As we have discussed previously in this space, Pluto is a difficult character to get a handle on, because he doesn’t talk. That puts the burden on the animation and story teams to create interesting situations for Pluto to get involved in, as well as forcing the character to display emotions and situations more visually than through his dialogue. So it’s difficult to get Pluto right, but in Primitive Pluto, the Disney team found a good way to make the dog work.
The idea is that Pluto has long ago been domesticated, and his wild side is itching to break free. It’s an interesting concept, because we have seen Pluto’s evolution following that of Mickey, as he moved from the farm dog into the city and the suburbs along with his master. So commenting on that move is a bit of meta-commentary that plays extremely well in this short.
Before Pluto and his id ever leave the cabin where they open the short, we get to see that Pluto is not ready for the wild. He is literally eating milquetoast, dressing in ridiculous doggie sweaters with bells and generally just not ready for the outdoors. You have never seen a dog so accustomed to the indoors as Pluto, which makes the rest of the short absolutely hilarious. As Pluto’s id drags him outside, there is no doubt it will be to a bad end.
Sure enough, things go horribly wrong outside, as they do in all good Disney theme park rides and the best shorts. Pluto, rather than getting a rabbit to eat, as his primitive self wants, ends up getting entangled with a bear instead. It’s nightmarish for the little inside dog, even as he tries to embrace things like tracking and hunting. The short really gives a humorous touch to the conflict between Pluto’s reason and his desire to go out for more primal pursuits.
When it ends up with the bear scaring them back inside, we see the end results as the primal Pluto devours the milquetoast. The roles have switched: the primal version that lived inside Pluto is now content with the indoor life, and Pluto is feral and wild, trying to corner his smaller self. It’s a brilliant storyline that executes perfectly on screen, creating one of the better Pluto shorts in years.