MICKEY’S GARDEN (1935) – Mickey Mouse’s bad trip

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The following is the first of my two entries in The 2nd Annual ‘ONE’ of My All-Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon, hosted at this blog from Nov. 11-13, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ thoughts about some of their favorite animated films!

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A 1935 page from “Good Housekeeping” promoting the cartoon.

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Practically everyone has a stake in the “Who’s the bigger hero in pop culture” sweepstakes, whether it’s The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, or Batman vs. Superman.

When it comes to cartoons, me, I’m a Bugs Bunny man. Mickey Mouse is just too domesticated for me, especially for a character that started out as an anti-social, country-tainted rodent.

But there’s one chapter in the Mickey Mouse chronicles that’s as hallucinogenic as anything I’ve ever seen: Mickey’s Garden.

The cartoon starts mildly enough, with Mickey and his dog Pluto going hunting — for bugs that are destroying Mickey’s home garden. They don’t have to go hunting for very long. Pluto soon ends up in an on-point position that’s probably the ugliest “pose” you’ll ever see for Pluto.

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How ugly? This ugly.

Mickey sees insects swarming all over his vegetables and quickly sprays them with poison from the extermination gun he’s holding, causing the bugs to exit in fear. Just the sight of these weird bugs, who look like escapees from a Max Fleischer cartoon, is enough to tip you off that this cartoon is going to be very trippy.

The bugs go into hiding (in holes that they “draw shut” as though they were sleeping-bag zippers). Mickey continues his rampage until he realizes he’s out of poison. He runs off to refill his gun, and the bugs, once again safe, return to pig out at the garden.

Mickey returns to his shoot-out with the bugs, but the gun quickly gets jammed, so Mickey uses a tree branch to try and unclog it (rather stupidly aiming the gun right at himself all the while). Meanwhile, Pluto’s attempt to subdue one of the bugs results only in his getting his head stuck in a pumpkin. Panicking, Pluto runs around wildly, eventually ramming the plunger of Mickey’s gun, unjamming it at just the wrong time. The poison sprays all over Mickey, causing him to fall backwards on the ground and wildly hallucinate (a great bit of animation, as the Earth around Mickey becomes gravity-free and wavy).

When Mickey regains consciousness, he finds that he and Pluto are now bug-sized, while the actual bugs tower over the duo. Guess who’s the hunter and who’s the prey now.

It doesn’t help matters that the bugs have been drawn to the vat containing Mickey’s poison mixture and, far from being done in by it, drink it up happily as though it’s bootleg liquor. Armed with their enormous size and drunken sense of power (and the cartoon is only halfway over at this point), they have a field day terrorizing Mickey and Pluto.

For an animated milieu that’s usually pretty subdued, the remainder of the cartoon has some of the wildest imagery that Disney would conjure up prior to Fantasia). One wonders if the makers of the Beatles cartoon Yellow Submarine didn’t have a look at this short before proceeding with their movie; some of this cartoon’s villains have similar character quirks and end up meeting very similar bad ends.)

I’ll leave it to you to discover the rest of this cartoon’s glories (the cartoon is embedded below). Suffice to say, for an unheralded Mickey Mouse cartoon, it’s rather visually astounding, particularly since it’s practically dialogue-free and the images have to carry the day (which they do, superbly).

(If you liked this blog entry, click here to read my second entry, about the recent Oscar-nominated cartoon A Single Life.)

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