Where Great Guns was able to take
Alice’s Little Parade
and weave in a romantic plot that tied the story together, there is no such
convenience in The Ocean Hop. The main changes made
from Alice’s Balloon Race are the destination and the vehicle – Oswald and his compatriots are trying to make it from New York to Paris in “planes” vs. Alice and friends racing in balloons. Otherwise, it’s almost identical.
The short opens the same as Balloon Race, with a poster, this one advertising a reward for the person who makes the trip to Paris. We see all the contestants getting ready, including our buddy Pete, who here has a peg leg, like he would have frequently in the Mickey shorts. He’s cocky and confident as always, until he sees Oswald.
Oswald’s arrival is a funny bit, as a slate announces him as “The Dark Horse,” and the next shot is of a blanket draped over something with a horse’s head sticking out – a literal dark horse. It turns out to be Oswald’s plane, which he unveils with vigor. Pete comes over to inspect, and chews some “elastic” gum that he sticks to the wheels of the plane, unbeknownst to Oswald.
Upon takeoff, the other planes shoot into the air, but poor Oswald is stuck. Pete proceeds to pass everyone, while Oswald’s plane disassembles and takes off without him. In
Balloon Race, Julius has a similar problem, but it’s Pete destroying his first balloon in the air. Oswald runs across a dachshund and decides to turn it into a balloon/plane, again the exact thing that happens in
Oswald gets some mice to help him, blowing up a balloon to tie to the dog while he attaches a fan to the dog’s tail and a board to its upper body to serve as wings. He manages to take off, but the balloon slips to the back end. Oswald’s though balloon provides the balloon for the front end, a gag that Julius used many times. Now in the air, night falls, visualized as dark rain drops after a slate that says “Night Falls.” Cute gag.
The finale comes as Oswald catches up to Pete, who has misdirected the other racers. Pete shoots Oswald down, but using a parachute, Oswald lands in the middle of Paris, winning the contest.
The Ocean Hop is a good short, no doubt, but as I
said, it doesn’t have the extra story elements from
Alice’s Balloon Race to make it a big upgrade. While it’s disappointing to see the story material recycled, there is improvement in the animation quality and the gags that make this a better short than its predecessor. I do think, though, that you continue to see the pressures of trying to turn out product continuously, as the Disney Studio had to do at this time. Eventually, you’ll have to reuse ideas or gags, because there’s no time to come up with new ones.
As we follow the progress of the shorts, it's nice to see Pete again. I haven't
seen any of his appearances in the late Alice shorts, but I believe he always
remained a bear (and he was a bear in the title card of
Alice the Whaler.) After some
Pete look-a-likes in The Mechanical Cow (Hairy Petes!)
and Great Guns (a big bear/wolf/rat thing) we finally have the real deal. He's looking a bit snoutier now and is maybe supposed to be a wolf – he would later sometimes be dubbed 'Foxy Wolf' and check out those canine teeth when he bites the gum!
A couple of things that are quite neat about this short is seeing Disney characters that still have five fingers and the cartoony part of Pete disappearing behind a skinny pole. I wonder when this gag was first used?
Finally a question for Ramapith – Where did you learn that the sausage dog is called Wienie? If any one else had said it I'd think they just made it up, but knowing you, I bet that's an 'official' name from somewhere!
I get the name "Wienie" for the dachshund from the Mickey Mouse daily strip, where he appeared later and where Walt was actually doing the writing at the time. Nice, isn't it?
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