Mickey Mouse has landed himself in prison and is part of a chain gang. Though many of his fellow prisoners, including a cow and a pig, hang their heads gloomily, Mickey stays in good spirits, maintaining a happy attitude. While the guard, Peg-Leg Pete, sleeps, Mickey plays his harmonica, inspiring others in the prison to sing, dance, and play to the tune. When one particularly tough prisoner spits tobacco on Peg-Leg Pete, the prison erupts in chaos as Pete calls for other guards, who begin shooting at the panicking prisoner.
Mickey takes the opportunity to escape from his imprisonment, but a feline officer and two bloodhounds are soon hot on his trail. Will Mickey be able to run his way to freedom, or will he find himself in chains once again?
Mickey Mouse is a prisoner at the start and end of the short, though how he ended up there is unclear. A cow closely resembling Clarabelle Cow and a pig reminiscent of Percy Pigg are also prisoners. Meanwhile, a big black cat with a peg-leg, clearly intended to be Peg-Leg Pete, is one of the prison's guards.
The design of the bloodhounds in The Chain Gang inspired Minnie Mouse's dog Rover in The Picnic. Rover would, of course, soon become known as Mickey's dog Pluto.
Just a couple of months later, in the comic strip Mr Slicker and the Egg Robbers (1930), Mickey Mouse is briefly jailed. At another point in the strip, two bloodhounds named Simon Legree and Eliza, who bear a resemblance to the bloodhounds that chase Mickey in The Chain Gang, are seen with Bill Goat. It is unclear if Mickey's imprisonment and the appearance of the bloodhounds were meant to reference The Chain Gang or not.
In Hickory Dickory Mickey (2001), a black-and-white flashback appears to "years ago" when Goofy helped Mickey escape from prison, knocking out a guard. The black-and-white coloring, the idea of Mickey being a prisoner, and the fact that the guard looks nearly identical to some of the guards seen in The Chain Gang all point towards this having been a reference to The Chain Gang.
Behind the scenes
The Chain Gang is a theatrical cartoon short. It was first released either on August the 18th or September the 5th, 1930. It was directed by Burt Gillett and featured animation by Norm Ferguson, Johnny Cannon, Les Clark, Ben Sharpsteen, Jack Cutting, Jack King, Dick Lundy, Tom Palmer, Wilfred Jackson, Dave Hand, and Charlie Byrne. The short is perhaps best remembered for featuring two bloodhounds whose design inspired Pluto. As such, it is sometimes cited as Pluto's debut appearance.
• Fiddling Around • The Barnyard Concert • The Cactus Kid • The Fire Fighters • The Shindig • The Chain Gang • The Gorilla Mystery • The Picnic • Pioneer Days • Minnie's Yoo-Hoo • The Birthday Party • Traffic Troubles • The Castaway • The Moose Hunt • The Delivery Boy • Mickey Steps Out • Blue Rhythm • Fishin' Around • The Barnyard Broadcast • The Beach Party • Mickey Cuts Up • Mickey's Orphans • The Duck Hunt • The Grocery Boy • The Mad Dog • Barnyard Olympics • Mickey's Revue • Musical Farmer • Mickey in Arabia • Mickey's Nightmare • Trader Mickey • The Whoopee Party • Touchdown Mickey • The Wayward Canary • The Klondike Kid • Parade of the Award Nominees • Mickey's Good Deed • Building a Building • The Mad Doctor • Mickey's Pal Pluto • Mickey's Mellerdrammer • Ye Olden Days • The Mail Pilot • Mickey's Mechanical Man • Mickey's Gala Premier • Puppy Love • The Pet Store • The Steeple Chase • Giantland • Shanghaied • Camping Out • Playful Pluto • Gulliver Mickey • Mickey's Steam Roller • Orphan's Benefit • Mickey Plays Papa • The Dognapper • Two-Gun Mickey • Mickey's Man Friday • The Band Concert • Mickey's Service Station • Mickey's Kangaroo • Mickey's Garden • Mickey's Fire Brigade • Pluto's Judgement Day • On Ice • Mickey's Polo Team • Orphans' Picnic • Mickey's Grand Opera • Thru the Mirror • Mickey's Rival • Moving Day • Alpine Climbers • Mickey's Circus • Mickey's Elephant • The Worm Turns • Magician Mickey • Moose Hunters • Mickey's Amateurs • Hawaiian Holiday • Clock Cleaners • Lonesome Ghosts • Boat Builders • Mickey's Trailer • The Whalers • Mickey's Parrot • Brave Little Tailor • Society Dog Show • Mickey's Surprise Party • The Pointer • The Standard Parade •
• Tugboat Mickey • Pluto's Dream House • Mr Mouse Takes a Trip • The Sorcerer's Apprentice • The Little Whirlwind • A Gentleman's Gentleman • Canine Caddy • The Nifty Nineties • Orphans' Benefit • Lend a Paw • Mickey's Birthday Party • Symphony Hour • All Together • Pluto and the Armadillo • Squatter's Rights • Mickey and the Beanstalk • Mickey's Delayed Date • Mickey Down Under • Mickey and the Seal • Pueblo Pluto •
• R'coon Dawg • Pluto's Party • Pluto's Christmas Tree • The Simple Things •
• Mickey's New Car • Around the World in Eighty Days • Mickey's Airplane Kit • Mickey's Mistake • The Candy House • Mickey's Mechanical Man • Mickey's Piano Lesson • Mickey's Remedy • Mickey Tries To Cook • Topsy Turvy Town • The Nutcracker • Mickey's Rival Returns • Mickey and the Seagull • Mickey's Mixed Nuts • Mickey's Mountain • Mickey's Mix-Up • Mickey's Christmas Chaos • Mickey's Cabin • Mickey's Big Break • Big House Mickey • • Mickey's April Fools • Mickey and the Goat Man • Pinball Mickey •
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