Today, I’m looking at something a little different—two classic animated Disney shorts. I grew up watching old Disney shorts on the Wonderful World of Disney and the Disney Channel (you know, back when it actually showed old Disney stuff). I will always have a soft spot for them, and while neither is “scary” even for a child, they’re still quite entertaining.
Lonesome Ghosts is the more famous of the pair. Originally released in 1937, it stars Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as “ghost exterminators.” If that sounds awfully familiar, it should also be noted at one point Goofy says, “I ain’t scared of no ghosts!” So, there’s a good chance Ghostbusters took some inspiration from this classic. That’s okay though, because it also borrows liberally from 1933’s Duck Soup in the form of the often-imitated mirror scene. Here it’s with Goofy and a ghost in the mirror. There’s also the weird fact that Mickey shows up with a shotgun and Goofy an axe. These guys weren’t messing around. 1952’s Trick or Treat is less well-known, but features the witch Hazel helping Huey, Duey, and Louie enact revenge against their uncle Donald after he tricks them but offers no treat. It’s funny and cute featuring the memorable title track “trick or Treat for Halloween.”
One thing that did stick out to me was the wildly different portrayal of Donald not just in these cartoons, but in others I recall. In Trick or Treat he’s downright a jerk to his nephews. It’s hard to imagine him being portrayed this way in a modern short, but of course he wasn’t in the almost two decades earlier Lonesome Ghosts. It got me thinking of a Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Super Mario Bros.) interview where he said he viewed the Mario cast of characters as a troupe of actors. Mario and Bowser might play tennis together in one game, and then be battling one another to save Princess Peach in the next. He said his inspiration had been old Popeye cartoons, but these Disney shorts obviously could have provided the inspiration, as well. It’s an interesting concept that I’m not sure any modern cartoon characters follow.