Under Dog

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Over at The Chiseler, I have a new piece about an interesting and peculiar thing, the Disney cartoon PLUTO’S JUDGEMENT DAY. Not the place one would normally look for twisted and incendiary racial politics, but I seem to have found them. Check it!

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5 Responses to “Under Dog”

  1. DBenson Says:

    Drowning unwanted cats and kittens Was A Thing. Cruel, but not unusual to the extent it was a recognizable cliche.

    In “Lend a Paw” Pluto heroically retrieves a weighted sack from an icy river, and is miffed to find he rescued a kitten. After a moral crisis (his good and bad avatars slug it out), Pluto saves the kitten a second time — from a fate he arranged — and nearly drowns himself. He’s rewarded with Mickey’s pampering and the kitten’s affection.

    Disney’s “Three Orphan Kittens” begins with a sack of three kittens thrown from a car into a snowstorm; they make their own way into a warm house and do whimsical damage.

    Over at Warner, Chuck Jones made a cartoon titled “Angel Puss” about a stereotypical black boy paid to drown a cat. The cat escapes the sack before the plunge and haunts the boy as a fake ghost.

    Much much later, “The Cat Came Back” offered drowning as one of several unsuccessful extermination methods. The hapless human briefly finds himself on the bottom of a lake covered with sacks, implying other kitties.

    Cartoons often portrayed stray cats as happy hoboes or merry petty criminals (largely fictional constructs themselves). The cold and hungry kitten was a sentimental exception to the rule; the strays generally Knew Their Place and it was identified as wrong to, say, cut in on a housecat’s turf. A frequent Warner gag is a cat approaching garbage cans like a buffet, using a lid as a platter and treating a fish skeleton as a delicacy. The TV series Top Cat offered a gang of feline grifters modeled on Sgt. Bilko’s troop.

    In mouse-centric cartoons they were standard villains, with culinary or occasionally sexual designs on mice (Mighty Mouse cartoons were disturbingly fluid on this point). Dog-centric cartoons often took the same stand. As human as the Disney gang got, their main villain was a cat: Pete, with or without pegleg.

    If “Pluto’s Judgement Day” and others aren’t specifically painting all cats black — so to speak — it’s still easy to make a case that cats were often standins for the urban underclass of any color.

  2. Beauty and the Beast Lady and the Tramp shamefully traduces the noble Siamese, a cat which is actually dog-like in its devotion. As our Siamese, Tasha, would tell you.

    Cats are sometimes heroic, but in cat-and-dog tales the canine get preferential treatment, usually. A welcome exception is Tex Avery’s transplendent Bad Luck Blackie, in which the cat’s association with bad luck becomes a super-power.

  3. Chuck V. Says:

    “Beauty and the Beast shamefully traduces the noble Siamese”

    I’ve never seen all of Disney’s BatB, so I may have missed something, but that still seems off. Did you mean Lady and the Tramp?

  4. Ha! Yes, my brain went wrong temporarily.

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