Figaro, taken from the feature.


Original medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1940
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In the Disney cartoon shorts from the age of theatrical animation in sound, there were lots of bit players — Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Clara Cluck, etc. — but only seven stars, that is, characters who appeared in named series, complete with individual logo. Naturally, they included the studio's biggest …

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… names — Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Pluto … But there was also room for a late-comer, Chip 'n' Dale, and even for one, Humphrey Bear, who came along too late to establish himself at all before the phase-out of shorts in the 1950s and '60s.

That makes six. The seventh was Figaro the Cat, the only character from a Disney feature ever spun off into his own series of theatrical shorts. Figaro had been Gepetto's pet kittty in Pinocchio (1940). The folks in Disney's promotion department apparently thought he had "legs", like Dopey from the earlier Snow White, but they seem to have had too much confidence in this one. The only spin-off character from Pinocchio that had real long-term viability was Jiminy Cricket.

Figaro's first post-feature appearance was in All Together (released January 13, 1942), in which a bunch of the animated Disney guys got together to promote war bonds. His actual series began October 15, 1943, with the release of Figaro & Cleo (Cleo having been Gepetto's goldfish).

Since nobody (the promotion department appears to have reasoned) wanted an old toymaker from the 19th century or so as a series character, Figaro was moved through time and space to be Minnie Mouse's pet. It was the closest Minnie, who otherwise functioned only as Mickey Mouse's girlfriend, ever came to starring in a theatrical cartoon of her own. And even that was short-lived. The series only had a couple more entries, the last of which came out in 1947.

Even today, however, Minnie is occasionally, but not very often, seen in comic books with a pet cat named Figaro. But nobody seems to associate this Figaro with old Gepetto — in fact, the only reason they ever did was, in the 1940s, Figaro from Pinocchio was the character audiences knew.

The next time the studio made moves toward spinning a feature character (José Carioca) into a series of short cartoons, the project was abandoned before any were released.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © The Walt Disney Company.