Oswald’s second cartoon “Oh, Teacher!” throttles him forward in terms of character development and better establishing his place within the cartoon universe. Of course, he’s not a trolley conductor in this one, and he becomes the more versatile, everyman (everyrabbit?) figure who can be placed in any situation.
It begins with Oswald picking up his girlfriend Fanny (the precursor to Ortensia the cat) on his bike. Meanwhile, up ahead on the road, a bus full of cartoon animals is en route to the schoolhouse. A male cat pulls on a smaller student’s tale, and the bus driver kicks him out.
Left on the road, the cat knocks over Oswald and Fanny by turning a question mark into a cane and hooking it around a tree, blocking their bike. He takes the bike and Fanny with him. The cat drives into a tree though, and Fanny goes flying into a lake. Oswald tries to save her, but he gets dunked into the water, unseen to Fanny, who believes the cat saved her.
Anyway, back at school, Oswald spends his recess behind a corner holding a brick, waiting to beat the cat with it. (Told you he was violent!) The cat sneaks up right behind Oswald, of course, and Oswald is embarrassed, and tries to pretend he was using the brick to exercise. The cat just laughs and throws the brick up into the air. As he and Oswald prepare to deck it out, the brick drops into the storm drain, spitting out and flying right into the cat, knocking him out.
Fanny appears, with Oswald’s fists still in the air, believing Oswald beat him up. The couple reunites and harmony is restored.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is a fascinating character in Disney fandom, not only for his near-disappearance followed by an almost-overnight resurgence in popularity, but also for how beloved he as a character is, while the cartoon shorts that made him a star are not nearly as well-known. My guess is many Oswald fans have not even seen his cartoons, let alone being able to name one beyond his first “Trolley Troubles.”
I confess, I myself was very much an Oswald novice until recently. With his triumphant debut at Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure just days away, I wanted to dive deeper and learn more about the rabbit who started it all.
"Trolley Troubles" - 1927
Our first glimpse at Oswald is of our hero as a trolley conductor. His passengers are a mix of anthropomorphic cartoon animals, not to be confused with the more realistic animals that get in their way - a cow is stopped on the tracks, and a billy goat repeatedly charges towards Oswald.
When the trolley gets stuck at the bottom of the hill, Oswald shakes his rear to taunt the billy goat, pushing the trolley up over the summit. Upon its descent, though, the car gets out of control with passengers flying out at every turn. It eventually flies off a cliff into a canyon. The lone passenger, Oswald climbs up onto the roof and paddles away on the river.
Something I found very interesting was how both Oswald’s and Mickey’s first shorts have them as captains of sorts, Oswald as a trolley conductor and Mickey of course as Steamboat Willie. (Yes, “Plane Crazy” was created first, but “Steamboat Willie” was the first released.) From these respective debuts, one character differentiation is how Oswald seems much more focused on doing his job right, and creatively overcoming obstacles to carry out his trolley duties. Mickey, though, seems more interested in having fun, but creating music with the objects and animals aboard his steamboat.
These first cartoons are not enough to fully flesh out a Mickey vs. Oswald analysis, I just found the similarity of their debut roles compelling. As later cartoons reveal, Oswald is all-around kinda nuts, getting himself into weirder situations and is more erratic (violent?) than even Donald Duck.
In the vastly convoluted super hero scene we are currently engulfed within, Guardians of the Galaxy is a much-needed breath of fresh air. As the first in its franchise, with no burden upon the viewer to gear up upon viewing, as well as its offbeat narrative make this sci-fi adventure more accessible.
Even as part of the extended Marvelverse, Guardians doesn’t feel like it - there are no superheroes, and no one is endowed with exceptional powers. It is their colorful personalities and their sharp wit that pulls this ragtag band through one misadventure after another.
With all these elements going for it, however, Guardians of the Galaxy somehow falls flat. It’s boring moderately often. We’ll get extended sequences of the Guardians escaping from trouble or trying to ally forces to join their cause that frankly plod along. It’s a popcorn movie, we know where it’s going, so don’t waste our time bogging down in the details. The sense of peril of Star-Lord’s sacrifice is gone when just days before the film’s release he took part in announcing the Guardians sequel.
It also seems like no one can talk about this movie without talking about its soundtrack, so I’ll say this: they try way too hard. Yes, music and his mother’s mix tape are Star-Lord’s ties to his mother and his life on Earth, but they stress it too damn much. So much time is spent by the characters discussing songs, all taking part in Star-Lord’s ritual, that I’m frankly surprised they didn’t give us a coupon code for the soundtrack as we exited the theater. There’s a kind of self-indulgence in the musical aspect to the film that I haven’t seen since Juno.
Apologies if I sound nitpicky, but the bad choices behind this film are so disappointing because, at its core, it’s a batshit crazy sci-fi movie - and it should embrace that more. A film like Tangled told a classic fairytale within a very unique, distinctly modern format, with quick shots and tight editing - from a comedic standpoint, astoundingly efficient. For what I feel Guardians is trying to do, it should have taken a page from that book, by using formal film techniques to create a trademark viewing experience so different from typical sci-fi action fodder.
Guardians of the Galaxy has a really interesting, often political story, and is rich with characters (particularly Rocket Raccoon) who will undoubtedly become fan favorites. Unfortunately, though, it tells an atypical story very typically. It’s truly innovative in some regards but just what you expect in others. B-