A Year in Shorts Day 42: Squatter's Rights
Look folks, I’m going to level with you- today’s short also has nothing to do with Christmas. I’m sorry, there just aren’t a lot of Christmas-themed shorts out there (and I still haven’t seen the animated Christmas Carol with Alistair Sims, so it didn’t make it on the schedule for this year), so I’ve had to cheat. But let’s look at Squatter’s Rights anyway, ok?
Squatter's Rights is a 1946 Disney short directed by Jack Hannah and featuring Mickey, Pluto and Chip and Dale. This short was only Chip and Dale's second appearance, following their debut in Private Pluto, and was released before their personalities and appearances had been finalized. Dale doesn't even have a red nose yet!
In their first couple of appearances, Chip and Dale were presented as antagonists for Pluto, which I think was a mistake on multiple levels. For one, Pluto is just an endlessly disturbing character to me. Beyond the oft-repeated observation that Mickey Mouse owns a dog while simultaneously having one for a friend, there's just something off about him. It's all in the character's design. He's just so... ugly, and not in a way that I think was intentional.
Furthermore, Pluto just isn't a great character to serve as a comic foil, mostly because he's barely a character. Pluto is, at heart, a regular dog who occasionally acts more intelligent than you'd expect him to. There's really only so much you can do with such a character, and watching Chip and Dale pick on him isn't fun because there's never really any sense that he deserves it or can do anything about it. It's not surprising that Chip and Dale started squaring off against Donald Duck after this; his barely contained rage makes him a much more entertaining target.
If it sounds like I'm being excessively negative, I don't mean to be. Squatter's Rights isn't a very good short, but it's not bad either. The animation is solid, some of the gags are funny and I'm pretty sure this is the only Disney cartoon featuring two characters conspiring to trick someone into thinking a dog has been shot. Squatter's Rights lost the Oscar to the Tom and Jerry short The Cat Concerto, proving that sometimes, just sometimes, the Academy gets it a hundred percent right.
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