Pluto, or sometimes known as Pluto the Pup and Goofy, Mickey’s friend have a lot in common, more than both being just dogs. This immensely popular character, a member of the “Fab five” (Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy) or the “Sensational Six” (Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Goofy) which denotes the core collection of Walt’s classic characters that are the heart of the studio’s fame, and Goofy were both created from nameless extras seen in the early Mickey Mouse shorts.
If you recall, Goofy first appeared in Mickey’s Revue, released on May 25, 1932, directed by Wilfred Jackson. He was an un-named spectator in the stands (Who looked remarkably similar to the up and coming Goofy) annoying Mickey with loud laughs and raucously crunching peanuts. This interaction most likely gave Walt and the animators the idea for the new character. Aping this circumstance is the formation of Pluto, Mickey’s best friend. In the 1930 Mickey Mouse short the “Chain Gang” (Part of a group of shorts produced after Ub Iwerks left the studio. These shorts did not have the polished quality that Ub had produced) Mickey is tracked down by a couple of bloodhounds after escaping. These dogs and the short were principally drawn by Norm Ferguson. If you watch the short, you will see, as in Mickey’s Revue that the dogs were just a part of the cartoon, un-named and un-remarkable. They certainly looked like bloodhounds, with the droopy jowls, surely not like the Pluto we know today. The character of Pluto made his official bow in the 1930 short “The Picnic”. In this short, Pluto is named Rover and is Minnie’s dog, but is drawn in the manner of the Pluto we all know. By 1931, in the toon The Moose Hunt, Pluto has his familiar moniker and is Mickey’s pet.
So it seems that these famous characters were imagined from nameless extras, but evolved into their present form. Unlike the rest of the “Sensational Six”, Pluto is not an anthropomorphic character like Mickey or Minnie. He does not speak, wear clothes, he is a dog. He does exhibit amazing facial expressions, and in the beginning, he did speak a few words…In the Moose Hunt, he says to Mickey…”Kiss Me! In the short “Mickey’s Kangaroo” 1935, you could see Pluto’s inner thoughts were vocalized. In the “Three Caballeros, 1945 Pluto sings the song “You belong to my heart”, albeit with assistance from a record player. He does breathe a recognizable “Yeah, Yeah” and has a hoarse kind of laugh. But he remains a dog.
It’s these traits that make Pluto’s character personality and thoughts rely on physical humor. His temperament and humor are derived from pantomime and pure action. In fact, he is revolutionary in character animation because of this…his individuality is expressed through animation instead of dialogue. This type of animation was brought to a new plateau when Disney legend Norm Ferguson brought Pluto’s personality and his apparent ability to think in the 1934 film “Playful Pluto”. This scene is portrayed as a milestone in animation because for the first time an animated character appeared to think and have a mind of his own. In this sequence, Pluto sits on a piece of flypaper, and through a multitude of hysterical gags and remarkable facial expressions, you can see how Pluto appears to think about how to free himself from the flypaper. This is a definitive sequence because it showcases how Walt’s animators could take a simple incident and build humor through a character. Walt loved this animation sequence so much he had it reshot in color for the short “Beach Picnic” in 1938.
So how did Pluto get his name? There are several stories out there. The planet itself was discovered on February 18th, 1930 by astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh. Eleven-year-old British schoolgirl Venetia Burney had suggested the name “Pluto” for the new planet. Mickey’s dog was named after the planet. Many believe that Walt, instead of naming the dog after the Greek God of the underworld, he named it after the planet instead. However, there is no documented evidence of this. Animator Ben Sharpsteen recalled that the name rover was too common, and changed it to Pluto the pup, but does not remember why. Most of the Disney animators believe that Walt, exploiting the excitement of the newly named planet, chose to name Mickey’s dog Pluto.
Pluto’s personality is basically happy and carefree. He is a happy and cheerful dog, extremely loyal to Mickey. He is well-trained and like Mickey gets into trouble, but has the intelligence to extradite himself. He has a tendency to argue and sometimes becomes fussy. He has a powerful sense of smell. Pluto has distaste for cats, maybe because of nature, but also his interactions with Minnie’s cat Figaro. He has a childlike outlook and sometimes exhibits a nasty temper. He also has two consciences, good and evil. The evil Devil and good Angel counterparts occasionally confront him in difficult situations. Pluto will listen to the devil side at first but ends up following the advice of the Angel side, doing well in the end.
The character is also one of the first at Disney to advance above the “Rubber Hose” and “Circle” method of animation. In the beginning, creating Mickey and the rest of the gang using circles for most of the shapes was a time-saver for the animators. The Rubber Hose, or unrealistic way cartoon characters reacted to the physical world, was changed when Freddie Moore drew and allowed the characters to react to gravity and such, in a more realistic way. Pluto was more natural looking and moved in a more natural way. As Pluto became more popular, he appeared in many more shorts and other media.
He was the first Disney character to star in his own “Silly Symphony”, in 1932’s “Just Dogs” (The last Silly Symphony filmed in Black and White). His second Symphony was 1936’s “Mother Pluto”. He also starred in his own series of shorts starting with 1937’s “Pluto’s Quinpuplets”. This short was shrewdly made in the shadow of the celebrated Dionne quintuplets of the 1930’s. Pluto continued to star in the studio’s short films until Walt and the studio concentrated on other undertakings. His last appearance in the Mickey series was the 1953 short “The Simple Things”.
Later he would have appearances in comic stories and several of the Disney anthology series. He disappeared for almost three decades and did not return for the film “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” with the rest of the fab five. He did appear in the 1990 short “The Prince and the Pauper as Mickey’s pet.
Pluto has been voiced by Pinto Colvig, ’31 to ’39, and ’41 to ’61. Clarence Nash did a voice in ‘39’s Mickey’s surprise Party. Lee Miller; ’39 to ’41. Bill Farmer is his present voice, ’90 to present. His relatives include Fifi the Peke, Five puppies, Pluto Jr. (His son) and Pluto’s Kid brother. He has a host of allies including up to Mickey, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, Willie the Giant, Jiminy Cricket, Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Ludwig Von Drake, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Max Goof, Tiki, and Fifi. His enemies include… Lucifer the Tough Cat, Bear, Mortimer Mouse, the Mad Doctor, Mizrabel, Weasels, Butch the Bulldog, Pete, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Figaro, Salty the Seal, Milton, and Spike the Bee.
Pluto today is as recognizable as Mickey and continues to appear in different forms of media and all areas of Mickey Mouse’ franchise. He is still one of the six leading characters. In television he appeared in “The Mouse Factory”, “Mickey Mouse Works”, and the “House of Mouse”. He is a major character in the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” computer-generated series. He also returned in the 2013 series Mickey Mouse Television series. Pluto also appeared in the 1950’s TV show the Mickey Mouse Club. In the opening theme Pluto plays the drums. He had a cameo in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, and a role in “The Prince and the Pauper”. He is in the fourth book of the “Kingdom Keepers”. He has several video game bows, such as Mickey Mania, Mickey’s Racing Adventure, Disney Dogs, and Mickey’s Speedway USA. In the end, credits of Epic Mickey he has a cameo role. Pluto is King Mickey’s pet in the Kingdom Hearts series.
As with all of the classic Disney characters, Pluto is long-lived and timeless. As long as there are Disney fans, Pluto will continue to entertain, make you laugh or cry and give you that magical Disney feeling just as he did some 86 years ago chasing convict Mickey as that nameless, unknown bloodhound.