Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rescue Dog

The more Disney shorts I watch, the more I feel like the eras can be grouped into sets by characters. The late 20s and early 30s were the Mickey/Silly Symphonies era, then we had the Mickey/Donald/Goofy era, the Goofy & Donald era and the post war years are shaping up to be the Donald/Pluto era. Hence, we get another Pluto short in the beginning of 1947, with Rescue Dog.

I was not excited going into this one, because the trope of the rescue dog has been used before, not just by Disney. I’ve seen it in Looney Tunes cartoons as well as modern cartoons, so it’s not that original. Pluto has even done variations on it in other shorts. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the rescue dog is that dog in the snow with a barrel around their neck that drips hot liquid into the mouths of frozen travelers to warm them up in the frozen wastelands.

As discussed yesterday, there is a conundrum of how Pluto can appear in shorts, because he’s at his best when he is a little mischievous. Being a rescue dog takes that away from him, so it’s hard to see how Rescue Dog is going to be good. The story pits Pluto against a seal, who is interested in playing a game with the barrel around his neck.

It’s just not that compelling, frankly. The seal and Pluto cannot talk, so the short is reliant on action to convey the story. There’s not enough action or gags in the short to make it work. On top of that, the seal is not a great character. I had to watch the short twice to understand whether the seal was malicious or just playing around (It’s the latter).

The final sequence of the short offers a different twist, as it’s Pluto who crashes through the ice and is in danger of freezing. The seal goes through a variety of actions to try and save Pluto, finally pulling him out of the water frozen solid.

It’s a neat idea, but the scenes of Pluto swimming around under the solid ice are frankly a bit frightening and unnerving. Even though I knew Pluto would make it, it was hard to watch him struggle like that. The ultimate resolution of the two characters as friends was telegraphed from the beginning, so it lacked an emotional punch. Not the best Pluto short I’ve ever seen, to be sure.

All images copyright Disney.  All rights reserved.

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