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Trolley Troubles

An Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Cartoon

Release Date : September 15, 1927

Running Time : 5:46

Synopsis

Oswald as the owner of a trolley car, which eventually turns into a very wild ride.

Characters

Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Animation
Ub Iwerks
Rollin "Ham" Hamilton
Hugh Harman
Les Clark
Friz Freleng
Ben Clopton
Norm Blackburn

Milestones

The first "Oswald" short released.

DVD

United States
Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Germany
Disney Treasures : Wave 7 : The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: 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 : Maybe it’s just the change of pace, or the fact that I’m watching these shorts in DVD quality, but the first Oswald short, Trolley Troubles, was a delight.

Let me back up, though, and give a brief background on Oswald. After our last short, Alice the Whaler, there were a few more Alice Comedies, but Walt and his distributor Charles Mintz, had agreed that the series had run its course. Mintz wanted a new character and to do away with the expensive live action blend. Walt and Ub got to work designing a new lead, and soon Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was born.

In design, Oswald was similar to Julius, blended with some elements of the mouse character from Alice the Whaler and other films. The first short sent to Mintz was Poor Papa. The reception was, well, not good. Mintz declined to move forward with the series based on Poor Papa. He said Oswald was too mean and unlikeable. The next short, Trolley Troubles was much more to his liking, and Oswald made his public debut in September of 1927.

I have not seen Poor Papa. and don’t have a copy of it, but I can definitely see why Trolley Troubles was such a step forward. The storytelling is back to the standards of some of the best Alice shorts – Oswald has a trolley that he is trying to get from one end of the track to the other, safely delivering his passengers. All the action unfolds from that framework.

The main thing I noticed while watching, however, was the new fluidity and dimension in the animation. Take the sequence after Oswald picks up his passengers, for example. In the Alice shorts, this would have been a side to side shot. But now, it’s animated with the trolley coming straight at the viewer, swaying from side to side, adapting to the track, and squashing and stretching to show a loose, free flowing action.

There is not much conflict in the short, which is probably its main flaw. The first obstacle Oswald encounters is a cow in the middle of the track, that impedes his progress. In an inspired bit, he simply shrinks the trolley to go underneath the cow.

The second conflict is a hill that the trolley has trouble getting over. This time, Oswald enlists the aid of a goat, enticing the animal to hit him in the behind, but keeping the goat at the end of a pole to push the trolley up the hill.

The problem with that is that the downhill run is a little quicker than Oswald had bargained for. Again, the free flow and the depth of the animation are great here. The trolley swerves back and forth from left to right, going diagonal across the screen. It’s a new shot from what we expected in the Alice Comedies.

The final scene comes as the trolley flies headlong into a river at the bottom of a canyon, and Oswald paddles away, having failed in his mission. The short, though, has succeeded, by giving us a new character to view. Although I don’t have all the Oswald shorts, I’m really looking forward to the rest of them, so long as they are as good as the first. Consistency was the main problem with the Alice series, so we’ll see if that continues or not.


From Patrick Malone : I had never seen this short until the Oswald Disney Treasures set came out, even though I had an old copy on VHS locked away somewhere. I wasn't really interested since, as you said, the quality and entertainment value of the Alice shorts had decreased over the years. The thing that surprised me when I finally got around to watching it is that it is actually funny! I found myself giggling quite a few times while watching it which is something I never did for the Alice shorts.
From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : Totally right. I bought the Disney Treasures set when it first came out, but didn't watch it, because had this project in mind. But when I finally saw it today, man, it's funny. It's amazing how the consistency varies so much on the Alices, but then this is so good. I mean, consistency is the hallmark of Disney in the later years, so it's weird to see them so inconsistent later.
From Mac : I love this fast-moving short and I've gotta agree with all the points you made. One thing to bear in mind when viewing the first six Oswalds though is that they only seem to survive as sound reissue versions. In a way we're lucky because if it wasn't for these reissues they may not exist at all, but unfortunately these versions had scenes removed and reordered. For the Treasures DVD it seems that the reissue title cards have been replaced with fake versions of the original and the 1930s soundtrack has been replaced to make for a more authentic silent movie experience.

Trolley Troubles still flows really well in its reissue format so maybe not so much was cut and reordered in this one. I'm also really curious to see the original Oswald in Poor Papa. so I hope that one surfaces one day.


From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I tend to watch these shorts with the sound off anyway, just to focus on the animation. I don't intend to use sound until we get to Steamboat Willie, because the shorts weren't designed with sound.

I have to say, though, that I can see the evolution of Disney's animation much better moving from Alice to Oswald than I did in the Alice comedies themselves.


From Manny Behar : Delightful and quite advanced by 1927 standards and still quite enjoyable today.

The gags of the trolley adjusting to the track, Oswald reducing the size of the trolley to go under the old cow blocking the tracks and getting the goat to push the trolley up the hill were well done.

The wild roller coaster type ride is a forerunner to a forerunner of later Disney wild rides, Mickey's Trailer is one that comes to my mind.

A solid start to the Oswald series and it is easy to see why Oswald became a success. If Disney had kept the rights to Oswald he rather than Mickey might have become the greatest cartoon star of all.


From Ryan : Here is Oswald's first cartoon. It is quite advanced for it's day. During the sequence in which Oswald rides through the tunnel, the viewer can almost feel like he/she is riding through that tunnel as well (long before computer animation too). A similar gag was reused in Mickey's Choo Choo and the Flip the Frog cartoon The New Car. Like Plane Crazy, Iwerks animated this cartoon by himself.
From Billy Joe : Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is one of the funniest cartoon characters ever! (Well, at least the Disney version is. I don't know much about the Lantz version.) His very first cartoon, Trolley Troubles is probably his funniest cartoon I've seen. It includes many sight gags that don't even use words, and it's hilarious. I do also like the "tunnels" sequence. It is almost like your really going through a tunnel. I give this short a ten and I recommend it. (I recommend all of the Oswald cartoons.)
From Brandon : This was a great cartoon - certainly the best of the surviving Oswald cartoons. The animation was far more detailed than previous Oswalds, and the gags were as plentiful and inventive as always. When watching it, I noticed that the later Oswalds were of a somewhat higher quality than the earliest Mickeys, which makes sense, I suppose, since they basically went from a full team of animators working for one of the biggest distributors of the time to a few people making cartoons in secret for no distributor at all.
From David Ramses : This cartoon is great! Note the brilliant animation. Shame that only half of them Oswald Cartoons survived.
From Kristen Ramirez : I recently became an Oswald fan last year. But when I saw this short I had saw the re-issued version with sound. The sound version was totally off until I got the DVD. This turned out to be one of my all time favorites other than Oh What a Knight. I loved the POV shots. This one stands out the most.
From Bob J. : I hadn't realized that this was the first Oswald cartoon (aside from "Poor Papa", which I hadn't seen and probably never want to because of the feedback received), but I have to say, it's still as funny as the later cartoons. One of my favorite gags is when a bunny kid watches Ozzie oil the trolley's underside, then he pulls the kid away and squirts him with oil. Gets me every time I watch this.

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