The film tells the story of three kittens (the black Tuffy, and his sisters the golden Fluffy and the smoky Muffy) and their adventures in a house. It begins with the kittens left out in the snow. They then notice the house nearby and enter it for shelter. They arrive at its kitchen, and begin to play there after the house's African-American housekeeper (possibly a prototype version of Mammy Two-Shoes) has finished preparing a meal. After more playing in various areas of the house, the film switches its focus to one particular kitten, Tuffy, who is chasing a feather and eventually ends up on a piano keyboard. The kitten starts to play with the feather walking down the piano keyboard and the feather lands on the 'on' switch with the kitten presses and the then-revealed pianola begins to play, ironically it is playing a variation of "Kitten On The Keys" a song composed by Zez Confrey in 1921. The other two kittens, Fluffy and Muffy, rejoin the first. When the pianola finishes its song, the kittens leave it and are caught by the housekeeper. As she prepares to throw them out, she is stopped by a little girl, who decides to adopt the kittens.
The film was produced as an entry in Disney's Silly Symphonies series. At the time, the Symphonies were being used as a vehicle to test the techniques which would be used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and to provide an informal on-the-job training program to prepare artists for the elaborate scenes that would be included in the studio's feature-length productions. As such, the films were intended to focus on the characters, which were intended to be cute, rather than a particularly developed narrative. It was directed by David Hand, who would later direct Snow White, and animated by Ken Anderson Like all Silly Symphonies made after 1932, it was produced in three-strip Technicolor. The film was copyrighted on November 20, 1935, nearly a month after its release.
The original version of Three Orphan Kittens contains a scene in which one of the kittens encounter a doll that, when flipped, becomes a stereotypical African-American girl, which shouts "Mammy!" as the kitten approaches it. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Disney began censoring their cartoons before they were broadcast on television, the scene was removed from the film. The film appeared uncensored, firstly on the VHS release of Dumbo, then on 2006 DVD More Silly Symphonies, where it was placed in a section entitled "From the Vault" along with other cartoons featuring stereotypes, which was prefaced with an introduction by Leonard Maltin.
Home video releases
- Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies