Monday, January 29, 2007

Walt's Unwashed Glitterati

This is the first in a series of articles in tribute to the unsung ensemble players featured in celebrated animated cartoons. These lesser-known background characters or "extras" were vastly talented at their craft but have fallen by the wayside in terms of the historical recognition that they deserve.

While Disney Studio cartoons never packed the biggest comedic punch when compared to competing studios, I nevertheless appreciate the general look of their vintage, so-called "rubber hose-era", stuff. The first example would be the captain in Steamboat Willie -- a part played with gusto by a hulking tobacco-chewing cat identified only as "Pete" by historians who write about such things.

I cannot say this with authority but I think Pete may have evolved into the notorious "Peg-Leg Pete". This was again another criminally underrated character who never saw his full potential realized. Mr. "Leg" was from Russian extraction and had studied acting with Konstantin Stanislavski before coming to Hollywood in the 20s.

Lastly, "Horace Horsecollar" and "Clarabelle Cow" were recurring bit-players in Disney cartoons during the 30's. Their unbridled antics as a pair of mixed-breed lovers was truly an astounding libertine statement for its time.

All these characters later suffered the usual spiral into debauchery and alcoholism --but you knew that already. Clarabelle Cow was ambassador to Ghana until replaced by Shirley Temple Black under Nixon.

1 comment:

GayOrg Or Well said...

Immediately, I was wondering if the Disney law squad showed up at your door to take you away for using their copyrighted material. Then I consulted my staff of lawyers and found that because you are using these images in an editorial way, you aren't actually infringing, and thus in the clear.

Disney is "Big Brother". The only entity that I would consider in that friendly, overpowering way. The rest of the world's power structure is more like a 'Mean Landlord', who's also your obnoxious, loud, drunken neighbor.

You certainly do have lovely eyelashes and lips.