Next month marks the 25th anniversary of a unique Walt Disney Animation Studios Mickey Mouse short: “Runaway Brain”. It was released theatrically in August 1995 with the film “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court” (which flat-out bombed). But “RB” was nominated for that year’s Best Animated Short Film Academy Award (losing to “Wallace & Gromit” short “A Close Shave”).
Director Chris Bailey’s “Runaway Brain” was the final animated Mickey short that was released in theaters until 2013’s Oscar nominated “Get a Horse!” (which played prior to showings of “Frozen”).
Disney aficionado Drew Taylor wrote about “RB” recently for Collider, and because I had never seen it before, I had to check it out. (There are some Dailymotion uploads of it online.) Here are the things that surprised me about it:
The Dark Story: “Runaway Brain” is a departure from most other MM shorts because the tone is rather serious and even a little sinister. Mickey is convinced to switch his brain with that of a monster named Julius (who’s basically a giant version of Pete) in exchange for $999.99 so he can take Minnie on an anniversary vacation to Hawaii.
The Star-Power: Kelsey Grammer voices the evil scientist monkey Dr. Frankenollie. It’s not a large role (Grammer is only in the 7-minute short briefly). But it’s interesting to see him involved in a Disney animated short a few years into the run of “Frasier”, a few years after he began voicing Sideshow Bob on Fox’s “The Simpsons”, and a few years before he would voice Stinky Pete in Pixar’s “Toy Story 2”.
Slightly Edgy Material for Kids: In the opening scene, Mickey is at home with Pluto playing an action video game in which Dopey is repeatedly kicking the Evil Queen. Dopey is Mickey’s “last life” in this “Snow White” video game, with the Evil Queen ultimately throwing apples at Dopey, causing his death. There are even RIP tombstones of all seven dwarfs on the bottom of the screen. Also, at one point Minnie goes clothes shopping and looks at a rather skimpy green bikini (even small for an already small cartoon character).
The Peril and Music: Mickey and Minnie are in danger often over the course of just a few minutes, which likely would’ve caused some young kids in the theaters to get a little scared. The score is also right in line with a swashbuckling adventure, a la “Pirates of the Caribbean” (which wouldn’t be released for another eight years).
Made in France: “Runaway Brain” was actually made at the Disney Animation Studios in Paris.
Bonus Reference: Mickey takes out his wallet, which has a picture of him from 1928’s “Steamboat Willie”.