Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pests of the West

Pluto sure does get around.  He’s been a suburban house dog for much of his recent past, but Pests of the West finds him back out on the prairie, guarding a very poorly placed henhouse.  In fact, Pluto’s not even really the star of this short.  Instead the focus is on two coyotes who are trying to raid that very same henhouse.  Hence the main conflict of the short. 

I have to say that the design of the coyotes and the way they act on arrival is incredibly appealing.  It’s a large coyote and a small one, presumably father and son.  The interaction between the two of them is a classic example of how to do visual comedy with animated characters.    The younger coyote is a bit of a dimwit, and that comes across without either of them making a sound in the entire short.

I’ve written before that Pluto’s shorts are all about figuring out ways to make the main dog more interesting without having him speak.  That’s quite the challenge, but it is pulled off excellently here because Pluto is secondary to the main event.  These coyotes trying to push their way into the henhouse is the main story, and Pluto is the obstacle they have to overcome.  Sure, you don’t want to root for them because they are trying to eat innocent chickens, but they are so loveable that you can’t help it.

The gags here are not all that inventive, but they’re executed well.  I particularly love when the older coyote leaves the younger hanging in the air, because he’s too dumb to know that he’s supposed to fall.  There’s more there, like the two of them hiding in the roof of Pluto’s doghouse or the main coyote stealing a “chicken” that turns out to be his son in a basket.  All of them are familiar gags from other shorts, but they are still funny here because the animation works so well.

There’s nothing in Pests of the West that is new or different, but it still is one of the better Pluto shorts of this era.  The inversion of the typical formulaic Pluto encounter with another animal is enough to make things more interesting.  If you like some of the obscure Disney characters, you might as well make time to watch Pests of the West and familiarize yourself with these rather fun coyotes.

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