The Disney Fab Five
Like Mickey Mouse himself, the last two characters to make up the Disney Fab Five had to evolve a bit before they found their regular place. Goofy arrived first, but he wasn’t quite Goofy yet. Then Donald Duck graced the screen somewhere else before meeting up with his pal Mickey and beat the mouse to the punch of a milestone while he was at it! Today we’ll check out the arrival of these two and the completion of the eventual Disney Fab Five.
We first meet the character who would be Goofy as an audience member in Mickey’s Revue that annoys other patrons with his very unique laugh. This laugh, of course, will be recognizable to anyone who watched Goofy growing up, be it old shorts or Goof Troop
But he wasn’t Goofy. Not yet. For one, his appearance seems to be a bit older and a bit more disheveled than the average Goofy we have come to know. Confirming that he’s not quite the dog we now know, we see him listed as “Dippy Dawg” in Ye Olden Days. And to top that, he even plays the antagonist to Mickey Mouse! Odd though the name and the role may have been, this short gives quite a great glimpse at the future for the character and for the Disney studios.
Ye Olden Days features a medieval knight Mickey Mouse fighting for his love of the princess(Minnie) that is being wed to a ghastly prince(Goofy, or Dippy Dawg as the cast sheet calls him). In this short, we see one of the first adventurous plots taking shape for the now very popular mouse. Goofy as the prince starts to show those over the top silly mannerisms that helped make him such a lovable bumbler but not quite to the lovable range. Seeing a legitimate short story unfold, characters fitting into other roles but remaining recognizable and a new character taking shape. This would start to prove a wonderful formula for Mickey and pals all the way up to today.
The Dawg, however, was just getting his feet wet. He found himself in mostly bit parts for quite awhile as his figure started to round out and that unique voice and laugh developed. He was clearly a character the Disney animators wanted to revisit but he hadn’t quite settled into a groove. That didn’t prove to be the same issue for one of his pals.
Donald and the Hen
Donald has a quite different story than Goofy. For the most part, Donald came on to the scene nearly exactly as we still see him. He wore his trademark sailor suit, he was a little bit of a selfish trouble maker, and that quacking voice was all there. The only real evolution for Donald came in his body shape which started out much more like a normal duck but seemed to round out a bit more with each new appearance.
But the big difference was that Donald didn’t make his debut with Mickey. Donald made his way onto screens for the first time in 1934 in a Silly Symphony short called the Wise Little Hen. His voice, so different from the silly but easy to hear voices of his friends, actually comes a bit more from that debut than anything established in the Mickey line of cartoons. The characters in this debut film all spoke with a serious animal accent. The hen clucked out her words and the pig snorted through his communication, so Donald quacked out whatever he had to say. Debuting in the Silly Symphony line, Donald also beat his pal Mickey to something by a whole year…being in color!
The animators did not wait long to bring this new character over to the world of Mickey and company but he seemed to catch on just as fast if not faster than Pluto did. On top of that, he seemed to be the first character to really pal around with the mouse, portraying cops working together. This would of course prove a precursor to the inevitable.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy
After toying around with a supporting cast, evolving storylines and crafting new gags, Disney animators finally found their truly well rounded comedic team. Though the three characters had appeared together in Mickey’s first color short, The Band Concert, it wasn’t until one of his final black and white adventures that the trio seemed to work together. Mickey’s Service Station proved the first true adventure to feature all three of the characters.
Something about this formula clicked. Perhaps it has something to do with the more mature animation that had developed or the improved gags or maybe it really had a lot to do with the juxtaposition of these characters together. Whatever it was, it worked. The three characters together had an energy that you didn’t realize was even missing until you saw them one upping each other in gags. Mickey’s overzealousness, Donald’s temper and Goofy’s naive clumsiness work in a good tandem that evoke some of the great comedy troupes of their time.
And it couldn’t have found it at a better time. As 1935 rolled in, color came to the Mickey cartoons(though Disney had been using it in Silly Symphonies for a few years). Finally with a true core of characters forming for their flagship series, the Disney studio was able to truly build on Walt’s creation of a singular mouse.
Walt, of course, was never too far away. But by this time he had shifted his primary focus to the next great venture for his little studio: feature films. By the time the Disney Fab Five had graced their first cartoon all together, development had begun for the the first full length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.