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Pluto Cartoon Shorts on DVD: The Complete Pluto, Volume One The Complete Pluto, Volume Two NEW!

The Complete Pluto Volume 1 DVD Review

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Disc 1: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Pluto Shorts
1930: The Chain Gang; 1935: On Ice;
1937: Pluto's Quin-puplets; 1939: Beach Picnic; 1940: Bone Trouble
1941: Pluto's Playmate, Canine Caddy, Lend a Paw;
1942: Pluto, Junior, The Army Mascot, The Sleepwalker, T-Bone for Two, Pluto at the Zoo

Video and Audio
Bonus Material: The Life and Times of Pluto, Pluto 101

Disc 2: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Pluto Shorts
1943: Pluto and the Armadillo, Private Pluto;
1944: Springtime for Pluto, First Aiders; 1945: Dog Watch, Canine Casanova,
The Legend of Coyote Rock, Canine Patrol; 1946: Pluto's Kid Brother, In Dutch,
Squatter's Rights, The Purloined Pup; 1947: Pluto's Housewarming
From the Vault: Pantry Pirate (1940), A Gentleman's Gentleman (1941)

Video and Audio
Bonus Material: "Pluto's Picture Book", "Pluto's Pal Fergy", Galleries
Closing Thoughts
Running Time: 275 Minutes (4 hours, 35 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated
Disc Two: 150 minutes (109 - shorts, 2 - introductions, 39 - extras)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Originally Released between 1930 and 1947
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 7, 2004
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99

REVIEW CONTENTS

Page 1: Disc 1 - Shorts, Video & Audio, and Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 - Shorts, Video & Audio, Bonus Features, and Closing Thoughts

DISC 2

The second disc opens with another Leonard Maltin introduction (1:03) which succinctly covers the different directors who worked on Pluto shorts and the winning mixture of real dog behavior and cartoon freedom that defines Pluto. Maltin explains that a number of the shorts in this collection are not part of the "Pluto" series but were included to enjoy the dog's scene-stealing moments in shorts with Mickey and/or Donald.

Disc 2 also houses 13 Pluto shorts in the alphabetical and chronological listings, again presented with the "Play All" option. Two additional shorts are available in a section called "From the Vault" which opens with an unskippable Leonard Maltin introduction that explains why.

THE SHORTS

"Private Pluto" The translucent faun awakens Pluto in "Springtime for Pluto." Minnie practices techniques on Pluto in "First Aiders."

Pluto and the Armadillo (1943) (7:18)
Vacationing in Brazil with Mickey Mouse, Pluto mistakes a curled-up armadillo for his bouncy ball and wackiness ensues. The short open with "True Life Adventure"-like narration on the armadillo and American tourist, before evolving into a more routine (but funny) Pluto-and-another-animal chase and interaction comedy.
This short coincides with the goodwill trip that Walt and his staff made to South America in the early '40s, a voyage which led to the Latin-flavored anthology films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

Private Pluto (1943) (6:45)
Another clear product of its era, this short showcases Pluto as a soldier. First, Pluto tries to follow marching orders, contorting himself into quite a mess. Then, he engages in hijinks with Chip and Dale who are using a cannon to store and crack their nuts, and a war of wits naturally ensues.

Springtime for Pluto (1944) (7:11)
Spring is in the air in this short, comprised of a celebration of the season of new life and a series of Pluto gags. A translucent faun awakens Pluto from his slumber. There's a song from a caterpillar who transforms into a dancing woman butterfly, a swarming horde of bees, and finally a spring thunderstorm which makes everything gloomy-looking and Pluto enraged.

First Aiders (1944) (7:30)
Minnie is practicing her First Aid skills and tries to emulate the techniques seen in her book on Pluto. But when she goes to get more supplies, she leaves a bandaged and splinted Pluto alone with the mischievous cat Figaro. And as the saying goes, when the Mouse is away, the dog and cat will play. Or something like that.

"Dog Watch" Pluto's love has him leaping in "Canine Casanova" "Canine Patrol"

Dog Watch (1945) (7:17)
Left in charge by the captain, Pluto watches over a ship and must wield off a menacing redhead rat. The two bond over stolen food, with the sly rodent always one step ahead of on-guard Pluto. Some amusing antics make this short stand out.

Canine Casanova (1945) (7:26)
Pluto has the hots for a dainty dachshund, but his efforts to woo her are futile. But when she winds up in the local pound, Pluto saves the day.

The Legend of Coyote Rock (1945) (7:20)
The narrator of this short tells the titular legend about how Pluto protected the innocent sheep from a fierce predator. There's a Warner Brothers feel to this atypical Pluto cartoon and not simply because a wily coyote is the antagonist.

Canine Patrol (1945) (7:32)
Upholding his beach patrol duties, Pluto tries to ward off a tiny trespassing turtle.

"Pluto's Kid Brother" creates havoc for Pluto. Who who who is that hot dachshund in the Netherlands, Pluto wonders in "In Dutch" Pluto doesn't want Chip 'n Dale getting too comfortable in "Squatter's Rights."

Pluto's Kid Brother (1946) (6:50)
K.B., Pluto's kid brother, gets into a lot of mischief which leads to pain for Pluto and some stolen hot dogs, too.

In Dutch (1946) (6:47)
Somehow, Pluto is back the old Netherlands delivering milk. His dachshund love interest is there too, but Pluto's efforts to impress her again are ineffective. Instead, he accidentally winds up ringing the dike emergency bell, which raises the ire of the mayor and all the townspeople. In spite of some Dutch stereotypes and frank use of the d-word, this short eschewed the controversial "From the Vault" section.

Squatter's Rights (1946) (7:06)
Pluto takes on Chip n' Dale once again here. Mickey wants to start a fire, but the stove is occupied by the chipmunks who make every effort to not get burned. It's quite funny to see how far this wacky short goes. Pluto shows his evil side in trying to toast his pesky nemeses with whatever it takes. He winds up with his nose stuck in the barrel of a rifle. A bit darker than most Disney shorts, but it delivers laughs on account of that.

The Purloined Pup (1946) (6:55)
Pluto is a rookie police dog on a dognapping case: Little Ronnie has disappeared and all signs point to Butch the bulldog. Pluto breaks out all his best undercover moves to rescue poor Ronnie. The detective story approach here offers a nice departure from more familiar Pluto short premises.

A turtle peeks in on "Pluto's Housewarming." Pluto the "Pantry Pirate." Mickey consoles Pluto in "A Gentleman's Gentleman"

Pluto's Housewarming (1947) (7:01)
Pluto's plans to move into a dream house are changed when his old turtle "friend" (seen in "Canine Patrol") shows up. What ensues is a series of attempts by Pluto to move into the house, and the turtle to displace him, until Butch the bulldog lays his claim to the house.

FROM THE VAULT

In his stately 50-second introduction to this section, Leonard Maltin explains that though these cartoons are the products of "less enlightened times" and contain prejudices that may offend, Disney fans and enthusiasts should be able to enjoy them today keeping in mind the context. It's like he's talking about Song of the South, I swear! In order to access the section, this introduction
has to play through once. If you'd like to return later, you're then able to skip the intro.

Pantry Pirate (1940) (8:10)
Pluto gets kicked out of the house, but when he smells the food cooking inside, he can't resist. He sneaks his way to the deliciousness, trying his most diligently not to make any noise. The content that could be deemed "offensive" is that the woman who kicks him out is black (at least her arms are, we never see more), a housekeeper, and sings a song with the lyrics "Hallelujah and bless the day!" A more sensitive studio might have redubbed an accented or dialect-speaking character, but this is mild enough that the Maltin introduction seems satisfactory and is far preferred to a more extreme tinkering for the sake of political correctness.

A Gentleman's Gentleman (1941) (7:25)
Pluto is being Mickey's servant, and breakfast in bed isn't good enough; Mickey gives his dog a dime to buy the newspaper. Things get sticky when Pluto drops the dime...and it rolls down into a drain. Then, they get stickier. As is one's nature, labeling this "From the Vault" intrigued me to see what would be this offensive content. It's hardly anything; Pluto sees himself in the newspaper comics and the punchline is that he gets muddy. Life imitates art when he really does get muddy. Maybe I missed something, but the short didn't even seem to proliferate the blackface gag that was all the rage back then.

VIDEO & AUDIO

Disc 2's shorts are only slightly more recent than most of what is on Disc 1. These too are all presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen. The credits of some of the Mickey shorts are slightly bordered, to prevent losing names to overscan. Overall, I have the same positive reaction to the picture quality on Disc 2. As with Disc 1, the most noticeable flaw is the color inconsistencies, and these are mostly minor. The prints are satisfactorily remastered and exhibit a clarity and sharpness that is quite impressive for films of this age.

There's really nothing new to add about the audio on Disc 2. It is the same adequate aural presentation we heard on Disc 1. Volume isn't always consistent, but there was not a great range between peaks and valleys, and the dynamics were mostly consistent within shorts just not always from short-to-short. At times, the audio sounded a bit thin, but that's not surprising for sixty-year-old monaural tracks. Overall, both picture and sound are up to Treasures standard and fall within the high end of that caliber.

Walt talks about dogs in "Pluto's Picture Book", an excerpt from a December 1954 Disneyland episode. Wartime Pluto insignia is covered in "Pluto's Picture Book." Leonard Maltin tries to explain potentially offensive elements of the "From the Vault" shorts.

BONUS FEATURES

Disc 2 contains the remaining three bonus features of this set.

First up is "Pluto's Picture Book", an excerpt from the Disneyland episode "A Story of Dogs" (which originally aired December 1, 1954).
As part of a special to promote upcoming release Lady and the Tramp (which, an announcement over the end credits highlights, was Walt's first full-length cartoon feature in Cinemascope), Walt Disney looked at the studio's first star canine. There is some animation of Pluto leaping out and looking through a picture book. As Walt narrates, we get a look at some of the highlights from Pluto's career.

Though the program originally aired in black and white, portions have been presented, as the episode was filmed, in color. The highlight reel part isn't so exciting, since the shorts are available elsewhere in better quality and in their entirety. (Chapter stops nonetheless provide quick access to the cartoons presented: "On Ice", "Beach Picnic", "Lend a Paw", "The Legend of Coyote Rock") But the character biography element is and what makes "Pluto's Picture Book" most interesting is that it is Walt himself hosting and lending insight. The sequence on Pluto's popularity as wartime insignia is interesting.

Overall, clips from short films make up the majority of this episode excerpt's 29-minute, 10-second running time. Besides Walt's infrequent commentary, there's value to this feature in making you appreciate how much better the shorts look elsewhere on this Treasures set.

Next, "Pluto's Pal Fergy" (9:55) pays tribute to "the man behind the mutt", Pluto director Norm Ferguson. With narration from Leonard Maltin, footage from Ferguson's animated works, and interview clips with the animators (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Andreas Deja) and historian (John Canemaker) seen on Disc 1, the piece paints a portrait of Ferguson the man and the filmmaker.

A Pluto comic from the Gallery. Background Paintings Gallery menu. "Lend a Paw" poster from the Gallery. Pluto drawing from the Gallery.

The last bonus feature of the set is the series of four art Galleries. "Pluto on Paper" houses 8 full Pluto comics, which are masterfully designed so that you can follow along with the comic frame-by-frame at a full size large enough to read. You can also move to any individual frame from the comic at the start. In addition to the comics, there are 9 Pluto book and magazine covers in this section.

The other galleries are pretty self-explanatory from their titles. "Pluto's Posters" contains 18 stills of one-sheets promoting most of the shorts featured in this collection. "Background Paintings" provides 15 of the simple but nice-looking backdrops that you tend not to notice too much in Pluto's shorts. "Animation Drawings" offers 52 rough sketches with minimal color that plot out the actions to occur in some of the Pluto shorts. In the rough form of these drawings, the sheer emotions are highlighted, and some have notes or expressions to denote a sound or action.

The menus--uniform still 4x3 frames--are accompanied by upbeat instrumentals (except for the short selection screens) and artwork of Pluto in various stages of animation. Fortunately, the menu music isn't mixed too loud the way it is on some other Treasures sets.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With this release of The Complete Pluto: Volume One, Disney begins their fourth character-centered series in the Walt Disney Treasures line. Fans of vintage Disney cartoon shorts will need no encouragement to pick up this set and seeing as how it has been out for over a week at the time of writing this, enthusiasts are probably already enjoying this content.

Classic Disney animated short films are not everyone's cup of tea, but the 28 presented here are easy to approach even with no knowledge or appreciation of other Disney productions from this era.
The shorts are not as dated as the studio's earliest works, and there's enough variety among Pluto's formulas to not render these repetitive and only viewable in small doses.

As such, I'd recommend this Pluto compilation before some of the other solid short film Disney Treasures. It's not sure to please all viewers, and undoubtedly some Treasures collectors are disappointed at the decision to split Pluto's career into two separate sets, which brings a somewhat light volume that recycles shorts that have appeared elsewhere. But these quibbles are rather minor, when you consider that Disney continues to cater to the fan's dream of comprehensive chronological cartoon collections.

There are three and a half hours of shorts featuring Disney's canine star Pluto, all of which have been presented with a care that is apparent in the wonderfully remastered picture and sound. Exactly one hour of bonus features, including a few standout featurettes, sweeten the set, and although they don't sufficiently cover everything about Pluto, there's room for more next time when Volume Two comes along. If classic Disney shorts tickle your fancy, then you'll be pleased to know that in spite of minor quibbles, this Complete Pluto set satisfies by and large, in the tradition of the fantastic Walt Disney Treasures line.

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Pluto Cartoon Shorts on DVD: The Complete Pluto, Volume One The Complete Pluto, Volume Two NEW!

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REVIEW CONTENTS

Page 1: Disc 1 - Shorts, Video & Audio, and Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 - Shorts, Video & Audio, Bonus Features, and Closing Thoughts

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Review posted December 16, 2004.