Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: April 30, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
They finally find a moose (or more exactly, the moose finds them). Unfortunately, in front of the moose, Mickey’s gun fails and soon the moose hunts both Mickey and Pluto. The chase ends with Mickey escaping on a flying Pluto.
‘The Moose Hunt’ is Mickey’s third gag only short, after ‘The Fire Fighters‘ (1930) and ‘Traffic Troubles‘ from earlier that year. It’s hardly as good as those earlier entries, though. Its pace is slow, and it contains some awkward gags, like the flying Pluto finale. It also contains a rare gag breaking the fourth dimension: when Mickey accidentally shoots Pluto, he suddenly addresses the audience with a “Is there a doctor in the house?”. Then, when Mickey begs Pluto to speak to him, Pluto actually speaks!
The self-conscious audience gag would remain a rarity at Disney, but it would become a staple gag at Warner Bros. when Tex Avery joined that studio. The two Pluto gags are totally out of character, and have nothing to do with him being a dog. After ‘The Moose Hunt’ we would never see Pluto flying or speaking again (apart from a short ‘Mammy’ at the end of ‘Mickey Steps Out‘), and after watching ‘The Moose Hunt’ it is easily understandable why not.
Luckily, there are other scenes that are more inspired, and in which Pluto behaves like a dog throughout. Indeed, in his very first solo scene, which reuses a little animation from ‘The Chain Gang‘ (1930), Pluto’s character as a little dumb and a little cowardly dog is pretty well established. Pluto’s looks are still unstable, but he’s excellently animated, throughout.
In ‘The Moose Hunt’ Pluto also gets his name (he was called ‘Rover’ in his first appearance in ‘The Picnic‘ from six months earlier). He now clearly is Mickey’s dog, not Minnie’s, like in the earlier film. It’s clear that the Mickey Mouse films could use an extra character, and after this film Pluto would appear in almost all succeeding Mickey Mouse films, stealing more and more screen time from Mickey.
Mickey would go hunting moose again in the way funnier ‘Moose Hunters’ from 1937, which, incidentally, doesn’t star Pluto.
Watch ‘The Moose Hunt’ yourself and tell me what you think: