With all the talk over the weekend about Frozen, many are missing the little gem of a short that precedes the big, cold monster. While Lauren MacMullan’s Get A Horse! first released last June at the Annecy Film Festival in France, it was not until it was paired before Frozen that it many of us got a shot at seeing it, much less even knowing it existed. And a lot of fun it is– but by the end of the feature, many of people may forget about this wonderful little gem that lead off the movie.
Get A Horse! begins like many of the classic Mickey Mouse black and whites from the thirties with a title card out of registration with the title. The 2D, hand-drawn animation can easily be mistaken for classic animation, though the story has a more modern feel than the earlier films. Minnie calls to Mickey to join her and their friends Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow as they delight in a musical wagon ride.
The fun really begins when Peg-Leg Pete shows up in his new horseless carriage, and tries to pass the hay wagon. When he can’t pass them, he tries to run them off the road. In the process, Mickey gets thrown from the wagon, and through the screen… and in the process, he breaks through the “fourth wall” and into the theater itself. And whats more, Mickey morphs from the rubber-limbed, hand drawn black and white character into a full-rendered, 3D CGI color creation.
Mickey must get back to his black and white world to save Minnie, and soon all the characters are jumping back and forth between the two worlds. And this is where it get’s fun, because this is much more than just a comic device– this is a commentary on modern animation. Just as we have a contrast in the hay wagon and the “new” automobile, so do we have a production contrast of two animation styles. We have black & white versus color. We even have the contrast of the original voices– Mickey is voiced by Walt Disney, re-edited– and modern actors doing the classic voices (both Marcellite Garner and Russi Taylor voice Minnie and Peg-Leg Pete is voiced by re-editing Billy Bletcher and modern touches by Will Ryan).
Get A Horse! was conceived and directed by Lauren MacMullan. With this short, she becomes the first woman to direct a Disney animated film. The hand-drawn animation was supervised by Eric Goldberg with assists from veteran animators Dale Baer and Mark Henn, while the computer animation was supervised by Adam Green.
So all these comparisons beg the obvious question… which it better– the old, tried and true way, or the new way. In many ways, the new ways are faster and technically better. But no one can deny that the classic methods also have a lot of appeal, even if they are slower or more clumsy.