Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Donald and Pluto

Ever wonder what would happen if they had a Mickey Mouse cartoon and Mickey never showed up? Well, then you should watch the latest “Mickey” – Donald and Pluto. The only appearance that Mickey makes is in the title card. Otherwise, this is a Donald and Pluto starring turn.

I’d have to qualify this as an early Pluto solo short, much like Pluto’s Judgment Day was. Pluto takes up the majority of the short with a simple premise: he swallows a magnet and ends up having all sorts of things being attracted to his rear end where the magnet is lodged. Pots, pans, knives, Donald’s hammer – they are all chasing Pluto throughout the short.

I feel that Pluto is the best work of the animators, because they can’t necessarily rely on human body language or voice to create mood or emotion. Instead, they have to convey Pluto’s mood through his actions. That’s a difficult thing to do, but it is done well here, as you get the sense of bewilderment that Pluto is going through as things keep attacking him.

That’s the other thing that amazes me about Pluto, is that the animators always seem to keep in mind that he is a dog. The human reaction to the magnet antics would be much different than a dog. As a dog, Pluto spends half of his time trying to figure out what is going on, then trying to move on when he’s satisfied that it’s “over.” This is exactly what a dog would do, so it makes perfect sense.

As for Donald, his role here is more of a bit player. He is there at the beginning, trying to fix some pipes in the basement, but for the most part, he’s absent. It’s his magnet that ends up getting swallowed by Pluto, though. Donald’s real role comes towards the end of the short, as Pluto, magnet still inside him, is on the roof, and Donald, holding a hammer gets stuck on the ceiling.

What’s not clear to me from this short is why Disney thought that Donald and Pluto would be a good pairing. They have limited interaction in the short, and their styles are not very complimentary. Donald’s aggressive, angry tone doesn’t match with Pluto’s simple bewilderment and innocence. Goofy and Donald play off each other well, but I don’t quite see the same thing with Pluto.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. Perhaps Disney only put Donald and Pluto together because he was experimenting. By the way, Ryan, is this the first cartoon where two "Mickey Mouse characters" appear together without Mickey? Also, did you notice my post for you on the "Toby Tortise Returns" page?

  2. ^I doubt it was a mere experiment, since they would be paired in 5 more shorts. Something about the concept of pairing those two evidently appealed SOMEONE at the staff.

    Also, this is the (first?) in the list of many, MANY endings where Donald is firmly stuck in a place by the iris out.

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  4. Nichols' Rule: When Pluto shares a post-1935 cartoon with other characters, Pluto will invariably get the most attention—no matter how interesting the other characters/situations might be.
    I'm naming the rule for Charles Nichols—whose "Mickey" cartoons were infamous for this. But lots of directors practiced it...
    It seems like Disney was simply incapable of putting Pluto into a cartoon without making him the star.

  5. This is a funny, funny cartoon---I've showed it to small groups in 16mm and it gets solid laughs every time.

  6. In response to Richie:

    Well, maybe Disney liked how the experiment turned out and decided to keep doing it.

  7. David - I like that rule. I am going to use that later. It certainly seems to be true.

    Richie - pairing these two just seems odd to me. They don't work well together, although separately their work in this short is really good. I don't get it.

  8. It was going to happen eventually. A cartoon in the Mickey series in which the Mouse doesn't even show up (yes, this is the first time it happened)! I remember the first time I saw this cartoon as a kid waiting for his appearance after the initial head shot. It's interesting that the reissue version (with frustrating lack of original title) still designates this as a Mickey cartoon – by then Pluto and Donald would have had their own series.

    The best stuff for me is when Pluto is on the roof unknowingly dragging Donald across the ceiling with the magnet. I also enjoy looking at the backgrounds in this one. The house and all the furnishings are so lovely I almost want to live in it! There's a definite Art Deco influence. I'm not too sure about that washing machine though – did people in the 30's really have contraptions like that?!

    Also did anyone else notice the abrupt cut in this cartoon? It's between Donald's first fall into the water and Pluto running up the stairs. I wonder if something was cut from this cartoon at some point.


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