Movie Memories: My Early Animation Education

This week, each of your True Classics crew members has shared her own “movie memories,” ranging from the classics to the not-so-much-but-still-wonderful films that we love. Today we wrap up our second annual Movie Memories celebration (and return to our long-running Saturday Morning Cartoons series) with Brandie’s recollections.

We didn’t go to the movies very often when I was a kid. I’m sure that the thought of wrangling three unruly children in the theater was not a very appealing one for my parents.

I can’t say that I blame them, truth be told.

Instead, my early film education came courtesy of the VCR. We had scores of movies on tape–some of them recorded off the television, some passed down from other family members, some purchased after copious amounts of begging on the part of said three unruly children. And every summer weekday, as we were confined indoors while both of my parents were at work, I remained glued to the television set, working my way through all of those movies–both age-appropriate and … decidedly not (hello, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 80s filmography)–and devouring them with barely-contained glee.

As you might imagine, it was the animated films in our collection that held the truest appeal for me. We had the requisite collection of Disney flicks–still do, in fact: Bambi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Cinderella, etc., as well as my personal favorite, Fantasia (I’ve waxed rhapsodic in the past about my great love for this film, so I won’t repeat myself here).

Even after all these years, I still think it would be cool to be a dancing ostrich.

Even after all these years, I still think it would be cool to be a dancing ostrich.

Our animated film collection wasn’t entirely Disney-centric–for instance, we also had the best of former Disney animator Don Bluth’s 80s output, including the (arguably) best of the lot, An American Tail. I had a stuffed Fievel Mousekewitz, and I would pop him into my arms so he could “watch” himself on television. (Viewings of Tail were also often accompanied by yours truly singing “Somewhere Out There” in an off-key, ear-splitting falsetto that, honest to God, I think might have cracked a living room window at one point.) Still, Bluth’s films were nowhere near as enjoyable as the early Disney fare–nothing was, to tell the truth. And it wasn’t just the feature-length films that held such great appeal for me.

My absolute favorite tapes–the ones I watched over and over again until I had practically every frame memorized–were the collections of old Disney cartoons … and when I say “old,” I mean the black-and-white shorts from the late 1920s/early 1930s, with classic cartoons like Steamboat Willie (1928) and Mickey’s Orphans (1931), and Silly Symphonies such as The Skeleton Dance (1929) and Monkey Melodies (1930). A favorite of mine was always Mickey’s Follies (1929), in which the mouse hosts a barnyard revue with an odd line-up featuring flirtatious fowl, an overly abusive rooster/hen couple, and an opera-bellowing pig. This cartoon is perhaps most notable for introducing Mickey’s theme song, “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo,” a song that is utterly annoying the first ten times you hear it, before it finally begins to grow on you (at least, in my experience). I cannot tell you how much I loved this song as a kid. For hours after watching this cartoon, I would go around singing “When I hear my little Minnie YOO HOO!” at the top of my lungs until someone begged me to stop.

And now I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing it all damn day today.

Another particular favorite of mine was The Mad Doctor (1933), an insanely creepy cartoon that is quite removed from the typical slapsticky nature of a Mickey short. The dark-and-stormy setting, the freaky title character, the menacing artwork, Pluto’s tortured howls as he’s being spirited away–all of it adds up to one nightmare-inducing cartoon, even with the “all is well” coda at the end. (Incidentally, the skull that appears carved into the Doctor’s castle as the lightning flashes is a nice touch that always reminded me of Castle Grayskull from the He-Man cartoons that my brothers were obsessed with. Hey, I was a child of the 80s, folks. He-Man was a big deal.)

My love of animation grew from these old cartoons. I adored Mickey and the gang’s color adventures (Donald Duck’s rivalry with Chip ‘n’ Dale produced some of my favorite animated shorts of all time), but there was something especially magical about these early black-and-white cartoons. No one in my family really understood why I liked them, and it was difficult for my young self to explain their appeal. But even then, I thought they were simply special. And it was my love for these old treasures that led me, in later years, to seek out the work of other early animation pioneers like the Fleischer brothers and Paul Terry and Winsor McCay, to revel in their collective genius and to try to celebrate their work on this blog.


brandie true classicsBrandie co-founded True Classics in 2009 and serves as the head writer and editor for the site. She is a freelance writer specializing in ghostwriting memoirs and recently moved to Atlanta, GA. To learn more about Brandie, visit her dedicated page here on the site!

2 thoughts on “Movie Memories: My Early Animation Education

  1. It’s funny how kids watch some movies over and over again, isn’t it? However, I’m no different as an adult.

    You showed superb taste in animation as a child, I must say. 🙂

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