Call me crazy but the series of Disney’s Mickey, Donald and Goofy shorts remind me A LOT of a little show called Seinfeld (1989 – 1998). Or, maybe I’m just clumsily square-pegging-and-round-holing a connection between two of my favourite things as a means to make sense of my own varied interests and proclivities. Either way, this is happening.
The first similarity is obvious in both the personalities and physical stature of its three stars (sorry, Elaine… you are no less a star with your omission being more about Minnie’s absence/shortcomings than yours).
Mickey Mouse/Jerry Seinfeld: (average, neutral build) the even-tempered straight men and “leaders” of the group. They are the wittiest and most clever while also having the wherewithal and security to step back and allow for their more bombastic costars to shine.
Donald Duck/George Costanza: (short, stalky) hot-tempered and often the butt of the joke, no one suffers bigger pratfalls than these two. Their brand of comedy also mines the depths of human depravity – Donald and George’s biggest laughs often come from their own bouts of insecurity, jealousy and general neuroses.
Goofy/Kramer: (tall, lanky) clumsy, oblivious and somehow still one step ahead of everyone else while also woefully behind. They are both masters in physical comedy and are as charming as they are sweet.
Another commonality is their story structure. Seinfeld is famously known for its separate, yet connected, storylines that all find a way to hilariously come crashing together in the end. While the Disney trio’s storylines aren’t as sophisticated and tightly wound, we still spend more time with the gang as individuals than we do as a team – thus, allowing each of their distinct personalities room to breathe.
Lastly, we have our most interesting likeness in where both of its titular stars (Mickey/Jerry) find themselves taking a backseat to their more colourful and zanier costars. The reasoning for Mickey’s marginalization had more to do with him being creatively hamstrung by the constraint of fronting a company as large and powerful as Disney. Mickey, who was once the mischievous cad who was always getting one over on his slower adversaries, had to mellow out as he became more successful. In simpler terms: he could no longer play the jerk. Instead, Donald really became the star (if not in this particular series but in the world of Disney shorts as a whole) while Goofy got to enjoy the benefits of consistently getting the biggest laughs. Mickey maintained an important role though as the glue or constant that kept his crazy crew grounded.
You can really say much of the same thing for Jerry who was not only the eponymous star of the show but the name and the brains behind the whole operation. Jerry’s “shrinkage” had less to do with politics, however, and had more to do with the sheer performances and cult of personality that both George and Kramer exuded. George delivered the most human performance while also tapping into the dark psyche and neuroses of comedy. While, on the other hand, Kramer was so fun and over-the-top quirky that he quickly became the fan favourite. And, poor Jerry, was left holding the bag while his more critically acclaimed costars garnered almost as many award nominations and wins as he has Porches (Jerry still wins though, as does Mickey, for the accumulation of wealth that lead to said Porches).
Sure, it’s a stretch but there’s something there, right? Maybe and maybe not… but please join us and decide for yourself as we review the twelve Mickey Donald and Goofy shorts that the Walt Disney company produced from all the way back in the late 1930s through the ‘40s.
Read each post of the "The 12 Days of the Big Three" series below!
*Editor’s Note: There are several other shorts that include the famous trio (The Band Concert (1935), Orphans Benefit (1939), Symphony Hour (1942), etc.) but these twelve are more regarded as part of the unofficial series of Mickey, Donald and Goofy shorts.