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The basic idea is that Pluto, in his posh doghouse full of bones, is reluctant to share with Dinah, a dachshund that lives nearby. He chases her off when she tries to take his bone, and intimidates the poor thing over and over again. The twist comes when he falls asleep.
In his sleep, Pluto gets up and delivers the bone to Dinah. She is of course overjoyed, but Pluto wakes up on his way back to his own doghouse, and takes the bone back again. Wash, rinse, repeat, as this happens two more times.
That’s my problem with this short, is that although the concept is quite funny, it loses steam after the first time it happens. From there, you get the gag, but there has to be more added to it to make this a memorable short. There’s not, and that’s why I think this short suffers.
The problem I see with Pluto as a character is that if one element of the animation process falls down, he is not effective. If the animation is bad, he does not convey the emotion without talking. If the story is bad, then you don’t really care what he’s doing, because the character is hard to root for, on account of all the bad things he tends to do. Everything has to be in sync for Pluto to work, and that doesn’t happen here.
Sure, you could say the same about other characters, but I’d rather see a Donald Duck short where the story is bad, but Donald still has his frustration outbursts than a boring Pluto short. This one isn’t boring, it just doesn’t give you a good hook to latch onto and carry you through the short.
In the end, Pluto makes a sacrifice to help Dinah and her puppies, after he realizes what’s going on. Dinah had actually been taking the bone to feed her children, and after Pluto demolished their doghouse, they were stuck out in the rain. Pluto drags his house over to shelter them, and gets a great kiss from Dinah.
The Sleepwalker is interesting, but it’s a good example of a premise that may or may not make a good short. The story is okay, but doesn’t provide us a good look at the characters or a great gag to latch onto.