Thursday, November 02, 2006

Out of Scale - November 2, 1951

The inspiration for the Donald Duck cartoon Out of Scale, released on this day in 1951, interestingly enough came from Walt Disney himself. Walt had a fascination with trains since he was a young child, so it was not surprising when he took up the hobby of model railroading in the late 1940s. With the help of animators Ward Kimball and Frank Thomas, and the resources of the Disney Studio, Walt built his own backyard railroad, called the Carolwood-Pacific, in the early 1950s. Walt would often don engineer coveralls and cap and take guests on rides on the half mile run around his residential property.

Walt’s exploits quickly became the creative fodder of director Jack Hannah and crew. In the short, Donald is a model train hobbyist, with an extensive garden railway. Insisting that everything in his layout be to the exact scale of his miniature railroad, he unknowingly removes a large tree that is the home of Chip ‘n Dale. The two chipmunks are not very happy about it, and the usual mayhem ensues.

Chip ‘n Dale attempt to rescue their tree, but have to beat a hasty retreat into Don’s miniature town of Canyonville. They quickly become comfortable in a scale model house, that, in a nod to Walt’s concept of the “plausible impossible,” is completely furnished, right down to furniture, food, books, and even reading glasses. It’s possible that the scene might have alluded to Walt’s own penchant for detail--in furnishing the caboose on his 1/8 scale train, he had authentic period newspapers reduced in size and placed in a paper rack.

Realizing that the chipmunks are in fact “in scale,” Don calls off the chase and plays along. But the duck can’t resist resorting to some malicious mischief, and the chase resumes anew. In the end, the two convince Donald that their oak tree can convincingly play the part of a giant redwood, and effectively be “in scale.”