The Mechanical Cow is a great example of this. The story revolves around Oswald and his amazing mechanical cow. I know, truth in titles, who knew? Oswald has some trouble waking up the cow, but is soon out the door, offering milk to the masses. He provides a gallon to a baby hippo first, then is approached by his sweetheart.
He provides her with milk in a bucket, then sneaks off with her to a nearby wooded area, trying to snuggle up for a kiss. But, the cow, feeling left out, interrupts, prompting Oswald to banish him.
While he’s distracted, though, a group of what look like bears come and steal his girl, bringing on the first major chase sequence of the Oswald shorts. Oswald manages to get his cow back, and rides the cow in pursuit. The bad guys fire at him with their guns, and Oswald manages to pull the cow’s neck off, bend it in a “U” shape and force the bullets back at them. They fire a cannon, and the cow explodes, then falls right back into place, piece by piece. It’s a great gag filled sequence.
Oswald’s use of the mechanical cow is a highlight of the short. He cranks the cow’s tail to extend it’s neck to the bad guys’ car, runs up the neck and grabs his girl, then turns the cow around and heads the other way.
The end comes when the cow runs into a cliff, stopping shortly before going over, throwing Oswald and his girl off the cliff. They manage to grab a branch to hang on, but the bad guys are not so lucky. They sail off the cliff and are devoured by sharks below, sending a spout of water up that Oswald and his lady can ride up to the top. They hop on the cow and ride off into the sunset together.
What’s very interesting through the first three Oswalds is how little is recycled from the Alices. Sure, there are gags here and there, and some of the characters have a similar design, but the plotlines are fairly new, and the animation is very new. The side scrolling movement is still the core of the shorts, but there is more change of perspective in these three shorts than in all of the Alices. It shows the animators were learning more and working hard to burst out as the dominant animation studio of the time. At least that’s what I take away from it.
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