The Goofy Pluto Dilemma
April 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm #24872
Stephen King & Wil Wheaton brought it up in Stand By Me/The Body. Tina Fey uses the idea but doesn’t solve the problem. In a world of anthropomorphic animals, what happens when some animals have other animals as pets? Why are Goofy and the Beagle Boys and most Disney dogs able to talk and walk on two feet, while Pluto can’t? Do they treat all mute animals that way, chained and subservient? Why can a cricket talk in Pinocchio, but the pet cat and goldfish can’t?
Has someone already come up with a good No-Prize explanation for this, as if there was some narrative purpose behind it? I don’t want to get excited about submitting a guest post if I’d just be re-inventing the wheel.April 29, 2012 at 9:20 pm #24873
Aha. I just found this excellent post, “From Scooby to Scrappy: An Analysis of Cartoon Doghood” http://www.overthinkingit.com/2009/12/14/from-scooby-to-scrappy-an-analysis-of-cartoon-doghood/
Doesn’t cover exactly the territory I was thinking of, but it’s close.April 30, 2012 at 12:18 am #24878
We could take “The Wicked Series” approach and say Goofy is a (captial letter) Animal while Pluto is an (lower case letter)animal.
How this came to be would still be a matter of debate, as it is in The Wicked Series.
Is this because of Evolution or Magic?April 30, 2012 at 1:21 am #24880
Is it possible that Pluto is just as fully sentient and capable a dog as Goofy et al , but that he chooses to live his life by acting out the role of a subservient dog? Is he a hipster dog, ironically mimicking the mainstream conceptions of his post (and inso doing inadvertently fulfilling society’s views of what that post should be)? Or, is he earnestly acting the part, essentially becoming Goofy’s gimp dog?April 30, 2012 at 2:25 am #24881
I’ve pondered this a few times myself. I think that for many viewers Goofy is only a dog in name (he certainly doesn’t resemble one on a more than cursory level, and his name was changed from “Dippy Dawg” to the now familiar moniker.) Goofy’s original name certainly matched Disney’s naming scheme (Two Parts, alliteration, second part is character’s species) better than “Goofy.” Perhaps Disney wished to separate Goofy from his dog-dom for some nefarious reason?April 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm #24889
clayschuldt: I read Wicked years ago but none of the sequels. Do you remember if they discuss “Animals vs. animals” in Wicked or A Lion Among Men, or one of the others? Still, deciding on different names for them doesn’t tell us why they are that way.
schechner: I don’t see evidence for Pluto as ironic hipster. But good point about whether he is incapable of speech and human behavior or disdains speech and human behavior. Seems like we would see some evidence of that if that’s what they intended though. I’ve read that there are some cartoons where Pluto behaves more like a human. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them.
LordHuffnPuff: Yeah, they probably didn’t care much about the specific species they depicted. I can’t think of examples from Disney, but other studios had very ambiguous characters like Bosko or Flip the Frog. They label him a frog, but you couldn’t tell by looking at him, and in one appearance he tries dating a human girl, so species didn’t matter much to them.
Bosko looks like a generic rip-off of Mickey or Felix, but apparently started as an African-American stereotype. I wouldn’t have known the Beagle Boys were supposed to be beagles, or even dogs, if they didn’t have that name.
That might make another interesting question — assuming they do it with some intent, what are they trying to tell us by showing a protagonist whose species is unclear?April 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm #24892
Actually none of the sequels really came up with a solution either. There was some talk that the Animals might have been the result of a magic spell cast by an ancient witch.
Most Animals found this offensive as it implied that it might be possible to reverse the spell and turn Animals back into animals. It was just one of those mysteries.
As for protagonists with unclear species…I think of the Warner Brothers and their Sister Dot from The Animaniacs. I am not sure why they kept their species unclear, but it might have been to allow for greater story telling options.
If they had been dogs it would probably have to be referenced at one point by brining in a dog catcher or something like that. An unclear species distances them from humans without bringing along baggage from a different animals species.April 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm #24894
I seem to remember that other characters would tease Yakko, Wakko and Dot about being dogs. They would deny it, but wouldn’t say exactly what they were.
In fact, we might have a glimpse into their evolution. There’s an episode of Tiny Toons with appearances by Bosko and Honey, actual WB characters from the 30s.
Only on Tiny Toons, Bosko and Honey were given ears and tails similar to The Warners from Animaniacs. Which makes you wonder if the creators of this episode went on to design Yakko, Wakko and Dot, or if the creators of Animaniacs were inspired by that episode. The wikipedia entry on Bosko speculates that Bosko and Honey were given dog ears and tails in that appearance “presumably so as not to offend viewers with the original black-face characterizations. [Citation needed]“May 4, 2012 at 10:25 am #24935
I am going to underthink this and just say GOOBY PLS.
Or not, and point out that an even weirder issue is Mickey’s scale relative to the other Disney characters. What kind of freakishly gigantic mouse is the same size as a duck?May 4, 2012 at 11:41 am #24937
JosephFM, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were one or two cartoons starring Mickey, in which a pet cat smaller than Mickey chases a mouse that’s proportionate to the cat. Just a guess.May 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm #24949
Do we ever see Micky’s parents? Maybe he was a genetic experiment to make a half man half mouse.
The half man half mouse would do the choirs humans did not want to do such as driving steam boats and wizards apprentice.
It’s tough to watch Disney cartoon thinking Mikcy and Goofy are genetic freaks created by an evil multi-billion dollar company.May 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm #25229
On a similar note, in the Toy Story franchise, both the humans and the toys are fully sentient and capable of talking (the toys can understand the humans; whether the humans are capable of hearing the toys is hinted at, but not fully explored because the toys take effort to avoid that). But Andy’s family (and other humans, like Sid) have dogs. Those pets behave like pets normally would and do not appear to display any ability to talk with the toys or the humans. (The toys are even able to give orders to Andy’s dog, that the dog obeys, none-the-wiser, as if a small human had given them.) If there is a side-story in that universe where dogs can talk and have their own clandestine society, we see no evidence of it and the dogs make no attempts to communicate with the toys or create a broader alliance.
So, plastic can gain sentience, but pets remain pets…January 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm #27847
Well then, i guess, what if disney completely switched the roles and had humans be pets and pets be the ones developing a country and society and rules and such? I would think that disney’s audience would probably be really put off if pluto and other pets were actually human, and then it would be awkward because they might have to put a race on the pet human and everyone would be very offended in the 30′s or whenever Disney started his career(although supposedly goofy and pete were supposed to be black but i’m not 100% sure about that detail.)I guess I think that either way its really weird. They also can’t just confine what animals could be pets and not be pets because that could also be thought of as a race issue too…
In 101 Dalmatians they think of humans as they’re pets/servants but in a more butler, chauffeur kind of way. and all of them can talk (if i remember correctly)January 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm #27864
Re-reading this forum reminded me of the similar issue in Monsters, Inc. Considering that in the Monster Universe
“persons” come in every size and shape, and don’t seem to be the same species how do they decide what’s an “animal.” It’s especially horrifying if you consider the sushi restaurant scene, in which we see a “person” monster cut up and serve an “animal” monster to some hungry customers. Perhaps only monsters of a certain size are sentient, but considering the existence of a Godzilla sized “person” this seems unlikely. The the ability, or inability, to speak would make more sense, but I’m pretty sure Mike says hi to at least one “person” that doesn’t seem to have a mouth. Perhaps she is able to speak non-verbally, which is why she is a Monsters, Inc employee instead of a hamburger. Or perhaps their society is fine with eating any creature it deems a non-person. If so, the name Monster may be pretty appropriate.
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