Clarabelle Cow is an anthropomorphic cow created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. First appearing as an established character in the 1930’s The Shindig, Clarabelle was presented as the best friend of Minnie Mouse and the girlfriend of Horace Horsecollar. She is often identified by her signature cowbell jewelry, and a tendency to infuse her speech with moos.
Though a prominent character throughout the 1930s, Clarabelle fell into obscurity as the Golden Age of Animation came to an end. She saw a resurgence during the turn of the 21st century, appearing in major roles on television, and even theatrically. In most modern media, Clarabelle is a member of a trio consisting of herself, Minnie, and Daisy Duck. Her recent incarnations are also depicted as the love interest of Goofy.
“Wow! She must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle!”
―Mickey regarding Clarabelle's gossiping
In the classic cartoons, Clarabelle is portrayed as a loyal friend to Minnie. She was self-righteous and somewhat snooty as she would often disapprovingly stick her nose up at Mickey’s antics, as seen in The Beach Party and Camping Out. Despite her occasional high-fault in attitude, Clarabelle was actually fairly clumsy and her intelligence is questionable. As seen in Mickey's Fire Brigade, she was completely unaware of that house was burning, and assaulted firefighters Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as they attempted to save her.
Unlike other classic Disney characters, Clarabelle's species play a significant role in her overall character. She tends to wear cowbells as an accessory akin to jewelry, and regularly uses cow-related puns (i.e. placing the phrase "Moo" into the word "move") in her casual speech. In Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, she confesses great pride in her moo and became extremely flattered by Goofy's compliments regarding the sound.
In House of Mouse, she enjoys gossip and scandals, making her a nuisance to the privacy of her friends. This is seen throughout the House of Mouse animated series, which also portrays her as snazzy and modern, especially compared to the old-fashioned nature of Mickey and Minnie. She tends to speak in the vain of a prideful businesswoman and carries herself with a similar flair. However, she can also be rather ditzy and clumsy—specifically due to how tall she is compared to a majority of her co-stars—matching wits with her contemporary significant other, Goofy. Her clumsiness is also emphasized in Mickey Mouse, where she is portrayed as bumbling, rowdy, and unkempt, much like Goofy.
Despite her love of gossip, Clarabelle values her friends more so and while she may come close to dropping a scoop, she will ultimately choose to respect the privacy of others in the end. In the episode "Clarabelle's Big Secret", in fact, she quit her job as a gossip reporter to protect her friends' reputations, despite having learned major secrets about them beforehand.
In the Disney comics, several of Clarabelle's family members have been introduced. Her little cousin Bertie made his first appearance in Horse Play, a 1940 one-pager. Clarabelle's rich aunt Miss Bovina visited her in the 1939Mickey Mouse comic Mickey Gets the Drift, while Clarabelle's unlucky cousin Boniface didn't appear in the comics until 1986, in the Brazillian story Boinifácio, Muito Praz(e/a)r!.
Clarabelle's parents were introduced separately; her father Beeble, mayor of Clarabelle's hometown, could be seen living with young Clarabelle in the Goofy comic Two Gun Sheriff (1953). Clarabelle's mother, originally named 'Moe Koe' (Dutch for 'Maw Cow'), has been used in Disney one-pagers and short comics since 2007, which have been mainly published in Europe.
It is said that the concept of an anthropomorphic cow character first came about from Ub Iwerks, while he and Walt Disney were developing a new star to replace Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. A cow character was prominently featured in the first produced Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, released on May 15, 1928. This cow went unnamed, making it debatable whether or not this was Clarabelle or a precursor of some kind. A similar cow appeared in 1929’s The Plowboy, as Minnie Mouse’s livestock opposite Mickey and Horace Horsecollar.
It wouldn’t be until The Shindig in 1930 that Clarabelle as a defined character would be established. Her name was first given in the Mickey Mouse comic strip on April 2, 1930, as part of the storyline Mickey Mouse in Death Valley. Throughout the Mickey Mouse series, Clarabelle would regularly appear as a supporting character, usually with a non-speaking role. She was typically depicted as Minnie’s best friend and Horace Horsecollar’s girlfriend. Clarabelle would feature in a number of Mickey’s most famous cartoons, including The Band Concert, which marked her first appearance in color. Clarabelle’s final appearance in the original shorts was the cartoon Mickey's Birthday Party, in which she was among the guests of Mickey’s birthday.
Clarabelle fell into obscurity following the closure of the Disney shorts division. She would retain some degree of relevance in comic strips and television reruns of the classic cartoons. She was also among the classic characters to appear in the opening of Walt Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club television series in 1950.
For a number of years, Clarabelle would not appear again. She made a minor animation comeback in Mickey's Christmas Carol in 1983. Here, she makes a non-speaking cameo appearance as one of the guests at Mr. Fezziewig's party, dancing with Horace Horsecollar.
In 1990, she had her first speaking role since the first half of the century in The Prince and the Pauper, where she is a peasant and is being robbed by the guards by order of their captain, Pete. The prince, in disguise as a commoner named Mickey Mouse, battles of the guards and provides Clarabelle with the food she and the hungry folk deserve.
Beginning in the 2000s, Clarabelle began to make regular appearances in the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, alongside Horace Horsecollar. It was around this time that Clarabelle was established as a recurring love interest of the character Goofy, who was previously without a recurring romantic interest (unlike Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck). This reinvigoration of the character gave her heightened prominence in material featuring the Mickey Mouse cast, mainly in shows like House of Mouse and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse—the latter of which marked Clarabelle’s first appearance in computer animation.
In 2013, Clarabelle returned to the theatrical screen in Get A Horse!, where she was among the hay wagon ensemble that was harassed by Pete in his pursue of Minnie Mouse. She retained her classic design from the 1930s and was a largely silent character apart from moos.
Clarabelle is the villainous, and sadistic former assistant to the evil Captain Pete. He is secretly plotting against Princess Minnie to take over France. He recruits Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as musketeer bodyguards believing they'll be terrible, thus leaving the princess unknowingly defenseless. Surprisingly, the trio soon proves themselves worthy of the musketeer mantle, forcing Pete to step up his game. To make sure he wins, he kidnaps Mickey, while the Beagle Boys kidnap Donald and Clarabelle kidnaps Goofy. Her mission was to throw him off a bridge into a river to his death and judging by the number of skeletons already in the river, one can tell that it's not her first time. Ironically, Goofy falls in love with Clarabelle and the two sing a ballad. Clarabelle tries to resist, but eventually falls for Goofy, in turn, reforming. She then warns Goofy of Pete's plan, allowing him and Donald to rescue Mickey and restore the trio. After the captain is defeated, Clarabelle and Goofy proclaim their love once more, and she is last seen attending the ceremony (dressed in an elegant gown) dubbing Goofy, Mickey, and Donald royal musketeers.
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Clarabelle makes a cameo early on lining up for an audition at Maroon Cartoons, alongside other toon bovines. Later, she can be spotted with all the other toons during the final scene of the film. Despite her current appearance being fully realized in Mickey's Christmas Carol, Clarabelle retains her classic black and white look in the film.
Clarabelle had a cameo in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas in Mickey and Minnie's segment, Gift of the Magi. During Mickey's performance in the park, Clarabelle is seen in the crowd, next to Horace.
Clarabelle appears as a recurring character in Mickey Mouse Works. Clarabelle is seen as a close friend to Minnie and Daisy and makes dozens of cameos.
In the Goofy cartoon How to Be a Spy, Goofy believes his neighbor, revealed at the end to be Clarabelle, is watching and decides to find out why, as a spy. In the end, it turns out Clarabelle tried to get Goofy's attention and the two fall in love.
In another short, Mickey's Big Break, Mickey and Donald disguise themselves as Minnie and Daisy. Clarabelle is the only character that noticed the disguises.
She also makes a cameo in the Goofy short How to Haunt a House as one of the contestants up to take on a haunted house.
Clarabelle appears as a recurring member of the House of Mouse staff. Clarabelle provides the club with exciting gossip of many Disney characters, such as Chernabog or the White Rabbit. Clarabelle's gossip tends to get annoying. Clarabelle is shown to be the love interest of Goofy in the series as well.
In the episode "Super Goof", Goofy transforms into Super Goof to impress Clarabelle and succeeds. However, when he asks her out as Super Goof, she rejects the offer, stating, "I have a date with Goofy.", not realizing that Goofy is Super Goof.
The episode "Thanks to Minnie" is probably the best example of how her gossip can cause trouble and she unintentionally spreads hurtful rumors. Clarabelle mistakenly believes Mickey feels the show would run better without Minnie, having Minnie feel unimportant and prompted to quit. However, this is simply out of context from the truth.
Clarabelle also plays a central role in "Clarabelle's Big Secret", where guests express their annoyance with Clarabelle's gossip stories, prompting Clarabelle (out of desperation) to claim she has a major scoop.
In "Clarabelle's Christmas List", Clarabelle claims to have access to the "Naughty or Nice" list of Santa Claus and announces that she plans to read the list to the audience at the end of the show.
Clarabelle is seen along with most Mickey Mouse & Friends characters in a recurring role in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Clarabelle owns her own shop called The Moo Mart and hosts many events. In the series, she is once again featured as Goofy's girlfriend and has a puppy named Bella.
In the episode "The Go-Getters", Clarabelle became the heroine Captain Clarabelle and joined forces with the already established Detective Minnie and Secret Spy Daisy. Clarabelle also appears in the spin-off series Mickey Mousekersize.
She also plays a supporting role in Minnie's Bow-Toons. She was seen in the debut episode "Leaky Pipes" as an engineer for Minnie and Daisy's shop. Clarabelle was also the focus of the episode "Dance Lessons" where Minnie, Daisy, Millie, and Melody teach Clarabelle how to dance for an upcoming Christmas party.
Clarabelle has her first major role in "No Reservations". She attends a dinner reservation with Minnie and Daisy, but the maitre d' refuses to let them dine in the restaurant despite Minnie's protests. The trio tries several attempts to enter the restaurant but gets caught and thrown out every time. When they find an opening at the top, Clarabelle gets stuck in it when she tries to move through, and squirts milk below the diners as the girls try to pull her out, causing the guests to panic. In the commotion, the girls fall down into the restaurant and finally get to dine at the restaurant, starting with the maitre d' who denied them earlier.
Clarabelle also appeared in "Three-Legged Race", where she partnered with Horace and competed against the other characters in the episode's titular race. She was given her second speaking role in "New Shoes".
Clarabelle Cow makes a minor appearance in Kingdom Hearts II, where she resides in the world of Timeless River, which is notably set in the past. She can be seen wandering around the hub of the world along with Horace and Clara Cluck, though she doesn't speak (her interactions are given through dialogue bubbles).
In Epic Mickey, Mickey meets a Wasteland version of Clarabelle in OsTown, where she is tending to her garden. Saddened at Mickey not recognizing her at first, Clarabelle eventually requests Mickey to help her with baking a cake for Horace. If Mickey is able to get her some ice cream, she'll make an Ice Cream Cake, and if not, she will give you a pie to deliver to Horace instead, though she'd prefer to do something other than that for Horace's birthday. For a quest in Ventureland, she can be asked to assist Mickey with a bouquet of flowers to give to Damien Salt for his efforts to ask out Henrietta.
Clarabelle and Horace come out for meet-and-greets and appear in parades and shows on a regular basis at Tokyo Disneyland as well. In 2009, Clarabelle played a leading character in the New Year's Greeting at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.
Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle were featured as a couple in the early shorts and the Mickey Mouse comic strip. They would often tag along with Mickey and Minnie on double dates. In 1931, Clarabelle and Horace even got engaged in the storyline "Clarabelle's Boarding House", but this development was forgotten by the end of the following storyline "The Great Orphanage Robbery". In the 2017Mickey and the Roadster Racers episode "Running with the Roadsters", Clarabelle was seen swooning over Horace's Spanish alter-ego, El Horace Horsecollar.
In some of her more recent appearances, in addition to some comic books from the late 1960s, she's been portrayed as the girlfriend of Goofy instead of Horace. The two were shown as a couple in Mickey, Donald and Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse, and Minnie's Bow-Toons. They also appeared together along with many other Disney couples in the closing of the 1994 Walt Disney's World on Ice adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as some theme park entertainment. They were also seen flirting with each other in the early Mickey Mouse cartoon The Band Concert.