I’ll be honest—my least-favourite feeling when it comes to my work is “oh, crap, it’s almost time to post.” With this column especially, that tends to mean writing about stuff I never would have otherwise considered. I was browsing YouTube and happened to look at the time. I’m not going to tell you what time I’m writing this, but let’s just say that I’m on the verge of literally just posting this article instead of scheduling it for the time I intend it to go live. That this happens to mean another Year of the Month cartoon is pure coincidence; it’s that YouTube’s algorithm knows that I watch old Disney shorts and suggested one.
Okay, look, we all know that a short from 1930 called “Pioneer Days” isn’t going to be the most culturally sensitive thing in the world. That it’s all funny animals—and in B&W—does mean we avoid some of the worst visual stereotyping. But Mickey and Minnie are in a wagon train crossing Generic Western Landscape. Their party is singing and dancing not far from a war party of . . . honestly, it’s hard to tell if they’re wolves or rats, but anyway they’re attacking. One of them attempts to kidnap Minnie; she and Mickey get away and end up saving the day.
Look, this is a Mickey Mouse cartoon where a character is actually scalped. Now, sure, it looks more like a haircut, but the implication is definitely there. Regardless of what it looks like, we know what it’s supposed to be. So okay. That’s a thing that they decided to animate. And then another character removes what’s clearly intended to be a toupee. At least they’re left alone after that, which I guess is something, weird though it is.
The Western has been iconic as long as there’s been a US film industry, and of course Disney played with that. This is not surprising, and as we’ve seen, it’s not even the first time in 1930 that Disney would do that—this is another Marcellite Garner Minnie, and the last one we talked about was her first. Honestly, this is more sensitive than the considerably later “Californy er Bust,” where all the characters were Goofy but some of them were a Goofy honest-to-Gods painted red. A deep brown-red, but still a redder shade than any actual human’s skin tone regardless of their ethnicity.
Again, though, we’re encountering a short with some surprisingly quality animation, even if it remains not actually all that funny. I’m kind of impressed with how often we find those in this stretch of Disney animation. And again, in this year over at Warners, they were neither funny nor visually impressive, so even if this particular cartoon is only one of those, that’s still better.