The Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA
) presents its Fall 2021 blogathon, Laughter is the Best Medicine
. The contributions from members can be accessed HERE
. Don't crack your funnybone!
Look at the adorable face of Pluto. It is a face full of personality and mischief; the face of all lovable and wacky mutts everywhere.
Plucked from the anonymity of a "bit" in The Chain Gang, 1930 by creator Norm Ferguson, Pluto has found his way into the hearts of audiences for 91 years and counting.
September 2, 1902 - November 4, 1957
Norm did not come from a traditional art background to the Disney animation department, but rather from the job of cameraman. Blessed with his own "outside the box" ideas, a mobile face, and a strong sense of humour, Norm leaped over traditional stepping stones and brought a vivid and fascinating thought process to his work and his characters. Audiences do not simply observe gags; they actually live in the moment with Norm's characters. Those characters include Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's Wicked Witch, the all-purpose antagonist Peg Leg Pete, and the beloved Pluto.
Norm Ferguson earned the praise and admiration of his fellow animators, and in 1987 received a posthumous Winsor McCay Award, a presentation of the International Animated Film Society for career achievement in animation, and the designation of a Disney Legend in 1999.
PLUTO: Personal Favourites and Highlights
Mickey's Good Deed, 1932
shows Mickey Mouse and Pluto singing for their supper on Christmas Eve during the Great Depression. Mickey, naturally, refuses to sell his beloved Pluto to a spoiled rich kid who demands his father buy him the dog. When Mickey comes across a poor family of cats, he relents to the sale to provide Christmas for the kittens.
Mickey has saved Christmas for the poor family but is alone with only a snow sculpture of his beloved Pluto until the rich kid goes too far and gets a well-deserved spanking from his dad who throws Pluto out. The mutt finds his way to Mickey, bringing with him a roasted turkey from the mansion. It is a cold but happy Christmas for the pair.
Pluto struggles with intractable flypaper in Playful Pluto, 1934.
Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, 1941 tells the epic journey of Hollywood director John L. Sullivan's (Joel McCrea) search for "real life" and the way to present a truly serious story on the screen. Time on a chain gang taught him one lesson he will carry forward when the downtrodden prisoners are offered the reprieve of a church screening of Playful Pluto.
"There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan."
Thanks to my son Gavin and the 1935 Mickey Mouse Technicolor short On Ice, the laughs I had enjoyed through the years at Pluto finally came to a true appreciation. Gavin still enjoys watching his favourite 'toons on a loop and you have to reach the appreciation point to deal with the saturation point.
In On Ice
, Mickey and the gang are enjoying a winter's day skating on a frozen river. Donald, with his own insane sense of humour, decides to prank the innocent Pluto by placing ice skates on the sleeping pooch. Pluto awakens to the sudden reality of trying to stay on his feet and the scene made me realize that here was a comic mime on a par with the greats. Names like Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton must make way for their cartoon canine compatriot!
Pluto's Judgement Day, 1935 takes us inside the nightmare of a guilty conscience. Pluto must face the judgement of all the cats in the world - at least, all of the cats he has chased and menaced or wishes he had chased and menaced. A courtroom made up entirely of cats finds Pluto guilty and he must be punished. Scary stuff, and very funny.
Society Dog Show, 1939 places the mutt among the swell set. Proud owner Mickey believes his Pluto to be the equal of any of the purebred hounds and enters Pluto in the high-toned dog show. Pluto's finer points are not recognized until a fire breaks out and he shows himself to be a true hero, winning the heart of his lady fair.
Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip, 1940 solidifies the bond between the mouse and the pup as the two battle conductor Pete, a strict enforcer of the no dog policy of the railway. Are there no lengths to which the mean old conductor won't go to get rid of the pooch? Are there no lengths to which the owner and pet won't go to make their destination together?
Lend a Paw won the 1942 Oscar for Best Short Subject, Cartoons.
Pluto has rescued a kitten from a watery grave. Pluto probably wouldn't have rescued the kitten if he had known it was a kitten. Pluto develops an instant and strong jealousy of the cute and cuddly little pussy cat. Pluto does his best to discredit the kitten in Mickey's eyes, and to get rid of it once and for all! It is a battle between Pluto's inner demon and inner angel. Who will win?
Springtime for Pluto, 1944 finds Pluto following the siren call of Pan and reveling in the warm weather and promise of spring. He also runs into bugs, hayfever, and sudden torrential rainstorms. Everything has its good and bad points. Don't blame the flute-playing god.
Pluto's Blue Note, 1947 casts the mutt as a frustrated musician. He discovers the miracle of lipsynching and finds himself the Sinatra-like idol of the lady dogs of the neighbourhood. Pluto's attempts to find his place in the musical milieu and his ultimate success make this a very satisfying and amusing entry. Pluto's Blue Note was nominated for Best Short Subject, Cartoons in 1948. The Oscar went to the Merrie Melody short Tweetie Pie, the first teaming of Tweety and Sylvester.
Plutopia, 1951 finds Pluto and Mickey at a campground with harsh restrictions on where and what dogs may do. Pluto finds respite in dreamland where he is the ruler of all he surveys and a cat, a most deferential cat, supplying every wish to his dog master. Why, this compliant cat even goes so far as to beg for punishment at the very thought of disappointing the mighty Pluto! Plutopia indeed.
Mickey: "Pluto, we have chipmunks in our tree!"
Pluto's Christmas Tree, 1952 takes Pluto through his paces. First, the excitement of going for a walk with Mickey to pick out the tree. Next, the joy of decorating. After that, it is the horrifying discovery that Chip and Dale have invaded the celebration followed by the battle of the century and the frustration of not getting Mickey to understand the enormity of the situation.
Through the years we have seen Pluto deal with Donald trying to give him a bath, Minnie knitting him a sweater, real and imagined cats, those smart-alec chipmunks, gophers, armadillos, coyotes, parrots, puppies, seals, the weather, and romantic rivals. Does Pluto handle these aggravations with grace and fortitude? He does not! And why should he? Pluto barks and rails against the indignities heaped upon him in this world of woe. He is loyal, perhaps a little foolhardy, and always funny.
Mickey: "Aw, you're just a mutt!"
Canine Caddy, 1941