One thing Disney was always more inclined to than Warners was playing mix-and-match with the characters. It felt sometimes as though they were kind of drawing names out of a hat. “Okay, let’s have . . . Pluto . . . in a battle with . . . the bee.” And then they’d go for it. Perhaps this is how Figaro ended up as Minnie’s cat; someone drew a name out of the wrong hat. I mean, Bugs interacted with everyone, pretty well. But you wouldn’t get Daffy and the Tasmanian Devil, or Yosemite Sam and Witch Hazel. I’m not saying either way is better or worse; I can see the comedy potential in Elmer Fudd’s trying to hunt the Roadrunner, but I can also see how it could have been terrible.
So yeah. Pluto wants gum. He smells the gum and likes what he smells, so he goes after it. But it’s not a cartoon where he has money, so he can’t get to it. The bee, however, can, and it’s clear that this is something it regularly does. In fact, rather than bother with honey, this bee is storing gumballs. In a hive where it apparently lives alone—we’ll get into the short’s myriad failures in melittology later. Pluto smashes it and steals all the gum. The bee is vexed.
So okay. Bees in cartoons are, for reasons, almost always coded as male. There’s nothing in this particular short that indicates that the bee is male, but also it’s the same bee who is known elsewhere as Spike and courts a female bee, so it’s a male bee. Despite . . . well, bees. We also fail to process in most cartoons that bees are hive animals; there are no other bees in this short. Pluto actually thinks smashing a beehive is a good idea and doesn’t learn that it’s not. We tend to treat bees as human in a way we never treat ants, in short.
Even leaving aside the importance of a hive structure, Spike is pretty well screwed come winter. Yes, those gumballs presumably have a sugar coating, but they would not provide him with what he actually needed. In fact, as I see it, the entire moral of the short is “gum is dangerous to animals.” Certainly Pluto has problems with it. I’m pretty sure the actual inside of a gumball machine is such that bees can’t get into it; that seems like an obvious requirement. On the other hand, there’s no reason that should protect it against sentient bees.
As for Pluto . . . this is eight years after “The Gentleman’s Gentleman.” We know, canonically, that Pluto gets how gum works. And how to get into a gumball machine when he doesn’t have a penny, come to that. (Is this the same gumball machine? It doesn’t have the same distinctive label, at least.) Unless there had been radical changes in how gum worked in those eight years—and there had not, I looked it up—Pluto shouldn’t be this done in by a substance we’d seen him work with before. I know continuity isn’t really a thing in Disney cartoons, but it’s bothered me since I was a child.