The Country Cousin won a Best Animated Short Award at the ninth annual Academy Awards® ceremony in 1937. It is based on the Aesop Fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” which tells the story of a country mouse named Abner coming to the big city to visit his cousin Monty.
This was one of the more popular Silly Symphony cartoons and showcases advancements in character animation such as more dynamic character poses, more naturally fluid motion of the animation, and snappier action. Abner and Monty display much personality in their animation, which shows the further honing of the animation craft at Disney. This short pushes the art form, which benefited from the training going on at the studio during those years. Again, it was an indication of the desire to eventually do an animated feature film.
Some of the animators who were assigned to this short included Jack Hannah, Les Clark, Art Babbitt and Cy Young handling effects. It should be noted that Art Babbitt and Les Clark did the bulk of the animation for The Country Cousin short with the others doing some additional animation.
Les Clark had joined Disney in 1927. He worked on the original Mickey Mouse cartoons as an assistant to Ub Iwerks and began animating on the Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance in 1929. On The Country Cousin he animated much of the section with Abner and Monty on top of table where they sample the cheese just before Abner spots the champagne. He went on to animate on most of the features from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through 101 Dalmatians.
Art Babbitt started at Disney as an assistant and became a top animator and director. His first great piece of animation is considered the drunk Abner animation in The Country Cousin. Abner slurping champagne, licking the side of the glass for every last drop, and slumping into the shallow, broad-bowl of the glass like a lounge chair is a wonderful display of his animation prowess. He is also credited with developing the character Goofy and for animating both the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Geppetto in Pinocchio.
As with all Silly Symphony cartoons, this short was created around a score, which was written by Leigh Harline. His scores are noted for their “musical sophistication that was uniquely ‘Harline-esque,’ by weaving rich tapestries of mood-setting underscores and penning memorable melodies for animated shorts and features.”
One of the very interesting aspects of this cartoon is that a storybook of the same title was issued when the film was released to theaters. David McKay Company of Philadelphia printed The Country Cousin picture book; at the time they were a large publisher of literature, textbooks, comics and children’s books. Issuing a book simultaneously with the release of the film was a common practice in the 1930s for the most popular Silly Symphony cartoons, including the earlier Three Little Pigs, which had a book of its own as well. It is a great example of the merchandise tie-ins that Disney pioneered and is known for.