Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gypsy Life (1945)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Cartoons - Paul Terry

For whatever reason, the public has always had a fascination with "gypsies," more correctly known as the Romani people.  The Romani have been portrayed, usually in a condescending manner, in such works as Jane Eyre, Dracula, From Russia With Love, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The Mighty Mouse cartoon "Gypsy Life" is one of the odder portrayals of the Romani people, no small accomplishment considering the numerous works featuring Romani characters.  Yet its oddness comes less from its portrayal of the Romani than for the depiction of villainous bat-cats.

Yes, bat-cats.  The villains of this Mighty Mouse short are bat-cat hybrids, with the size, face, and claws of cats but the wings and ears of a bat.  After introducing us to a Romani village and the typical depiction of a Gypsy dancer, Mighty Mouse must come to the rescue after a bat-cat attacks the dancer.  Why the filmmakers chose to make the films about gypsies or to call the film "Gypsy Life" is a mystery to me, since the film is about the battle between Mighty Mouse and the bat-cat, making the gypsy storyline pretty much irrelevant.  The bat-cat is one of the odder villains I've seen in a cartoon, though in a world where neither a bat nor a cat is a legitimate contender against Mighty Mouse, I suppose a hybrid of the two would be a greater threat.  Perhaps there's some bat-cat hybrid in Romani myth that would make this all comprehensible, but without that knowledge I am left a bit in the dark.

There is much to like in "Gypsy Life" for Mighty Mouse fans.  The short has the usual operatic tone of Mighty Mouse shorts, and there is a fun battle between Mighty Mouse and the bat-cat.  The fight isn't staged with any great cleverness, and nothing too original transpires.  Indeed, the most exciting animation isn't in the battle between Mighty Mouse and the bat-cat, but is instead the spinning dancing of the Romani woman, beautifully and simply rendered by the animators.

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