I’ve written about this before but simply covering the constant live-action makeovers and reimaginings they’ve been doing of their animated classics. That or focusing on their villains as sympathetic like we saw in Maleficent and nobody will be surprised if the movie based on 101 Dalmatians (speaking of animated works redone in live action) lead villain Cruella De Ville goes along similar lines. However, I thought of something today that makes me further believe modern Disney people don’t care about their long history. And it come from one single question that came to my mind.
When was the last time you saw a classic Disney short on television?
On occasion Freeform or one of the Disney branded channels pops up a movie, probably to promote the live action demake, but the classic shorts? When was that last on TV? I don’t mean clips in some retrospective, I mean the full cartoon, even just from the color years because unless you’re a classic movie channel they won’t touch anything that’s less than two colors unless someone’s being stylistic.
Having trouble remembering, aren’t you? Some of you may have never seen one. Why?
If I want to watch original Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry that’s rather easy. MeTV just starting airing those and it’s not like they were hurting for attention prior. They were a staple on CBS for a good chunk of my childhood, plus syndication (that’s basically dead if you aren’t an informercial, trash talk show, or court show) and Nickelodeon eventually plus they were being reworked into theatrical movies around a central gimmick and original connecting segments for a long time. While you can’t find them on TV anymore either, Woody Woodpecker and other Walter Lanz characters as well as everyone from Terrytoons still had their shorts going on in my childhood until they started original programming based on the characters. But I can find Walter Lanz shorts legally on YouTube thanks to the official channels for Woody and Chilly Willy. Heck, Popeye has an official channel too, and MeTV still airs those.
Meanwhile Disney owns three channels with the brand name plus a bunch of others they gained after acquiring Capital Cities (who owned ABC prior) and most recently 20th Century Fox (though they’ve worked to bury that name in further re-brandings). Disney, Disney Junior, Disney XD (formerly Toon Disney) and I don’t think either of them have aired a Mickey Mouse and friends cartoon that wasn’t create in the current century since Good Morning Mickey and Donald Duck Presents went off the air.
And I’m not putting this solely on the shoulders of the current bosses. Disney as a whole has done a terrible job putting these into syndication. They relied on airings on NBC and later ABC but those were only in rare specials in my youth. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show was on every Saturday morning and the shorts still aired in syndication along with the others I mentioned. This was not the case with classic Disney shorts. Sure, the Disney Afternoon block eventually broke out House Of Mouse, but there was maybe one part of a classic short if that. It was mostly original shorts in the classic style, while shows like Ducktales, Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, and Quack Pack were either adventure shows or sitcoms starring the classic characters. In recent times the Ducktales remake is the only place to see the classic characters outside of Disney Junior and those ugly new shorts.
Geez, how ugly did they make poor Goofy? I am not a fan of this art style. It’s like if Spumco was redoing the old “rubber hose” animation style and it does not work for me. The Disney Junior shows do a fair job updating the characters into 3D computer animation, even getting Mickey’s ears to continue the iconic look from the sides, where to maintain the famous silhouette Mickey’s ears somehow move along his head as he turns away from the camera. That’s extra work in computer animation but they pull it off.
However, the shorts from the later years, the ones that show the quality a Mickey Mouse cartoon can have (meaning calling a cartoon “Mickey Mouse” should be a compliment instead of a marking of poor quality like it’s usually used…ex: “Mickey Mouse operation”) are nowhere to be seen, unless they’re on Disney+, the few random postings (some of them not from Disney-owned channels) I found, and in old home video collections.
How many kids have grown up having never seen these old cartoons but have seen more recent shorts with the characters? Everyone knows what you mean by “merry melodies” as an alternate to “looney tunes” but who remembers “silly symphonies”? While Disney continues to demake classic animated films into live-action junk like their takes on Beauty & The Beast, Dumbo, and Pete’s Dragon (which only was animated with the dragon but while the the other two have been thoroughly trashed the more serious version of Pete’s Dragon is hardly mentioned) it continues to let the cartoons that led to its founding gather dust in the famed Disney Vault, something they only open on anniversaries or raid for subpar remakes and sequels. Then they take stuff like Peter Pan and slap a content warning on it and take it off of the kid-friendly list, but that’s another conversation.
It’s up to the video games to pay tribute apparently. The Epic Mickey series pays a lot of tribute to Mickey and even Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, the character Walt created and lost, forcing him to go it alone with Mickey Mouse in the days before sound. By the way, Disney goes through the trouble to obtain Oswald years later and yet outside of video games little has been done with him. Meanwhile the Kingdom Hearts series has levels and minigames based on the old shorts and classic animated movies, especially the first ever Walt Disney cartoon with sound, “Steamboat Willie” (seen earlier in this video if the embed link still works) while the sorcerer from the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Fantasia is an important character. The video game companies are paying more respect to classic shorts than the company that was formed by them and created them.
It’s long past time Disney started doing something with these classic shorts, even if they have to go to some nighttime block to do it, though that would deny today’s kids these shows. This is your heritage, Disney. This isn’t even about some outdated racist depiction or that one where Donald has a nightmare he joined the Nazis. Just take these shorts and give them the same love Warner Brothers does with Bugs and Tom or even the love that Woody and Popeye have gotten from their owners (why isn’t MeTV showing old Woody or Mighty Mouse shorts on their “Tooned In” block?) and let people see more of what made Disney the juggernaut it would soon become even before they tried buying up half of Hollywood? It all started with a mouse, but how about showing us how the mouse got started?
That’s supposed to be your job, not mine.