Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Man Is In the Forest. Let's Dig Out."

For me, the highlight of The Chronological Donald Vol. 4 is the opportunity to see Jack Hannah's "No Hunting" in widescreen. (I don't know why they put it in the "From the Vault" section, though. I can't see what's supposed to be offensive about it.) What made Hannah's Donald Ducks so good, at their best, was their combination of crazy, wild, aggressive humor -- very un-Disney humor -- with observational humor. They're traditional Disney cartoons in that they're grounded in small real-life things (hunting, tourism, suburban living) but they sneak in some subversive Tex Avery influence that shakes everything up.

"No Hunting" is my favorite of this bunch because it's very wild and very weird, and yet, as Hannah pointed out in an interview (excerpted on Jeff Pepper's blog) the comedy is rooted in the sad reality of what happens when suburban males go out and try to play at being sportsmen:

I used to go hunting with my dad when I was a kid and this short was a great takeoff on these hunters and fishermen. They really are this way. They are as dangerous to themselves as to the game they’re hunting. I’ve heard there are more hunters shot on opening day than deer.

Hannah also said that at the time he didn't think it was one of his better shorts (because Donald was out of character, and they threw in the idea of him being possessed by the spirit of his grandfather to explain why he was out of character) but that "after seeing it recently, I've changed my opinion." Rightly so. It's a wonderful blend of Tex Avery insanity (and self-referentiality) and Disney realism. There are a lot of hunting cartoons, but most of them are just excuses to set up a typical cartoon predator/prey scenario; this one is actually a satire of the whole pastime of hunting.


Anonymous said...

I always wondered how Jack Hannah got away with making something as un-Disney satiric as "No Hunting" while Walt was still around and watching every foot of film that came out of his studio.

ramapith said...

Anonymous: Perhaps because in the comic strip department, Walt was indirectly pumping out bitter satire and crazy, wild aggression by the day. Those comics, Hannah's best Donald cartoons, the "Geef" Goofy shorts, Dick Kinney's 1960s Donald and Scrooge "newspaper office" comic book stories with their tired-businessman humor, the Nash car TV ads, Gulf Oil's DISNEY MAGAZINE giveaways with their almost adult writing sensibility... all of these *were* "wilder Disney humor" under Walt in a manner than many have forgotten. It was common to a point where of course Walt had to have seen it and liked it. He knew very well that his cartoons weren't just for kids, even if some of them were.

It's as if today some combination of Charles Nichols Pluto shorts, Annette TV movies, and Tinker Bell faux-girliness has invaded our heads and convinced us that Walt wanted his name on nothing but corn.
Or, better, old-line Disney produced just enough pap that later regimes have been able to wave it around and convince us that it was the preferred house style.

The brain trust that created DER FUEHRER'S FACE in 1943 didn't create it for kindergarteners.

Anonymous said...

I was told "No Hunting" was placed in the vault section because of the hunting theme and because of its casual use of firearms.

One reason I enjoy this cartoon so much is because it's such an atypical Donald Duck. You know, Famous Studios gets a bad rap for repeating the same stories over and over again, but by the early '50s Disney was just about as bad. These Donald Ducks are all the same: Donald tangles with his nephews, or with Chip and Dale, or with that bumblebee, or with some other animal, and inevitably gets the worst of it. They're almost maddening to sit through.

Thad said...

Probably the funniest cartoon the studio ever did. And it was done because Walt was paying no attention to the shorts department. So shaddap Dhave.

Yeldarb86 said...

Interesting theory, Ramapith.

I always thought at some point, particularly the early 1980's, the "wholesomeness" of Disney's legacy had become exaggerated, to the point where people did start to believe that their products were only for kids. (There's a funny story of how, when Disney finally got out of their straitjacket by establishing Touchstone Pictures, some older administrators protested with a PRAYER meeting.)

But looking at a few choice cartoons, including the controversy of Bambi's mom, there never was a time when Disney was limiting its audience to children.

Concerning this cartoon, you have to look at the history books, where the suggestion is that Walt paid very little attention to his shorts past the mid 1940's. With that, it was only a matter of time before the directors would start doing things their way.

Anonymous said...

I still think getting a good slapstick cartoon out of Charles Nichols with "Grand Canyonscope" is the biggest shocker on the latest Donald DVD.