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It's truly a classic cartoon in which Donald's character is wholly epitomized
by the context in which director Jack King has placed him - as a stubborn,
adamant, overly pretentious, know-it-all scout leader for his nephews.
The introduction of Donald Duck's nephews was a perfect send-off in Donald's
early years as the characters play off of each other so well. Donald's egotistic
and domineering persona works perfectly in conjunction with his nephews
free-wheeling and unruly tendencies; and while Donald is best distinguished
as a conceited, uncompromising and narrow-minded character whose high-spirited
and dynamic nature is often the cause of many slapstick laughs - his nephews
tend to carry many similar traits, but in direct opposition to Donald's
perspectives which often makes for aggressive and humorous plot situations.
In my opinion, this cartoon absolutely defines the essence of Donald's
character disposition and serves as a masterful lay out for future cartoons
with his nephews, which will eventually carry into the 1950's with director
Jack Hannah (who worked with King as an animator on this particular short).
The short itself features a wide range of sight gags from Donald's mishaps
with pitching a tent, to an unexpected rendezvous with a disgruntled grizzly
bear and a conveniently faithful geyser, a painful wood-chopping segment
involving a petrified tree, and so on...
While much of these gags are predictable and easily forseen, the comedic
impact may not be extreme but the delivery is very much on point and the
end result offers quite a charming and fun short film.
I have very fond memories of watching this cartoon as a child as it was
one of the very first Donald Duck shorts I was introduced to and seeing
it always manages to bring a smile to face, however, like almost all Disney
shorts to date - this still holds up nearly 70 years later and I would recommend
that everyone make an effort to seek this out and watch it!
It’s so familiar for me, because my son just joined Cub Scouts this year, so I have been accompanying him on multiple camping trips and meetings. Donald does the same thing here, leading his nephews into the woods for a scouting campout. As you’d imagine, things don’t go as planned.
This is a new role for Donald, serving as the leader rather than someone just trying to go about his business and getting interrupted and irritated by others. It is a role that suits him well. After all, he can play the egomaniac who knows how to do everything, and then play off the frustration that ensues when he doesn’t get it right.
There are several examples of this throughout the short, beginning with the setting up of the camp. Donald makes two huge mistakes. The first is trying to show up one of the boys and chop down a giant tree for firewood. It turns out to be a petrified tree, causing Donald to go through several vibrations similar to
Then, the madness continues as the boys cannot set up the tent to Donald’s liking, so he ropes a giant pine and bends it down to serve as the spine of the tent. You can imagine how that turns out, as Donald jumps on top to celebrate and ends up with the tree breaking free and catapulting him into the woods.
At the end of the short comes something that has been sort of a trend in the most recent Disney shorts. Perhaps longer than that, now that I think about, actually. It’s the building gag that has the final climax. For example, in this short, it’s Donald ending up on Old Reliable the geyser.
That gag, of Donald erupting into the air, is enough, but it builds and builds from there. The boys try to save him, plugging a tree into the geyser, and it shoots up to hit Donald. The bear that had menaced Donald earlier comes back to swat at him from a cliff. Rocks go into the geyser and end up hitting Donald. The final gag has a boulder being shot into the air, and the short ends with the bear chasing Donald over and over on the boulder.
There are so many more gags here, including Donald playing injured by smearing ketchup on himself, the bear attacking after Donald is bandaged up by the boys, and more. Good Scouts is a great example of how Donald is so adaptable, and how the animators can stretch him a little further than they could Mickey. It works beautifully in this instance, and will continue to do so.