Season 4, Episode 5: “Bee Inspired” 7/28/17
Starring: Mickey Mouse and Spike the Bee
Costarring: Minnie Mouse
Setting: A bucolic sea cliff
Plot: Mickey has trouble keeping still while posing for Minnie’s painting because Spike the Bee refuses to mind his own “beeswax.”
With its oranges and golds, this short has a decidedly Autumn-y colour palate. It makes me wonder if this episode, along with Touchdown and Out, were originally slated for Fall release dates.
This is Spike the Bee’s first appearance in the Mickey series. He appeared in ten classic shorts mainly as an irritant and antagonist to Donald Duck and sometimes Pluto. His debut was in 1940’s Window Cleaners where he was then known as Barrington the Bee. In fact, Spike had never appeared with Mickey Mouse until this short.
You can hear a sampling of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” when Spike first lands on Mickey’s head and while they’re freefalling off the cliff. This orchestral interlude was written for his opera the Tale of Tsar Saltan in 1899.
The physical punishment Mickey takes while protecting Spike is simultaneously sweet, tragic, and hilarious. It truly runs the gamut of emotions. If Mickey getting his head stuck in a beehive feels familiar it’s because we saw it last episode in Locked in Love.
Spike’s impassioned defense of Mickey to the swarm of bees is Emmy reel material.
Minnie’s masterpiece is just that. It perfectly depicts Mickey’s raucous and chaotic conflict with Spike. Then we pan back to see Mickey, Minnie, and Spike through the years (despite their aforementioned lack of actual screen time together). First we see a stylized 80s version of the trio, then from the 50s, the 40s (specifically from The Nifty Nineties), and finally their original incarnation from the 20s and 30s.
Final Grade: BEEE+
The only reason I didn’t give this episode an A is because this has been such a HEAVY Mickey (and Minnie) season thus far and, with Spike the Bee, this would’ve provided and excellent opportunity to give Donald and/or Pluto a starring role. BEEE that as it may, Spike was excellent here and Mickey’s turn as “a true friend to all bee kind” lent an extra layer of unpredictability and depth to what could’ve been a purely adversarial relationship. Seeing Spike, it makes me hopeful that we may see other long forgotten classic characters like Humphrey the Bear or Louie the Lion.