Film Theory · Postgraduate Study

Film Overview – The Plow Boy

Year: 1929
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Directed by: Walt Disney
Animated by: Ub Iwerks et al.

Summary: Mickey Mouse is plowing the fields in the farm with his horse Horace when Minnie Mouse comes to milk cow Clarabelle. Mickey and Horace take notice of them and Mickey goes out of his way to impress Minnie.

Review: The Plow Boy is the seventh of Disney earliest monochrome animation comics featuring Mickey Mouse. The cartoon design is similar to previous shorts like Plane Crazy and Mickey’s Follies but both narrative and animation are more crude than the former examples.

Considering visuals, the animated characters are unshaded and look rather simplistic when compared to shaded and more detailed still backgrounds. Majority of animation is loop-based like in previous cartoons and matches the rhythm of the soundtrack. While the animation overall is entertaining, it shows a lot of inconsistency and glitches. For example, when Clarabelle is walking towards Minnie, the background moves in the wrong direction, making it seem that the cow is moving backwards; later on, when she is walking away from Mickey, her tone switches and the udder is in front of her leg for a few frames. There is a number of other similar errors in character and background animation.

Comparing the narrative of The Plow Boy, it seem much more primitive than the previous animations. While none of the early Disney cartoons feature complicated stories, Walt Disney appears to have tried to make the narrative for this cartoon even simpler. The film features a low number of characters and their actions seem rather repetitive and slow which results in the overall slow-paced animation. However, several gags throughout the film are engaging and make the short animation enjoyable to watch despite its flaws.

All in all, The Plow Boy is not the most engaging of early Disney cartoons and falls short in comparison to earlier animation in terms of both animation and story. Vast majority of issues with animation mentioned before appear to be careless mistakes that could have been easily fixed, which suggests that film was rushed to be released. However, it does show some pleasant character animation and delivers gags that makes watching the film an overall enjoyable experience that could have been made better with small fixes in animation.

Why it is interesting: The Plow Boy marks the debut of Horace Horsecollar, first popular animated horse in Disney. Furthermore, it is an interesting example of highly stylized horse design in animation.

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