This year's marks the 75th Anniversary of what has been called Walt Disney's Masterpiece, Pinocchio. Just a few weeks ago, D23 had a screening on the studio lot commemorating the anniversary with author J.B. Kauffman and various inkers who had worked with Walt Disney.
If you couldn't make it to that screening, have no fear, as I'm going to look at a fascinating short related to the history of Pinocchio that often gets overlooked. That short being 'Figaro and Cleo,' the first short to star Gepetto's two pets.
Figaro and Cleo opens with a memorable jingle that goes like this:
'Figaro was a little kitty cat, a little kitty cat, a little cat Figaro was a little kitty cat, no food for kitty! Cleo was a little bitty fish, a little bitty fish, a little bitty fish. Cleo was a little bitty fish, oh what a pity! Figaro looked at Cleo, with hunger in his eyes, Then shook his head, and sadly said, 'No no! I'd rather die!' I just can't eat that little bitty fish, that little bitty fish, that little bitty fish. Although she'd make, a dainty little dish'although she'd make a dainty little dish! I can't to Cleo!'
And that pretty much is the plot of the entire 7-minute short. Figaro begs his 'mammy' (who apparently owns Figaro and Cleo instead of Gepetto in this short) to give him foods. When she fails to comply, he tries to eat Cleo. After some failed attempts (one including a fish hook) and an incident that nearly drowns him, the mammy feels bad for him and gives him milk. Ultimately ends the short.
The most memorable thing about this short is the opening song. I remember it fondly due to the fact it was used in 'The Jungle Book Sing-A-Longs songs' VHS. Having grown up with the entire Sing-A-Longs Songs collection, which includes pretty much every Disney song including obscure ones like 'Figaro and Cleo,' is forever ingrained in my memory.
The rest of the short unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its bouncy song: the 'mammy' character is a rather dated stereotype for today's audiences and it only makes the confusion of 'where is Gepetto?' that much more present. The story, as you can tell, it pretty light stuff and doesn't really stand out in one's mind as 'Disney's Best Shorts.' All of that being said, it is still fun to watch to see these relatively obscure and often ignored characters get an entire short. And if you're a cat person, you can't help but rank Figaro among your favorite Disney characters.
Much like Jiminy Cricket, Figaro and Cleo started off as Pinocchio characters, but somehow found their way into the Mickey Mouse universe. Figaro in particular would star in two shorts after this, 'Figaro and Frankie' and 'Bath Day' where he became the cat of Minnie Mouse (a role he would later reprise years later on 'Mickey Mouse Works,' 'House of Mouse,' and even 'Mickey's Clubhouse'). He would even go on to be a bit of a rival for Pluto in 'Victory Vehicles,' 'Cat Nap Pluto,' and 'Pluto's Sweater.'
Unfortunately these two characters are more or less brushed into obscurity. One Pinocchio's Daring Journey Cast Member was once shocked I knew Cleo's name because nobody else had ever gotten the question right. It would be cool if Disney could promote these characters in future projects such as in episodes of Disney Channel's hit series, 'Mickey Mouse.' It would've been at least nice if the song 'Figaro and Cleo' got included on the Bonus CD of the Legacy Collection Soundtrack of Pinocchio released earlier this year. It would've made for a fun and appropriate inclusion next to the songs like 'I'm No Fool' and 'You Are a Human Animal.'
Until then, 'Figaro and Cleo,' along with the other two stand-alone Figaro shorts, can be found on the out-of-print Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto Volume 2. Or of course you can check the website of Youtube (just be careful not to watch the one with the sound out of sync, despite it having claimed over two million views).