You recall back in March, Disney.com sneaked a new Mickey Mouse short, Croissant de Triomphe, a fun, fast-paced 3-and-a-half minute short, which quickly went viral. This was the first in a series of new Mickey shorts done in a contemporary/retro look and feel - clearly an effort to reintroduce Mickey (and the gang) to a new generation, but preserving the personality and charm of the original characters.
This Friday June 28th, the Disney Channel will begin rolling out the rest of the 19 new shorts in production. The first batch include:
No Service in which Mickey and Donald try to buy lunch from a beachside snack shack but are unceremoniously turned down because of the classic "No shirt, no shoes, no service" admonition, Friday, June 28
Yodelberg where Mickey longs to visit Minnie atop her mountaintop chalet but quickly realizes that the threat of avalanche has made the trek up the mountain more challenging than usual, Saturday June 29
New York Weenie where the hot dog Mickey buys for his beloved and very hungry Minnie ends up taking him on a energetic chase through New York's Central Park, Friday July 5
Tokyo Go, which finds Mickey fighting Tokyo's crazy commuting crowds aboard the bullet train, Friday July 12
Stayin' Cool in which Mickey, Donald and Goofy must find creative ways to keep cool on the hottest day of the year, Friday July 19
These shorts are not connected to the Mickey Mouse cartoon Get A Horse! which was produced by the Disney Feature Animation group and will get a theatrical release later this year.
I recently spoke with director Rudish and VP Coleman about this series - how it started and how it's going...
So tell us how this project came to be.
COLEMAN: The goal is to introduce Mickey to a new generation of kids and at the same time entertain their parents who have their memories of Mickey Mouse. Our intention is to highlight his personality and show him as the star he has always been.
Making them feel contemporary doesn’t mean give them an iPhone and headphones it’s the execution, the sensibility, the tone, the way they are animated, the music the movement, the timing, the editing. We wanted to make shorts that would play well globally. We have Disney Channels around the world.
Was there a mandate
from on high to "make Mickey cool again"?
COLEMAN: There was a desire to create new content, to leverage the success of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. That was pre-school and we wanted to create new content for older audiences. We wanted to do short form to focus on the essence of Mickey Mouse. Mike Moon and I discussed what our goals for it were. Who’s the best person? Maybe Paul Rudish, in the building, working on Tron Uprising at the time, who was deeply passionate about it and chomping at the bit to play in this sandbox?
Paul literally took the wheel and showed us what we could be doing with this. We were so delighted when we saw his first designs. They felt so charming and were Mickey.
RUDISH: Always been a classic Disney fan, grew up with The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night, grew up in a small town in Missouri and with the legend of Walt Disney - an inspiring story of someone from the Midwest and how you can go out there and do your thing. I got involved with animation, cartoons and drawing, eventually got pulled in to Disney. I’d been expressing an interest, loudly, in all the classic characters. I wondered if I could trick 'em into letting work on the mouse – but I didn’t have to. Eric came in one day and said, "So I hear you like Mickey Mouse." I said I did, indeed. He said, "Well, guess what? You should try some."
I did a lot of sketching and research. Dug up the old model packs and started doodling. Naturally the rubber hose thing resonated with me.
RUDISH: With the high contrast of the characters black-and-white faces, your eyeballs go right for them, even when surrounded by colorful Mary Blair, Walt Peregoy inspired backdrops. I wanted to honor that Disney legacy.
What's the technique
you are using and how many are on your staff to produce these?
RUDISH: It's a super-hyper Flash animation program called Harmony. We do all the backgrounds here, in photoshop. Lots of hand drawn posing. We have about 30 folks in house here (Burbank) and an animation team in Canada. All storyboard driven.
COLEMAN: They are working very, very hard to make it seem effortless. But I can speak to how much work has gone into each one, the writing and re-writing, boarding and re-boarding, and cutting down and building up to make them feel just so. I think Paul and his team accomplish this so well by having great drawings that communicate where we are in the story. Instead of needing a lot of exposition and a lot of dialog to set up the conflict, they establish very quickly what the goal is. And its not just through dialogue. It's done through images.
Did you ever consider
putting two of the 3 1/2 minute shorts together to create a traditional 7-minute
COLEMAN: Since you asked the clever question, then you can do the detective work when we say we will deliver nineteen shorts. Originally it was an order for 20 shorts, now two of them will be one seven-minute short.
I love the opening
titles done against burlap like the old shorts.
COLEMAN: Paul has added a lot of little "Easter Eggs" like that for Disney fans and people like you who will appreciate them. Casey Jr. appears in the Tokyo short, Cinderella in the Paris short...
RUDISH: It's just fun Disney fandom on my own part, which I throw in just because I'm here and I can.