A Year in Shorts Day 327: "Brave Little Tailor"
If there’s one thing everyone associates with Disney- aside from their cruelty, malice and will to dominate all life- it’s fairy tales. The studio built its reputation off its princess films, both in the Golden Age and the Renaissance. But Disney’s dalliances with the world of folklore wasn’t limited to their features, of course. They also made great fodder for animated shorts. Case in points- the 1938 film Brave Little Tailor.
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, who has easily the best name out of Disney's Nine Old Men, Brave Little Tailor is, as you'd expect, a fairly loose adaptation of the original story. Mickey Mouse, due to a series of coincidences and farcical misunderstandings, find himself conscripted by the king to slay a giant. (Interestingly, all the characters in this film save the giant are animals, while the giant himself is portrayed as a human, potentially hinting towards what Mickey and the gang seem to think of us.) While Mickey probably could try and resolve the issue (the whole misunderstanding came about because the mouse's boasts about killing seven flies in one blow were misconstrued and spread throughout the city), he decides to give it a go when the king offers him not only a million gold pieces but the hand of Princess Minnie. As we all know that Mickey Mouse is secretly a horny old bastard, he decides to give it a shot, but quickly finds himself hopelessly outmatched. Can Mickey pluck up the courage necessary to save the day? Well, it's a Disney film, so I assume you can answer that much for yourself at least.
In the grand scheme of things, Brave Little Tailor is not the best Disney short we've covered. It's not especially hilarious, the animation is not noticeably better than a lot of what Disney was doing at the time, and the action sequence at the end isn't all that remarkable. I certainly wouldn't consider it the 26th Greatest Cartoon, but I wasn't one of the 1,000 animation professionals interviewed for that list. (Considering that I am not an animation professional, not to mention the fact that I wasn't even born when said list was compiled, it's hard to be upset about that.) Nevertheless, Brave Little Tailor is a damn good film, and it's not very hard to see why. The whole thing just works. Sure, the film may not be doing anything spectacularly well, but it's not lacking in any areas either. A film doesn't always have to reinvent the wheel, and there's nothing wrong with a solid short which hits the beats it wants to hit with skill and artistry.
Ok, so it's not hilarious, but it's not annoying either, and it's still pretty amusing. Mickey might not be as mischievous as I prefer, but he's still a far cry from the boring goody-two-shoes he'd become, and his sneaky resourcefulness certainly comes in handy in the finale. The animation may not rise above the usual Disney standard, but the Disney standard was already pretty damn high. Just meeting that is an accomplishment enough in my book. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the crowd scenes are nicely detailed, and there's a healthy dose of physical comedy that's executed about as well as you expect from Disney. The character animation on Mickey is especially strong here, allowing the mouse to show off a wider emotional range than we're used to seeing. Even the overly detailed human animation on the giant works here; sure, it's still grotesque (especially when Mickey winds up in his mouth), but that's sort of the point, isn't it? He's a giant after all! And all that animation comes together in a final sequence which, while not the best of cartoon action, is nevertheless clever and fun. Plus you get to see Mickey get rolled up inside a giant cigarette, and what more can you really ask for in life?
Disney nearly dominated the field of Animated Shorts at the 11th Academy Awards, receiving four out of the five nominations received that year. (The fifth nominee, a Paramount short entitled Hunky and Spunky, is so mind-bogglingly awful it makes a good case that Disney should have been the only studio nominated in that category.) To my mind, Brave Little Tailor is the best of the bunch, with only Ferdinand the Bull offering it any real competition. (Good Scouts was fun enough I guess, which is certainly more than I can say for Mother Goose Goes Hollywood.) Ferdinand went home with the Oscar that year (only one Mickey Mouse film, Lend a Paw, would actually win an Oscar, and that's as much of a Pluto short as it is anything else), but it didn't get a spot on that list of greatest cartoons, so who's the real winner here? Well, Walt Disney obviously, but I suppose, to a greater extent, the viewer. After all, whether you choose to watch Ferdinand or Brave Little Tailor, you're in for a pretty good time.
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"Brave Little Tailor" is available to watch on Disney +
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