The short begins with Pluto chasing a kitten and bursting into Mickey's house. Mickey scolds him for always chasing cats and being a bully, telling Pluto that he'll regret his misdemeanors come judgement day. As Mickey gives the poor cat a bath, Pluto falls asleep by the fire and has a dream where he's lured into a court of cats in Hell who seek his conviction (his crimes included chasing one cat under a steamroller, flattening him, and killing another named Uncle Tom, who shows up there as nine angels representing his lost lives), while at the same time torturing the dog throughout the trial until Pluto is declared guilty. Pluto is, unsurprisingly, convicted, and sentenced to be burned. As the flames start to burn the rope that suspends him over the fire, a cinder pops out of the fireplace where Pluto was sleeping, waking him and causing him to run for the bathtub Mickey is cleaning the cat Pluto was chasing earlier in. After he jumps in, the dog immediately whimpers to Mickey to prove that he will never chase another cat again or else he will go to Hell, and the short ends with the cat licking Pluto.
The short is notable not only for its macabre tone, but also for its introduction of a redesign of Mickey Mouse by Fred Moore, doing away with the rigid, symmetrical design of his body in favor of an asymmetrical, organic pear, which allowed for organic usage of squash and stretch, and the ability to give Mickey a wider range of attitudes than what was possible with the original design. This also kept workers from having to trace spare change to draw Mickey.
This cartoon provides examples of:
- All Just a Dream: However, this is not part of a Reveal, as it's established that Pluto is sleeping at the beginning of the short.
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: What Pluto does on realizing that the cave mouth is a trap; before he can retreat, however, the cave swallows him up.
- Big "SHUT UP!": The cat judge says this to Pluto, when the dog gets his hand caught in a mousetrap inside a phone book and howls in pain, and the judge hits him on the head with his gavel to silence him.
- Cats Are Mean: Or in this case, just very vengeful.
- Cats Have Nine Lives: "One little, two little, three little angels / Four little, five little, six little angels / Seven little, eight little, nine little angels / All that's left of Uncle Tom."
- Cave Mouth: The entrance to Hell is shaped like a giant cat's face with its long, curled tongue sticking out.
- Courtroom Episode: Pluto dreams of being put on trial for chasing cats.
- Crashing Dreams: Pluto dreams of being dangled over a fire, as his body in the real world is edging too close to the fireplace.
- Creepy Children Singing:
- With their high-pitched, eerie voices, the cats in the jury, which all appear to be kittens, give off this effect when they sing.
- A more clear example would be the three kittens who serve as the third witness, who sing about how Pluto supposedly killed their Uncle Tom, and ending with a quick rendition of "Song of the Volga Boatmen".
- A Day in the Limelight: Despite this being promoted as a Mickey Mouse short, this is clearly one of Pluto's earliest featured roles. (He would later be featured in Silly Symphony shorts before getting his own spin-off series.)
- Dramatic Chase Opening: The cartoon opens on Pluto chasing the kitten into Mickey's house.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Pluto apparently stole the milk and liver of Uncle Tom's nieces.
- Evil Laugh: The prosecutor cat lets out a sinister cackle after the first witness testifies, making the jury angry at Pluto. As he laughs, he leans in to scare Pluto with an evil glare. He cackles a little more upon seeing Pluto whimper in fear.
- Evil Living Flames: In the climax of Pluto's dream, he's suspended over a blazing pit of fire. Soon, tiny anthropomorphic flames hop out of the pit, run along the rope and try to pull it apart to make him fall into the blaze.
- Evil Sounds Raspy: Both the prosecutor and judge cats speak with raspy voices - the prosecutor is growly and boisterous while the judge is more gravelly and almost monotonous.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: The cats' lair is a cavernous underground realm home to pits of fire, courts of the damned and pitchfork-wielding cat devils.
- Hanging Judge: A feline version of the Devil, eagerly trying to get Pluto found guilty, serves as this to a courtroom of demonic black cats.
- Holy Pipe Organ: The title card's music features a pipe organ playing a reverent tune, although it is interspersed with quick jazz segments. Still, the pipe organ serves as the first indicator that this short deals with a more heavy subject than most Disney shorts at the time.
- Joker Jury: The cat jury clearly wants to find Pluto guilty from the get-go, and their deliberations are limited to going around a revolving door before coming right back out with their "guilty" verdict.
- Kangaroo Court: From the beginning of the trial, it's clear that the cats have already decided to convict Pluto, and that the trial is just a formality — or a cruel joke at his expense."You're on trial today for the crimes that you've committed. We're gonna prove ya guilty! Just try and get acquitted!"
- Large Ham: The cat prosecutor with his overacting hand gestures and craggy voice.
- Literal-Minded: Pluto, given that his time in Cat Hell was All Just a Dream. Mickey told Pluto that on Judgment Day he's have to answer for all the innocent cats he's chased. Mickey was referring to the typical definition of Judgment Day — the end of days when all the dead rise and answer to their crimes — but Pluto imagines a Kangaroo Court of cats with a Hanging Judge.
- Lower-Deck Episode: Despite being billed as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey doesn't appear outside of the opening and ending.
- Nervous Wreck: The second witness is a cat strapped into a chair whose mania is demonstrated for the court by his handler. His reaction is wild enough to obliterate the chair."This poor guy has dog shock. He's scared out of his wits! And every time a dog barks, he throws a dozen fits."
- Nightmare Sequence: Pluto has a nightmare of getting up on trial for chasing cats.
- Notably Quick Deliberation: The "jury room" is just a revolving door, and the jurors leave so quickly that the first to enter come out before the rest have even come in. Currently provides the page image.
- Opinion-Changing Dream: Before his nightmare Pluto chases cats for the fun of it. After he wakes up, he is nice to them and clearly scared of what further cat-chasing could mean for his soul.
- Paper People: One of the witnesses is a cat Pluto chased under a steamroller, the result of his being Squashed Flat. Even the balloon he's carrying was flattened out without popping.
- Profile View Gag: A plump-looking cat testifies against Pluto, claiming that Pluto chased him right into a steamroller, causing him to get Squashed Flat. The cat turns to the side, revealing that he is actually flat as paper.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The cat prosecutor, who is one of the most antagonistic characters in the short, has black fur and wears a red robe.
- Reflective Eyes: Pluto's reflection appears in the prosecutor's eyes at one point. They even look at each other!
- Rhymes on a Dime: During Pluto's process, the cats speak in rhyme.
- Satan: The judge cat is presumably a stand-in for him, although he isn't explicitly referred to as the devil.
- Scales of Justice: The Statue of Justice is a cat peeking through the blindfold and carrying a lop-sided scale.
- Scare 'Em Straight: In-Universe example; the dream serves as this for Pluto.
- Schmuck Bait: The cat that lures Pluto to the cave mouth challenges him to a fight; when Pluto in dream form hesitates — in part to hallucinatory Mickey Mouse appearing and shaking his head— the cat asks, "are you yellow?" Pluto takes the bait hook, line and sinker and gives chase.
- Shameful Shrinking: Happens to Pluto in the middle of the trial.
- Squashed Flat: What happened to Witness #1:"That great big bully picked on me / because I was so fat / He chased me under a steamroller / and then he left me flat!"
- Torches and Pitchforks: The lynch mob of cats have them, as well as signs that say, "Get Pluto!" and "Down with Pluto!" as they carry the poor dog away.
- Trauma Button: One of the witnesses is a cat in a straitjacket and wheelchair. After being chased by Pluto so many times, he goes into a terrified frenzy when he so much as hears a dog barking.Cat Orderly: This poor guy's got dog-shock
He's scared out of his wits!
And every time a dog barks
He throws a thousand fits.
- Truth in Television: While lying next to a fire, a dog can easily get burned because their fur protects them from the initial warmth that indicates they're too close. Pluto was lucky he only got singed by a stray ember.
- Uncle Tom Foolery: And "Uncle Tom" is supposed to be a play on the word "tomcat."
- Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: Many of the evil cats, including the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury, have yellow eyes.