The Haunted House (1929)

THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1929)
Animated short
Article 3159 by Dave Sindelar
viewing Date: 2-5-2010
Posting Date: 4-8-2010
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Featuring the voice of Walt Disney
Country: USA
What is is: Animated comic horror

Mickey Mouse is forced to seek shelter in a spooky house during a storm. There he is terrorized by skeletons who force him to play the organ.

I found this cartoon on one of Disney’s tin box collections; this one covers Mickey Mouse’s black and white cartoons. Rather than appearing in the main menu, it is consigned to the “From the Vault” section because it indulges in some racist stereotyping; at one point, Mickey is in total darkness, and all you can see is the white around his face, and he breaks into a few calls of “Mammy!” I’m glad the company chose to present the cartoon uncut, albeit in a section of the DVD where a child would be less likely to stumble across it; it would have been easy to just remove the offending section (which must run no more than three seconds) without compromising the whole cartoon (though some of the others on the set might well prove more difficult).

In the opening section of the DVD, Leonard Maltin talks about the reasons for the popularity of Mickey Mouse in particular amongst the cartoon characters of the era. Part of it may be due to the fact that Mickey was the star of the first talking cartoon. Maltin suggests it may have been his similarity to Chaplin in some regards. My own belief is because he was the central character of the studio when they were in the animation vanguard, while many of the other animation studios of the same era were mostly using cartoons with clear imitations of Mickey. This type of imitation just reinforces things; when you watch a cartoon featuring an imitation of a famous character, you rarely find yourself more impressed by the imitation than the original.

The cartoon itself is plotless, but quite tight. It mostly consists of skeleton dancing gags. You’ve seen this sort of thing before, but the presentation is tighter and more streamlined. Some of the humor is a bit on the bawdy side, including an obsession with chamber pots, the discovery a male and female skeleton in bed together, and an outhouse gag, but these are also common for the time. It’s a fairly fun Mickey Mouse cartoon.

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