Orphan's Benefit is an animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions. It was first released as a black-and-white cartoon in 1934 and was later remade in Technicolor in 1941 under the title Orphans' Benefit. The cartoon features Mickey Mouse and his friends putting on a Vaudeville-style benefit show for a group of unruly orphans. It contains a number of firsts for Disney, including the first time in which Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck appear together.
Donald (left) and Mickey make their entrance
|Directed by||Burt Gillett|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Music by||Frank Churchill|
|Animation by||Johnny Cannon|
Ward Kimball (inbetweener)
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Orphan's Benefit features original music by Frank Churchill. The voice cast includes Walt Disney as Mickey, Clarence Nash as Donald, and Florence Gill as Clara Cluck. The original cartoon was directed by Burt Gillett and distributed by United Artists while the remake was directed by Riley Thomson and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.
The mice orphans arrive at a theater for a free show entitled "Mickey's Big Show: Orphan's Benefit." As they file into the building they are given free lollipops, ice cream, and balloons.
Donald Duck begins the show by reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and then reciting "Little Boy Blue." But when he says "come blow your horn," an orphan loudly blows his nose. He recites it a second time, but this time the orphans blow their noses. Donald loses his temper over his performance being interrupted in this manner and challenges them to fight, but is pulled backstage by an off-screen stagehand.
The next act is Goofy, Horace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow performing an acrobatic dance. Horace dances with Clarabelle and Goofy attempts to pick him up but gets his head stuck. Goofy then throws Clarabelle back to Horace. Horace spins Clarabelle around and throws him in Goofy's direction. Goofy catches her dress and Clarabelle closes out the act by hitting Goofy on the head. Donald decides to exact his revenge by reciting "Little Boy Blue" again and blows his own horn before the orphans can respond. An orphan blows ice cream at him to interrupt Donald and the orphans punch Donald into a daze with their boxing gloves. Then, Donald is once again pulled backstage.
For the next act, Clara Cluck performs "Chi mi frena in tal momento" from Act II of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, accompanied by Mickey on piano. When she is unable to reach a high B-Flat note, an orphan fires a slingshot to help finish the song.
During the final act, Donald returns to the stage and quickly recites one line – "Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn" – and waits for the orphans to interrupt him. Yet as they seem well-behaved this time, Donald continues the recitation. But when he says "Where is that boy who looks after the sheep?" the orphans answer in unison "Under the haystack fast asleep, you dope," causing Donald to lose his temper again. The orphans tie bricks, a plant, a fire extinguisher and eggs onto their balloons, float them over his head, and fire their slingshots. After being laughed by the orphans, Donald ends the show and finally accepts defeat.
Orphan's Benefit was the first appearance of Donald Duck in a Mickey Mouse series film, marking the characters' first joint appearance. Donald had previously appeared only in a Silly Symphonies film.
Although Orphan's Benefit was Donald's second appearance, the film was the first to significantly develop his character. Many of Donald's personality traits first seen in Orphan's Benefit would become permanently associated with him, such as his love of showmanship, his fierce determination, belligerence, and most famously his easily provoked temper. The film also introduced some of Donald's physical antics, such as his signature temper tantrum of hopping on one foot while holding out one fist and swinging the other. This was the creation of animator Dick Lundy who termed this Donald's "fighting pose."
Orphan's Benefit also represented a new direction for Disney cartoons, as noted by Disney historian Marcia Blitz: "It can be seen that the framework of Orphan's Benefit was traditionally slapstick. Audiences laughed at Donald's physical mishaps much as they laughed at Chaplin's or Keaton's. But in this instance there was the added dimension of Donald's abrasive personality. Surely nothing like it had ever been seen in a cartoon". Animator Ward Kimball who worked on the film called it a "turning point" for the studio, citing its extensive use of character animation which was used to physically convey personality.
The 1937 Disney film Mickey's Amateurs was directly inspired by Orphan's Benefit. Both films feature stage shows with various acts interspersed with Donald attempting to recite a nursery rhyme.
The film was also the debut of Clara Cluck who would go on to appear in six other cartoon shorts.
The response of audiences to the film, particularly Donald's character, led to the duck being featured more in future cartoons. Ward Kimball said "the reaction [to Orphan's Benefit] that came pouring into the studio from the country was tremendous[.] The kids in the theater loved or hated or booed Donald Duck."
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Riley Thompson|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Animation by||Jim Armstrong|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
In the summer of 1939, in anticipation of Mickey Mouse's 12th anniversary the following year, Walt Disney commissioned a two-reel short film tentatively called Mickey's Revival Party. The plan was for this film to show the characters attending a theater where they would watch scenes from several old, mostly black and white Mickey Mouse films (among them Orphan's Benefit). The story artists envisioned the characters humorously interacting with themselves on the movie screen. This required the old animation footage to be redrawn completely rather than added in its original state.
It was during this process that Walt Disney decided to completely reproduce several of these old shorts in color. It was also an opportunity to update the character models, since many characters had changed in appearance since the early 1930s.
Orphan's Benefit was the first of these films to be redone. The result was an almost exact shot-for-shot version of the original, with added color and redrawn characters and backgrounds. The film was directed by Riley Thomson and used almost the entire original soundtrack, the only change being the final line, from "Aw nuts!" to "Aw phooey!" which had become a catchphrase for Donald by that time. The title of the film also saw a small change making it more grammatically correct, although this was not reflected in some promotional material such as the film poster (seen right). Orphans' Benefit was released to theaters on August 12, 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures.
The next film scheduled for reproduction was Mickey's Man Friday (1935), but it was never completed. The original concept for Mickey's Revival Party was shelved and Orphan's Benefit became the only Disney film to be recreated scene for scene. It is unknown what led to the cancellation, although animation historian David Gerstein speculated that World War II or the Disney animators' strike of 1941 may have played a role, or that Walt Disney simply preferred to work on all-new films rather than "extensively revisit the past."
Donald's recitation of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was inspired by Clarence Nash's own recitation of the poem on the radio, a performance he had intended to sound like a nervous baby goat. It was largely because of this performance that Nash was hired by Disney to voice the duck.
Donald impersonates the comedian Jimmy Durante when he says "Am I mortified! Am I mortified!" His bill even changes shape to make fun of Durante's famous nose. The joke was not as noticeable in the remake because Donald's bill keeps its shape.
In 1989, an animation cel from the original Orphan's Benefit, depicting Donald being punched by an orphan, sold for $286,000 (then £174,390) at a Christie's auction in New York. Guinness World Records confirmed this was the most money ever paid for a black and white animation cel.
In 1968, Disneyland Records released an abridged audio-only version of Orphan's Benefit on the album Mickey Mouse and his Friends as the track "Mickey's Big Show." The album was re-released in 2010 as a digital download on Amazon MP3 and the iTunes Store.
In October 1973 the story was adapted into a 13-page comic book story in the Italian publication "Cartonatoni Disney" #14. The story was called Recita di Beneficenza, or Benefit Recital. The same year an English version was published in the American comic book "Walt Disney Magic Moments" #1, called The Orphans' Benefit.
- 1934 – Original theatrical release
- 1954 – Disneyland, episode #1.4: "The Donald Duck Story" (TV)
- 2002 – "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White" (DVD)
- 1941 – Original theatrical release
- c. 1983 – Good Morning, Mickey!, episode #18 (TV)
- 1987 – "Cartoon Classics: Here's Mickey!" (VHS)
- 1997 – The Ink and Paint Club, episode #1.10: "Mickey, Donald & Goofy: Friends to the End" (TV)
- 2004 – "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two" (DVD)
- 2006 – "Extreme Music Fun" (DVD)
- Smith, Dave (1996). "Orphan's Benefit". Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Hyperion. pp. 374–375. ISBN 0-7868-8149-6.
- A Letter from Dick Lundy on "Mayerson on Animation." 18-05-2006; retrieved 07-07-2011.
- Blitz, Marcia (1979). Donald Duck. New York: Harmony Books. p. 36. ISBN 0-517-52961-0.
- Gabler, Neal (2007). Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Vintage. pp. 201–2. ISBN 0-679-75747-3.
- Like Donald Duck, Clara Cluck had previously appeared in name only in several Disney children's books. Her first mention was in The Adventures Mickey Mouse: Book 1 (1931) where she is included in a list of Mickey's barnyard friends.
- Walt Disney Animation Studios (2009). The Archive Series: Animation. New York, New York: Disney Editions. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-4231-1716-2.; shows animation artwork of Donald drawn by Cannon from 1941
- The Band Concert was the only color film included in these which totaled 19 films. (Gerstein)
- on YouTube. Both versions are shown side by side with the original cut to synchronize with the remake.
- Gerstein, David (2005). Walt Disney's Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories in Verse. Timonium, MD: Gemstone Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 1-888472-06-5.
- A side-by-side comparison of Disney’s “Orphan’s Benefit” Archived 2011-07-04 at the Wayback Machine on Cartoon Brew
- Biographies of 10 Classic Disney Characters at the official Disney website
- Guinness World Records, retrieved 2011-09-22
- Unknown Artist – Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse And His Friends at Discogs.com
- Mickey Mouse And His Friends at Amazon.com
- Recita di Beneficenza at INDUCKS
- "Walt Disney Magic Moments" #1 at INDUCKS
- Walt Disney Presents Episodes on ABC
- Orphan's Benefit Archived 2010-11-06 at the Wayback Machine at "The Encyclopedia for Disney Animated Shorts"
- Movie connections for Mickey, Donald & Goofy: Friends to the End" on the Internet Movie Database