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It sounds like Disney pulled a fast one Tuesday at the Annecy Animation Festival in France.
I've never been, but it's one of those specialty festivals that I wish I could add to my schedule. I was raised believing that animation is just as valid a form of filmmaking as any other, and while I don't think we take full advantage of what animation can be, I do think it's worth just as much serious regard as any other type of film.
There have been rumblings about the latest animated short from Walt Disney Animation Studios for a while now. Just recently, our own Kris Tapley was talking about how he wasn't sure what to make of "Get A Horse!" based on the initial descriptions from the studio. They were absolutely playing that up in the countdown to the big festival reveal, and on Tuesday, any questions anyone had were answered in what seems to have been a highly entertaining manner.
Here's the synopsis the studio released:
Walt Disney Animation Studios presents a never-before-seen short starring the one and only Mickey Mouse in “Get A Horse!” Featuring Walt Disney himself as the voice of Mickey Mouse, this black-and-white, hand-drawn short follows Mickey, his favorite gal pal Minnie Mouse and their friends Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow as they delight in a musical wagon ride—until Peg-Leg Pete shows up and tries to run them off the road.
You can see why Kris was confused. Everything in that description makes it sound like "Get A Horse!" is just a curious little animation history footnote that has been revived and dusted off for new inspection. According to Jerry Beck, though, what actually was screened was something far more playful and fascinating.
Evidently, they opened the presentation by talking about how storyboards had been found for an unfinished Mickey Mouse short, and then the classics "Plane Crazy" and "Steamboat Willie" were shown. Perfect way to set the stage for what happened to those recently-discovered storyboards. As "Get A Horse!" begins, it appears to be an actual 1928 Disney cartoon, but at some point, the screen shakes and a full-color 3D rendered Mickey Mouse appears in the cartoon. From that point on, the film mixes the '20s style hand animation and modern cutting edge 3D work, with the beginning of Disney's legacy colliding to what sounds like hilarious effect with the latest and most technically polished expression of Disney's vision.
This one will be in theaters later this year in front of "Frozen," and I can't wait. I think it's about time modern Disney start bringing Mickey Mouse back to life. He's become ossified, and most modern kids have never actually seen a Mickey cartoon. They know of him, but they have little actual experience with the character, which seems like a shame.
I'm really excited to get a look at this cartoon as soon as possible, and I think between this, "The Blue Umbrella," and "Paperman," it's obvious that Disney is giving artists room to make shorts that don't fit into any easy category. Now I'd love to see them take the same approach with the guys making features for them.
"Frozen" will be in theaters November 27, 2013.