Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mickey Mouse vs. Dinosaurs

During Floyd Gottfredson's run as artist and story-man for the Mickey Mouse comic strip, the young rodent achieved some pretty epic levels of heroism. Presented as brave, resourceful and always eager for another adventure, Mickey took on thieves, pirates, spies and outlaws of all sorts, always coming out on top. As I've said before, if I needed someone to combat evil, I wouldn't hesitate to bypass Batman, the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger and Superman in order to take Mickey Mouse.

One of Mickey's most epic adventures ran from December 1940 to April 1941. Mickey hired by Professor Dustibones to fly to a remote island and help bring back "The most ASTOUNDING wonder science has ever known!"

With no more information available than this, Mickey recruits Goofy as an assistant and the two are off. The plane provided for them is on automatic pilot for most of the trip, so the two pals have no idea where the island is located when they arrive.

They meet Professor Dustibones and soon learn several very surprising things. First, the professor has a caveman butler working for him!

But that's only the second most surprising thing about this island. The MOST surprising thing is that there are dinosaurs living there. Yes, Mickey and Goofy are thrust head-first into a Lost World adventure. Soon, they are involved in an extended chase scene (lasting through a week-and-a-half worth of strips) in which they dodge a saber-tooth tiger, a pterodactyl, and several plesiosaurs.

One minor complaint about the story is that Professor Dustibones makes a point of warning Mickey about how dangerous the Tyrannosaurus Rex is, but then we never get to see one. But that is indeed a minor complaint. Both the chase scene involving prehistoric creatures and a later chase scene in which Mickey is desperately trying to escape some ill-tempered cave men are brilliantly done. They are models of how to do this sort of thing correctly, exciting while still full of truly funny gags and perfectly paced to allow them to run for days' worth of strips without getting tiresome. Throughout both chase scenes, Mickey repeatedly demonstrates his resourcefulness and his ability to think on his feet.

Back to the story: Dustibones wants to bring a live brontosaurus back to civilization and is building a zeppelin to carry it. But an earthquake and subsequent dinosaur stampede destroys the zeppelin and damages both available airplanes.

The nearby tribe of cavemen decide the outsiders are responsible for the disaster. They capture Goofy and Dustibones, intending to sacrifice them in a volcano to appease the angry gods. Mickey manages to stay free and has to learn to live off the land while figuring out how to rescue his friends.

Surprisingly, Goofy manages to escape on his own. He and Mickey fix one of the planes and Mickey finds the ingredients needed to mix up a bag of gunpowder. This gives them an opportunity to rescue Dustibones and flee the island. (By the way, it's specifically pointed out that Mickey's bombing run on the village doesn't hurt anyone, but simply scatters them in panic. For all the violence, murderous villains and gun play that filled Mickey's comic strip adventures, I don't think we ever actually see anyone get killed.)

This is a wonderful story from start to finish. It's full of often laugh-out-loud gags, but this never interferes with the sense of adventure and honest excitement that fills the tale right from the start. And it's all done "realistically" in a sense--Mickey's efforts to survive alone on the island include figuring out how to get food; fixing the plan includes how to work on it without making too much noise (thus alerting the cavemen) and worrying about having enough gas to fill the tanks. The protagonists are anthropomorphic animals and there are visual gags galore, but the story itself is a model of solid, logical plot development.


  1. It's a shame the Mouse's heroics are largely forgotten in this day and age, when he has been reduced to a corporate symbol, a cartoon show for very, very little kids, and not much else.

    In the 30's and 40's, adults appreciated cartoons. Even though there was nothing a kid couldn't see, the tone still remained at a level of adult humor that kids couldn't always grasp. In my opinion, this made the cartoons and comics more intelligent and more lifelike. Kids don't like being written down to, and unfortunately that is what happens today with most animation and comics.

    This is one of Mickey's most suspenseful adventures, and as you pointed out, he has a lot of "realistic" choices to make. A "lost world" story is almost always fun and inventive, whether it's King Kong, Tarzan, or in this case Mickey, and this is definitely one of the Mouse's finest moments.

    1. I always appreciate your insightful comments. I agree completely that the best fiction aimed at kids (in any medium) is fiction that does NOT right down to their audience.

  2. It's also worth noting that the artwork is as elaborate as in many more "realistic"-type comics. Gottfredson was a master in many senses of the word.


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