Mike Gold, Mickey Mouse, and Ren & Stimpy’s DNA

Mickey Toon

Listen up. I’m going to tell you a horrible, horrible secret. And it’s about me!

I really don’t care for most Disney animation. The earliest black and white stuff is fun, and there are a few shorts here and there that I enjoy. The features? Not as many. Alice in Wonderland… that’s about it. As Craig Ferguson might ask, “how long have you been in ISIS?”

Floyd-Gottfredsons-Mickey-Mouse-1930Disney comics is a totally different thing. Every time I’m forced to list my all-time favorite comics creators, Floyd Gotfriedson and Carl Barks are always on that list. Gotfriedson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strip brought depth and characterization to the popular rodent. His adventures were truly adventures, full of wit and charm, brilliant craftsmanship, on-the-button pacing, and heart. Lucky for us, our pals at Fantagraphics have been reprinting them in brilliant hardcover editions.

Carl Barks was the master behind Disney’s Donald Duck family of comics, published by Dell and later Gold Key. You’ve probably heard of him: he’s one of the very, very few Disney comics creators who’s adapted work was screen-credited, in Duck Tales. Unca Carl created Uncle Scrooge, the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, and a great many other pillars of the Disneyverse. His comics are that good; even better. You will often hear geriatric baby boomers mentioning Barks in the same breath as Will Eisner and Jack Kirby. Here, too, Fantagraphics been reprinting them in brilliant hardcover editions.

But three years ago, my animation preferences expanded to include some work produced by the current Disney studio. I haven’t opened my heart to more of the “original” material; I’m enjoying the new series of Mouse cartoons (featuring the entire Disney-toon cast), available on the appropriate Disney cable channels – excluding ESPN – and on sundry Disney apps for smartphones, tablets, AppleTV… they made it really easy for me to find this stuff.

donald-p3And who do we have to thank for it?

I’d say Ren and Stimpy.

These shorts, which average a paltry 210 seconds, have damn near everything the classics do not: they are anarchistic, irreverent, self-parodying, and wacky as shit. In other words, they’re entertaining – even to a guy un-American enough to not worship about a half century of Disney animated output. The style, also reminiscent of Ren and Stimpy (and even more reminiscent of small budgets and short deadlines), works perfectly for the pacing.

Of course this material won’t replace those I consider to be the masters of animation such as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and the Fleischer family. Cartoons aren’t profitable enough to warrant such budgets. But after more than two decades of soulless mainframe computer hyper-modeled “3-D” crap, these new Disney shorts are a breath of fresh air. Damn near all of them. And there’s a lot out there, too.

Give a few a test-drive. Like I said, each takes about three-and-one-half minutes out of your life.

And, because I now like some Disney animation, there’s one less reason to send me to Gitmo.