Mickey's Mellerdrammer is a 1933 American animated Pre-Code short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by United Artists. The title is a corruption of "melodrama", thought to harken back to the earliest minstrel shows, as a film short based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin and stars Mickey Mouse and his friends who stage their own production of the novel. It was the 54th Mickey Mouse short film, and the fourth of that year.
|Directed by||Wilfred Jackson|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Written by||Wilfred Jackson|
|Music by||Oliver Wallace|
|Edited by||Wilfred Jackson|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The cartoon shows Mickey Mouse and some of the other characters dressed in blackface with exaggerated lips; bushy, white sidewhiskers made out of cotton; and his usual white gloves.
In Mickey's Mellerdrammer, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy (known then as Dippy Dawg) and others present their own low budget light-hearted rendition of the 19th century Tom Shows for a crowd in a barn converted into a theater for the occasion.
Horace Horsecollar plays the white slave owner Simon Legree. Minnie plays the young white girl, Eva. Mickey plays old Uncle Tom with cotton around his ears and chin, and the young slave girl Topsy. Clarabelle Cow plays the slave woman Eliza. Goofy plays the production stage hand.
The cartoon opens with Mickey and Clarabelle Cow in their dressing rooms applying blackface makeup for their roles (Mickey originally used a small dynamite to black up his face). The cartoon is much more focused on the Disney characters' efforts to put on the play, than an animated version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The cartoon contains many images of Mickey and the other characters using makeshift props as sight gags.
The cartoon closes with the characters coming out for a bow, and Horace Horsecollar's character is pelted with rotten tomatoes. When Goofy shows his face from behind the stage, he is hit with a chocolate pie, leaving him in what appears to be blackface, as Goofy laughs making the cartoon to end.
This short was released in Pathescope 9.5mm print in the UK in 1954.
Stereotyped characterizations of black people were then common. Mickey's Mellerdrammer was one of many films and cartoons of its era that referenced Uncle Tom's Cabin, and features Mickey in blackface. Henry Louis Gates Jr., wondered how the cartoon evaded censorship of miscegenation, given that Mickey and Minnie portray Tom and Eva, and are "as they say, an item, and unmistakably so." (Additionally, Mickey is seen cross-dressing in the role of Topsy.)
In the beginning of this short, Clarabelle Cow appears in her dressing room applying lantern soot to her face and leaving an exaggerated area around her lips white. Mickey Mouse then takes a more "comical" approach to applying the makeup: He puts a firecracker in his mouth and lights it, which explodes, causing the ashes to paint his face black while leaving a large area around his lips white. Mickey's bushy side whiskers and white gloves are also a representation of the use of blackface.
Motion Picture Herald reviewed the cartoon on July 1, 1933, saying, "This time Mickey, the inimitable, stages an "Uncle Tom meller", with assorted animated mishaps in the accepted, and approved, Mickey fashion, while the antics of the animated audience contribute not a few of the laughs. It is good cartoon material, and the youngsters, old and young, should enjoy it."
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- VolterraChannel (August 17, 2010). "Mickey Mouse - Mickey's Mellerdrammer - 1933" – via YouTube.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 14, 2014. Retrieved December 10, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)[better source needed]
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