¡¡¡¡When it comes to the films and television shows from Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS), most people have probably seen the classic works so many times they can recite the dialogue and sing the musical scores with barely any prompting.
¡¡¡¡However, the Disney canon also includes a number of wonderfully weird titles ¡ª some from the company, others playing fast with its intellectual property ¡ª that are barely known to the general public but are savored by cinephiles with a penchant for the obscure.
¡¡¡¡To help widen your knowledge of all things Disney ¡ª whether you want to or not ¡ª here are five Disney-related works that you probably never saw but should try to seek out.
¡¡¡¡¡°Hollywood Party¡± (1934): Disney¡¯s first collaboration with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio involved this all-star musical comedy that is also notable for being the sole film featuring both Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges (albeit not in the same scene).
¡¡¡¡The film takes place at the Tinseltown mansion of Jimmy Durante, who responds to his female guests screaming at the sight of a mouse. Durante reaches behind a chair and picks up Mickey Mouse by his tail.
¡¡¡¡The animated mouse does a brief imitation of the long-nosed, grammar-fracturing funnyman, and then pulls out a piano to offer an introduction of another Disney work, a Technicolor short called ¡°Hot Chocolate Soldiers.¡±
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¡¡¡¡MGM would reach out to Disney to include Mickey Mouse in an animated-live action sequence for the 1945 Gene Kelly musical ¡°Anchors Aweigh.¡± Disney declined and MGM settled for one of its own cartoon creations, Jerry Mouse from the ¡°Tom and Jerry¡± series, to share the screen with Kelly.
¡¡¡¡Disney would team with MGM again in 1956 on the animated sequences in the science-fiction classic “Forbidden Planet.”
¡¡¡¡¡°The Story of Menstruation¡± (1946): Did you know that a Disney film was the first to use the word ¡°vagina¡± in its screenplay? That unlikely milestone is because Disney was commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company to create an educational film designed to be shown in health education classes.
¡¡¡¡The 10-minute production ¡°The Story of Menstruation¡± sought to explain one of the less comfortable physical conditions facing girls on the road to womanhood.
¡¡¡¡Using animated diagrams, the film details how the menstrual cycle works and offers advice that is both practical (it’s okay to bathe during menstruation) and a bit suspect (try not to catch a cold).
¡¡¡¡This film was still being screened in classrooms well into the early 1980s, and it even wound up on the Library of Congress¡¯ National Film Registry.
¡¡¡¡Alas, Disney never embraced this for-hire short as one of its classic works.
¡¡¡¡¡°Mickey Mouse in Vietnam¡± (1968): Lee Savage and Milton Glaser helped themselves to Disney¡¯s prized property for this underground cartoon short made for the Angry Arts Festival, a 1968 event designed to give creative artists a forum for protesting the Vietnam War.
¡¡¡¡The dialogue-free 16mm black-and-white cartoon places the ¡°Steamboat Willie¡± version of Mickey Mouse into the U.S. Army, where he sails across the Pacific, arrives in Vietnam, follows an arrow-shaped sign marked ¡°Warzone¡± and is promptly shot in the head.
¡¡¡¡With their obvious trampling of intellectual property, Savage and Glaser limited screenings of their work in private exhibitions or unannounced slots in underground film festivals. Most Disney addicts only knew of it from screenshots in the 1998 French book ¡°Bon Anniversaire, Mickey!¡± until it turned up on YouTube in 2013, where it can still be seen.
¡¡¡¡¡°Sandy in Disneyland¡± (1974): The 1970s were notorious for surreal and often incoherent television variety specials, and this effort centered around spunky starlet Sandy Duncan was no exception.
¡¡¡¡Viewers who found themselves tuned into this wackiness were assaulted with a singing and dancing Ernest Borgnine (?!?), the Jackson 5 dressed in quasi-naval uniforms while doing a medley of their hit tunes and parody lyrics from Gilbert and Sullivan¡¯s ¡°H.M.S. Pinafore,¡± Loggins & Messina as dueling princes trying to rouse unbecoming Ruth Buzzi¡¯s Sleeping Beauty (but not performing their Disney-friendly “House on Pooh Corner”) and Lorne Greene admiring animatronic dinosaurs.
¡¡¡¡As for Duncan, the excessively wholesome Wheat Thins spokesperson dressed up like a Carmen Miranda-style tropical bombshell and sang Peggy Lee¡¯s torrid ¡°Fever¡± while supported by eight dancing shirtless men and Doc Severinsen blasting his trumpet. Yes, it is is as bad as it sounds.
¡¡¡¡She later offers a gushing rendition of the romantic ballad ¡°He Touched Me¡± directed at the park¡¯s Mickey Mouse, which gives off a warped vibe with an adult woman professing a passion for a large mouse.
¡¡¡¡¡°Escape From Tomorrow¡± (2013): Independent filmmaker Randy Moore shot this provocative thriller at Disneyland and Walt Disney World without Disney¡¯s permission, using guerrilla filmmaking techniques to avoid being detected by the parks¡¯ security squads.
¡¡¡¡The disturbing black-and-white drama follows a father who discovers that he has lost his job while on vacation with his family. He begins to experience strange and harrowing hallucinations, while the film veers into rather non-Disney situations involving adultery, prostitution, mind control and decapitation.
¡¡¡¡¡°Escape From Tomorrow¡± premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was screened by Roger Ebert later that year at his Ebertfest film festival in Champaign, Illinois.
¡¡¡¡Moore carefully avoided using any Disney music and proprietary intellectual property, thus avoiding the threat of a lawsuit from the corporation.
¡¡¡¡For its part, Disney ignored ¡°Escape From Tomorrow,¡± with a spokesperson telling CNN the company was ¡°aware¡± of the film but had nothing to say about it.
¡¡¡¡(Screen shot from “Mickey Mouse in Vietnam” courtesy of Cinema Crazed.)