Friday, April 18, 2008

From the Mailroom: Mickey's Nephews

The past weeks have been especially busy for me, primarily due to trips to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Content has been a bit lighter here and I have certainly been neglecting the mailroom. More articles are on the way (look for new entries in both Disney's Hollywood and Roadside Disney series soon), and for today we'll at least take a look at one email inquiry.

One of our favorite 2719 Hyperion readers, David Caffey, recently posed this question:

While browsing around the web this afternoon I checked in at Jessica’s If We Can Dream It… blog. The most recent post featured photos from Fulton’s General Store at Port Orleans Riverside and among the characters hard at work in the store displays are Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse. Who in the world are Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse and why do they look so much like the boss?

Unlike Huey, Dewey and Louie, Donald Duck's long famous nephews, Morty and Ferdy have not experienced the fame and notoriety of their waterfowl counterparts. While the younger ducks' collective resume lists many appearances across numerous media, Morty and Ferdy have largely been confined to the four color world--the comics medium, from which they emerged in 1932.

Disney Legend Floyd Gottfredson introduced the pair in the Mickey Mouse newspaper strip Mickey Nephews that appeared on Sunday, September 18, 1932. They are the children of Mrs. Fieldmouse. Gottfredson very likely drew inspiration for the characters from the Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Nightmare, which had been released to theaters a little over a month before. The comic strip incarnations are identical to the dream sequence offspring portrayed in the short.

A similar brood of toddler Mickeys were featured in the 1933 short Giantland. Mickey is identified as their uncle when he tells them a story that is a variation of Jack in the Beanstalk.

One year later, two toddler Mickeys appeared in the cartoon Mickey's Steamroller where their mischievous antics produced calamitous consequences for their famous uncle. They are not identified by name but numerous Disney texts consider this to be the one and only screen appearance of Morty and Ferdy. It is a convenient and easy connection to make, though it is likely the cartoon's creators never considered such an identification and were merely carrying over the toddler Mickey models from the prior shorts. The same character model would be used again in Mickey Plays Papa, Orphans Picnic and both the 1934 and 1941 versions of Orphans Benefit. Four decades later, a similar model would form the basis of the Tiny Tim character in Mickey's Christmas Carol. Twenty years after that, similar characters would make a brief cameo in an episode of Mickey's Mouse Works that would lated be recycled into the House of Mouse program.

The comic book incarnations of Morty and Ferdy in subsequent years grew more distinct and defined and eventually became fodder for both merchandising and theme park appearances.

The Official Encyclopedia Disney A to Z lists "Ferdy" as the official spelling, although it frequently appears as Ferdie as well.

Images © Walt Disney Company


Unknown said...

Great article!

Ed South said...

I've known of Morty and Ferdie since I was little but I had no idea their last name was Fieldmouse. When I read Jessica's post a few weeks back I said to myself "Since when do they have a last name"!? And now I know! Thanks! Your answer to David's question also answered my question!

David Caffey said...

Thanks Jeff! Great stuff once again - I knew this is where I'd find the answer. It's now clear that I'm simply going to have to devote more time to watching cartoons and reading comic books.

Princess Fee said...

Brilliant article! I had little knowledge about Mickey's nephews, so thank you for that. :)

Anonymous said...

Actally, Morty and Ferdie were/are
not in the Mickey Mouse Revue, Jeff. The two mice with hats in the orcastra you might have been thinking of were actually Abner and Monty from the Academey Award winning Silly Symphony, "The Country Cousin" (1936).

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Thanks for the correction, Nic. I pulled that info from an online source; ironically I had photos on my own hard drive of Abner and Monty in the Revue. -sigh-

I corrected the post. Thanks again.

Jessica said...

Thanks for the info on Ferdie's name, Jeff. For some reason, I've always seen it spelt as "Ferdy" so I guess I picked up that variation. :-)

Anonymous said...

The spelling "Ferdy" became canon with John Grant's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WALT DISNEY'S ANIMATED CHARACTERS (1987). You will almost never find it used prior to that.

Grant's book, while a wonderfully written volume, contains large oversights and leaps of faith in relation to the shorts characters. A close reading of Grant's text clarifies that rather than allowing Grant to actually *watch* the early shorts, in those pre-DVD days, Disney required him to work from copyright synopses or (when Disney didn't hold those synopses, as in the case of HELL'S BELLS) stills and guesswork alone. In the case of Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, most obviously, this means that Grant vastly underestimated how many shorts the characters appeared in, as they are in many for which synopses have not survived at Disney. Grant does, however, list them in PLUTO'S CHRISTMAS TREE, in which they are mentioned in the literature but don't actually appear in the finished film.

Unfortunately 1: it would appear Grant has never been given the opportunity to revise his work to reflect a closer viewing of the shorts; either that, or he is actually unaware of the inaccuracies to this day.

Unfortunately 2: Disney as a corporate entity, and The Walt Disney Archives seem both to have relied upon Grant religiously since 1987, so his inaccuracies have become their own. In effect, they have kneecapped themselves, relying on the advice of a guide whose access they themselves limited.

David R. Smith's "Disney A to Z" is only one example of this disappointing phenomenon.

Theme Park & TV Movie Connections said...

Hallmark had a 2007 Christmas ornament featuring Mickey and his two nephews: Mickey had a present, and Morty and Ferdie were peaking from behind an easy chair.