Friday, December 29, 2006

Freeze Frame Followup: Fiddlesticks

My recent post about Mickey’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in the Fleischer cartoon Bimbo’s Initiation, served to bring attention to Fiddlesticks, Ub Iwerk’s first solo effort after leaving the Disney Studio back in 1930 (thanks to Peter on our comments page, who directed us to where the short is posted on YouTube).
Some time back, Image Entertainment released two volumes of the early Iwerks cartoons. The 58 shorts included are in pristine condition, taken from original negatives. Fiddlesticks is on the first volume, and they make mention of the “Mickey appearance” in the liner notes. I own both these volumes and they are a definite must-have. They are also currently a steal on Amazon at a mere $9.99 each.

Leonard Maltin had this to say about the Mickey clone in Fiddlesticks in his animation history bible Of Mice and Magic:

Flip doesn't speak in FIDDLESTICKS, his first film; he dances on stage for the other forest animals and provides piano accompaniment for a mouse who plays the violin. This mouse bears a definite resemblance to Mickey, particularly with his white shorts and gloves, but the face is less rounded, and the addition of whiskers obscures any direct plagiarism.

I agree with Leonard that it’s the shorts and gloves that bring to mind Mickey. The mouse itself seems to be more directly related to the “stock mice” that appeared in Disney’s silent efforts, most noticeably the Alice comedies.

An interesting side note about Fiddlesticks--it employed a two-color Technicolor process two years ahead of Disney's first color effort.