Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Brave Little Tailor and the Beanstalk

You know, it's almost as if Sir Mickey’s in the Magic Kingdom is the Walt Disney World equivalent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Picture if you will, two Imagineers hurriedly rushing to a blue sky meeting, both eager to present their concept designs for a new Fantasyland gift shop. Both have taken inspiration from classic Disney animation. Suddenly, they collide into each other as they both attempt to enter the meeting room at the same time. Their presentation materials go flying, landing in a big collective heap on the floor. They scurry to retrieve their designs and the following conversation ensues:

Imagineer 1: “You got Mickey and the Beanstalk in my Brave Little Tailor!”

Imagineer 2: “Well you got Brave Little Tailor in my Mickey and the Beanstalk!”

And just as in those classic commercials, light bulbs go off, grins emerge on faces, and Sir Mickey’s is subsequently born.

Located immediately on your right as you emerge out of Cinderella Castle into Fantasyland, Sir Mickey’s is an odd amalgamation of two classic Mickey Mouse cartoons: the 1938 short The Brave Little Tailor, and the Mickey and the Beanstalk sequence from the 1947 feature Fun and Fancy Free.

One of the most elaborate of the Mouse’s cartoon shorts, The Brave Little Tailor is a retelling of the classic fairy tale with Mickey in the title role. When his “seven with one blow” boast is misinterpreted by fellow citizens (flies, not giants), the unassuming tailor is sent forth by the king to vanquish a scary, albeit dimwitted behemoth who has been terrorizing the countryside. In the end he successfully defeats his foe and wins the hand of the Princess Minnie.

Mickey and the Beanstalk puts the Disney spin on the classic “Jack” tale, but expands the cast to include Donald Duck and Goofy, harkening back to the earlier Mickey Mouse “trio shorts” from the mid to late 1930s. Willie the Giant is the piece’s villain, and while similar to his Brave Little Tailor precursor, his oafish nature masks a clever and devious side that was absent from his earlier counterpart.

Sir Mickey clearly refers to The Brave Little Tailor, and the shop’s exterior sign bears an illustration of Mickey as that character. But the building’s exterior is in fact an elaborate homage to the Beanstalk story, as the plant leviathan envelops and protrudes from the building's architecture.

Inside, the most elaborate of the store’s design elements ironically seems to go mostly unnoticed. Directly opposite the shop’s primary entrance, Willie the Giant is lifting up the roof in an attempt to peek inside.

For the most part, it appears that once the Imagineers decided to mix the two films into one theme, there was clearly no turning back. In one corner, tailor Mickey stands prominently on a portion of beanstalk, surrounded by his trade supplies of cloth and threads. Nearby, hanging pictures depict the Happy Valley setting of Beanstalk and the infamous family cow that was ultimately traded for the magic beans. The shop’s window displays continue this peculiar mashing of stories, going so far as to feature Huey, Dewey and Louie who were not present in either cartoon. Their tableau is distinctly set in the Tailor universe, but the wanted poster displayed within the scene highlights Beanstalk’s Willie.

Perhaps the most over-the-top merging of the two is a slightly more subtle element also found in a display window. A clever “Suit Ye Self” advertisement for Mickey’s Tailor business includes the following copy:

Tayloring to thy needs
Nine with one blow
Will trade for hens with golden eggs, musical harps or seed with magic power

In final analysis, the blending of the two cartoons seems to represent a tongue-in-cheek playfulness on the part of the designers who certainly realized that the combination would be lost on 99.99% of Magic Kingdom visitors. For those of us in that other miniscule .01%, it was an initially confusing, but ultimately funny and entertaining discovery


Unknown said...

I had the Mickey and the Beanstalk LP when I was little. I loved listening to it. Fee Fi Fo Fum and My Favorite Dream are wonderful tunes.

I am abashed to admit that I have never been in the store.

Does that put me on the cuff between the %99 and the %1?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I've always missed Willie peeking in. I love that scene in the end in Fun and Fancy Free where he's peeking in the roofs. It's a great DVD.

Wonderful story. Thanks so much for the background piece. I can't wait until I go back again in a about a week. :)