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Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date:
 March 4, 1949
Stars:
 Pluto
Rating:
 ★
Review:

Pluto's Surprise Package © Walt DisneyIn this cartoon Pluto  inexplicably lives in a lodge in the mountains.

Here he receives a package that jumps. It shows to contain a little turtle. Pluto has a hard time delivering the mail and the turtle in his original package, but in the end it’s the turtle which delivers the letters.

This sweet and slow cartoon is the third starring the cute little turtle from ‘Canine Patrol‘ (1945) and ‘Pluto’s Housewarming‘ (1947). It uses the Pluto-befriends-a-little-animal-story formula of Pluto first being hostile to this new animal, then becoming friends, and it has a distinct routine feel to it. Clearly, this story formula was running out of steam badly. Luckily, ‘Pluto’s Surprise Package’ was the last Pluto cartoon using it.

This short’s best scene is when Pluto tries to retain three letters and the little turtle inside its package, troubled by wind and the turtle’s constant urge to move.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Surprise Package’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 29
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pueblo Pluto 
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Sweater

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date:
 January 14, 1949
Stars:
 Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating:
 ★
Review:

Pueblo Pluto © Walt DisneyIn Pueblo Pluto” Mickey’s a tourist visiting a Pueblo village with Pluto.

Here, Pluto meets the small dog with the droopy eyes from ‘The Purloined Pup’ (1946), who tries to steal Pluto’s buffalo bone. When Pluto finally has his bone secured, he discovers he’s trapped inside a circle of cacti. Of course, it’s the little dog who saves him in this all too typical story.

Like the other Pluto-befriends-a-little-animal-cartoons, this short is as cute as it is dull. Its most interesting feature are the rather stylized backgrounds by Brice Mack, who has used a particularly large amount of pink.

Watch ‘Pueblo Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 28
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Fledgling
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Surprise Package

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: April 30, 1948
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★
Review:

Bone Bandit © Walt DisneyWhile looking for some bones he has buried, Pluto encounters a gopher who makes him sneeze, using mimosa ,all through this boring picture.

‘Bone Bandit’ is one of Pluto’s most forgettable entries, even though Pluto does not become friends with a little animal for once.

Pluto would encounter another gopher in ‘Pluto and the Gopher‘ (1950), which is only marginally better. Gophers apparently just aren’t funny, a fact also proven by ‘Donald’s Garden‘ (1942) and the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘Wicket Wacky‘ (1951).

Watch ‘Bone Bandit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 24
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Blue Note
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Purchase

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
December 26, 1947
Stars:
 Pluto
Rating:
 ★★★½
Review:

Pluto's Blue Note © Walt DisneyIn ‘Pluto’s Blue Note’ Pluto tries to sing along with some birds, a bee and a grasshopper, but to no avail.

When he discovers that he can use his tail as a needle to play records with, he uses these not only to impress these animals, but also five female dogs, who fall for ‘his’ crooning, Frank Sinatra-like voice. In this short Pluto performs a very silly dance, which is only topped in outrageous animation by his facial expressions while play-backing the crooning voice.

‘Pluto’s Blue Note’ certainly is one of the more inspired Pluto cartoons of the late forties, and its story a welcome deviation from the Pluto-befriends-a-little-animal formula.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Blue Note’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 23
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Mail Dog
To the next Pluto cartoon: Bone Bandit

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
November 14, 1947
Stars:
 Pluto
Rating:
 ★
Review:

Mail Dog © Walt Disney‘Mail Dog’ is another arctic short featuring Pluto (see ‘Rescue Dog‘ from eight months earlier).

This time Pluto is a mail dog in Alaska. While delivering the mail he encounters a totem pole and a chilly rabbit. When he chases it, he accidentally delivers the mail in time, too.

This short follows the typical Pluto story, where Pluto befriends a little animal he dislikes at first. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing special about this particular entry, making it one of Pluto’s most forgettable cartoons.

Watch ‘Mail Dog’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 22
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Rescue Dog
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Blue Note

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: March 21, 1947
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★
Review:

Rescue Dog © Walt DisneyPluto somehow is a rescue dog in the arctic, where he encounters the little seal from ‘Pluto’s Playmate‘ (1941).

In a story all too similar to this earlier entry, Pluto tries to get rid of it, but when the seal rescues him from almost drowning, they become friends.

This is one of the more forgettable Pluto shorts in which Pluto befriends a little animal. Its story is told quite slowly. However, it contains some broad and funny animation of Pluto. The seal would return the following year in ‘Mickey and the Seal‘.

Watch ‘Rescue Dog’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 21
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Housewarming
To the next Pluto cartoon: Mail Dog

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
August 13, 1948
Stars:
 Pluto, Figaro
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

Cat Nap Pluto © Walt DisneyIn ‘Cat Nap Pluto’ Pluto’s returning home in the morning from a very rough night, but he’s kept out of sleep by a very rise-and-shiny Figaro.

‘Cat Nap Pluto’ is an entertaining short. The funniest gags in this cartoon involve a very, very sleepy miniature Pluto sandman, who puts Pluto to sleep several times. Nevertheless, the cartoon pales when compared to the Tom & Jerry short ‘Sleepy Time Tom‘ (1951), which covers similar grounds.

‘Cat Nap Pluto’ is the second of three cartoons co-starring Pluto and Figaro, the other ones being ‘First Aiders’ from 1944 and ‘Pluto’s Sweater‘ from the next year.

Watch ‘Cat Nap Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 26
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Purchase
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Fledgling

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: 
February 2, 1947
Stars:
 Pluto, Butch, The Little Turtle
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Pluto's Housewarming © Walt DisneyIn ‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ Pluto’s got a new and very fancy home at the beach, but even before he moves in, it’s occupied by the little turtle from ‘Canine Patrol‘ (1945).

Pluto manages to dispose of the little fellow, but then bulldog Butch squats his house. Butch chases Pluto away, but he himself is chased away by the little turtle. In return, Pluto allows the little fellow to live in his mansion, too.

‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ is one of those numerous Pluto cartoons from the forties in which Pluto befriends a little animal, which he doesn’t like at first. The addition of Butch, however, brings in a new dimension. Nevertheless, this is cartoon is still rather cute than funny.

The little turtle would reappear in the equally cute and unfunny ‘Pluto’s Surprise Package‘ from 1949.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Housewarming’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 20
To the previous Pluto cartoon: The Purloined Pup
To the next Pluto cartoon: Rescue Dog

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: May 10, 1946
Stars: Pluto, Dinah
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

In Dutch © Walt Disney‘In Dutch’ is one of those rare cartoons set in Holland.

In ‘in Dutch’ Pluto is a milk-bringing dog in a very awkward, almost fairy tale-like picture of The Netherlands. He and his love, Dinah the dachshund, accidentally ring the alarm bell in their love play, and they get expelled from the village.

However, our couple saves the day, when Dinah stops a leak in the dyke and Pluto warns the villagers, albeit in an unorthodox way. This story idea is a nice take on the children’s book ‘Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates’ (1865) by Mary Mapes Dodge. The result is a charming little story in an exotic setting.

Like Mapes Dodge, the animators had probably never visited The Netherlands themselves, for the country is erroneously depicted as surrounded by a huge dyke, behind which the sea is splashing. Further couleur locale is provided by numerous windmills, tulips and wooden shoes. The people in the cartoon speak with a weird accent, which is supposed to sound like Dutch, but which is more reminiscent of German.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to blame the makers for the cliches, for even the George Pal’s cartoon about Holland, ‘Tulips Shall Grow’ (1942), is crowded with windmills, tulips and wooden shoes. And George Pal had lived in The Netherlands for several years…

Watch ‘In Dutch’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 18
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Kid Brother
To the next Pluto cartoon: The Purloined Pup

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date:
 April 12, 1946
Stars:
 Pluto, Butch
Rating:
 ★★★½ 
Review:

Pluto's Kid Brother © Walt Disney

Pluto’s family life has been treated mysteriously in his films.

Mostly, he is on his own, but in ‘Pluto’s Quin-Puplet’s (1937) he had five children, and in ‘Pluto Junior‘ (1942) only one. In ‘Pluto’s kid Brother’, without any explanation, Pluto suddenly has a smaller brother.

The little brat is full of mischief, causing trouble with a rooster, a mean red cat and even teaming up with Butch the Bulldog to get some sausages from the butcher’s shop. But Butch is not the type to share, and in the end Pluto has to save his brother, while Butch is caught by the dog catcher. However, there’s not too much moral to this story, for Pluto, too, fancies the loot: the sausages his little brother has stolen.

‘Pluto’s Kid Brother’ uses the same story idea as the 1936 Betty Boop cartoon ‘You’re Not Build That Way’ starring Pudgy, but with better results. ‘Pluto’s Kid Brother’ is a great improvement on ‘You’re Not Build That Way’: it’s better animated, less cloying, and more entertaining. The result is a nice cartoon, if by no means among Pluto’s best. It remains unknown whether the makers even knew the Betty Boop cartoon, at all.

The red alley cat would reappear in the Figaro cartoon ‘Bath Day’, six months later.  Pluto’s little brother, on the other hand, would disappear again into nothingness, never to return to the screen.

Watch ‘Pluto’s Kid Brother’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 17
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Canine Patrol
To the next Pluto cartoon: In Dutch

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: June 23, 1944
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Springtime for Pluto © Walt DisneyAn updated version of Pan from ‘Fantasia’ (1940), now wearing a boiler hat, creates spring.

Pluto enjoys it for a while, e.g. discovering a caterpillar who transforms into a very sexy butterfly. The butterfly is designed as a miniature pin-up girl, who dances to a conga beat. After this encounter, Pluto juggles with a wasps’ nest, angering the wasps who sting him in the form of a Lockheed Lightning and a V2 rocket. These two sequences make ‘Springtime for Pluto’ a typical war era cartoon, even though it’s not about war, at all.

After Pluto gets stung, he’s caught in the rain, and even in a hailstorm. In the end he’s not enjoying spring anymore, and angrily he chases Pan into the distance.

‘Springtime for Pluto’ is the first cartoon directed by Charles Nichols, who would direct all Pluto and Mickey cartoons (save one) from now on until their retirement in 1953. Nichols is famous for his mild-mannered humor, but his debut consists of very enjoyable utter nonsense from the beginning to the end. It’s full of the exuberant spirit of the war time era.

Even the oil backgrounds, painted by Lenard Kester (1917-1997), have more vivid colors than before. These are flatter than in most Disney films, and during the butterfly sequence one can even see the paper texture. They form an early example of a more graphic style of backgrounds within a Disney film, and look forward to the fifties. Perhaps Kester had been inspired by similar experiments by Chuck Jones’ unit at Warner Brothers (e.g. ‘The Dover Boys‘ from 1942). In any case, the result contributes to the surreal atmosphere of the film.

Kester has been credited for backgrounds of only one other Disney cartoon, ‘How To Play Football’ from a few months later. In this short the backgrounds are effective, but unremarkable. Had he been toned down by the studio? Fact is that Kester soon moved on to devote his life to oil painting…

Watch ‘Springtime for Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 11
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Private Pluto
To the next Pluto cartoon: First Aiders

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: April 2, 1943
Stars: Pluto, Chip ‘n Dale
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Private Pluto © Walt Disney

Pluto has joined the army, and wearing a helmet, he has to protect “the pillbox” (a canon) against saboteurs.

These appear to be two little chipmunks who use the canon to crack acorns. Pluto tries to fight them, but the two critters defeat him in an unexpected ending.

‘Private Pluto’ is the second of two World War II-themed Pluto cartoons (the first being ‘The Army Mascot‘ from 1942). It was also to be the last Pluto cartoon directed by Clyde Geronimi, who promoted to sequence director in Disney’s feature films. Geronimi was succeeded by Charles Nichols, who seemed to be more comfortable with the character and who would direct every Pluto cartoon save one from then on.

‘Private Pluto’ is an important cartoon, because it introduces those famous chipmunks, Chip ‘n Dale. They’re not named yet, nor are they two different characters here, but their mischievous behavior and their hardly comprehensible jabbering are already present, and they’re certainly instantly likeable.

Chip ‘n Dale would eventually become Donald’s adversaries, but Pluto, too, would re-encounter them in three cartoons: ‘Squatters Rights‘ (1946), ‘Food for Feudin’‘ (1950) and ‘Pluto’s Christmas Tree‘ (1952).

‘Private Pluto’ is interesting in its own right, for it shows the line of coastal defense the United States had placed at the Pacific Coast in the years preceding the war. After the attack on Pearl Harbor it had been placed on high alert (thus Pluto’s job), but luckily there was no need ever to use it.

Watch ‘Private Pluto’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 10
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto at the Zoo
To the next Pluto cartoon: Springtime for Pluto

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: December 27, 1940
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Pantry Pirate © Walt DisneySurprisingly, in this film Pluto is not Mickey’s dog, but owned by an Afro-American lady, who seems to be the exact copy of Tom & Jerry’s Mammy Two-Shoes, who made her debut in February of that year. However, it was the Disney studio itself who had introduced the Mammy character in ‘Three Orphan Kittens‘ (1935).

In ‘Pantry Pirate’ Mammy puts Pluto outside, but he sneaks into the kitchen trying to steal her roast beef. Hindered by an ironing-board, several tea cups and a bucket of soapy water, he doesn’t succeed, but he does escape Mammy’s wrath by quickly returning to his dog house, pretending to be asleep. Here the cartoon abruptly ends.

‘Pantry Pirate’ is the first of seven Pluto cartoons directed by Clyde Geronimi. It’s also one of his best, with gags leading to more gags in excellent pantomimed and physical situation comedy. This cartoon contains some remarkably flexible animation of Pluto, especially during the ironing-board scene. Pluto’s design, however, seems to be stubbier than usual. The Mammy character would return in ‘Figaro and Cleo‘ (1943).

Watch ‘Pantry Pirate’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 3
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Bone Trouble
To the next Pluto cartoon: Pluto’s Playmate

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: November 20, 1942
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Pluto at the Zoo © Walt DisneyWith ‘Pluto at the zoo’ director Clyde Geronimi delivers his most successful Pluto short.

In this short Pluto carries a tiny bone when he discovers a huge bone at the Lion’s cave. He decides to steal it, but this causes him lots of trouble with the lion, a kangaroo, a gorilla and several crocodiles.

Pluto’s pantomime is wonderful in this cartoon, and, unlike most of the previous entries directed by Geronimi, there’s an absence of sentimentality, which is nicely replaced by absurdism, with the simply hilarious gorilla sequence as a highlight within the whole series.

Watch ‘Pluto at the Zoo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 9
To the previous Pluto cartoon: T-Bone for Two
To the next Pluto cartoon: Private Pluto

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: May 22, 1942
Stars: Pluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Army Mascot © Walt Disney‘The Army Mascot’ is the first of two World War Two cartoons starring Pluto (the other one being ‘Private Pluto‘ from 1943).

Pluto never gets really involved in the war, though, he only joins the army. He was the second Disney character to do so, following Donald Duck, who had been drafted only three weeks earlier, in ‘Donald Gets Drafted‘.

However, Pluto’s reasons to join the army are doubtful, to say the least: only when he sees the enormous portions of meat an army mascot gets, he wants to be one, too. He tries to replace “Gunther Goat”, mascot of the Yoo-hoo Division, but all he gets is cans. In his second attempt he tries to chew tobacco like Gunther can, to impress the soldiers. But Gunther makes Pluto swallow the whole piece, making him sick. This sequence is the highlight of the cartoon, as Pluto’s sickness is animated in the most ridiculous way.

Gunther then tries to finish his rival off by bumping Pluto into the munition depot, but it’s Gunther himself who bumps into the depot, which explodes, blasting the wicked goat up into the air, where he’s caught by a plane and carried away into the distance. Now Pluto takes Gunther’s place, and gets his steak after all.

‘The Army Mascot’ is a rather odd cartoon, where both main characters show unpleasant behavior: Pluto envy and trickery and Gunther haughtiness and wrath. Thus, ‘The Army Mascot’, although war-themed, can hardly be called a patriotic film.

Watch ‘The Army Mascot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto cartoon No. 6
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Pluto Junior
To the next Pluto cartoon: The Sleep Walker

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