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The plot of the short is centered on Mickey, as Pluto is kidnapped by the mad doctor of the title (named Dr. XXX) to be used in a chimera-esque experiment involving cutting off Pluto's head and splicing it onto the body of a chicken. Naturally, Mickey treks off to save him, all while trying to make his way through the doctor's elaborate castle.
As with the earlier short The Skeleton Dance, this short's macabre tone was its own undoing; many theaters refused to show it, even though Mickey was at the height of his popularity at that point. However, the short has managed to become much more popular in recent years for the same reasons it was initially shunned.
This short was the inspiration for the later Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain, and was remade as an entire level in the video game Mickey Mania. Epic Mickey also features the Mad Doctor prominently as a key villain (called "The Mad Doctor"), Nostalgia Level, and even the original short itself as an unlockable bonus.
Tropes Used by This Short:
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Universal horror films of the 1930s, which were rising in popularity.
- All Just a Dream
- Animation Bump: The part where Mickey is walking through a three-dimensional hallway, as well as falling down two flights of stairs. Scenes like that were notoriously difficult to animate on account of perspective.
- Bald of Evil / Beard of Evil: Dr. XXX
- Dem Bones: Dr. XXX's castle is loaded with living skeletons.
- Evil Laugh: The Doc does one of these.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Again, The Doc.
- Living Shadow: While Pluto is being hung by a hook, the Mad Doctor takes a pair of scissors and cuts Pluto's shadow in half. Disturbingly, the shadow then just hangs there lifelessly as Pluto continues to squirm and howl for help...
- Mad Doctor: Surprisingly, In Name Only. Dr. XXX is much more closer to a...
- Public Domain Animation: This is one of the very few Disney works that have slipped into the Public Domain.
- Stealth Pun: One drawing on the board, has a chicken, then a plus sign, then a dog, then a division sign, then a saw. Get it? A dog divided by a saw?
- Stock Scream: Mickey's yells in this short are easily mistakable for the famous Goofy Holler. (They are slightly different, but seem to be early versions of it).
- Strapped to An Operating Table: Mickey himself at the climax, as a giant buzzsaw lowers to slice him in half.
- Villain Song: Sort of. Doctor XXX's monologue.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: One of the drawings on the mad doctor's chalkboard refers to the 32nd root of minus divided by zero.