Mickey Mouse has gone through many phases over the years. There’s Scamp Mickey, Wholesome Mickey, and even a weird phase where he seemed to be channeling Bing Crosby. But probably my favourite, which appears in very few cartoons, is Obsessively Determined Mickey. And nothing says “obsessively determined” like holding Donald Duck at gunpoint.
Mickey is the conductor of an orchestra composed of your standard assortment of Disney characters, including Donald Duck on percussion. They are auditioning for one Sylvester Macaroni, played by Pegleg Pete, to appear on his radio show. He loves their rendition of the “Light Cavalry Overture,” and he books them on his show. Unfortunately, just before air time, Goofy falls down an elevator shaft with all the instruments, which get destroyed when the elevator lands on them. The performance is not all it’s intended to be. Donald tries to bail midway through, and Mickey threatens him with a gun to make him go back to work. The performance still manages to be a huge success, of course.
Yeah, it’s ridiculous. Never mind how absolutely impossible it is for one person to carry an entire orchestra’s instruments in the first place—I am a classically trained musician, and I ended up helping the bass player friend I had carry just her own stuff more than once. And no one carried tympani; there’s a reason those things have wheels. You aren’t supposed to think about that sort of thing, any more than you’re supposed to think about how instruments as broken as these just wouldn’t, for the most part, play at all.
Really, the whole point of the thing is to get to the screwed up production. The cartoon has some similarities to “The Band Concert,” but in that one, it’s just interesting that they manage to keep playing through a tornado. The music itself is still pretty much what it’s supposed to be. Leonard Maltin says that this is “The Band Concert” by Spike Jones, and he’s not wrong. That’s the whole point of the cartoon, to bring us to the Spike Jones version of a piece of classical music. Sure; why not?
I would like to mention how strange I find the appearance of conductors in media. The success of the orchestra always depends on the quality of the conductor. Which is partially true, in that the conductors I’ve worked under were also the people who ran rehearsal and were able to get us to play the piece the way they wanted by how they had us practice it. But I watched a Rex Harrison movie recently where he plays a conductor, and he’s able to make the orchestra give their best ever performance of a piece of music just by how he conducts, and everyone lavishes praise on him over the actual, you know, musicians. Who were clearly giving their best performance ever doing the hard part, but we saw Rex Harrison sweat through a shirt.
The other thing I find interesting about it is the casting of Pete as the sponsor and the fact that the sponsor is dreaming about the money it’s going to make him. I find it a little odd that a radio-broadcast symphony concert has Pete daydreaming about a million dollars. It’s 1942; was radio classical music that much of a money maker in 1942? I would have thought that sponsorship of such a program would have made some money, because why else do it, but also to have shown the social awareness of the company. Or, in this case, apparently individual.