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a very special christmas special: “Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)” (or: Chipmunks are Mean-Spirited Little Turds)

05 Dec

plxmas2Where exactly do Mickey and Pluto live?  You’d think California or Florida, except they’re obviously someplace with snow and pine trees.  And chipmunks.   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ch-ch-ch-Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers.  Except here, they’re nude and can’t speak English.  This is obviously before The House of Mouse undertook the White Man’s Burden of civilizing these poor tree-dwelling savages.  Sure, it’s a stretch, but I’ll take any chance I can get to tie Disney to the Age of Imperialism.

OH, COME ON, ANDY, THAT’S NOT FAIR.  “PLUTO’S CHRISTMAS TREE” IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE ANIMATED SHORTS OF ALL TIME, AND YOU KNOW IT.

Fine.  You caught me.  Watch and learn why, below the cut:

(Thanks to DrAsik100 for this)

I’m of two minds about Disney.  Part of me thinks its a frightening behemoth that seeks to control all children’s entertainment, an empire based on false smiles and ham-fisted bloody-mindedness.  The other part of me thinks it’s come up with some of the neatest and coolest ideas, gadgets, movies, and story-telling techniques of the last 100 years, and has actually built its success on being smart and imaginative and ahead of the curve, and you can’t fault them for that.  This part of me totally wants to go work for them.

Basically, the fact that they made “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” is probably the #1 thing I love about The Disney Corporation.  It trumps everything they did with PIXAR, everything feature-length film, and every ride at every theme park.   The reason it’s my favorite bit of Disney-ania is pure and simple: it is because I loved it as a boy.  We’ll get to that.  First, though, we’re going to make fun of it a little.

Anyway, Mickey and Pluto head out on a cold winter’s night to fetch themselves a tree.  Pluto sees the snow and, as puppies do, goes absolutely ape-poop – rolling around, sniffing stuff, and making me miss my dog Keyla.  Who should see him in his joy but two tiny chipmunks, who decide that Pluto’s unbridled passion is
worthy of their scorn.  They chatter inanely and throw acorns and laugh and make fun and Andy is reminded of grade school and has to go hide under his pile of unfolded laundry for a time.

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Pluto chases the little jerks through a snow bank, and they seek refuge in a tree which, wouldn’t you know it, happens to be the same tree Mickey’s chopping down.  Serves them right.

Anyway, moving on.  Mickey starts decorating the tree and whistling Jingle Bells, because it’s secular.  He hangs all these shiny, typical ball ornaments, because he’s one of those people who have unimaginative Christmas trees.

plxmas4Now, when I was growing up, our family’s Christmas tree was a sight to behold.  My parents love Christmas ornaments, you see.  They give them out as gifts to their nieces and nephews, they get them from friends, they seek out weirder and better and more ridiculous ornaments every year in their travels.  Ugly little
wooden fishermen.  Clothespin reindeer my cousin Heidi made when she was 10.   Garfield, tangled in Christmas lights.  Actual eggs, with the yolks removed through a tiny hole in the bottom, and painted with red lacquer, from a friend who spent a year in Denmark.  A paper chain of red and green I gave them when I was four.   It’s crazy and beautiful and real.
I have a friend who grew up with one of those Mommies who always hired a decorator to come in and do up their Christmas tree in tasteful colors.  No candy canes with eyes half-glued on.  No pictures of “The Laboosky Family, Season’s Greetings, 1983” in tiny tacky Hallmark frames, hung by a piece of string.  No popcorn.  No $2.99 Walgreens’ tinsel.  Just baby’s breath and mother-of-pearl perfect eggshell white ornaments.  It’s just about the saddest thing I ever heard of.

Which, I guess, is the point.  Mickey’s tree might be sort of dull at first glance, but he’s really having a good time decorating it.  Even Pluto gets into the act, with the famous “ornaments on his tail” routine.  Not only that, but Chip n’ Dale have set up camp inside.  And oh, what a wonderful world they’ve found.

plxmas1Now, we didn’t get the Disney channel when I was a kid, so I wound up becoming more of a fan of Bugs Bunny and the Warner Bros. universe (and at some point, we’ll talk about that, and how it probably made me into more of a “character” guy than a “plot” guy).  But, even still, even with my devotion to the Warners’ universe, I still wanted to live inside Mickey’s Christmas tree.  This sequence holds an undeniable magic.  It’s big and bright and beautiful, and feels like a tangible world all on its own.  Part of me still wants to live there.

I mean, the animation team here spent a lot of time working out the ins-and-outs of the Christmas tree space.  If you were a small, wily creature, and the only things you had on hand were branches, candy canes, light bulbs, and shiny orbs, what sort of mischief could you get into?  This sort of story telling is almost
like a puzzle: given a list of specific things people would have around their house on Christmas, how much damage can we do using only those items?

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Well, a lot.  Pluto, in his pursuit of the Chipmunks, manages to smash up several presents, nearly sets the place on fire, and finally, knocks all the needles and ornaments off the tree.  Mickey is understandably peeved, until he notes, with typical Mickey chipperness:

“PLUTO, WE’VE GOT CHIPMUNKS IN OUR TREE!”

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Pluto’s all like WTF?plxmas7

Then, Goofy, Donald, and Minnie show up caroling.  Why they all went caroling and didn’t invite Mickey is beyond me, but they’re singing “Deck The Halls,” like good little secular humanists.  Even the Chipmunks chime in, but when Pluto tries to bark along, they slap a sticker over his mouth that says “Do Not Open Until Xmas.”

Chipmunks suck.  However, I would assume that Goofy and Donald and Minnie all came inside and had cocoa and enjoyed whatever gifts Pluto did not destroy in the name of saving Christmas from stupid rodents.

Next up….: Jim Henson Workshop gonna have to cut a witch.

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One response to “a very special christmas special: “Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)” (or: Chipmunks are Mean-Spirited Little Turds)

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