finally getting eggs, the cook asks for milk, which the mouse gets from a goat on deck, which moves back and forth with the waves. None of this is really all that appealing visually, and it’s not very entertaining.

What it does do though, is offer a glimpse at what was to come. The mouse is not the Mickey-esque design we saw in the 1926 shorts, but instead has long ears like a rabbit, and is more reminiscent of Oswald than Mickey.

We do see our erstwhile friend Julius, however briefly, as he climbs the lookout and spots a whale in the distance. This is his five seconds of screen time for the short, which is sad for a character that has been so central to the series.

The finale of the series comes when a monkey first mate shoots a harpoon into the whale that Julius spotted, and the whale drags the boat over the waves. As far as story goes, it’s terrible. There’s no real flow to the story, no conflict or resolution of any kind.

The animation is…well, that’s the thing. I’ve seen reviews of this short on Disneyshorts.org, and people there claim that it’s a step up from the earlier shorts. Certainly the backdrops are better, the characters are more fluid. But as far as visual appeal, I do not think the stick and hose animation is very good. It does not portray the full personality the way that I thought some of the earlier shorts did. Just my opinion, but having watched all these films in a row, this stands out as “different,” for better or worse.

So, that brings our Alice viewing to an end, unless I can get the Netherlands to send me copies of some of the missing shorts. Don’t think I’m not trying. Next up is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and the evolution of the Disney animation continues.


From Mac : The complete lack of any story in this one is somewhat surprising, but by this point in the Alice series I believe Disney was already starting work on Oswald which perhaps accounts for some of the lack of focus in this short.

That said, I still really enjoy the various scenes in this cartoon. The animation and character designs are still very simple, but I think it looks great. There's a roundness and fluidness to it which I feel is step up from earlier Alice Comedies - making it even more of a shame to me that so many Disney cartoons of this era are lost.

When you get to Steamboat Willie you may want to revisit this cartoon, because there are some very similar moments and bits of animation. The animators (Ub?) seemed to have a lot of fun with the little mouse character – with those long ears maybe they were practicing some ideas for Oswald?

Focusing on the little mouse character seems to have drastically reduced the amount of screen time we'd expect for Julius. I think this is unusual since looking at synopsis for other cartoons of around this time, I'd imagine he often remained one of the main characters in the last batch of Alices.

One other point I can't resist making about this cartoon is that it features a 'falling anvil gag' – the earliest that I'm aware of. Usually more associated with Warner Bros. cartoons (although they didn't really do it that often) an anvil unexpectedly falls from a great height and flattens a character (in this case a monkey). I wonder if the flea-eating monkey is a recurring character since a monkey with fleas had appeared in at least one lost Alice (Medicine Show) and I expect at least one more (Monkey Business).


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : There's definitely some similarities here to Steamboat Willie, Mac. I noticed that as well but didn't have room in the post to go into it.

While I see your point about the fluidness, I thought the roundness and character design was better in the earlier shorts. Just my uneducated though.


From Mac : It's all down to personal preference when it comes to how much you like different character designs. Certainly at this stage it's still very simple. The characters in this cartoon, a lot of the Oswalds and the early Mickeys have a visual quality that really appeals to me.


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : On character design, I saw the first Oswald today, and liked those designs much better. I'm a warm, fuzzy kind of guy, so I like the rounded corners and fatter characters better than the stringy, rubber hose types. Just personal preference as you said.


From Christian Redferne : Lois Hardwick was a very expressive, vivid Alice. It is only too bad that when she was brought on board (no pun intended) Walt had begun to lose interest in his Alice Comedies, and these weren't as full of hybrid (live action and animation together) segments as the earlier efforts. Lois is in few shots here, but one can only wonder how great these last Alice Comedies would've been if they had featured her in as many hybrid segments as before. Lois appears against a generic background for the most part, generally laughing by herself. Surprisingly, there's very little of Julius as well in this cartoon. I could almost clock him in for a total of 5 seconds. Not too surprisingly, on the other hand, is that the main character in this movie is a nameless mouse. Foreshadowing. Anyway, this mouse has rather long ears, almost like a bunny. At one point he uses his ears as wings to fly after a seagull. This would be a character in between Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. The quality of the animation supersedes all previous Alice efforts. Characters don't persistently change colors and shadings and frames don't skip. This was similar to Steamboat Willie in quality. My only other complaint asides from the under-using of Lois Hardwick was the lack of a proper ending.
From Nelson : This 1927 cartoon short was cute and amusing but there are some things I've noticed in this cartoon. For starters, actress Lois Hardwick seems to be a little too old to play Alice (she looks like a teenager in this film) also, the great animation looked like typical Bill Nolan rubber hose style animation of the mid-twenties and early thirties. One thing to point out in this film was the mouse who looked a lot like "Oswald" with his ears being exceptionally long instead of his ears being round but the mouse was very funny. This the only Alice short that I can think of that Julius appears for a short period of time, as a lookout for whales. When it comes to silent films I'm not a fan of the piano, for this cartoon there is a orchestra musical score which makes the cartoon better to watch. Alice The Whaler seems to me more like a Max Fleischer cartoon than a Disney cartoon with it's inanimate objects which comes to life including a scene where a cooked chicken tries to escape. The only problem with this film is the ending where the whale just drags the ship thru the waves and the cartoon fades out. There could have been a much better ending for this cartoon but the Alice series was almost at an end due to the fact that Walt Disney scored a major contract with Producer Charles Mintz to make a new cartoon series for Universal Pictures .Walt wanted to use Julius the cat but Mintz and Universal had an other idea starring a rabbit named Oswald and the rest is history.
From Gijs Grob : A cartoon that once again begins with a musical sequence, but further consists of rather unrelated gags. This time Alice and the gang are on a ship, looking for whales. In this cartoon both Disney's character designs as the flexible animation have matured. Gone are the goggly eyes, and even one character (a cat cook) is wearing Mickey-type gloves! Also starring is a small mouse that peels potatoes just the way Mickey would do a year later in Steamboat Willie. Alice has almost disappeared from the screen by now.
From Billy Joe : This cartoon hardly has a plot. It's rather several vintages of the animals doing something on Alice's ship. However, at the end, Alice catches a whale.
From Ryan : While this is still a good cartoon, there are about two things that really do not fit with the title. First of all, Alice hardly makes any appearance in this film. Most of it focuses on a rat who has problems in the kitchen. The other is the fact that, while taking place on a whaling ship, only the end of the cartoon involves attempting to catch a whale. I think that a more appropriate title would be something like "Kitchen Kapers."

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