This cartoon, on the whole, is actually on a par with other Silly
Symphonies of the day, and is certainly more watchable than
Noah's Ark or Lullaby Land.
It also shows some unique Disney personality touches in the person of King
Midas. Any other studio would have made the king a one-note character, but
Disney's Midas is more subtle--you could see the insecurity lurking beneath
I'm confused about the "director" credit in this cartoon. An animation
director generally does the key sketches in a cartoon, and Walt hadn't drawn
a line since the mid-twenties. What exactly did Walt do on this picture
that differed from his normal contribution? No history of animation tells
us precisely. me everything I even think of it.
But it was very fun to watch, and told you a very serious teaching about
the golden touch ... But WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAT! It just disappeared,
so was it supposed to die or did it just disappear as gold? I think that
Disney could have let it return to its old form, in the end of the cartoon.
However, back when the film was released, the director, Walt himself, wasn't so happy about the results and decided to never direct a cartoon ever again.
I'm not sure exactly what it was that Walt hated about the cartoon. Maybe it could be that Midas remains such a selfish character. An important factor of the version of the Midas story that I grew up was that Midas accidentally turned his own daughter to gold and was filled with regret. In the cartoon, Midas only grows to hate his curse because he himself is going to die.
As King Midas counts his gold coins in the beginning, he loses count
after he sneezes. Midas then goes into a tune bragging about how much gold
he has and how much more he wants ... sure sounds like today's athletes!
So, he wishes for the golden touch, where everything that he touched would
turn to gold.
Out of nowhere appears Goldie the fairy. Once he appeared, Midas panicked
and grabbed as much gold as he could, fearing he would lose some of it.
Goldie demonstrated the touch by touching Midas's cat and turning it immediately
to gold (after which the cat was psychologically dysfunctional once getting
snapped out of the golden touch). Of course Goldie thought Midas was crazy
for making that wish and gave him advice warning of a golden curse. Stubborn
Midas further exclaimed, "My kingdom for the golden touch!" and "Give me
gold, not advice!" Goldie gave up at that point and granted Midas the golden
Ironically enough, the cat, who was now scared of anything that would
touch him, was being called (and later chased) by Midas. The cat went up
an apple tree, but Midas crashed into it head first, knocking loads of apples
on him. Once they struck Midas, they turned to 18K gold. However, the cat
was the last thing to crash on Midas, turning it to gold ... again. Midas
became euphoric and celebrated by touching flowers, a birdbath, and water
coming from a fountain (as well as the fountain itself). He proceeds inside
and shows off his enormous ego by looking at himself in the mirror (and
his image applauds), even touching one of his two front teeth ... turning
that to gold, too. However, this is where the fun ends.
Midas gets hungry and prepares for a big meal. (What is it with these
big characters in the Silly Symphonies of the first half of the 1930's?)
First, he touches his chair and his napkin (turning them into gold) before
he eats. Little did he know that once he put the spoon in the grapefruit,
the squirt nailed him in the eye and upon contact, turned to gold coins.
Midas thought nothing of it, so he tries to have a banana only to have it
sliced in gold coins instead. He tries a drink of water ... and nearly chokes
on the gold. At this point, Midas was beginning to see that gold was not
what he wanted after all. In one final last-gasp attempt of pleasing his
stomach, he tries to bite into his turkey ... only to have that coated in
18K gold. Midas is now ballistic, so he touches all the food on the table
and turns that into gold, too ... so he knocks the table over.
Returning to the mirror wondering what had gone wrong, that same image
who earlier applauded Midas became the image of death ... a skeleton in
a king's robe immediately after he asked if "the richest king in the world
is going to starve to death." Midas could not escape. He wanted to rid the
shadow of death so bad that he ran in sheer panic downstairs to the counting
room, screaming for Goldie to reappear. Goldie now has all the right to
rub what Midas arrogantly said into his face.
"Is this the brave man who bellowed 'give me gold, not advice'!" Goldie
snickers. Midas pleads for Goldie to take away his golden touch and get
him a hamburger, which Goldie sarcastically replies, "With or without onions?"
Eventually, Goldie accepted the offer to Midas that would take back the
golden touch...in exchange for everything he possesses. Once Goldie leaves,
it only takes seconds for the golden empire to fall; and with amazing strobe light
animation, the castle crumbles, the king's robe and his crown were gone,
and his underwear shrunk before pleading to spare it!
Midas finally had his hamburger appear in front of him, but he wanted
to touch it just to make sure it did not turn to gold. It didn't. The hamburger
stayed put, and once Midas checked it out, he got his wish ... with onions.
(One thing to keep an eye on at the end of the film is that Midas also lost
his gold tooth that he touched when he looked in the mirror the first time.)
I'm also 100% positive that Goldie raised Midas's taxes through the roof
after this cartoon was made. Definitely a cartoon with an extremely valuable
The Golden Touch, today’s subject, is one of those experiments. But unlike others we have seen before, the new thing is not some form of animation or camera trick. Instead, it’s the seriousness and raw emotion of the subject matter that is so striking about this short.
The story of King Midas and the golden touch is a familiar one. A king who loves gold is offered the chance to turn everything he touches into gold. When he accepts, though, he finds that it is a curse more than anything else, because he cannot eat, he cannot touch another person and he cannot live a normal life.
This short follows that script, but it is extremely emotional and serious. The opening of the short features a minute and a half close up of King Midas, singing about his love of gold. It’s a fantastic piece of animation, because the camera never moves, but as a viewer, I was fascinated the entire time.
A little elf, Goldy, appears to offer Midas the golden touch. But there is more malice than whimsy in Goldy’s emotions, which adds a touch of fear to the proceedings. Midas’ desperation to get the golden touch is also stunning, because it is not as cartoonish as you would expect. You feel the raw emotion of this desperate man, and it’s almost frightening.
The predictable happens next – when Midas goes out to celebrate he turns half the garden to gold, to his delight. But, when he sits down to indulge his insatiable appetite; he cannot, because the food turns to gold. It’s the next sequence that is so very real and beyond the level of what we’ve seen before from Disney.
Midas returns to the mirror, but this time sees a golden Grim Reaper menacing him, and flees. This is not a cartoon reaper, but one that is definitely going to take his target. Midas runs back into his gold room, and Goldy reappears. The delight that the little elf takes in the King’s predicament is understandable, but a little scary.
In the end, Midas trades his entire kingdom for a hamburger, a more contemporary take on things. It’s only at the end that there’s a little comic relief, as Midas’ clothes shrink up and he devours the burger.
Throughout this short, though, the prevailing sentiment is dread or revulsion. It’s set up like a classic horror tale, to be honest. The achievement of real emotion beyond laughter in a cartoon was an important step for Disney to take. The scary Evil Queen from Snow White would not have been possible without first taking the steps taken in
The Golden Touch.
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