Mickey Mouse In Arabia

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Today is the day when Steamboat Willie debuted in 1928, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, the one that made the Disney company the entertainment powerhouse that it is today. But even though Steamboat Willie is the famous one, it actually wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse cartoon created. Plane Crazy was actually the first one made, and The Gallopin’ Gaucho was the second, but both were shelved to work on Steamboat Willie, and specifically to add a synchronized soundtrack, which is what helped make Mickey Mouse so famous. A couple of years ago, I posted Mickey Mouse Drinking A Beer, about when Mickey is seen drinking a beer in “The Gallopin’ Gaucho.”

So for Mickey Mouse’s birthday this year, I thought I’d show a different cartoon, this one a little later, from 1932. It’s maybe the 46th Mickey Mouse cartoon, called “Mickey in Arabia.” There are plenty of racial stereotypes in the cartoon, sadly typical for 1932. And while Mickey doesn’t actually drink in this one, the camel that he and Minnie ride does drink some from a barrel.

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After Minnie is abducted by a sultan and rides off on his camel, Mickey runs back to his camel, who’s apparently been drinking beer the entire time and is obviously inebriated.

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So first he has to chase the drunk camel.

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Finally, catching the camel, now he has to chase after the sultan, who’s taken Minnie.

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And riding a drunk camel is no picnic.

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The drunk camel even passes out at one point but continues on running upside down on its humps!

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Below is the whole cartoon, the relevant beer barrel drinking takes place just after 1:30 into the 7-minute video.

The Ballmer Peak

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I was unaware of the Ballmer Peak (named for Microsoft’s 30th employee and former CEO Steve Ballmer) until today, but it’s an interesting idea, although there are some who believe it just may be an elaborate joke. In a nutshell, it’s the idea “that having a BAC in the 0.129% – 0.138% range can improve your cognitive abilities,” and it’s supposedly an effective technique to help with computer programming. Another way it’s been described is that “alcohol improves cognitive ability, up to a point,” and that it’s apparently a variation of the Yerkes–Dodson law, which says “that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point.” xkcd described it with this cartoon:

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Obviously, it may sound like bunk, but there has been earlier evidence of Creativity & Beer and also Caffeine Vs. Alcohol: Which One Better Enhances Creativity?. There’s also a lot of anecdotal evidence that alcohol can trigger creativity and/or create the conditions for new types of thinking to occur if in that sweet spot of not too drunk, and not too sober. Certainly there’s a rich historical record of books and songs created by writers and composers who were under the influence. And there was a great Bill Hicks bit about how if you think there are no positive aspects to drugs, he suggests burning all of the music that you love, because so many of the musicians who wrote it were “really fucking high.” Naturally, Bill put it much better than I ever could:

“You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don’t believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. ‘Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that’s enhanced your lives throughout the years were rrreal fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.”

Recently, however, there was an article in the Observer whose headline was “The Ballmer Peak Is Real, Study Says.”

A recent study at the University of Illinois tested the creative problem solving ability of a group of men who were given vodka cranberry and snacks and asked to solve brain teasers. The results were starkly different for the tispy group, which had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.075, versus the control group:

Astonishingly, those in the drinking group averaged nine correct questions to the six answers correct by the non-drinking group. It also took drunk men 11.5 seconds to answer a question, whereas non-drunk men needed 15.2 seconds to think. Both groups had comparable results on a similar exam before the alcohol consumption began.

The study notes that the Ballmer Peak effect was present for creative problem solving but not for working memory.

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Also, on the skeptics forum on Stack Exchange, someone asked if the Balmer Peak was real, and one of the answers posted was this:

[An] article by Norlander [link no longer working] specifically studies the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption (1.0ml/kg body weight) and creativity. According to my very rough calculations, this would correspond to a BAC in the range of 0.12–0.14 for a 73kg human. The paper concludes

…modest alcohol consumption inhibits aspects of creativity based mainly on the secondary process (preparation, certain parts of illumination, and verification), and disinhibits those based mainly on the primary process (incubation, certain parts of illumination, and restitution).

In other words, moderate alcohol consumption does improve certain types of creative thinking, while inhibiting other types of creative thinking. Since the skills required for computer programming are solely cognitive in nature (discounting the motor skills required to type, of course), and given that creativity is a large part of computer programming, it is at least plausible that one might gain some amount of improvement from alcohol consumption.

There have also been studies on the relationship between alcohol consumption and creative output. That study examined 34 well known, heavy drinking, 20th century writers, artists, and composers/performers. It concludes:

Analysis of this information yielded a number of interesting findings. Alcohol use proved detrimental to productivity in over 75% of the sample, especially in the latter phases of their drinking careers. However, it appeared to provide direct benefit for about 9% of the sample, indirect benefit for 50% and no appreciable effect for 40% at different times in their lives. Creative activity, conversely, can also affect drinking behavior, leading, for instance, to increased alcohol consumption in over 30% of the sample. Because of the complexities of this relationship, no simplistic conclusions are possible.

So for a small portion of people there was a notable increase in creative output as a result of alcohol intake. It does appear that the study did not control for the quantity of alcohol intake, though, so this may not be directly applicable to the Ballmer Peak.

The best study I was able to find on the subject was by Lapp, Collins, and Izzo. They gave subjects vodka tonics of varying strengths (by varying the ratio of tonic to vodka), some of which did not even contain any alcohol. The subjects believed that they were drinking a standard-strength vodka tonic. The subjects then were asked to perform a number of cognitively and creatively challenging tasks. Here is what they conclude:

The present results support the idea that creative people probably gain inspiration from consuming alcohol …, but show that this effect may be due to the expected rather than the pharmacological effects of the drug. … A convergence of evidence supported the idea that creativity is enhanced (at least in some aspects) by the expected effects of alcohol.

In other words, alcohol can improve certain aspects of one’s cognitive ability, but this effect is not likely due to any pharmacological process (i.e., it is often sufficient to merely believe that one is drinking alcohol in order to achieve the same benefit).

And remember: The Ballmer Peak, as it is currently understood, is but a two dimensional projection of what in reality is a higher dimensional space, vi&.

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The Ballmer Peak-a-Thon even has a Ballmer Calculator you can use to determine how much to drink to reach maximum effectiveness.

As Thirsty As A Fish

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Here’s an interesting bit of history from the 1860s. As far as I can tell, it was published in The Illustrated Times on October 10, 1863. It was drawn by Charles H. Bennett, a well-known Victorian cartoon artist, who worked for many publications, as well as providing art illustrating several books, as well. This was titled “As thirsty as a fish,” and was a satire on Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” which had just been published in 1859. Here’s how it was described. “Showing the evolution of a fish to a beer drinker, with his fin in his pocket, a few old rags, a convenient leaning post and committed to a constant thirst that no amount of beer can quench.”

And in the book, “Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture,” by Jonathan Smith when “As Thirsty As A Fish” appeared in book form, it was accompanied by text indicating it “depicts the British workman as a drunkard who sees business, duty, and friendship merely as impediments to his indulgence.”

Apparently the “Origin of the Species” satires, known as “Development Drawings,” were pretty popular, as there were at least eighteen of them I turned up in a search of Yooniq Images. “As Thirsty As A Fish” appears to have been numbered “No. 20″ in the book, so it seems likely there were even more.

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They Liked A Pint

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This is a fun little find. In 2003, longtime graphic designer Harry Constantine retired from a career in London, and moved back to his home town of Nottinghamshire. His son was involved in starting up the Newark CAMRA chapter, and he joined him at one of their meetings. He was asked to help out with their newsletter, and ended up as the editor of the Beer Gutter Press, increasing its size from 8 to 20 pages during his tenure. There was a whole in the text one issue, and Constantine on the fly created a cartoon of Mother Theresa, titling it “They Liked A Pint” as a throwaway to fill it.

The cartoons proved to be a hit, and he continued doing them in each issue from then on, initially in black and white, but adding color later when the newsletter also added color. Since retiring from Beer Gutter Press, Constantine reminisced that only two of his cartoons drew objections, Jesus Christ and Abu Hamza, though they decided not to run the Hamza cartoon for fear of offending fundamentalist Muslims. I confess I don’t know who all the people are, and I suspect some of them are locals or at least Brits I’m unfamiliar with. But the ones I do know, and that’s about two-dozen of the forty cartoons, are pretty funny.

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Felix The Cat (& Beer Drinker)

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As if you needed further proof that cartoons weren’t always for kids — and still aren’t — here’s an interesting one from 1930. Today was the debut in 1919 of the popular cartoon character Felix the Cat. It was actually the third film using a similar-looking cat, but the Adventures of Felix, released today in 1919, was the first time the name Felix was attached to the character. Felix became very popular and remained so until sound was introduced, when he fell into cartoon obscurity when his transition to sound tanked. There was a much later cartoon version, from when I was a kid, that began in 1958 and was shown in television through at least the 1960s and 70s, and that’s probably the one you’re more familiar with.

But the earlier Felix was darker and less kid-friendly, for the simple reason they were aimed at adults going to see a movie in a theater.

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Woos Whoopee was one of Felix’s later cartoons (at least of the earlier black and white and largely silent ones), and takes place in a speakeasy (it was still Prohibition after all).

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Felix stays out late, drinking and dancing, while his wife paces at home angrily, watching the clock with a rolling pin in her hand. Finally, well after 3 AM, Felix begins to stumble home and begins to hallucinate. Finally, after a surreal journey, he makes it home around 6 AM. I thought sure he’d be in more trouble, but besides shooting the cuckoo in the clock, not much happens to him after he gets home. Oh, well, at least he had a few laughs and drank a few beers.

The Muppets Drink Lagunitas IPA

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As I’ve revealed many times here, I’ve been a huge fan of The Muppets since I was a kid. I’ve even gotten my own kids to love them, as well, showing them the old Muppet Show on DVD, along with all of the films. So imagine my delight when ABC announced a new Muppet Show called simply “the muppets” that debuted last month. So far it’s been pretty good, with their signature bad puns, musical numbers, celebrity cameos and much of the same type of humor that I loved in the 1970s. Plus, they’re making fun of reality shows, which as a genre I absolutely loathe, so that’s a bonus.

With the kids schedule, and mine, we Tivo almost everything and finally got around to watching Episode 4, Pig Out, yesterday. If you don’t have Hulu, try Putlocker or, depending on your cable provider, the ABC website.

The episode’s plot revolves around the staff unwinding after hard days dealing with their insufferable boss, Miss Piggy, who is miffed she’s never been invited to one of these after parties. She manipulates Kermit into geting her invited with the promise that she’ll turn them down. Then, as you’ve probably guessed, she accepts and everyone assumes that the evening will go downhill fast.

They go to a karaoke bar, and indeed it is quite awkward at the beginning. In fact the bar is called “Rowlf’s,” as you can see on the beer mugs they’re shown drinking out of. Rowlf, a brown shaggy, piano-playing dog, was one of the very first Muppet characters back in the 1960s, so it makes sense that he’d own a bar in the new incarnation.

But then Ed Helms unexpectedly arrives at the bar and things begin to liven up. There’s much drinking and karaoke singing — the Swedish Chef’s turn at the mic is particularly memorable. Halfway through the evening Helms’ is leading a sing-a-long to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” when at one of the tables in the bar, something caught my eye. One of the more obscure Muppets, Chip, and the Swedish Chef were drinking Lagunitas IPA! Chip was drinking out of a mug but the bottle sat on the table while the Swedish Chef was drinking straight from the bottle.

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It’s only there for a few seconds, but there’s no doubt what it is. If you don’t think that trademark is important, or that typefaces and fonts can, or should, be protected, both my wife and my son immediately recognized the bottle when I showed it to them as being from Lagunitas, and all you can see of the label is the single letter “I” on the sideways bottle.

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You can also see humans in the bar holding bottles of Lagunitas IPA throughout the scenes shown in Rowlf’s. They’re all quick cuts but it’s still unmistakable. The Muppets definitely drink Lagunitas IPA. Nice to see my local brewery’s beer on a show I love.

Cartoon Madness

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Okay, here’s a subject near and dear to my heart, and one that royally pisses me off when it’s spun this way. Eater had an article earlier this month entitled The Boozy Underbelly of Saturday Morning Cartoons, whose unfortunate title Alcohol Justice gleefully tweeted, since it plays into their propaganda machine so nicely. But the article is largely bullshit, wrapped up in questionable science and ignoring the history and reality of the subject matter.

I’ve been a cartoon lover all of my life, and still am, despite the fact that many propagandists seem to believe that cartoons are only for children, a fact easily demolished by reality. That’s the position they take time and time again whenever a cartoon — gasp — shows up on a beer label. But this nonsense is taken a step father by Sarah Baird, whose title alone is badly misleading. Many of the cartoons she refers to in her article pre-date television and many more were originally aired before a film, and later repackaged for Saturday morning television. The earliest cartoon series, from Disney, Fleischer, Warner Brothers, MGM, Lantz, Van Beuren, Terrytown and others, were created to run before a feature-length film, along with a newsreel. They were made for every movie, not just children’s movies and as such could include subject-matter that today we might consider inappropriate for kids. But instead she says:

America’s classic cartoon canon—from Walt Disney to Merry Melodies—is rife with instances of drinking and drunkenness. Whether or not we were aware of it as children, cartoons have long been just as much for adults as for kids, with tongue-in-cheek humor, satirical pop culture references, and illicit behaviors like drinking and smoking that (likely) sailed over our heads as impressionable youths.

But that’s wrong. We didn’t miss those references as kids, they were edited out of most cartoons when they were repackaged for television. Entire cartoons never made it to TV because their content wasn’t for kids, and too much might have to be cut. You can find many of these “Uncensored Cartoons,” which now exist on DVD collections, and are still rarely aired on TV. But you can more easily find these on the internet these days, not to mention because some of the ridiculous things cut are no longer considered something we need to shield our kids from.

Later she claims the reason for this is because “[t]he surprisingly adult themes broached by cartoons reflected a need to appeal to both a slapstick-loving child and a (slightly jaded) adult, as escape-hungry moviegoers young and old flocked to the theater.” No, they didn’t. They reflected what adults would find funny. People at that time rarely thought the way we do today, that we have to coddle children and protect their innocence the way we helicopter them today. If parents took their kids to a movie, they did so knowing there was a cartoon beforehand. They didn’t think, “gee, I wonder if the cartoon will be okay for my child.” And maybe it wasn’t, by today’s standards, but you can’t examine the past without addressing how they thought about this issue, and not how we think about them today. To do so is to miss a lot.

For example, she singles out Mickey Mouse.

One of the first cartoons to feature drinking hit the silver screen in 1929, just a year after seminal animation classic Steamboat Willie. The Gallopin’ Gaucho (the second-ever film to feature Mickey Mouse) shows Mickey drinking a comically large, frothy mug of beer at a cantina, guzzling it down before attempting to woo the high-heel clad Minnie.

Later in the cartoon, Mickey finds his trusty steed—an ostrich—has overindulged in beer, the spaghetti-like bird wriggling, collapsing and hiccupping much to Mickey’s chagrin. This trend of Mickey’s animal companions hitting the sauce continues during Mickey in Arabia (1937), when our hero’s pet camel slurps down the entirety of a beer barrel.

But here’s the thing. While I can’t find information about the later two, Steamboat Willie played before the film Gang War. Gang War! It’s not exactly G-rated fare. G-rated didn’t even exist until around 1968, when they no longer showed cartoons before the movie. And it is also fairly typical in the way that Arabs are portrayed, which is not particularly flattering, to say the least. The point is, these were not intended for kids.

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A screen capture from Gallopin’ Gaucho, and you can watch the cartoon on my earlier post Mickey Mouse Drinking A Beer.

She apparently finds support for this G-Rated nonsense from a study published in the journal Pediatrics entitled Depiction of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances in G-rated animated feature films. But in the abstract it is claimed that the “content of all G-rated animated feature films released in theaters between 1937 and 2000, recorded in English, and available on videocassette in the United States by October 31, 2000, was reviewed for portrayals of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances and their use.” But no G-Rated film existed before 1968, which is when the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system was instituted to replace the Hays Code, which had been in place since 1930. So how many of the 81 films they watched actually had a “G-Rating” and how many did they just assume did because Disney made it, or whatever other criteria they made up? It’s hard to believe people take these so-called “studies” seriously. And this was done by the Harvard School of Public Health. Here was their conclusion: “The depiction of alcohol and tobacco use in G-rated animated films seems to be decreasing over time. Nonetheless, parents should be aware that nearly half of the G-rated animated feature films available on videocassette show alcohol and tobacco use as normative behavior and do not convey the long-term consequences of this use.” Gee, I wonder if the change in regulations could account for the decrease? I wonder if the pope is catholic, too.

Yet another study — who gives these people money to do such ridiculous things? — looked at “1,221 animated cartoons … to determine the prevalence of alcohol-related content; how, if at all, the prevalence changed between 1930 and 1996.” That study, Alcohol-Related Content of Animated Cartoons: A Historical Perspective, in which their “investigation revealed that 9.3 percent of cartoons from the era have some form of alcohol-related content, but that liquor’s presence has been on a steady decline over the year.” Again, without context, they report these facts without any historical understanding of cartoons, it seems. Of course, this one was done by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which was created in 1970 by a senator who was a recovering alcohol so it’s not exactly unbiased. The NIAAA is looking for alcoholic links everywhere.

According to Anderson, this “data also shed light on how alcohol was most frequently depicted in cartoons, with almost half of animated characters drinking alone and showing no physical side effects to their drinking.” Um, not to be a noodge, but cartoons are, if nothing else, entertainment. Why the fu@k should they be expected to show consequences in every single case? For a majority of people who drink responsibly and in moderation, there are no consequences. Why can’t the cartoon simply be reflecting that? Because they’re not PSAs, they’re fu@king cartoons. Seriously, what is wrong with these people?

Just look at one paragraph, entitled “Reasons for drinking:”

The purported reasons for cartoon characters’ use of alcohol were rather varied. The single most common explanation of cartoon characters’ use of alcohol was that they simply enjoyed the taste of alcohol or because they liked to drink, which accounted for 12.2% of all use portrayals. The next most common reason for using alcohol was to become drunk (7.8%), followed by using alcohol to be more sociable or “to be part of the crowd” (5.6%). It is worth mentioning that in 40.0% of all alcohol use portrayals, drinking occurred for no reason whatsoever. That is, based on the cartoon’s events and the context in which the alcohol use occurred, there was no inference to be made as to why the drinking was happening.

So it basically mirrored real life. Why exactly do they seem to imply that cartoons need to explain “why the drinking was happening?” Is that necessary because it’s a cartoon? Because I’ve never heard it told that in a live action film that one must reveal every motivation behind a character’s actions.

One time the kind of Cartoon Propaganda that these folks would have approved of did air, on Tiny Toon Adventures, it was such a train wreck it was only shown one time and has since been banned, for reasons unclear to me.

Here’s their bullshit conclusion:

Ultimately, we believe that the frequent inclusion of alcohol-related content in animated cartoons, coupled with the frequently pro-drinking messages about alcohol use that the cartoons provide, combine to tell audiences that alcohol is a normal, positive aspect of life. Cartoons tell people that drinking only sometimes has an effect on the drinker and that many of the effects that are most likely to occur (e.g., hiccupping, increased happiness or sociability, increased relaxation) are positive in nature. This conclusion is quite similar to that reached by Penkoff. With these types of messages being most indicative of the kinds of things that people learn about alcohol from watching animated cartoons, it is not surprising that young people are interested in and willing to experiment with alcoholic beverages. With cartoons showing alcohol to be an acceptable, normal part of everyday living that is associated with traits that our culture values and by associating few truly negative consequences with alcohol use, why wouldn’t young people want to experiment with drinking?!

First of all, they define “frequent inclusion” by stating that “depictions of alcoholic beverages were found in 5.6%” of the cartoons, which few reasonable people would agree could be described as frequent. They seem worried about positive associations and cartoon watchers seeing some, maybe even numerous, instances of drinking where nothing bad happened. This may not fit with their world view, but it certainly reflects the reality of our society, where some people cannot handle alcohol, but where most people can and do so throughout their lives without incident. Some even grow up to be president.

One thing seems clear. When not wearing a lab coat, or not already predisposed to dislike alcohol, drinking can be, and often is, a fun and pleasant experience. And that’s the case for a majority of adults, so why wouldn’t our entertainment reflect that? Cartoons were originally designed for adults, and they continue to be made by them, too. Cartoons have always been caricatures of real life, and until some idiots foist another prohibition on us, they’ll continue to make fun of us humans, in every way imaginable. As they even admit, such drinking in cartoons has declined dramatically, again except for shows like The Simpsons and Adult Swim, which were designed for an adult or mixed adult audience.

At least the Eater author admits that cartoons have become too sterile by trying to remove anything that might rattle the little one’s delicate psyche (even if it’s more often the parent’s psyche that needs a whack upside the head). And in the end, acknowledges perhaps why cartoons continue to show character’s drinking.

At its core, there’s something that’s innately cartoon-like about being inebriated. There have been times after one-bourbon-too-many that I’ve felt as if I was Porky Pig wobbling my way home, each hiccup a tiny bubble ready to pop in front of my (blurry) nose. When inebriated, things are sillier and wonkier, as if we’re once again finding our sea legs like a cartoonish, disproportioned foal.

Exactly, cartoons do a much better job than live action at showing how we feel when we drink. And I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon. Personally, I’m going to binge-watch Archer, which is the best cartoon to depict drinking, and so much more made … well, maybe ever. It’s that good. Of course, even I won’t let my kids watch Archer … at least not yet. That’s why it airs at 11 PM and includes a disclaimer before each episode that it was made for adults. Just like the first Mickey Mouse.

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Beer Can Dads 2015

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I posted these a few years ago, but given that it’s Father’s Day I figured today was a good day to take another look at them. Around 2011, the good folks at Every Guyed designed eight beer can dads.

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Here was the idea:

To celebrate Father’s Day, EveryGuyed and Moxy Creative House have teamed up once again to deliver the second installment of the ‘Cheers!’. This time we had creative director Glenn Michael raise a glass — and his brush — to 8 iconic animated dads, re-envisioning them as beer cans.

When you were a kid, Father’s Day was a pretty boring affair. Now you’re of age, and all of a sudden you have the chance to do something with your dad that he’ll actually enjoy: share a cold one together.

See if you can guess all of the cartoon dads. You can see all eight of them in the slideshow above. The answers can found at the bottom of the original post I did.

Looking at this again, I still want my own dad can. What would yours look like?

Beer In Ads #1535: Asahi Anime


Friday’s ad is for Asahi, from sometime over the last decade or so. It’s hard to say since Japanese anime or manga art is often so timeless. Animation in the form of anime and manga is incredibly popular in Japan, and became increasingly so in the U.S. from the 1980s on. Beyond the cheesecake factor, it’s a simple, and familiar beer advertising image, of a woman on the beach in a bikini. I’m sure that music means something, but I don’t recognize the tune. The woman also may be a familiar character from a popular manga book but I don’t recognize her either.

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Mickey Mouse Drinking A Beer

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Today is the day when Steamboat Willie debuted in 1928, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, the one that made the Disney company the entertainment powerhouse that it is today. But even though Steamboat Willie is the famous one, it actually wasn’t the first Mickey Mouse cartoon created. Plane Crazy was actually the first one made, and The Gallopin’ Gaucho was the second, but both were shelved to work on Steamboat Willie, and specifically to add a synchronized soundtrack, which is what helped make Mickey Mouse so famous.

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But the Gallopin’ Gaucho was notable for one other important reason. In the March 1929 cartoon, four years before the repeal of Prohibition, Mickey Mouse can be seen drinking a mug of beer. And not just drinking it, but really putting one away. But as he as south of the border, at the bar and restaurant called “Cantina Argentina,” he probably wasn’t breaking any laws.

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The original, of course, was in black and white.

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Below is the entire cartoon, though the best version I could find was colorized.