Clock Cleaners is a 1937 American animated short film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The cartoon follows Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy working as janitors in a tall clock tower. The film was directed by Ben Sharpsteen and features original music by Paul Smith and Oliver Wallace. The voice cast includes Walt Disney as Mickey, Clarence Nash as Donald, and Pinto Colvig as Goofy.
Theatrical release standee placard
|Directed by||Ben Sharpsteen|
|Produced by||Walt Disney|
|Music by||Paul J. Smith|
|Animation by||Chuck Couch|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
Clock Cleaners is one of Disney's most critically acclaimed short films. In 1994, 1000 members of the animation field voted Clock Cleaners as the 27th greatest cartoon of all time. This cartoon was released two months before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are assigned to clean a tall clock tower in New York City. Mickey is outside cleaning the face with a mop by riding on the second hand. Goofy is inside the building cleaning gear teeth with a large toothbrush. Donald (singing "Hickory Dickory Dock") starts to mop the mainspring, ignoring several warning signs. He gets the mop caught and springs it loose.
Meanwhile, Mickey, now cleaning inside the clock, comes across a sleeping stork which he tries unsuccessfully to remove. As he throws the stork out of the tower, the stork flies back in and snatched Mickey as a stork that is delivering a baby and let go of Mickey and the stork flies back in. Mickey is left hanging on a rope outside the tower.
Back inside, Donald is getting the mainspring back into place with a mallet, but he struggles to get the very last piece in place. Donald gets furious at the spring and asks "What's the big idea?". The spring seems to respond with an echo of Donald's question. Donald gets into an argument with the spring, culminating in him hitting the spring with the mallet, but it (the spring) sends it back and knocks him off. Donald gets his head stuck in a gear on the balance wheel shaft. When he finally is free from it, the oscillation makes his body continue to move.
Now outside, Goofy (singing "Asleep in the Deep") is cleaning the outside bell. As he is cleaning the interior of the bell, it becomes 4:00 PM, causing two mechanical statues to come from inside the tower and ring the bell by taking turns striking it, for a total of four times. The first figure (resembling Father Time) approaches without Goofy noticing. When the bell rings with Goofy inside it, his head vibrates violently and he sits down. Before he has regained his composure the statue has returned to the tower, and he then looks around suspiciously and says "Mice!" This is a reference to W.C. Fields who used the same line, when there was a crash backstage during one of his comedy acts. The second figure, representing Lady Liberty, rings the bell from the other side and he is once again vibrated. After the second ring, Goofy is determined to be ready for the next time. As the bell is struck a third time, he leaps out and is ready to attack, but when he sees Lady Liberty coming for the fourth ring, he idiotically, chivalrously, apologizes and bows. But Goofy is standing between her torch and the bell, and he receives a big knock to the head.
This puts Goofy in a dizzy lovestruck stupor for the rest of the film. Mickey is alarmed when he sees Goofy almost fall and tries to save him. At each turn, Mickey is just barely able to save Goofy. At last, Goofy lands on a flag pole that sends him and Mickey to fly through a window into the clock, land on the mainspring which Donald had finally managed to put back together (now undoing all the springs again), then all three land in the same gear in which Donald was stuck earlier, causing their bodies to move in a humorous rhythm.
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During the 1990s, Donald Wildmon and his fundamentalist Christian organization the American Family Association persuaded Wal-Mart to discontinue the sale of the VHS tape Cartoon Classics: Fun on the Job!, which included Clock Cleaners, due to two perceived uses of inappropriate language by Donald Duck. During his fight with the mainspring Donald responds to the taunting spring by saying "Says who!?" (which is made clear by the spring replying, "Says I!") and then threatens the mainspring, calling it a "snake in the grass". However, due to Donald's unintelligible "duck voice", some believed that he was instead saying "fuck you" to the mainspring and calling it a "son of a bitch". Disney would not have been allowed to release the cartoon in theaters if the foul words were actually used; the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 was heavily enforced then and would have prevented Disney from doing so.
Due to this controversy, when the film was released on the Walt Disney Treasures DVD set Mickey Mouse in Living Color (2001), Donald's "Says who?" line was redubbed with the line "Aw, nuts!", originally from the On Ice soundtrack. The edit is made obvious by the sound of Pluto barking in the background. The "snake in the grass" line was also redubbed. The same edits occur on several later DVD releases, including The Great Mouse Detective (2002) which included the cartoon as a bonus feature in reference to that film's climatic battle in and around Big Ben, Funny Factory with Goofy (2006), and the bonus Epic Mickey DVD (2010).
Other DVD releases have kept the original line, such as Alice in Wonderland: Masterpiece Edition (2004) which included the cartoon as part of the TV special "One Hour in Wonderland", and Have a Laugh!: Volume 2 (2010) which also included the film's original RKO title cards. More recent broadcasts of the cartoon on Disney Channel have also included the original line.
In the 1980s, Mickey struggling to shove the stork out of the clock tower was deleted, due to time constraints.
- 1937 – theatrical release
- 1950 – One Hour in Wonderland (TV)
- 1972 – The Mouse Factory, episode #15: "Back to Nature" (TV)
- c. 1983 – Good Morning, Mickey!, episode #56 (TV)
- 1984 – "Cartoon Classics: Mickey's Crazy Careers" (VHS)
- 1986 – theatrical re-release with The Great Mouse Detective
- 1990 – "Goofy's Guide to Success" (TV)
- 1992 – "Cartoon Classics - Special Edition: Fun on the Job!" (VHS)
- c. 1992 – Mickey's Mouse Tracks, episode #77 (TV)
- c. 1992 – Donald's Quack Attack, episode #60 (TV)
- 1997 – The Ink and Paint Club, episode #1.22: "Classic Mickey" (TV)
- 2001 – "Mickey Mouse in Living Color" (DVD)
- 2002 – Bonus on DVD of The Great Mouse Detective (DVD)
- 2006 – "Funny Factory with Goofy" (DVD)
- 2010 – Have a Laugh!, episode #7 (TV)
- 2010 – "Have a Laugh! Volume Two" (DVD)
- Clock Cleaners on IMDb
- Clock Cleaners at The Encyclopedia of Animated Disney Shorts
- Clock Cleaners at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing. ISBN 1-878685-49-X.
- "Mickey's Crazy Careers" at The Encyclopedia of Animated Disney Shorts
- Clock Cleaners on IMDb
- The Great Mouse Detective (1986) at Amazon.com