Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Chain Gang - September 5, 1930

The Chain Gang is Mickey's 21st cartoon. The film is significant due to the appearance of the character who would eventually become Pluto.

The toon opens on a somber note as we see a chain gang pass sadly from one end of the screen to the other. Bringing up the rear is the oddly happy Mickey banging away on his prison ball. To keep the Mouse company we also see Clarabelle Cow as well as a group of Pete look-alikes playing the prison guards.

It seems the life of a prison guard is too boring for Pete, so he promptly takes a nap during his shift. Mickey and the other prisoners take this opportunity to have some fun and play some happy tunes.

The catchy rhythm causes one prisoner to get a little carried away. His tobacco spit lands on the dozing Pete and wakes the guard up.

Startled by the sudden intrusion of his nap time, Pete starts screaming and drwas the attention of his fellow guards. The guards think a riot is afoot and begin bombarding the prison yard with bullets, causing a mass panic.

In the chaos, Mickey manages to jump over the prison wall and escape safely through the woods.

Unfortunately for the Mouse, a pair of bloodhounds are sent to track him down and recapture him. Leonard Maltin and Disney maintain that this character eventually becomes Pluto in later toons. It's hard for me to believe this, since the dog has nothing really in common with Pluto's personality (the dog in Mickey's Choo-Choo is much more Pluto-like), but there's no sense in arguing with Disney, right?

To escape the hounds, Mickey steals a pair of horses who cause more trouble for the Mouse than he would like (a great gag, especially for men).

The horses prove to be horrible luck for Mickey, and I'm sure the Mouse would agree as he is thrown off a cliff. A great shot follows with the Mouse heading straight towards the camera. Oh, if only 3-D had been invented in the '30s.

It turns out that the cliff is above the prison. Mickey crashes right through the roof and lands in cell, bringing his short prison escape to an end.

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