When I read that Disney’s own “Ferdinand the Bull” had beaten this cartoon for the Oscar, I nodded, and I said, “Well, of course it did.” Then, I looked at the list put together by a thousand animation professionals of the fifty greatest cartoons ever made, and this is on the list while “Ferdinand” is merely honorable mention, and that made slightly less sense to me. This isn’t a bad cartoon, and it’s got some really interesting imagery, but I’m not sure it would make my top 250, much less my top fifty, and definitely not above “Ferdinand.” At least it’s not Donald Duck again, and it’s an actual entertaining Mickey Mouse cartoon.
Mickey is the eponymous tailor. He is sewing away industrially when he is bothered by flies. So he swats, and he kills seven of them with one swat. He is ridiculously proud of this fact and bursts out with it, unfortunately interrupting a conversation about killing giants. So the tailor is brought before the king, who is looking for someone who will rid the kingdom of a giant. He will be awarded a vast fortune and the hand of the Princess Minnie. Only, you know, he hasn’t the slightest idea how to go about killing a giant.
How the giant interacts with the landscape is interesting—he’s using lots of human-sized objects like other, different human objects. He pops pumpkins like berries, and he sits on a house and uses a silo as an armrest. I grant you it’s always rather bothered me that he pulls a well out of the ground and drinks from it, since even as a child I knew that wells didn’t have solid bottoms and that was pretty much the whole point—a fully enclosed well would run out of water awfully quickly, after all. But it’s still an interesting visual.
Then there’s the giant’s rolling the covered haystack up like a cigarette, which is not a gag you’d put in a current movie. Still, it’s amusing when Mickey’s hiding in it and manages to sneeze so much from the smoke that he blows the whole thing apart, which is a powerful sneeze from a mouse—who is actually reasonably mouse-sized compared to the giant, after all. And in fact I’d point out that he never really kills the giant, which is good, because the way the cartoon ends, the giant’s actually providing a service. One thing the fairy tales never cover is how you dispose of bodies.
Honestly, this would be a good fairy tale to be made into a full-on feature. It wouldn’t much resemble this cartoon, but it’s one of the many fairy tales that celebrate being clever; in the original version, the tailor fights two giants at once and gets them to kill each other. Yes, he gets into it by being a braggart and a show-off—he walks around with “seven at one blow” embroidered on his coat, as I recall—but he gets out of it by using his brains. It’s not a bad lesson, all told.