I think the purge of shorts from YouTube has begun. This would bother me less if it came with a corresponding vast increase in shorts available on Disney+, but here we are, I guess. So far, I have only managed to find two uploads of this particular short—one dubbed in Spanish and one extremely low resolution and possibly dubbed in Portuguese. (I caught just enough so that I’m not actually sure.) But while I speak some Spanish (and actually a few words of Portuguese, mostly because it’s a remarkably similar language), in several places people are speaking too fast for me to know what they’re saying even if I spoke more Spanish than I do. Eventually, I did manage to find it in one of those “loads of cartoons in one file” videos.
Still, broadly what we’re looking at is Mr. X (Pinto Colvig), who is Goofy. He becomes obsessed with boats. He goes from being a responsible homeowner of a “well-kept, modest dwelling” to a manic boat-owner. He buys “just one for the road.” He then takes his boy to what I strongly suspect to be Salton Sea in its heyday with the boat. He flubs getting his boat into the lake, managing in the end to sink his car. He then ends up joining a water-ski race, where he is alternately aided and attacked by an octopus.
This is the first Disney short featuring xerography, and boy does it show. There’s honestly some really quality art to this cartoon—the undersea stuff is particularly well done—but it’s definitely got that consistent “you can see all the lines” issue with xerography. Even the ones that don’t feel like you should really see them; it can be a legitimate stylistic choice, but I always feel with early xerography that it was just that they didn’t have the hang of the technology yet. And let’s be real; no one’s putting a ton of money into cleaning up a Goofy cartoon.
Though it’s the last theatrical-release Goofy we’d see until Mickey’s Christmas Carol. As we’ve seen this month, 1961 was a fascinating year in the history of Disney, and I think one of the clearest lessons we’ve learned from looking over so much of it is that things were definitely changing at Disney. Again, compare Biff of The Absent-Minded Professor with Sharon and Susan of The Parent Trap. The characters are only a few years apart in age, but they feel a generation apart in attitude. The era of theatrical release shorts was ending; the era of television was grabbing hold.
I tend to feel as though these mid-century Disney cartoons also model suburban fears. They’re soundly middle class in an era where the middle class could afford things like motorboats and weekends off. Goofy’s never going to win Parent of the Year, but at least he’s got Donald beat? Sure, that’s a low bar, but still. The kid is voiced by Kevin Corcoran, because of course he is, and he’s constantly getting his dad into trouble in a way that I think resonated for the then-middle-aged animators and so forth.
The year’s actual winner for Best Animated Short—much easier to find on YouTube—itself involves travel to the beach. It’s a Yugoslavian short called “Surogat” (though the Academy’s website calls it “Ersatz (The Substitute),” and it’s called various things in various languages) wherein a man’s entire beach trip turns out to be inflatable. It’s fascinating. It’s a lot more interested in sex than the Goofy short, and it manages to be both simpler and incredibly innovative, visually.