Disney shorts in the 1940s are quite a mixed bag. While the energy of the Mickey shorts from the 30s is not there, the focus shifted to Donald Duck mostly, and partially some Goofy exploits. There are some notable exceptions, though, and one of them is Figaro. The cat from Pinocchio featured in an earlier short, Figaro and Cleo, and returns with Bath Day.
Figaro was never going to be a star on the scale of the bigger Disney characters, but he’s not terrible. The acting and animation of the character are perfectly fine, about on par with that of Pluto in some of his shorts. The problem is that there is not a good reason to have Figaro about. He doesn’t fit in any real niche that is underserved by the other Disney characters.
In Bath Day, Figaro interacts with Minnie, and the beginning of the short makes you think this will be a fairly typical idea. Figaro doesn’t want to take a bath, and Minnie is trying to make him do so. He puts up a little bit of a fight, but within two minutes, he’s bathed and ready to go. His big worry is not so much the bath but how the bath makes him look.
In short, it makes him look like a bit of a fop. Figaro is concerned that his looks will not serve him well in the world at large. He is right about that, because he immediately encounters some alley cats that threaten him. Seeing Figaro interact with the other cats is somewhat fun, but ultimately it lacks a little heart that we’ve seen in other shorts.
Figaro is the hero here, but as a viewer, I’m not familiar enough with him to really root for him like I would the other characters. It’s a catch 22, because if he doesn’t appear that much then you won’t develop familiarity, right? But the story here doesn’t do much to help matters. I don’t feel for Figaro or care what he ends up doing.
I’ll admit to enjoying the ultimate ending, when Figaro gets the best of the alley cat through no fault of his own. Seeing the cat get clobbered by the garbage around Figaro is fun, but it does nothing to further Figaro’s character. When he ends up strutting back to his house, he’s rather arrogant and not endearing.
Sure, that’s probably the point of Figaro, but it doesn’t make him likeable. I can see why Figaro is not in the pantheon of Disney characters, because in Bath Day, I just didn’t care what happened to him. That may be the modern viewer looking back, but for some reason, I don’t connect to Figaro.