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There’s a little bit of the rebellious Mickey in this short, as he and Pluto row out into the lake and stop at the “No Fishin’” sign to drop their lines. Mickey even goes so far as to submerge the sign itself with a pair of horseshoes. That’s a little more of a mischievous streak than we’ve seen in Mickey in some of the other shorts of this time.
The animation in this short is quite good, with some very well done effects and personality work. The first instance of this is the opening scenes of Mickey and Pluto rowing through the water. The reflections of the two in the water, then interrupted by Mickey’s oars or fish jumping over them is a great piece of work. It goes unnoticed because people are focused on the characters in the boat, but that great detail work is part of what separates Disney from other studios.
The personality work shows up very clearly when Mickey is fishing. He constantly gets thwarted by the fish, leading to some great gags. The fish pop up out of the water and blow raspberries at him, and Mickey even manages to hook himself. His body language and facial expressions in these instances make the viewer believe the little guy is alive, not just a cartoon.
Pluto plays a vital role here as well. He engages in some fishing, dipping a line off his tail into the water, and chases the fish to the bottom of the lake. In fact, he follows the fish down and the animation is reused from his first appearance in
The Chain Gang. It’s still fun, though, because of the effects of the water and the absurdity of Pluto sniffing a bloodhound trail on the bottom of the lake.
The finale comes when a sheriff notices Mickey in the “No Fishing” zone, and confronts him. There’s some fun interplay there, as the boat takes off with Pluto’s tail serving as a motor, while the sheriff tries to zoom after them paddling a log.
Fishin’ Around isn’t high art, but it’s fun. That seems to be the current mode of these Mickey shorts in 1931, though, simply to have some fun. And that is accomplished here in spades.
Actually I feel there were a few missed opportunities to make this cartoon more funny and exciting. Despite a couple of good cooperation moments, most of the time Pluto and Mickey tend to do their own thing and I think a lot more fun could have been had with scenes of them together. What if Mickey had spotted the sheriff and tried to keep his distance while Pluto keeps accidentally drawing attention to them by barking at the fish and things? Eventually Mickey could have been caught in his boat pretending not to fish in front of the sheriff, right at the moment Pluto leads the gigantic fish right into the boat! Then the fish could have opened his enormous mouth to reveal the 'No Fishing' sign.
You're right about the attention to detail in these shorts. I also noticed in that opening scene how Pluto rocks with the motion of the boat. These characters are lot more solid and have a load more 'weight' than in older cartoons. Also we get to see some of the
Frolicking Fish again. Being cartoon characters, I suppose they're happy in either salt or fresh water.
It's curious that these things are missed, because it's kind of a pattern in the latter half of 1931 that the shorts are missing out on some funny stuff.
The Barnyard Broadcast is a good example of that as well. Don't know if it's an intentional stifling of the comedy or not.