Friday, April 5, 2013

Best Mickey Mouse Cartoons

Mickey Mouse rarely gets his due.  Despite being historically significant and the most recognizable figure on Earth he is often looked down upon as uninteresting and unfunny.  Mickey may not have a cartoon formula or the irreverence of other cartoon stars, but he has many strengths that sets him apart.  The best Mickey Mouse cartoons are the ones that figure out how to use his good natured qualities.  Here are the twenty best cartoons to feature the mouse.

20. Mickey and the Seal (1948)
A common criticism of many of Disney's lesser shorts is that they are focused too much on being cute.  This is one of the shorts where the cuteness works.  It balances being unoffensive with being funny.  This is a rare occasion when Mickey is clueless, a role that works for him.

19. Mickey's Service Station (1935)
This is the first trio short.  Mickey, Donald and Goofy did a lot of their best work in these team-ups.  The animators would place them in a unique setting that allowed opportunities for gags with the trio's distinct physicalities.

18. Symphony Hour (1942)
In the ensemble shorts Mickey is naturally cast as the leader of the gang.  He is the straight man and anchor for the other characters.  While the situation gets more and more ludicrous it is Mickey's determination keeps the cartoon moving.

17. Little Whirlwind (1941)
This is a rare example of Mickey facing off against an adversary.  Mickey rarely gets much grief, but it is fun to see him get angry and frustrated.  This is Mickey on a bad day, he should have bad days more often.

16. Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip (1940)
Even when Mickey is lying and breaking rules he remains genuine and likable.  Mickey is trying to hide Pluto on a train that does not allow dogs.  This is a good use of Mickey as an everyman.

15. Nifty Nineties (1941)
The exaggerated, idealistic backdrop of the 1890s is a perfect fit for Mickey and Minnie.  It showcases their more sincere and good natured qualities.  The show they see is a lot of fun and features a cameo from legendary animators Ward Kimball and Fred Moore.

14. Lonesome Ghosts (1937)
Even though Mickey does not have much going on in this short it is one of the trio's best outings.  The ghosts' pranks have made this a Halloween staple in many Disney anthologies and collections.

13. Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947)
One half of the feature Fun and Fancy Free.  Mickey gets to use both his down on his luck and leading man personas.  Mickey is one of a few characters who can make the concept of buying magic beans work.  The animation of the growing beanstalk and the gang on the giant food is impressive.  Also Mickey outsmarting Willie the Giant is one of the character's finest hours.

12. Prince and the Pauper (1990)
This lengthy cartoon gets to use the character's versatility.  He gets to tell two fish out of water stories, both are entertaining.  It also allowed the late Wayne Allwyne to play with the range of Mickey's voice (especially in the singing).  The animation is on par with the best of the Disney renaissance and was Mickey's last great appearance.

11. The Pointer (1939)
This short is the first appearance of Mickey in his current design.  This is such a simple premise, but the animators find plenty of quality gags for Mickey and Pluto.  The highlight is one Mickey tries to talk down a bear by hoping he's heard of him.

10. Plane Crazy (1928)
The first Mickey Mouse cartoon produced.  This takes place before synchronized sound (sound was added in later), but it is a very good silent cartoon with a lot of fun gags and quality Ub Iwerks animation.  Mickey is inspired by Charles Lindberg to become a pilot and shows a reckless, adventurous side that is often overlooked.

9. Mickey's Good Deed (1932)
This Christmas classic is more of a drama than a comedy.  I really do not think that this would work with any other character.  Mickey selling Pluto to help a poor family is not something that would be believable with Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny or others.  This is the cartoon that fully explores Mickey's generosity and ability to convey sadness.

8. Mickey's Trailer (1938)
I think that this is among everybody's favorite cartoon shorts.  I grew up being fascinated by it and really wanted to live in that trailer.  Also my friends and I would try to do the typewriter corn on the cob gag.

7. Brave Little Tailor (1938)
This is a full exploration of Mickey's range.  Within seven minutes you witness Mickey being a working man, cocky, smitten, willing to please, adventurous, resourceful, and frightened.  Mickey Mouse is not simply a nice guy, he is a full fledged personality with multiple dimensions.  He can be a relatable peasant that becomes a heroic leading man.

6. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Many have pointed out that the titular character is not the star.  Certainly while Scrooge is the lead of A Christmas Carol, this is one of Mickey's best performances (and one of the screen's best Bob Cratchits).  Mickey shows how much of a nice guy he is as he remains genuine to Scrooge and his family in any circumstances.  Also this is another example of the character's range in the scene at Tiny Tim's grave.  The grieving Mickey Mouse always makes me cry.

5. Clock Cleaners (1937)
The best of the Mickey, Donald and Goofy shorts, one that is ranked as one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons.  I really like this one because it shows the trio tackling tasks individually but how they each fail in ways that are unique to them.  Also the perspectives and dimensions of the clock tower is stunning, all done by hand.

4. Steamboat Willie (1928)
The one that started it all.  This cartoon skyrocketed Mickey into popularity, put Disney on the map and changed the course of animation.  It is a fun cartoon too.

3. Band Concert (1935)
Mickey's first cartoon in color is ranked 3rd in 50 Greatest Cartoons, a very impressive achievement.  This is interesting because it is Mickey who gets angry while Donald remains the carefree character.  Also Mickey gets the brunt of the grief in this.  Another great example of Mickey anchoring a premise and other characters, he really is the best straight man in the business.

2. Thru the Mirror (1936)
I always love this cartoon.  Everything is just so memorable.  From Mickey's subconscious stepping out of his sleeping body into the mirror to the dance with the cards.  Nonstop gags and just a carefree Mickey having fun.  I cannot think of any other cartoon devoted to Mickey just enjoying himself, but it makes for a fun watch.

1. Sorcerer's Apprentice (1940)
One of the greatest pieces of animation ever.  It is ambitious, iconic and enduring.  It really makes sense that Mickey would have hubris and it is fascinating to see that explored.  Watching this you forget that he is a star, because the character makes such a good actor.  Mickey has the ability to step in stories and fulfill a role without ever being out of character.  The artistry of Fantasia is incredible and this is certainly the highlight and most memorable portion.  Mickey has never been better and it can be argued that Disney itself has never done better.


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  2. wonderful list! without nitpicking too much, i could agree with everything i read here(I just would have put Mickeys Rival somewhere). its always nice to see someone who understand the always understimated Mickeys greatness and uniqueness as a cartoon character. His facial expressions and his whole body personality-animation are simply sublime. Hes maybe the most multidimensional cartoon character there is.