Tomorrow is Mickey Mouse’s birthday, and to celebrate we are so excited to be debuting a brand new Mickey Mouse short, called (appropriately enough) “¡Feliz Cumpleaños!”
The short follows Mickey and the gang, who are all set to celebrate his birthday in Mexico, when a band of villainous piñata bandits show up (the lead piñata is voiced by Danny Trejo). Like all of the Mickey Mouse shorts it’s hilarious and full of references—both to Disney properties (there’s a great Pirates of the Caribbean gag) and external reference nods to the surrealist westerns of filmmaker Sergio Leone. We got a chance to talk to the short’s incredibly talented director, Alonso Ramirez Ramos—an Emmy Award-winner for his work on Gravity Falls—as well as Mickey Mouse shorts executive producer/creator Paul Rudish, about this very special short.
“Early on I wanted to do a spaghetti western [with] Mickey. But there was always an aversion to doing role-playing pieces or period pieces. Nobody wanted to see an Old West Mickey,” Rudish said about the short. “But I kept thinking about it and I wanted to do a hyper-dramatic conflict, but in a funny way, and just let the melodrama be the humor. I wanted to get that Old West vibe but still leave it contemporary and Mexico occurred and it was like, Wait a minute, the bad guys could be piñatas. And we thought, “Well, where do you see piñatas?” and, “It could be Mickey’s birthday.” Then the piñatas roll into town to ruin the party, and he has his face off with them and we do all our Sergio Leone tricks—but we just do it in a ridiculous fashion.”
Ramirez Ramos agreed saying that, “It was an idea we’ve been bouncing around since season two. This was a really fun celebration of Mickey’s birthday that goes awry. We wanted to have a real feeling of celebrating Mickey’s birthday in Mexico—so what would that feel like?” As it turns out, it would feel not only like an old-school western, but a smorgasbord of whip-smart Disney references. Also: Mickey speaking Spanish. “We had to invite everyone to Mickey’s party. The cameos and the nods to Disney properties come to us very organically,” Ramirez Ramos explained. “It just feels natural to the story, nodding to classical stuff. If it feels right for the story moment, and it’s a fun gag, we try to put it in and see if people will catch it.”
“¡Feliz Cumpleaños!” was a particularly important short for Ramirez Ramos, because in addition to being historically important, it was also deeply personal for him. “The last Mickey birthday cartoon is from the 1940’s. This is something very special,” he said. “Me coming from Mexico and being able to share my culture is also really exciting. We got to use the traditional Mexican birthday song—that’s something that we’ve never seen these characters do and that makes me so happy.”
But of course, the most important thing is the short’s out-of-control tone. “It’s an epic story compressed into two minutes and thirty seconds,” Ramirez Ramos said. Or, as Rudish puts it, “It just presented itself as a silly idea and we ran with it.” Did they ever!