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This early Mickey Mouse cartoon is aptly titled. It's set at the
seashore, and in shot after shot the wild surf crashes against the
rocks, ebbs, rolls back, then hits the shore again with redoubled
force. The waves are beautiful but dangerous, as we find in due course
when they overpower our star performers and fling them every which way.
The ocean itself has personality in this short, and that's impressive
for a cartoon of this vintage. You've got to give the Disney animators
credit for not playing it safe; recreating the violent motion of the
sea was challenging in the era of black & white cel animation, but
nevertheless they chose to give the customers their money's worth with
a show of difficult water effects. They make it look easy, and still
manage to maintain a light and amusing tone.
The credit for the generally high quality of the early Mickeys belongs
primarily to one man, legendary animator Ub Iwerks, who drew most of
the studio's initial talkie output practically solo. The opening title
card for these seminal works reads "A Walt Disney Comic by Ub Iwerks,"
a singular credit Disney would never grant any other employee. Iwerks
was a key figure in putting the Disney Studio on the map and making the
mouse world famous, but he chafed under Walt's dominance and left the
studio not long after Wild Waves was released in the summer of 1929.
But that's real world stuff. Back in Cartoon Land, this particular
entry begins with a terrific shot of Lifeguard Mickey sitting atop his
tall chair, strumming his guitar and singing for an audience of two
seals, a pelican, and other assorted water fowl. The waves crash as
Mickey's listeners all sway to the music in perfect synchronized style,
while even his chair bobs to the rhythm on alarmingly rubbery legs.
Minnie is introduced in the mildly risqué fashion still permissible at
this time, with the kind of gag that would soon become verboten: she's
changing into her bathing suit in one of those old-fashioned "bathing
machines" that looks like an outhouse on wheels. We hear her singing
but she's not visible. Then, on a clothesline leading out the window,
we watch as her slip, her bra, and her panties appear on the line, one
by one, to flap in the breeze. Minnie appears in the doorway in her
swimsuit with a "Ta-daaaa!" gesture, skips into the surf, and is
promptly swallowed by a wave and carried screaming out to sea. Mickey,
of course, tosses his guitar aside and comes to the rescue. He is
hindered by more of those diabolical waves, but eventually manages to
haul Minnie ashore. When she begins to weep he attempts to amuse her by
dancing a hornpipe, and this sets off a general beach musicale,
complete with dancing penguins, barking seals, a harp solo played on a
fish-net, and a walrus who sings in a basso voice.
Wild Waves is a sweet little cartoon that doesn't appear on anyone's
list of Disney "classics." It's just another routine Mickey Mouse
short, but in a sense that makes it all the more impressive. The Disney
cartoons from this period are primitive compared to what would follow
in the '30s, but they're highly entertaining, often surprising, and
miles ahead of what anyone else was making at the time.
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