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As mentioned before this cartoon had Donald being accused of saying the
"F" word to the main spring and I disagree. 100% Donald definitely said
"Sez You." I own a censored version of this cartoon on "Mickey Mouse in
Living Color" and it's censored as we can hear Pluto barking in the soundtrack!
Donald: "aw, nuts..." (from On Ice in 1935, right down to Pluto barking!)
Mainspring: "says I" (unedited)
Donald: "I'll..." (Then he made angry quacking noises from another short!)
I never even heard such language anywhere until my Middle school years!
That's why I've always known that Donald only said "says you" to the mainspring
to start with! How does Walmart get away with selling R-rated and unrated
movies that have such language nonstop anyway? (They almost banned the Fun
on the Job video because of it, even though Donald never said that word
Clock Cleaners is a flat out fun short, mostly because it relies on that formula of mixing the three leads with unique situations suited to their temperament. It really seems like this era is when the animators began developing distinct personalities for all the characters. That’s the biggest development I have not discussed much so far – that Mickey and Goofy and Donald are all different characters, versus the past, when they all existed to conduct the latest dance or mile a minute gag.
For example, Goofy’s whole modus operandi is to be, well, the Goof. He’s easily surprised, somewhat unobservant, and generally good natured but not bright. That carries through here, where he’s cleaning the bell of the clock, but keeps getting knocked around by the bell ringing statues.
From there he stumbles around the top of the clock tower, eventually falling down, walking in a daze across a rope, falling only to jump back up off a flagpole and knock Mickey back inside. It’s the most hilarious sequence Goofy has been involved in so far, and again, foreshadows how he will be used in the future.
Donald is the other big star of this short, as you would expect. Mickey is not a full-fledged solo star anymore, sadly. Donald, though, is on the upswing, and this short features one of my favorite Donald gags. Donald tries to clean a spring, but ends up unraveling the coils. When he tries to hammer them back into place, the springs keep popping up, leading Donald to play a game of “Whac-A-Mole” with the spring.
But that’s not the best part (although I do love Whac-A-Mole). No, when Donald gets too irritated with the spring, the spring “talks” back. The vibrations of the spring seem to form words, which makes for a fantastic gag. Then, when Donald throws his hammer at the spring, it catches the hammer and throws it back, landing Donald in the gears of the clock.
It’s a fantastic gag, that is repeated at the end of the short, this time with all three members of the gang. Donald’s frustration plays perfect against the spring, which can be interpreted as either an imagined slight or possibly a real inanimate object coming to life. The great thing is that it can be read either way. And the shot of the gang in the gears of the clock, then unable to stop shaking after they drop off is priceless.
This short is a favorite among my family, simply for the last scene of the three shaking around. Mickey does have a little bit of fun with a stork perched in the clock, but for the most part, it is a fun time with Donald and Goofy. It’s an enjoyable short that makes me smile every time I see it.
The fantastic sense of scale and height, along with all the giant mechanisms inside the clock really captures the imagination, but it's the characters that make the cartoon. Goofy's dangerous concussed walk and Mickey's desperate attempts to save him remains one my
favorite Disney scenes ever. I love the combination of silliness and danger with the perfect music to fit it (and in turn the action then perfectly fits and keep in time to the music). It's actually quite a shock when Goofy falls through the gap in the ladder (I anticipated him walking across Mickey's back, but he doesn't get there in time), but the pay off is just perfect.
Mickey is outside cleaning the face by riding on the second hand.
We pan to see Goofy inside toothbrushing the gears with what one hopes
is industrial strength toothpaste. And Donald is mopping the gears clean.
Donald heads over to the mainspring to mop it off, but somehow, get's
his mophead caught in the spring, springing it loose which sets up a
lot of the later gags in the short.
Meanwhile Mickey is dusting off some random gears which don't seem
to be joined to anything, but clean he must. On one set he sees a sleeping
stork which has made his bed on a set of gears. Mickey tries a few strategies
to get him out of the tower, but only succeeds in getting himself hanging
from a rope outside the skyscraper.
Back to Donald, who is busy trying to get the mainspring unsprung.
And what better way to do it than to take a hammer and try to beat it
into submission. But as soon as he gets one end in, the other end springs
out. After attempting to argue the spring into behaving, he gets sprung
into a spinning cogwheel, which makes him do what I call his "cogwheel
dance." That is, his body shakes from left to right and as soon as he
gets one part of his body stabilized, another part starts up.
Goofy is keeping busy beginning to clean out the bell in the tower
itself, singing, "Loudly, the Bell in the Old Tower Rings", a song which
gets play in at least one other Disney short. Tricky job, since it is
apparently the top of the hour, and the bell-ringing mechanism is about
to start up. Right on time, while Goofy is inside the bell, a "Father
Time" character comes out and "BONG"; shaking Goofy violently. He comes
out, looks around and goes back to work. From the other side a "Statue
of Liberty" character comes out and "BONG"; shaking him again. Fool
me once, shame on you; fool me twice, you're Goofy, but he's not about
to be fooled a third time. He looks out this time at the time of the
"BONG" and ... nothing there. But as soon as he gets back inside the
bell ... you guessed it ... "BONG!"
Goofy goes to the door of the clock to see who's doing this mischief
when the "Statue of Liberty" comes back out. Goofy, all apologetic,
not realizing that it was a lady, and gets "BONGED" again, right on
the bean. This makes Goofy dizzy enough to begin his high-wire act on
the skyscraper, the ladders, the ropes, a bar of soap, and anything
else that gets in his way, finally culminating in him sending himself
and Mickey back inside the clock, right into Donald, who has finally
succeeded in taming the mainspring. But not for long, as the mainspring
unsprings all three into their ending "cogwheel dance trio."
Clock Cleaners was produced in what I refer to as Disney's "Golden
Years"; the years from 1932 - 1939 where they produced their best short
subjects. One aspect that is often overlooked is the work of the background
artists. Here, they have created a sense of perspective that is both
clean and precise, giving the opening shots a feeling that would scare
off Harold Lloyd. Watch the very first opening shot as well: look at
the very bottom where the amount of detail is so precise that the little
dots used to represent cars are actually moving as cars. There
is also a great amount of detail given to the interior of the clockwork;
even in the stones that make up the building itself. And if you want
to see the amount of character that went into Goofy, watch his hands
during the "high wire" scene. The animators were able to make Goofy
look rubbery without losing the natural form of his body. Truly, classic