Mickey Mouse may seem pretty spry, but he made his first public appearance to test audiences 89 years ago this week. No, the cartoon wasn't the much-beloved Steamboat Willie—it was Plane Crazy, a six-minute silent short that was made in a matter of weeks. Here's what you need to know about Mickey's high-flying debut.
1. IT WAS A REVENGE CARTOON.
In 1927, Walt Disney and his partner, Ub Iwerks, had recently lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—a popular character they had created—to Charles Mintz, a producer and distributor for whom they had been making cartoons. To add insult to injury, Mintz also hired most of the animators out from under Disney and Iwerks. Determined to come up with something just as good, the duo worked on the short that would become Plane Crazy while simultaneously finishing their last three Oswald shorts for Mintz.
2. THE PROJECT WAS KEPT SECRET FROM THE REST OF THE ANIMATORS.
To keep the project top secret, Iwerks drew in an isolated room away from the other animators working on the last Oswald cartoons. He prided himself on his breakneck pace, often completing as many as 700 drawings a day. Other animators who had stayed loyal to Disney worked behind high black curtains to prevent the “traitor” employees from seeing.
3. THE CELS WERE HAND-INKED IN DISNEY’S GARAGE.
When it came time to ink Iwerks’s drawings onto cels, Walt, his wife Lilly, and two of his sisters-in-law huddled together in Disney’s garage and did them by hand. They went back to the studio and photographed the cels late at night when no one else was there.
4. THE SHORT PARODIED THE CHARLES LINDBERGH CRAZE.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
Disney decided on a plane-themed cartoon for Mickey’s debut to take advantage of the public’s love of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh had made his famous transatlantic flight just the year before.
5. IT HAD A VERY LIMITED NUMBER OF PUBLIC SCREENINGS.
Not many people got to witness Mickey’s first appearance, and the lucky few who did had no idea that they were witnessing history. On May 17, 1928, a Los Angeles theater showed Plane Crazy to test audiences for one day only. Walt sat in the back of the theater and monitored the audience’s response. It was nearly unanimous: Everyone loved the little mouse.
6. PLANE CRAZY’S FAILURE INSPIRED WALT TO GET IN ON THE TALKING PICTURE CRAZE.
Though Mickey and pals tested really well with audiences, the silent short failed to pick up a distributor. The Jazz Singer had come out the year before, and in a flash of inspiration, Walt decided that synchronized sound was the future of cartoons.
7. IT WAS THE FIRST MICKEY MOUSE CARTOON TO BE MADE, BUT THE THIRD TO BE RELEASED.
Rather than apply sound to Plane Crazy retroactively, Disney decided to try the synchronized sound technique on the short the team was currently working on—Steamboat Willie. Mickey’s stint as a riverboat pilot was released, to much fanfare, on November 18, 1928. It was only after that success that Disney and Iwerks went back and added sound to Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, another silent short they had worked on prior to Steamboat Willie. As a result, Plane Crazy was actually the third Mickey short to be released even though it was the first to be completed.
8. THE SHORT WAS ALSO MINNIE’S DEBUT.
Of course, much is made of the fact that Plane Crazy is technically Mickey’s first appearance, but it’s also Minnie’s debut, which makes them sweethearts from the get-go. (Though if you actually watch the short, she’s not exactly thrilled about the prospect just yet.) It also marks the first appearance of Clarabelle Cow.
9. PRODUCTION WAS A BARGAIN.
According to Disney records, the entire short—minus the sound—was made for a mere $1772. That’s roughly $25,339 in 2017 dollars.
10. WALT’S KIDS WEREN’T IMPRESSED.
Though Plane Crazy was groundbreaking at the time, by the time Disney’s children saw the first Mickey Mouse cartoon later in life, they were unimpressed. The kids were reportedly “astonished” by how crudely drawn he was, with sticks for arms and legs and a circular torso.
11. YOU CAN STILL SEE PLANE CRAZY AT DISNEYLAND.
You can still get a taste of what it might have been like to see Plane Crazy in a theater back in 1928. The Main Street Cinema at Disneyland still runs six old Mickey Mouse cartoons today: Plane Crazy, Steamboat Willie, The Moose Hunt, Traffic Troubles, The Dognapper, and Mickey’s Polo Team.
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Legendary Pictures took a gamble on Pacific Rim,Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 monster/robot slugfest. Since it wasn’t based on a preexisting franchise, it lacked a built-in fanbase. That can be a serious drawback in our current age of blockbuster remakes and reboots. The movie underperformed domestically; in America, it grossed just over $100 million against its $180 million budget. Yet Pacific Rim was a huge hit overseas and acquired enough fans to earn itself a sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, which arrives in theaters this week. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.
1. THE PREMISE CAME TO SCREENWRITER TRAVIS BEACHAM WHILE HE WAS TAKING A STROLL.
One foggy day in 2007, Beacham—who’d recently moved to California—was walking along Santa Monica Beach. As he looked out at the Ferris wheel on the city’s eponymous pier, he pictured a looming sea monster. Then he imagined an equally large robot gearing up to fight the beast. “They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast godlike things,” Beacham said. He decided to pursue the concept further after coming up with the idea of human co-pilots who’d need to operate their robot as a team, which added a new thematic dimension.
“I didn’t know I had something I wanted to write until I realized these robots are driven by two pilots, and what happens when one of those people dies? What happens to the leftovers? Then it became a story about loss, moving on after loss, and dealing with survivor’s guilt," Beacham said. "That made the monsters scarier because now you care about the people who are in these robots.”
2. CONCEPT ARTISTS PUT TOGETHER “ABOUT A HUNDRED” DIFFERENT KAIJU AND JAEGER DESIGNS.
Pacific Rim was picked up by Legendary Pictures and handed over to director Guillermo del Toro. A huge fan of monster cinema, del Toro enthusiastically co-wrote the final screenplay with Beacham. Sixteen concept artists were hired to sketch original robot and creature designs for the film. “We would get together every day like kids and draw all day,” del Toro told the New York Daily News. “We designed about a hundred Kaijus and about a hundred Jaegers and every week we would do an American Idol and we would vote [some of] them out.”
3. CHARLIE DAY WAS CAST AFTER DEL TORO CAUGHT HIS PERFORMANCE IN AN EPISODE OF IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA.
In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the tenth episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's sixth season, Charlie Day’s character gives us a darkly comedic monologue about rodent extermination. Little did the actor know that the performance would open a big opportunity for him. Impressed by the rat speech, del Toro offered Day the part of Dr. Newton Geizler, Pacific Rim’s socially-inept kaiju expert. “He said to himself, ‘That’s my guy. That guy should be in my next movie because if he killed rats, he can kill the monster,’” Day recalled during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the movie set, del Toro often joked about how much he enjoys It’s Always Sunny. As a way of repaying his director, Day helped get del Toro a minor role in the series.
4. THEY BUILT A FOUR-STORY JAEGER HEAD.
Most of the film’s special effects were computer-generated, but not everything was digital. For the robot cockpit scenes, del Toro had his team build the interior of a full-scale Jaeger head. The finished product stood four stories tall and weighed 20 tons. And like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell, it was designed to rock around violently on its platform via a network of hydraulics. Once inside, the actors were forced to don 40-pound suits of armor. Then the crew strapped their feet into an apparatus that Charlie Hunnam has compared to a high-resistance elliptical machine.
Certain shots also required del Toro to dump gallons of water all over his exhausted, physically-strained stars. So yeah, the experience wasn’t much fun. “We saw every one of the actors break down on that set except for the female lead actress Rinko Kikuchi," del Toro said. "She’s the only actor that didn’t snap."
5. GIPSY DANGER WALKS LIKE JOHN WAYNE.
Del Toro wanted Gipsy Danger, his ‘bot, to have the self-confident air of a wild west gunslinger. To that end, he and concept artist Oscar Chichoni developed a swaggering gait that was based on John Wayne’s signature hip movements. The Jaeger’s Art Deco-like design was influenced by the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.
6. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE'S TOM MORELLO WORKED ON THE SOUNDTRACK.
Hailed as the “fortieth greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello rocked the MTV generation with hits like “Bulls on Parade” and “Killing in the Name.” Pacific Rim bears his mark as well. The film’s lead composer was Ramin Djawadi, whose other works include the Game of Thrones theme. Wanting to add a “rock element” to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, he and del Toro reached out to Morello. The guitarist didn’t need much persuading.
“When they asked me to put some giant robot riffs and screaming underwater monster licks on the film score, I was all in,” Morello said. Djwadi was pleased with the rocker's contributions to the project. As he told the press: “Tom’s unique style and sounds really defined our robots.”
7. ONE JOKE IN THE HONG KONG SCENE CALLED FOR A MINIATURE OFFICE SET.
A definite highlight of this movie is Gipsy Danger’s duel with the winged kaiju Otachi in downtown Hong Kong. Both characters were computer-generated, as were the majority of the streets, cars, and towers in this epic sequence. However, there is one moment which was at least partly realized with practical effects. Gipsy punches through the wall of an office building early in the fight. We see her fist rip through a series of cubicles and gradually decelerate until it lightly taps a chair with just enough force to set off a Newton’s Cradle desktop toy. For that shot, effects artists at 32Ten Studios constructed a miniature office building interior featuring 1/4-scale desks, cubicles, and padded chairs. The level of detail here was amazing: 32Ten’s staff adorned each individual workspace with lamps, computers, wastebaskets, and teeny, tiny Post-it notes.
8. THREE DIFFERENT ENDINGS WERE SHOT.
Kerry Hayes, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures
Audiences reacted strongly to Kikuchi’s character Mako Mori, who inspired an alternative to the famous Bechdel test. Some critics praised the culmination of her relationship with Raleigh Beckett (Hunnam). Although it’s common practice for the male and female leads in an action flick to end their movie with a smooch, Mori and Beckett share a platonic hug as Pacific Rim draws to a close. Del Toro revealed that he shot three different versions of that final scene. “We did one version where they kiss and it almost felt weird. They’re good friends, they’re pals, good colleagues,” del Toro said.
9. PACIFIC RIM WAS DEDICATED TO RAY HARRYHAUSEN AND ISHIRO HONDA.
At the end of the credits, there’s a tribute that reads: “This film is dedicated to the memories of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda.” Harryhausen passed away on May 7, 2013—two months before Pacific Rim’s release. A great stop-motion animator, he breathed life into such creatures as the towering Rhedosaurus in 1953’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.
Ishiro Honda was another giant of the kaiju genre, having directed Rodan, War of the Gargantuas, and numerous Godzilla films. Del Toro has great respect for both men. When Harryhausen died, the director said, “I lost a member of my family today, a man who was as present in my childhood as any of my relatives.” He also adores the Japanese monster classics and says he’d love to see a Pacific Rim-Godzilla crossover someday. Maybe it’ll happen.
10. GUILLERMO DEL TORO LIKED ONE FAN-MADE TRAILER SO MUCH THAT HE INVITED ITS CREATORS TO THE MOVIE’S PREMIERE.
If you’re not familiar with the practice of “Sweding,” let us fill you in: The 2008 comedy Be Kind, Rewind is about two co-workers at a VHS rental store who accidentally erase every tape in stock. Hoping to save their skins, they create ultra low-budget remakes of all the films they’ve destroyed using cardboard sets and cheap costumes. It’s a process these guys call “Sweding” as a ploy to convince everyone that their (unintentionally hilarious) knockoffs were produced in Sweden. Since Be Kind, Rewind was released, Sweding has become a legitimate art form.
When Pacific Rim’s first trailer debuted in 2013, YouTubers Brian Harley and Brodie Mash created a shot-for-shot, Sweded duplicate of the preview. Instead of state-of-the-art CG effects, their version used toy helicopters, duct-tape monster masks, and an ocean of packing peanuts—and del Toro loved it. At WonderCon 2013, he praised the video, saying that it inspired the editing used in Pacific Rim’s third trailer. Harley and Mash happened to be at the same gathering. When del Toro met the comedic duo, he exclaimed “I loved it! My daughters loved it, we watched it a bunch of times!” Then he invited the Sweding duo to attend Pacific Rim’s premiere in Hollywood.
Stanley Kubrick Photography Exhibition Opening at the Museum of the City of New York
BY Jay Serafino
March 22, 2018
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Stanley Kubrick will forever be known as one of the most important film directors of the 20th century, but he started his career in the 1940s as a photojournalist for Look magazine. Now, the Museum of the City of New York will host a photographic exhibition of Kubrick’s early work, featuring 120 pictures from his time as a staff photographer at Look from 1945 to 1950.
Much of Kubrick’s work at the time revolved around daily life in New York City—the clubs, the commutes, and the sports. Some of his most notable pieces while at Look were his photo features on boxers Rocky Graziano and Walter Cartier, the latter of which became the subject of Kubrick’s first film, a 1951 documentary called Day of the Fight.
“Turning his camera on his native city, Kubrick found inspiration in New York's characters and settings, sometimes glamorous, sometimes gritty,” the museum wrote in a press release. “He produced work that was far ahead of his time and focused on themes that would inspire him through his creative life. Most importantly, his photography laid the technical and aesthetic foundations for his cinematography: he learned through the camera's lens to be an acute observer of human interactions and to tell stories through images in dynamic narrative sequences.”
Titled "Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs," the exhibition will detail the different themes that inspired Kubrick’s work, as well as guide patrons through his Look tenure, including both published and unpublished work. One of the exhibit’s goals is to provide an “examination of the direct connection between Kubrick the photographer and Kubrick the director.”