A side-by-side comparison of Disney’s “Orphan’s Benefit”

Michael Ruocco, who discovered a lost Fred Moore animation scene on eBay recently, created this side-by-side comparison of the 1934 Disney short Orphan’s Benefit and its 1941 frame-by-frame remake of the same name.

I’m sure there’ll be varying opinions on which one’s better–for the record, I think the original is more fun to watch and feels less labored–but Michael is curious to know why they did this in the first place: “Why would they put so much time, money and effort into a remake when they could use that same energy on making something original? Was it because of the big Disney strike that happened a few years earlier? Were they planning a package feature of remade shorts which never fully came to fruition?”

All I know is that my life would be a lot more productive if I could figure out how to always watch two cartoons at once.

UPDATE: David Gerstein, animation historian and author of Mickey And The Gang: Classic Stories In Verse, posted a comment about why the remake was made. The reasons are more complicated than one might believe and worth reading:

On June 27, 1939, Walt, Riley Thomson and Dave Hand screened nineteen early Mickey cartoons. The plan was to compile the best scenes from the shorts into a two-reel clip show for Mickey’s upcoming twelfth anniversary. MICKEY’S REVIVAL PARTY (as it was to have been called) would have opened with Mickey’s gang arriving at a studio cinema. As the vintage scenes unreeled on a “screen within a screen,” Mickey and friends in the audience would react in various comic ways.

There were only two problems with this. The elaborate manner in which the vintage scenes were to be reused precluded simply lifting them from old negatives and splicing them together. They would have to be reinked onto cels from the original animation drawings; repainted, retimed, and refilmed.

Another hindrance was that the old cartoons excerpted had to be from summer 1935 or earlier. Anything more recent might still be in release. This meant that there were very few color cartoons to include in the retrospective.

Walt decided to kill two birds with one stone. As the excerpted shorts were all to be reinked and repainted anyway, he decided to repaint some in color that had originally been in black and white: ORPHANS’ BENEFIT among them. Walt also saw an opportunity to retouch and improve the color in THE BAND CONCERT, the one short in the show that was originally in color. Story meeting transcripts reveal Walt repeatedly suggesting that remaking or upgrading older shorts could be an ongoing program, independent of REVIVAL PARTY.

That’s what ended up happening. REVIVAL PARTY director Riley Thomson completed a cutting continuity for use in preparing the excerpts; but for some reason, the clip show format ended up on the shelf. Instead, Thomson moved forward with remaking earlier cartoons in full-length, standalone form. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT came first. Then came MICKEY’S MAN FRIDAY, four early color Silly Symphony shorts, and ON ICE.

But then the bottom dropped out. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT, directed by Thomson, ended up the only exact Disney remake ever completed. MAN FRIDAY was shut down partway through animation; you can still see model sheets at various online animation galleries for what the updated models were going to look like.

The other remakes were shut down before animation. I’ve been unable to find out why.


  • http://jackmunchproductions.blogspot.com/ Malcolm Thomas

    Personally, I think the new one had better acting on Mickey’s half. His eyes actually emote rather than just stare blankly for five minutes. Anyway, I’m glad Mike made the comparison. Good on him.

  • Tim Schuit

    Is it bad that I love them both?

  • http://richardsmithstudios.webs.com/ Richard

    The 1941 version has more character movement.

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    “Why would they put so much time, money and effort into a remake when they could use that same energy on making something original?”

    Because it’s much, much cheaper to put a facelift on old animation, which is why so much of it looks awkward in the 1941 remake. There’s probably a more elaborate answer out there, like if it actually did have anything to do with the strike, but the bottom line is that it was just a cheap way to ram something through production and fill the release schedule.

    • Daniel J. Drazen

      There’s also a “Because they can” aspect about it. After all, the first short wasn’t in color, and using the color technology must have been its own justification to take another run at the same material. We’re seeing other Hollywood retreads (e.g., the Chipmunk movies) that get made just because a 3D system is available or because computers have gotten more powerful and can pull off effects that weren’t possible a decade ago.

      • http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com David Gerstein

        Hey, the story behind the ORPHAN’S BENEFIT remake is more complicated than you’d ever believe. But I know why it was done—and it had nothing to do with the strike.

        I wrote the backstory out first for my old [italic]Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories in Verse[/italic] book a few years ago, then for a comment on the Electronic Cerebrectomy blog. Why not just reprint it here:

        On June 27, 1939, Walt, Riley Thomson and Dave Hand screened nineteen early Mickey cartoons. The plan was to compile the best scenes from the shorts into a two-reel clip show for Mickey’s upcoming twelfth anniversary. MICKEY’S REVIVAL PARTY (as it was to have been called) would have opened with Mickey’s gang arriving at a studio cinema. As the vintage scenes unreeled on a “screen within a screen,” Mickey and friends in the audience would react in various comic ways.
        There were only two problems with this. The elaborate manner in which the vintage scenes were to be reused precluded simply lifting them from old negatives and splicing them together. They would have to be reinked onto cels from the original animation drawings; repainted, retimed, and refilmed.
        Another hindrance was that the old cartoons excerpted had to be from summer 1935 or earlier. Anything more recent might still be in release. This meant that there were very few color cartoons to include in the retrospective.
        Walt decided to kill two birds with one stone. As the excerpted shorts were all to be reinked and repainted anyway, he decided to repaint some in color that had originally been in black and white: ORPHANS’ BENEFIT among them. Walt also saw an opportunity to retouch and improve the color in THE BAND CONCERT, the one short in the show that was originally in color. Story meeting transcripts reveal Walt repeatedly suggesting that remaking or upgrading older shorts could be an ongoing program, independent of REVIVAL PARTY.
        That’s what ended up happening. REVIVAL PARTY director Riley Thomson completed a cutting continuity for use in preparing the excerpts; but for some reason, the clip show format ended up on the shelf. Instead, Thomson moved forward with remaking earlier cartoons in full-length, standalone form. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT came first. Then came MICKEY’S MAN FRIDAY, four early color Silly Symphony shorts, and ON ICE.
        But then the bottom dropped out. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT, directed by Thomson, ended up the only exact Disney remake ever completed. MAN FRIDAY was shut down partway through animation; you can still see model sheets at various online animation galleries for what the updated models were going to look like.
        The other remakes were shut down before animation. I’ve been unable to find out why.

      • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

        Well, Gerstein just shot my reasoning to pieces. David, have you been able to find out if Mickey greets them in the other unmade remakes?

      • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

        Thanks for clearing things up David! I suspected that a “package” of shorts could’ve been a possibility, and you solidified that theory.

        Like you mentioned, I’ve seen at least 30 different drawings from the canned remake of MICKEY’S MAN FRIDAY all over the place.

      • amid

        David – Thanks for all the terrific info. My question is about the Mickey Mouse feature that they started working on in spring 1940 and for which “Mickey and the Beanstalk” was intended for originally.

        Both Ward Kimball and Fred Moore were slated to work on the feature, and “Little Whirlwind” and “Nifty Nineties” (directed by Thomson) were considered to be warm-up shorts for them. Ward and others animated scenes for Beanstalk a year later during the strike. Was this feature a rethink of the original “Revival Party” idea or a completely new film?

      • http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com David Gerstein

        BEANSTALK was entirely unrelated to “Revival Party” and appears to have started development before it. I show BEANSTALK originating as an “Emperor’s New Clothes” adaptation in the late 1930s—with a King similar to that of BRAVE LITTLE TAILOR walking around his kingdom in long underwear—before shifting focus to become a Jack story. Some early exploratory drawings for BEANSTALK bear notation showing that they were retrofitted from “Emperor” to the new plot.

  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    seems like the main thing the new one has besides color and updated models, is that everything has a slightly more believeable weight to it. one obvious point to see this is where horace horsecollar catches clarabelle cow on his fingertip, but it’s throughout the whole cartoon- objects drag and overlap in more subtle and interesting ways in the 1941 version.
    there is much to love about the older one though. I do miss the “am I moritfied” visual gag during donald’s recitation. also, the new one changes the location of clarabelle’s mammaries in odd and (for a cow) shocking ways. she’s funnier when she has less human dimensions.

  • PJ Holden

    It’s pretty clear to me that the reason they redid the ENTIRE thing is because in the original they mistitled it as

    “Orphan’s Benefits”

    Instead of

    “Orphans’ Benefits”

    I mean, I hate the grocer’s Apostrophe as much as the next man, but to redo an entire cartoon – that Walt Disney sure was a slave to perfection.

    -pj
    ps Also: maybe, at the time, redoing it in colour was the modern equivalent of reshooting for 3d?

  • http://www.charleskaufman.com C. Kaufman

    Interesting in the 1934 version how much smaller Donald Duck was compared to Mickey Mouse than in the 1941 version.

    Also in the 1941 version it looks like Clarabelle the Cow got some nice breast implants. (And at the end of the dance scene where she is thrown out of her dress, notice that the 1941 Clarabelle is wearing a white t-shirt and the 1934 Clarabelle is bare chested.)

    Donald Duck seems to be left-handed in one version and right-handed in the other. (Note last appearance of Donald in cartoon and their arm/hand movements are opposite in most of the scene.)

    In the 1934 version Donald morphs into a Jimmy Durante character (2:10) saying he is “mortified”, but in the 1941 version there is no morphing into Jimmy Durante. (Could it be because many 1940s Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons had characters based on Durante?)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Actually, Clarabelle is wearing a bra or some type of undergarment (for which she practically had nothing back in ’34). I thought Horace Horsecollar looked pretty manly in the remake myself!

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron B.

    Interesting study. I like the deliberate and measured movements of the ’34 short more so. In the ’41 short, I sense a funny little disconnect where the more modern coloring and character design doesn’t always jive with the slightly older character animation. The ’41 piece seems content to combine the two, making the characters hyper expressive as a result… sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  • Angry Anim

    We had on Mickey Mouse in living color the other day and I just noticed this short as well. Weird.

    I just assumed that that remade it because it also opened up the possibility of it being re-released over and over again to theater owners. I would gather that it was getting more and more difficult to get theater owners to show any of the older shorts with Mickey’s and Donald’s models changing so drastically… and also with them being in black and white.

    I would think that a short specifically would of gotten a lot of interest just because it seems like something that would go over well with Kiddie Matinees… where the audience was just packed with kids.

    I also agree with Thad, that it’s much cheaper to put a facelift on old animation.

  • Isaac

    The accents are much stronger in the 1941 version, aren’t they? The characters’ movements really read, and there’s a lot of secondary motion when they settle in a pose. Maybe it was a study for new animators about posing, accents, and secondary motion.

  • lola

    Personally I like the newer version better. I could never stand those noodley arms/legs.

  • http://www.fluffyandmervin.com Debbie

    It does show how much Disney (and animated shorts in general) had progressed between 1934-41. Despite the more fluid animation and updated character designs, “Orphans’ Benefit” still seems a bit old-fashioned for a 1941 cartoon (although this wasn’t unusual for Disney’s shorts).

  • uncle wayne

    omg! That is fascinating. I had always seen snippets….but never the whole film book-ended. Thank you Mr. Ruoco. I never knew it was the exact score…and (near) exact everything. Amazing!! [I, too, am "mortified" at Mr. Durante's ommission!]

  • http://smomotion.com :: smo ::

    i wonder if this happened to come at a time where some new people were coming into the studio. it would be a great way to learn, because the charting and action were already done and on hand so the original could be studied thoroughly!

  • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

    Glad you’re enjoying the video guys!

    Here’s something relevant. I found this not too long ago, it’s a side-by-side comparison of Bob Clampett’s Porky in Wackyland and Friz Freleng’s remake, Dough for the Do-Do, complete with spacey music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKedQDSvfq8 .

    It’s a much more drastic comparison. Same animation, same timing, but COMPLETELY different background designs and ending.

    • uncle wayne

      Now THAT is a true treat, TOO! I’d be curious to see these (2) films in comparison to those (crucial) scenes in “Tin Pan Alley Cats”

    • Peter H

      The Wackyland comparison video is a deliberate edit job to line up matching segments: “Dough for the Do-do” changed the order of some scenes, as well as adding extra (different) animation and varying the timing of some shots, throughout the film – not just at the end. I seem to recall they rotoscoped the Wackyland film, as it was not considered worthwhile (or practical!) at Schlesingers’ to store the cels or drawings of past films, which perhaps explains the change in layout position. Although some characters were redrawn to make their design more contemporary (the “Wackyland” denizens had a more old-fashioned comic-strip styling, which now looks better than the less crude but more bland styling in “Do-Do”. There’s a noticable simplification in colour too: that is to say characters that had 4 or 5 different greys are reduced to 1 or 2 colours, though the flattening effect this has is somewhat mitigated by the rich Daliesque BGs.

    • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

      It always bugged me that the original B&W WACKYLAND cartoon was among those badly retraced in Korea and poorly hand-colorized in the 1970s or 1980s. The thing had already been redone in color by Warners! Why in the world was the later, inferior retraced version even produced?

      • http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com David Gerstein

        Er—but WACKYLAND wasn’t retraced. Ever.

        You might be thinking of INJUN TROUBLE or PORKY’S BADTIME STORY, both of which were (despite color remakes existing as WAGON HEELS and TICK TOCK TUCKERED, respectively).

  • RobEB

    I’ve always wanted to do this! I really can’t decide which version I like better.

    I’ve often wondered if audiences in the ’40s could sense something “different” about this cartoon. Or if anyone remembered the original from a few years before…

  • http://invaderpetblog.blogspot.com Brandon Pierce

    I like the 1934 version better because of how natural it is. The 1941 version is just…. weird. There’s something not right about it.

    Donald’s “Am I mortified” scene looks weird when there’s no Jimmy Durante visual accompanying it.

    I think it’s funny that people at Disneyshorts.org think Mickey calls Donald, “Pluto” at one point of the cartoon. He doesn’t actually.

    • http://www.disneyshorts.org Patrick Malone

      That was reported by two different commentors on my site for each version of the cartoon. This was before either was released on DVD. I’m wondering now if there were edited versions that they showed on the Disney Channel that got cleaned up for the DVD releases.

  • Spencer

    Anyone else feel like the identical animation of the performances et all is a fault?

    The modernized character designs don’t suit the style of movement that the original thrives on.

  • http://www.eunqqq.com EunQ

    It was really fun watching both videos!! Especially liked the part where old and new Donald are mirrored, and overall design of new Wackyland. Great find!

  • http://handdrawnrevolution.blogspot.com/ Rodger

    This was great, but don’t try to adjust your visual focus to overlap the images and create a 3D illusion… it’ll give you a headache…

  • A dude

    Um….. why does the cow have breasts?

    • http://toonsntunes.blogspot.com Marci Cameron

      Because cows are girls. Duh! Anyway, I agree that the remake shows the evolution of not just Clarabelle Cow, but the rest of the characters as well. That’s probably the main reason I prefer the remake myself.

  • http://mayberabies.blogspot.com Raven M. Molisee

    I like how in the new version, Goofy is so modest as to keep his clothes on beneath his caveman costume. LoL

    • http://toonsntunes.blogspot.com Marci Cameron

      I know what you mean. He keeps his shirt on under his loincloth unlike Horace Horsecollar who apparently has muscles to show off. And you’ll notice Goofy is less stringy in the remake than he was in the original.

  • http://www.itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    Did anyone notice that Donald’s original ending line from the original version of “Orphans’ Benefit” was changed for the remake? In the original, he says “Aw, nuts!” (which humorously supports all the shattered eggs), in the remake he says “Aw, phooey!”

    • http://ramapithblog.blogspot.com David Gerstein

      That’s right.

      Interestingly, the 1993 laserdisc version of the black-and-white BENEFIT substitutes the 1941 soundtrack, so Donald says “phooey” in black-and-white, too.

      I was a consultant on the later DVD version and noted the substitution. Others may have as well (I’m not sure), but either way the end result was its being fixed for DVD.

  • http://www.brianratigan.com ratigan

    Seriously,
    This is the best post I’ve seen on Cartoon Brew.
    Thank you David Gerstein and Amid.

    • amid

      We should thank Michael Ruocco too for creating the video comparison.

  • http://yeldarb86.deviantart.com Mr. Semaj

    Part of what makes the remake unusual is that by 1941, Donald was no longer a kid. He is younger than Mickey, but having grown up and gained his own series, he had bigger things to worry about than reciting nursery rhymes without interruption.

    Very interesting how deep Walt took Mickey’s revival campaign. How was it that very little of it got off the ground? If not because of the strike, maybe WWII, since that also delayed a few of Disney’s developing features.

  • dbenson

    For some reason, find myself recalling a couple of Pink Panther shorts — one that cast him as Paul Revere, the other involving the Indian Rope Trick with a playful rope — that were not so much remade as re-released under new titles with a few alternate gags. Always figure there was some legal deal about meeting a deadline for “new” shorts.

  • Jay Pennington

    “The elaborate manner in which the vintage scenes were to be reused precluded simply lifting them from old negatives and splicing them together. They would have to be reinked onto cels from the original animation drawings; repainted, retimed, and refilmed.”
    There must be more to the intention than is apparent by this description, for it would be a very simple optical to reprint the old footage within the framework of a movie theater screen.

  • purin

    The first plan sounds so involved for a simple clip show! Modern technology really lets you take something like MST3King footage for granted, doesn’t it?

    As for the idea to completely redo cartoons…. Wow. That’s more than simple colorization. That’s a lot more love and care (and money)!

    Watching these two, I’m reminded of Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES. It came out in ’93, and was a rerelease of the NES Mario games from the 80s. Now you could enjoy those 8 bit games with improved 16-bit graphics and sound, and the ability to save the game!

    While I loved All-Stars, I have to admit that something is missing, especially from Super Mario Bros. 3. It managed to use the limitations of its time to be quite stylish. Those little bits of style, as well certain little flourishes and jokes, got brushed aside for the remake (and moreso for the later remakes).

    I can see that here. I see not only color, but more lavishly rendered areas and fuller outfits, losing some of the humor in the first one’s more sparse set and designs (like the asbestos curtain and the clothing gags). The animation’s been bumped up, and it looks great, but putting knees and fleshed out legs on what was previously rubber hose character working in a rubber hose world’s logic isn’t necessarily an improvement.

    It doesn’t make it worse, but it’s not exactly all that much of an improvement, either.

  • Scarabim

    Pair the 1934 Mickey with the 1941 Donald, and you’ve got a winning team – they’re both at their best incarnations. The 1941 Mickey moves badly – I guess because its smoother, more rubbery design is trying to move in the more herky-jerky style of the earlier Mickey, and it just doesn’t work. As for Donald, the 1934 schtick doesn’t work for him too well in his modern version; it’s too primitive.

    And yeah it IS weird how much bigger Mickey is than Donald in the 1934 cartoon. Frankly he’s too big in the 1941 version too. That kind of size anomaly has been going on for years…only in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” did the animators finally get it right; Mickey’s smaller than Scrooge McDuck, as he should be, and he’s cuter that way.

    Disney has GOT to revive Mickey permanently in his retro style. He has so much more visual vitality in that version. I understand why they modernized him, but it really came at too high a price. Again, I’d LOVE to see a new short or feature starring “Classic Mickey”. There’s mileage in the “old” Mouse yet.