Did you notice the sign on the door that read "Ajax Ghost Exterminators"? This is the first cartoon that 'Ajax' was used as the name for a brand for a product or service in the Disney shorts. It pops up with just enough frequency for Disney shorts fans to notice, but never caught on quite like the 'Acme' name in the Warner Bros. cartoons. Still some one on the Mouse Works cartoons picked up on it - in that series the Ajax name was overused and appeared on anything and everything. An attempt to create a Disney 'Acme', perhaps?
I wonder if this short inspired the idea for 'Ghost Busters'. Although I can think of plenty of ghost cartoons, this is the first cartoon I know of where characters are offering a service to rid a house of ghosts – a fun, cartoony spin on exorcisms. Also Goofy's line in this cartoon "I ain't uh-scared of no ghosts" is enormously similar to the line in the Ghost Busters song: "I ain't afraid of no ghosts". Could it be a direct reference or merely a coincidence?
It’s also a cartoon that I appreciate more now that I have seen all that came before it. Not that the other Mickey cartoons of 1937 weren’t good, but
Lonesome Ghosts was the first one I watched where I said, “This could have been made today.” Think about that. If you saw Disney produce a short today, and it looked like
Lonesome Ghosts, would you be surprised? Probably not, and that’s a testament to the work of these animators over 70 years ago.
The set up of having bored ghosts contact Mickey, Donald and Goofy is brilliant. How many times have we seen the old saw that ghost hunters come to a spooky old house? I saw it just last week in a bad SyFy movie. That story is beautifully represented here, because it’s the ghosts who call, just because they’re looking for something to do.
I also like the fact that each of the three characters gets a little moment to play with the ghosts. This is one of those shorts that feels like it goes by so quickly, because each segment is action packed and fun. Mickey gets the first shot, as the ghosts play with a door, opening from the floor, the wall and flooding the room through the door.
Donald goes next, trying to fight a ghost, as you would imagine. It’s interesting to note that each of these three little vignettes reveals the character’s nature, rather than just being one note gags. Mickey gets overwhelmed by the ghosts, Donald tries to fight, and Goofy gets tricked into, well, a goofy situation.
My favorite part of this short is Goofy and the ghost at the dresser. The ghost mirroring Goofy in the mirror and the ultimate end of Goofy getting shoved out the door are just hilarious. It’s really the way that Goofy will ultimately go in his solo series, and it’s great seeing a sneak peek of that.
The final gag is a classic as well. The trio get covered in molasses and flour, leading their appearance to scare the ghosts away. It’s the typical Disney ending, as the leads sort of blunder into the solution, rather than showing their wits. It’s part of what makes this short so endearing. Again, one of my all time favorites.
The reasoning behind this twisted story is because the beginning
makes absolutely no sense: the opening scene shows a haunted house on
a very windy night ... with SNOW on the ground! Somebody please tell
me what areas receive snow for Halloween! I don't get it. However, inside
the house of slamming shades are four ghosts complaining that they have
not had a scare in a very long time. It did not take long for the fourth
ghost to notice an ad in the paper. He calls the other three ghosts
over and explains the ad which reads; "Notice ... we exterminate all
kinds of GHOSTS." So the ghosts agree to call them up.
Of course these exterminators are Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, who
were fast asleep when the ghosts call. After simultaneously waking up
on the third ring, they all battle to answer the phone, but Mickey emerges
answering and hearing all the howling sounds in the background. So the
three exterminators, later to be compared to the Three Stooges for their
antics, trudge through the snow to the haunted house ... trust me, I
understand this sounds real strange.
The exterminators didn't quite get a red-carpet welcome as the ghosts
awaited them. Mickey knocks and the door falls inside, where they enter
inauspiciously. Just as they are about the get off the door, the door
rises and all three get rolled off, tumbling into the house. Meanwhile,
Goofy gets his nose caught in a flying mousetrap. That sure smarted.
They continue to hear the sounds of ghosts, so the three of them
continue to search. Mickey is shown first ... little did he know a ghost
was behind him. So, the ghost knocks on his head, scaring the wits out
of Mickey. Where the edit takes place is here (thanks to the political
Disney TV goons): Mickey fires his gun at the ghost, obviously missing
him (or going through him), so a chase down the stairs ensues. Another
ghost hides behind the door and shuts and locks it before Mickey could
catch it. The door then gets pulled off, landing on Mickey before he
gets up and puts his feet on the door again, but gets ejected immediately
when the ghosts march to the tunes of the Revolutionary War. They tap
dance away behind the doors and as Mickey opens them up, he gets all
wet as a stream of water comes flying out and the ghosts go surfing.
Donald, on the other hand, is immediately scared as a ghost comes
from behind him and drops dishes; a second drops a link chain while
a third whaps him with a piece of wood. Donald's temper is obvious ...
even one of the ghosts mock what he is doing! But the ghost somehow
pays for it when Donald socks him one to the chin. Somehow, the ghost
hides under some fake water and comes up spitting in Donald's face.
Needless to say, Donald dived unsuccessfully and came out all wet when
he put on his hat.
Goofy gets scared immediately with loud banging sounds, causing him
to rip a wall apart just trying to escape! Although he exclaims that
he wasn't scared of no ghosts, he gets kicked from behind by one of
them and then chases him into a clothes drawer. Once Goofy stands straight,
he looks into a mirror only to find a ghost, which he certainly took
his time to figure out. After some mimicking, Goofy finally figures
out that it was a ghost behind the mirror, which of course he subsequently
gets kicked through the mirror for seven years bad luck. Goofy then
falls into the drawer, trapping him completely. Little did Goofy realize
that he was choking himself trying to just get out of this predicament
... even that did not phase him. He decides to pinch his rear end with
a pin and feels the harsh reality.
As Goofy fights to get out from inside the drawer, the ghosts shove
him out of the room and down the stairs ... and right into Mickey and
Donald. The ghosts bowled a perfect strike they did not want...all three
exterminators (and the drawer) crashed into stacks of molasses and white
powder. Assuming that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy were trying to get out
of this sticky situation, the ghosts were scared off when they saw them,
exclaiming that they were seeing ghosts! The scaring party had
ended ... the ghosts ran over dishes, through the window, and out of
the house and into the night on snowy ground.
Donald says it best at the end; "So you can't take it ... you big
sissy!" After observing this cartoon, I need a nap just to calm down!
Once while ill, I viewed it frame by frame in the editing viewer. That's
when I found an error by the animator that I never saw mentioned elsewhere.
When Goofy is stuck in the piece of furniture, just before he chokes himself,
he sticks his arm out of a drawer opening, but then - from one frame to
the next - the arm switches to pass through the hole his neck is in. Seems
the animator realized the chocking would look silly with the arm stuck through
the drawer and took the easy way out.
Speaking of errors. Why do the debris of the window fly "into" the house
when the ghosts run through it?