Monday, September 24, 2007

"Pluto and the Armadillo"

Pluto poster"Pluto and the Armadillo" was, apparently, intended as a sequence within Saludos Amigos, but ended up as a stand-alone short. And indeed it follows the same pattern as the feature-length movie, with its educational pretext (we're told how to pronounce "armadillo," for instance), but above all in that it shows a Disney regular interacting with a Disneyfied representative of Latin America's native fauna.

Mickey and Pluto are on a fifteen-minute stopover in Belén, Brazil, and playing on the airport tarmac with a ball that they've brought along. Mickey throws the ball long, and Pluto has to follow it into the nearby jungle, where he comes across an armadillo who, rolled up to protect herself, looks exactly like the imported rubber plaything. Hilarity ensues as first Pluto cannot believe his eyes in the face of this moving double of his own toy, then is gradually seduced by the cute face that emerges, before losing his rag and bursting the ball with his teeth. Disconsolate at the thought that he has killed his new Latin playmate, he reconciles with the creature when he realizes his mistake, and then both Pluto and the armadillo are dragged into the departing plane by Mickey.

So Pluto exchanges a bouncy ball for a live-wire, Samba-dancing armadillo. What's interesting here is the play of similarity and difference. From one aspect, when the armadillo is rolled up in defense, the toy and the animal are indistinguishable. But on closer inspection, and given a little bit of patience on the "turista americano"'s part, the armadillo reveals its distinctive rhythms, winning grin, and playful desire to be an active part of the game rather than mere plaything. And as Mickey scoops his charge up at the film's end, the same mistake and the same transformation are repeated: indistinguishable plaything becomes player with a mind of her own, albeit not exactly on her own terms. After all, the armadillo had never asked to be whisked away from Belén by air.

Pluto stillAs always, there's little in the way of ideology at play: in a whistlestop pause on the South American continent, the Mouse machine grabs a Latin playmate, livelier and more fun than the mass-produced plaything he leaves in tatters on the jungle floor, and the onward voyage is sure to be full of incident as a result.

Bonus link: the entire cartoon is available at ManiaTV!

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