Walt Disney's "Alice Comedies" mixed animation with live action, Alice being played by a little girl integrated into drawn circumstances. Alice's Egg Plant (1925) is not about the vegetable but about a factory that produces eggs.
The egg plant or factory is managed by a slave-driving cat named Julius who is violently angry to find the hens all on a break, & takes a bullwhip to them. He continues to be a cruel boss.
Alice shows up with an order she's gotten from the concern of Skinem & Soakem ordering 5,000 fresh eggs. She seemingly couldn't care less if the hens are abused, & merely gives the big order to Julius commanding him to get the order filled.
Julius does cartwheels of joy, but then has to contend with the hens attempts at union organizing. They want shorter laying hours & they want to lay smaller eggs. In the meantime, they're on strike.
Alice stops the strike march & demands eggs. So the hens lay enough eggs to pelt her & Julius with them. Alice never considers the hen/workers' issues but just wants the big order filled.
So Alice orchestrates a rooster fight between two famously battling roosters, & charges eggs instead of money whoever wants to see the the pugelistic contest. The hens line up, laying eggs to get in.
Apparently five thousand hens wanted to see the fight since the special order is soon ready & piled up in Alice's automobile. But when she drives away to make the deliver, the eggs all tumble out of the car.
All the Alice cartoons are nutty & irrational but have a certain charm. Alice's Egg Plant was originally completely silent, but on re-release in the 1930s had clumsy sound added, which wasn't really an improvement.
Right off the bat we see our heroine in the Alice Comedy Alice Solves a Puzzle (1925) trying to come up with the right three-letter word. She's the live-action figure fitted into a cartoon environment at a drawn desk with a dicitonary & thesaurus at her side.
The desk it for some reason outside next to the house. On closer inspection, it's not a desk but a big wooden dry goods box Alice is using as a desk.
A title card gives us the cute pun "Little Alice never had a cross word, not even with a puzzle." It's very frustrating, however, as she just needs one more word to complete the puzzle. Julius the cat comes by & tries to help, but his best idea is to forget it & take Alice for a swim.
She goes with Julius to the beach & she goes into a wheeled clothes-changing shed to put on a swimsuit. Julius oggles her figure then they go out to a water slide & diving board for some water gags.
Bootleg Pete the rowdy bear is a collector of rare crossword puzzles. When he arrives on his pelican-drawn ski from the sea, trouble's in store. After Julius's extensive & witty drying-off gag with a very animate towel, Alice changes back into her street clothes & heads back to work her puzzle.
Pete tries to bully her out of her puzzle, but she stuffs it down her dress & runs into the lighthouse, Pete in wicked pursuit to the very top. Julius hurries to her aid, with plenty of action concluding with Pete getting a bouy's spear-like point rammed up his ass.
For finale Alice finishes the puzzle, which required two rather than one three-letter words as earlier stated, & when finished seems to demand that we accept "HN" as a word too. Other words in the puzzle include ANI & the mispelled LAFTER. Goofy stuff, not all bad.
Alice's Wonderland (1923) boasts in its opening title card that it was produced by "a laugh-o-gram process." It's the process that permits Alice as a live-action player to appear in an otherwise animated cartoon.
The animation is by Ub Iwerks (credited as Ubbe Iwwerks) & Rudolph Ising, directed by scenarist Walt Disney, hands-on direction by Hugh Harman & Carman Maxwell.
In later years when Disney began suing anybody who drew cartoons similar to his own, he never sued Ub no matter how similar Ub's own cartoons were, as if it came down to a court fight Ub could probably have proven that even Mickey was more his than Walt's creation.
Be that as it may, the Alice Comedies were the first great successes for Walt Disney, & there is undeniable brilliance to most of these seven- or eight-minute mixes of live-action & animation.
By the title Alice's Wonderland this one would seem to establish that this is indeed the Alice being played by Virginia Davis, even though there are no real references to anything of Lewis Carroll's stories.
Alice visits a cartoon studio. "I would like to watch you draw some funnies," says the text card, & Walt Disney invites her to come in & be seated.
He has already drawn a doghouse on a large white sheet of paper, out of which a dog runs. Nearby on another sheet of paper, two cats are dancing to a frog-band.
On a third sheet a drawing of a mouse has sprung to life, & has a sword with which it is trying to poke the real cat relaxing on the desk beside the moving drawing. These are pretty good little gags.
On another sheet of paper, dog & cat pugilists are going at it. Alice is just enjoying all the stuff the various animators have started in motion.
Later at home when Alice is snug in her bed, her dreams are influenced by what she saw at the cartoon studio. She dreams she's on a cartoon train that comes to Cartoonland where there's a big welcoming committee of happy animals eager to greet her.
The animation for most of these early works was very simple, but here we get a fairly lush series of drawings & a great many animal-characters for live-action Alice to meet & interact with.
She gets a perfectly delightful parade in her honor, riding atop an elephant & waving to the crowds. A cat-band plays for her. Bunnies dance for her. In exchange, Alice does the Charleston for the delighted population of Cartoonland, as the cat-band plays on its ragtime instruments.
The lions of Cartoonland aren't people-lions but are very lion-like, & when they escape from the Cartoonland Zoo, everyone runs off & leaves Alice to fend for herself. She hides inside the hollow of a tree & the lions run in after her, then they run out again, apparently beaten up by Alice.
She then runs to hide in a cave, then in a rabbit hole as a nod to Carroll. Lastly she escapes the lions by leaping off a cliff.
Alice & two lads are being instructed by school marm in a singing lesson, in the one-reel short Alice Gets in Dutch (1924).
It's a silent film but we can tell by the boys' faces how awful their caterwauling is. A German shepherd is in the classroom & begins howling with the kids' terrible singing. Eventually the dog lays on the floor & covers its head with its paws.
Back at their desks, Alice gets in trouble for playing with a balloon one of the boys gave her. The teacher confiscates the balloon.
Just to be mean about it, the teacher takes out a pin to destroy it, thereby getting ink all over her face, as it had been booby-trapped by the boy who gave it to Alice for just this outcome. The splashing ink was animated, but in the main, this Alice Comedy is a straightforward non-animated film, up to this point at least.
Alice gets the blame & is put in the corner in a dunce's cap. This is when Alice nods off to sleep right on her stool, & dreams herself into the world of Pete the bear, Julius the cat, a sax-playing donkey & piano-playing puppy. Julius & Alice dance to the jazzy sax.
An animated school marm & three animated school books set out like an army to get live-action Alice & her animated friends, but she's carried off by the donkey. Alice forms her cartoon buddies into an army to take on the rotten school marm once & for all.
The first few salvos go badly for Alice & her friends as the school marm's canonballs keep knocking over the truant & her friends.
But they find a junk pile out of which they construct a novel sort of canon of their own, which fires a cloud of cayene pepper. Some fairly remarkable sneezing gags proceed before Alice in the actual school room is poked by the teacher & falls from her stool as she awakens.
On the platform at "Alice's Railroad" (the little girl owns the railroad system!), her pet cat Julius has a couple sight-gag adventures: the pile of luggage almost falls on him, then getting trapped in an item of luggage, & so on. Apart from the music, it's a silent film reliant on visuals for all its gags.
Alice, the live-action girl in an animated world, shows up at the station. Other characters are introduced while Julius wakes up the train in the roundhouse & gets the railroad ready for the day's work, with Alice as the engineer. There's no actual tin pony in the story; it's a pun on Iron Horse.
There are many additional gags on the train journey, such as Julius catching fire while shoveling coal into the engine.
A secondary character is a cowboy rat racing across the countryside on his Indian motorcycle, getting drunk in the rats' cowboy saloon, where a pegleg villain rat is causing trouble.
The villain rat & his gang of mice steel the cowboy rat's motorcycle & pile on, taking off on a mission to rob the train, though they haven't a chance against Alice & Julius.
As Alice Helps the Romance (1926) begins, a cat in yalmaka is playing the banjo as he runs & skips & tumbles along a desert plain. Numerous simple gags involve running, hopping, & playing, as the background hills speed by.
This cat seemed too tall & slim to be Julius, & sure enough, a stouter kitty appears. It's Julius in straw hat & carrying a pot of flowers, gussied up on his way to a date. He stops in the desert to groom himself a bit then continues on his way.
He & the yalmaka kitty arrive at the little house simultaneously, realizing both are courting the same gal, & trying to be nonchallant about why they're at her gate. The taller cat by a rotten trick gets the upper hand & is invited in, while Julius remains out on the stoop.
Heartbroken Julius wanders off under a tree & gets his hat spat on by a tobacco-chewing bird, who is courting a lady bird up on a branch.
We observe the courting process of the bird for a while, & it's a humdinger of a silly dance, while the girl-bird watches rather stunned.
At length Julius wanders on his way, & comes upon a rifle on a stump. Deciding to end it all, he points the rifle at his head. It turns out to be a child-kitten's pop-gun or Julius would be dead.
He next comes to a dock that already has a rock & a rope waiting, & he decides to drown himself, with comic results.
He tries one more method of suicide which fails, because Alice happened by & saved him. Julius opens his chest & shows her his broken heart. Pondering a moment, she comes up with a plan, & Julius's mood perks up.
Alice solicites the aid of some gangsterish feral cats who descend upon the spooning couple & claim Julius's rival is their daddy. When the girl cat tries to walk out on him, he becomes aggressive, & brave Julius saves her for the happy ever after.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl