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Figaro was created as a supporting character in the 1940 film Pinocchio. Like so many characters from that film, Figaro became a popular character with audiences. In fact, Figaro was Walt Disney's favorite character in Pinocchio, he loved the kitten so much, he wanted him to appear as much as possible. Once production on Pinocchio was done, Walt made him the pet of Minnie Mouse, replacing Fifi. He was given his own series of cartoon shorts as well as co-starring in a few Pluto shorts and in House of Mouse.
His roles in the shorts often dealt with him being heroic although one short, Pluto's Sweater, cast Figaro in an antagonistic role, where Minnie designed a sweater for Pluto and the other local pets laughed uproariously at Pluto for being made to wear it, mostly Figaro. When water shrinks the sweater, Minnie then realizes it is a perfect fit for Figaro. That short ends with Figaro angrily snarling that he is now in the sweater that he enjoyed bullying Pluto over, plus the lesson being "he who laughs last laughs best."
Animator Eric Larson was put in charge of animating Figaro. Basing the kitten's childlike personality on that of his own nephew, Larson combined this human mind with the natural movements of a cat.
Figaro is a pint sized prince. He is easily angered but deep down has a heart of gold. He takes a disliking to many things including, but not limited to, waiting, baths, being made a fool of, dogs, giving Cleo a goodnight kiss, and Pinocchio himself, especially after Geppetto playfully makes Pinocchio kick Figaro from behind and scare him down a staircase. When Pinocchio comes to life and treats Figaro kindly, Figaro comes to love Pinocchio very much to the point that he cries when Pinocchio apparently dies and then willingly kisses Cleo when he is restored to life.
In his spin-off shorts as well as the Pluto shorts, his character was made less cuddly and more malicious and cat-like. He is a prime rival of Pluto as the two are constantly seen battling each other for different things, most notably Minnie's affections. Figaro usually enjoys tormenting Pluto when no one's around but occasionally learns to make peace with the pup. In recent years, Figaro and Pluto's relationship became far less hostile; nowadays, the little kitten looks up to the big dog.
Figaro is an adorable Tuxedo Cat of kindly woodcarver Geppetto. Geppetto finishes his latest puppet, Pinocchio, and makes the wooden boy dance and play with Figaro. Figaro eventually gets annoyed with the puppet, as it mischievously kicks him in the behind and smacks its foot. When the Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio to life, however, Figaro is not too shocked to see a living puppet and quickly takes a liking to the living Pinocchio. When Pinocchio doesn't return home on the night of his first day going to school, Figaro, Geppetto, and the goldfish Cleo leave their home to search for the wooden boy.
Figaro and the others are later eaten by a large whale named Monstro. Pinocchio, also swallowed by the whale, finds them and creates a plan to escape by making a fire. The plan succeeds but not without a deadly chase that ends with Pinocchio giving his life to save Geppetto. At home, Geppetto, Figaro, and the others mourn Pinocchio's death, when the Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio back to life as a real boy. The family, including Figaro, rejoice and celebrate the miraculous event.
Figaro and Cleo played a role in the short under the care of a woman by the name of Aunt Delilah (Mammy Two Shoes). Here, Figaro tries various methods of trying to get Cleo for his supper, only to be stopped by Delilah each time.
Figaro makes regular guest appearances, sometimes as Minnie's pet and usually as Geppetto's pet.
In Pluto Saves the Day, Figaro taunted Pluto who chased him and ended up scaring away both Figaro and O'Malley and the Alley Cats, who were going to be the club's guest band. He was later shown to be annoyed at the fact that Pluto's all-dog singing group performed instead of O'Malley and the Alley Cats.
In the episode Pluto vs. Figaro, the rivalry between Figaro and Pluto from the classic cartoon returns and the two constantly argue, leaving Minnie frustrated. Figaro merely wants to help, but Pluto is conflicted about what he should handle the kitten as his Angel and Devil argue.
Figaro plays a supporting role in the computer-animated series and is in most ways different from his original personality. Here, Figaro is a lot more well-behaved and not as selfish. Figaro was also featured in the spin-off series, Mickey Mousekersize.
Figaro made his debut in the episode "Ready, Get Pet... Go Pluto!", where he joined Minnie in the episode's pet-themed race. Figaro played a central role in the following episode "Figaro's New Friend!", where he must come to terms with having Pluto as a house guest after Minnie and Daisy were tasked with dog-sitting while Mickey works.
Figaro makes a small cameo appearance in Alice in Wonderland as a caterpillar being annoyed by a dogerpillar resembling Pluto. Co-incidentally, early designs for Dinah were lifted directly from a Figaro model sheet from Pinocchio.
Figaro is a minor character in Minnie's Bow-Toons, acting as Minnie's close companion and confidant. He usually spends most of his time sleeping in Minnie's shop while she works.
Figaro can found all over the Disney theme parks. In the Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant, he appears in various murals that retell the story of Pinocchio as narrative illustrations. He also can be seen serving as the namesake of Figaro Fries and appearing over the exits. A design flaw led to the exit signs wasn't being properly centered at Disneyland and Walt Disney World's versions of the restaurant, so Figaro is shown pulling the sign on a rope to fix things. At Disneyland Paris, the problem was corrected and Figaro is shown leaning on the exit sign giving a thumb's up gesture.
In California, Figaro can be found in Pinocchio's Daring Journey. At Fantasy Faire, Figaro can be seen sleeping in a window of one of the buildings. He is occasionally awoken by a caged bird that chirps familiar Disney songs.
Although unnamed, Geppetto did have a pet cat that made a brief appearance in the original book. When Pinocchio burned his feet off because he was sleeping too close to the stove, he tries to blame it on the cat, claiming it ate his feet off. This scene doesn't exist in the 1940 film.
Concept art for the film Zootopia shows that Figaro's likeness was once intended to appear in the scrapped Wild Times amusement park owned by Nick Wilde.
While Figaro does not appear in the Kingdom Hearts series proper, Aqua can wear a pair of cat ears named after Figaro in the Birth by Sleep: 2.8 Prologue game. Figaro, though, appears in the manga based on the first title.
According to a sheet in which there was a placement chart for the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Figaro can be spotted showing that he was planned to appear in the movie but was cut.
In the Mickey Mouse short "Gasp!", there is a unnamed cat that resembles him but bigger, thinner, and far meaner and more feral in personality.