Sunday

"Donald's Happy Birthday"

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Donald Duck cartoons are often disturbing.  There's a scene in Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) when Donald goes a little psycho while holding an axe, and there's an unforgettable Halloween short, "Donald Duck and the Gorilla" (1944) when he faces down a killer gorilla with razor-sharp teeth.  The one that best stuck with me, though, was "Donald's Happy Birthday," which, of course, isn't happy at all.

Donald's birthday is approaching and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Luey want to get him something nice.  They try to open their piggy bank, but Donald keeps confiscating it so they can learn the value of a dollar.  Ultimately, the nephews are able to get enough change together to buy something they know their uncle would love: a box of nice cigars.  Donald sees them coming out of the cigar store, and decides to teach them a lesson.  He forces his nephews to smoke the entire box of cigars at once in their tiny treehouse and even increases the smoke with a bellows until they blanch and pass out.  Donald laughs hysterically.

As he triumphantly yells for the boys to "have another cigar!" he pulls out a card that was at the bottom of the box: "Happy birthday, Uncle Donald.  Love, Huey, Dewey, and Luey."  Donald instantly shrinks to about the size of a bug and falls through a knothole in the floor of the treehouse.  The end.

Looking back, I suppose that the shrinking was a literalization of Donald "feeling small," but that idea certainly didn't translate for me--the cartoonists might as well have had him turn into a lamb to show how he felt sheepish.  I suppose there was also a hidden lesson about smoking, and it might have worked, because I get queasy even thinking about all those cigars.


Lesson learned:
Never buy birthday presents.


"Donald's Happy Birthday."  Dir. Jack Hannah.  Perf. Clarence Nash.  Walt Disney Pictures, 1949
 Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950)
(Se it on YouTube here)

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