I’ve talked before about how interesting the last whatever-it-is can be. And while Walt said his famous quote about how it all started with a mouse, this is where the Mouse himself essentially ended for thirty years. This is the last theatrical-release Mickey Mouse cartoon that wasn’t an event, if you get what I mean. The era of theatrical release cartoons was fading, and while it lasted a few years longer for the others, and for Disney in general, Mickey Mouse would never be in a theatrical release cartoon again that wasn’t hyped as exciting and unusual. At that, there have only been four of them since, and the first wouldn’t be for more than thirty years.
So it should come as no surprise that this is firmly Bing Crosby Mickey (James MacDonald at this point). He and Pluto (Pinto Colvig) are going for a pleasant jaunt to the beach. Pluto sniffs around a bit, and Mickey sets out their picnic. Unfortunately, for reasons, Pluto ends up with a shellfish (IMDb says clam and based on the evidence is probably right; Wikipedia says mussel but is obviously wrong) stuck in his mouth. After Pluto rids himself of the shellfish, a sea gull comes over. First, it steals the hot dog Pluto is trying to eat, then it attacks the fish Mickey is trying to use as bait while he goes fishing.
I mean, let’s leave aside the sentience of the shellfish for a moment, because you know, cartoon. We’ll also leave aside that it can’t lodge in a dog’s mouth and that it’s weird when it does, ditto. Let’s really look at what happens. First, Mickey doesn’t notice that his dog has a shellfish stuck in his mouth. And then Pluto supposedly first eats a hot dog, then eats Mickey’s sandwich and still seems hungry. So Mickey decides to give him another sandwich full of pepper to show him. And, okay, I’m not sure how dogs respond to pepper, but that’s really more of a Donald thing to do, and I’m not happy with Mickey. And all he brought for his dog for a day at the beach is two hot dogs?
We could be here for days talking about how weird it is that Mickey’s got a pet dog, and I’d be far from the first person to make that observation. That’s fine. It is what it is, and I don’t think it’s anything weirder than a lot of other things in cartoons—after all, Mickey and Donald are the same size. But what strikes me is how seldom Mickey seems like a responsible pet owner. Most of the cartoons I’ve seen that I can remember that are about Mickey and Pluto are in some way showing Mickey as irresponsible regarding Pluto’s needs. He doesn’t have enough for Pluto to eat, or he’s asking Pluto to run his errands, or he hasn’t checked to be sure that his vacation cottage even permits dogs. Come on, Mickey!
Oh, Mickey still loves Pluto, but I don’t think that’s enough. I think there are ways for there to be adventures involving the two of them that don’t leave me thinking, “Jeez, I don’t even like dogs much and I don’t think that’s okay!” Though I suppose it could be worse; imagine how awful a pet owner Donald would be. I’m not one of those people who think there’s inherently something wrong with people who don’t like animals, but I do think you can tell a lot about certain people by picturing how they’d treat a pet. At least Mickey is capable of love, you know?