Tuesday, October 19, 2021

CMBA 2021 FALL BLOGATHON, LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE: Disney's Pluto


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.


Norm Ferguson
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













  

30 comments:

  1. I was never much into the classic Disney characters as a kid, but that may have been because I didn’t see them on TV as often as I did, say, Bugs Bunny. What I have seen of Mickey and Pluto certainly holds up though. Pluto as comic mime? I can see that.

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    1. When Gavin was tiny one of his aunts asked about his favourite cartoon character (it was close to Christmas). When I gave it serious thought and told her "Pluto", she said "Pluto?!" Soon, Gavin took us all down the Pluto Road.

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  2. Oh man, if there was ever an underdog (pun intended) for stardom, it was Pluto. Yet, like all true stars, he made it to the top of the heap. You can't keep a good mutt down. My heart did a little somersault of joy when I saw your topic, 'cause me and Pluto - we go way back.

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    1. Pluto may be "only a mutt" but he is our bosom pal; he gets us and we get him.

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  3. Speaking of DISNEY there was a Disney show titled TALES OF TEXAS JOHN SLAUGHTER with TOM TRYON. (I have never seen it.) One of the cast members was BETTY LYNN. Sadly, Betty died Oct. 16 (Sat.) at the age of 95. She is best known for playing THELMA LOU on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Thelma Lou was the girlfriend of DEPUTY BARNEY FIFE(played by DON KNOTTS). Betty was cute and adorable as Thelma Lou. P.S. Betty Lynn worked with the USO early in her career and went to war zones to entertain the troops. Later she received a special award for those services. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Betty Lynn was an adorable actress and, from what I have read, as sweet in real life. She will be missed by friends and fans alike. I was a fan of Texas John Slaughter as a kid.

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  4. I should be more familiar with Pluto, having a Disney-loving daughter, but your post helps bring me up to speed -- and makes me want to see these! Good stuff!

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    1. Thanks. You're sure to get a kick out of the Pluto shorts. They are very inventive and funny.

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  5. Your post made me wonder if Pluto has his cartoons on his own DVD, and apparently he does. Such a fun idea for these lingering COVID times. Thanks for reminding me about Pluto!

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    1. I'm so glad I could highlight Pluto. The DVDs are a treasure of entertainment and information.

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  6. Great post on this lovable mutt! Also really liked the background info on creator Norm Ferguson - always interesting to find out about the talent behind the creation. Norm looks like he might have rivalled Pluto for dumb-adorable facial expressions!

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    1. Thanks.

      It's true! I just love the abandon and commitment from Norm - Pluto's Pa!

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  7. Pluto never fails to put a smile on my face - actaully, I was smiling with my memories while reading your post. Pluto has many heartwarming moments, too, and I remember those best from Lend a Paw and the Christmas tree cartoon. Fantastic post as always.

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    1. Thank you so much. When a character can make you laugh and touch your heart, that is truly something special.

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  8. What a terrific topic and enjoyable read, Paddy.

    I realize I have not seen as much Pluto as I should have. Of all the cartoons you discuss, Pluto’s Judgment Day sounds like it’s right up my alley cat. Going to search for it now.

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    1. Ha! Right up your alley cat! Indeed, I think that must have been written by a cat. Enjoy.

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  9. Thanks for touring "Pluto's Greatest Hits" and the introduction to Norm Ferguson. Verrry interesting and lots of fun.

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    1. Thanks. Every time I thought to myself "that will do", another short would come to mind, I'd start to giggle and kept on going.

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  10. Absolutely loved this post. Cartoon canine compatriot! Awesome. I need to watch that judgment day one. That sounds hilarious.

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    1. The cry of "We want Pluto!" echoes throughout the cat world. There is no escape.

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  11. What a great idea for this blogathon, and I’m sure Norm Ferguson would be proud! I admit to not having seen much of Pluto but cartoon canines sound like a winner by definition (this from a Gen X Scooby Doo fan). Next time I come across Pluto I’ll think of this fun post as setting me up perfectly to appreciate him.

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    1. Many of these shorts can be found on YouTube. As winter approaches do check out On Ice from 1935. It was the breakthrough short for me and I have been a big fan ever since.

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  12. Fabulous idea and an excellent tribute to an underappreciated comic genius. It's time Mickey and Donald moved over to make more room for the always-lovable Pluto.

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    1. A real scene-stealer, but it was always in aid of getting out a good 'toon. The old pros must appreciate the support.

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  13. What a cool concept for an article! And you certainly did it justice.

    Carol, The Old Hollywood Garden

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    1. Thank you so very much. The more I tapped into my Pluto memories, the more laughs I found.

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  14. I love the warmth and tones of animation from the classic years. It's impossible not to love Pluto! Love your wonderful tribute to a legendary character!

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    1. Thank you. I agree there is something so special about that era of animation.

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  15. Paddy, I am going to be looking up these adorable cartoons with the ever lovable Pluto. Your post was so enjoyable to read, reminding everyone that sometimes there's nothing that will do but indulging in these wonderful Disney creations!

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    1. Indeed. They tickle your funny bone and warm your heart.

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