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Plight of the Bumble Bee

with 23 comments

It always astounds me how much stuff was literally trashed at Disney’s throughout its history. Would you believe that they once scrapped a cartoon that was nearly completely animated, simply because of its length?

Plight of the Bumble Bee, a 1951 Jack Kinney directed Mickey Mouse cartoon, featuring the work of Fred Moore, Cliff Nordberg, and others, is the cartoon in question. Kinney offered the following explanation to why it was shelved:

“The best Mickey ever was never finished. It was called The Plight of the Bumble Bee, and it was all finished in animation. It had an awkward length, but Fred and Sib agreed that it could not be cut, so it was shelved.”

Calling this the best Mickey ever is overrating it at best, though I’m sure Kinney and the animators were sore over their hard work being thrown into the Morgue. It’s a standard Kinney cartoon, which means it’s a notch above the hackwork that the Shorts Department had been turning out on a regular basis for years. Certainly not a forerunner to One Froggy Evening in any way as I’ve read some people suggest.

Still, it’s neat to see something the studio never intended the public to see, and “new” work by one of the most highly recognizable animators. You can watch the rough cut below.

Hans Perk offers boards and some great original animation scans here.

Written by Thad

August 22nd, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Posted in classic animation

23 Responses to 'Plight of the Bumble Bee'

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  1. But it’s not even that long. That’s a shame.

    Daniel Caylor

    22 Aug 10 at 6:12 pm

  2. Great find, Thad! Fred Moore and others did some terrific animation in this cartoon, and I think it’s cool that we get to see the animators’ pencil lines like this. There’s always something lost in the original drawing no matter how well it may be inked.

    I bet this could be passed off as a “new” Mickey Mouse cartoon if it could be completely colored, inked, etc, and if at least a minute of new animation is added to it. Just a thought. Not saying that it will ever happen or that I’m hoping for it though.

    Roberto Severino

    22 Aug 10 at 6:42 pm

  3. I suspect Walt shelved it because despite all great Mickey animation, it really isn’t much of a Mickey short– He makes more than the usual token appearance before stepping aside for Pluto, and Fred Moore really knew how to bring Mickey to life in ways that seemed to elude other animators.

    The length of the short doesn’t seem to be much of a problem–Most of Donald’s shorts were way over seven minutes long, I think it’s just a case of a story that seemed pretty good in the storyboard stage, that just sort of lost its luster as it moved through production. Do you think maybe there might have been a behind the scenes meeting where someone might have said, “What? another damned bee? Isn’t that the Duck’s thing?”

    Interesting to see Mickey interacting with actual humans, instead of the usual “dog people” that make up Disney’s cartoon stable of extras.

    John A

    22 Aug 10 at 8:18 pm

  4. Other than the ‘learning no lesson’ ending, it’s closer to a forerunner of Jones’ “Nellie’s Folly” than it is to “One Froggy Evening”, with also a bit of Avery’s “Dixieland Droopy” and “Finnegan’s Flea” over at Paramount thrown in for good measure (and as usual for a Disney Mickey short post’1942 or so, there’s a level of self-restraint in the slapstick scenes, as if Kinney was worried if he went all out with the wild comedy like in the Goofy entries, Walt would walk in and be totally aghast at the buffoonery they were doing with his mouse and punish the whole lot of them).

    J Lee

    22 Aug 10 at 8:57 pm

  5. Maybe more “Dixieland Droopy” than “One Froggy Evening” – but great, nonetheless!

    Why, oh why did we lose this one, and not “Mickey and the Seal”!

    Joe Torcivia

    22 Aug 10 at 10:28 pm

  6. Quick note: most of the beginning is animated by Hal King. Great to finally see it move!

    Hans Perk

    23 Aug 10 at 7:45 am

  7. Rejected for length?

    Sounds more like Mickey wasn’t allowed to do anything fun by the early 50’s, you know, besides being Pluto’s do-nothing co-star. They would both get a crappy send-off in The Simple Things.

    Mr. Semaj

    23 Aug 10 at 6:31 pm

  8. Terrific find Thad! A very fun film! Thanks for sharing!


    23 Aug 10 at 9:04 pm

  9. Very interesting. Nice Freddy Moore animation of Mickey, but not the best Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. It’s all right, but it just doesn’t have that same sense of energy that the rest of Jack Kinney’s shorts had.

    Eric Noble

    24 Aug 10 at 11:31 am

  10. This is a very nice cartoon. The length issue doesn’t seem to be a real problem. Could it have been that it didn’t seem much like a Mickey short?

    Mickey is dressed as the Kinney Goofy is dressed, with the standard Goofy narration style track. I’ve heard Disney didn’t care that much for the later Goofy cartoons. Maybe he didn’t want Mickey going in that same direction.

    I loved seeing the pencil animation. It has much more life than the inked cartoons we see from the same era.

    Chuck Fiala

    24 Aug 10 at 1:42 pm

  11. Hal King and Cliff Nordberg, eh? Thats pretty high grade for a Kinney picture in those days.

    Mickey feels interchangable here; one of the George Geef people could have done just as well in his place. Fred made some nice poses though, so I can’t complain.


    24 Aug 10 at 1:57 pm

  12. I’m no expert like these guys, but it’s cool to see where these poses came from:


    Thanks Thad! It was driving me nuts.


    25 Aug 10 at 12:25 am

  13. It’s a delight. Such smooth and well timed animation… hand drawn on paper. It still holds the magic for me.

    Jorgen Klubien

    25 Aug 10 at 3:44 am

  14. Strange to have Mickey not use his own voice for the narration.

    Great lessons in smooth cartoony animation!

    Greg Manwaring

    25 Aug 10 at 9:09 am

  15. It’s a strange combination of Mickey with dimensional ears moving in perspective and the traditional rolling sphere illusion. The animation is very different from scene to scene. Also having Mickeys narration voiced by a natural sounding actor further make for a peculiar film. I can understand why it wasn’t finished but not how it got as far as it did.

    Joel Brinkerhoff

    26 Aug 10 at 9:51 am

  16. “Other than the ‘learning no lesson’ ending, it’s closer to a forerunner of Jones’ “Nellie’s Folly” than it is to “One Froggy Evening”, with also a bit of Avery’s “Dixieland Droopy” and “Finnegan’s Flea” over at Paramount thrown in for good measure”

    Another Paramount cartoon, “The Plumber”, comes to mind while watching this too.

    C. Sobieniak

    27 Aug 10 at 4:55 am

  17. Gosh!!! Congratulations, Thad! Now please make a post explaning how you discovered this lost Disney mistery! : ))

    Fernando Ventura

    27 Aug 10 at 1:22 pm

  18. It’s been making the rounds for well over a decade by now. I can’t take credit for its uncovering.


    27 Aug 10 at 1:33 pm

  19. I dont’ get how this is “too long” unless some chunk is still missing.

    7 minutes is about a typical WB running time.


    31 Aug 10 at 11:48 am

  20. Here’s the story behind it’s resurrection: Back in 1982, Daan Jippes retrieved some “stuff” connected to a never-produced short (which info he found in David R.Smith`s Morgue down in the basement of the R.O.D. building) from the loft in a toolshed on Disney`s famed backlot. Four boxes worth of animation-, layouts and X-sheets.
    Its available animation was eventually completed under the supervision of Burny Mattinson, some 12 years ago.
    The “modelsheet” seen above was compiled and lettered by Daan, in 1982.
    Thanks to Daan for the above info!

  21. Eh… The reference to the modelsheet in my previous comment slipped through when I copied the text from my blog. Sorry…

  22. I definitely missed this video before it was taken down, but I would still LOVE to see it. If anyone has it and would like to share, you can email me at twillsbiz@gmail.com

    Tyler Williams

    20 Jul 11 at 12:56 am

  23. Nevermind, i got it now. Now to watch it.

    Tyler Williams

    20 Jul 11 at 1:51 am

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