SUMMARY: Mickey Mouse is inspired by an article on Charles Lindbergh to build his own plane and take to the skies.
WHY IT’S HERE: We animation lovers are an annoyingly contradictory bunch. Show us someone who claims ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ is the first animated film and we’ll holler about Reynaud, Blackton and Cohl. Claim that ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was the first animated feature and we’ll bellow about Quirino Cristiani’s ‘El Apostol’. And talk about Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in ‘Steamboat Willie’ and we’ll bring up ‘Plane Crazy’.
Unlike with the other issues, there is still room for debate in the ongoing argument about Mickey Mouse’s first appearance. Although ‘Plane Crazy’ was indeed the first cartoon made with the character, ‘Steamboat Willie’ was the first Mickey film given an actual release and therefore the public’s proper introduction to the animated short’s first real superstar. ‘Plane Crazy’ then got a proper release a few films down the line, although by that time sound had been added to what was originally a silent short.
‘Plane Crazy’ is not just an important film historically though, it is also remarkably entertaining. Fast paced, funny and with some cracking point-of-view shots from Mickey’s out of control plane, it moves at a great lick and trumps ‘Steamboat Willie’ in terms of plot. Mickey, however, is just barely recognisable as himself here. Rascally, roguish, reckless and sexually agressive, he’s not the affable everymouse that would come to be such an icon. His design is also noticably different from classic Mickey, an iconic image than immediately crystalised in ‘Steamboat Willie’. In ‘Plane Crazy’ Mickey is far more like an actual mouse; a scruffy, spindly little thing. His trademark pants are in place but his beautiful dark eyes are not. For the last time until ‘Fantasia’ in 1940, Mickey has pupils. Although ‘Plane Crazy’ is officially a Mickey Mouse short, then, it feels like a trial run before the character immediately came together to take his place in history with ‘Steamboat Willie’. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining and historically vital trial run.