A conversation with Paul Rudish, creator of Disney Mickey Mouse Shorts
Paul Rudish is the name that you see at the end of the credits for the wildly popular Disney Mickey Mouse shorts. Since debuting back in 2013, Rudish and team’s show has won the hearts of many Disney and Mickey Mouse fans, both young and older, and spurred on longer episodes and even a hit Disney Parks attraction.
We caught up with Rudish on a video call not long ago to chat about all that Mickey, Mouse, and more.
DE: How did you get involved with making these new Disney Mickey Mouse shorts?
PR: I worked in the development department at Disney working to develop shows from the Disney library and heritage characters. I thought it would be really fun to work on Mickey Mouse cartoons, especially those black-and-white ones from the 1920s and 30s. Around the same time, Bob Iger (Disney’s former CEO) put out a request for all of Disney’s divisions to come up with something new with Mickey Mouse. Right on cue, my boss Eric Coleman (senior vice president for TV animation) knew I loved Mickey and invited me to pitch a few ideas.
DE: What would set your Mickey Mouse cartoons apart from ones that were done before?
PR: I wanted our cartoons to be for the older audiences. The Company did studies years ago basically proving that Mickey was for babies, and that made a lot of sense given that there weren’t any programs featuring him, apart from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Disney Junior, that were for older kids.
DE: The comedy seems to be for older kids and even young adults as well. How would you describe the comedy of Disney Mickey Mouse?
PR: Our hope was to be able to create something to make it feel like we took on the work that Walt [Disney] and Ub [Iwerks] (who originally drew Mickey Mouse) left off. There was no conscious decision to make Mickey more relevant and contemporary, to make it feel like “Spongebob comedy” or style. We knew that we couldn’t make 1930s cartoons, but we knew we could take what we loved about those cartoons and that slap-stick humor and Mickey finding himself getting out of sticky situations and bring them into our time. That type of funny seems to have transcended generations, so we thought it might apply to our cartoons as well.
DE: There seems to be a lot of focus on doing visual comedy as well. Can you speak to that and the humor of your artists and animators?
PR: Everything we like to do is visually, not with much dialogue or plot points like traditional storytelling for film or TV. On top of that, everyone on our crew knows that we’re making shows in the modern era because we are modern artists. That means that all these old core ideas filter through our modern brains and modern joke-telling, and it all comes out naturally. So visual jokes like maybe using anime art stylings or exaggerated animation like Goofy’s jaw truly dropping to the floor and then beyond it all come from visual comedy that we all appreciated growing up or even now, including that from SpongeBob!
DE: You are now doing longer shorts (30-minutes +) even with the debut of The Wonderful Spring of Mickey Mouse that just debuted on Disney+. Why do longer shorts?
PR: I think we do longer shorts because there’s so many visual jokes and gags that can’t always fit inside a traditional short! The Wonderful Spring of Mickey Mouse short really is a culmination of not only things that we’ve learned doing those for so long now, but testing ourselves on what else we can do with the use of dialogue, as well as art and animation styles, and just do more of what we love doing as a team.
DE: The Wonderful Spring of Mickey Mouse special is also special because the episode features a whole bunch of Easter Eggs from around the Disney universe like the Peoplemover from Disneyland and even Grogu from “The Mandalorian.” Why include those things? Was it forced?
PR: Not at all! Again, we are all just storyboarding and including things that we think are funny. I remember working with the team on this special episode and thought this all takes place in the Disney universe, who and what else is in the Disney universe? It was a throwaway joke at the top of things, but like sitting in a comedy writers room, you find that those jokes often get added to and naturally become a part of the show. Including gags from Star Wars, Disneyland, and more all came from that.
DE: Mickey Mouse is not only the logo and face of The Walt Disney Company, he is also well-protected by the Company so far as how they use him. Did you ever think that the Company would allow you to continue to use him and characters like Minnie, Goofy, and Donald in the way that you guys do with these shorts?
PR: Not at all. But we’re super grateful for their trust to make Goofy look like a transient and Mickey be a little dimwitted. We’ve come a long way since those days of protecting the characters, and I think it’s for good. The awards [like the Annie Awards] and the success of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway speak how these shorts have resonated with audiences. But I think that our team being able to continue to make these cartoons is the best part about all this.
Our special thanks to Paul Rudish for contributing to this story!