Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"Grab Your Shootin' Iron Son, We're Goin' Huntin'!"

One of the great joys of the recent Disney Treasures DVD The Chronological Donald Volume Four was to see the 1955 cartoon No Hunting restored to its original unedited, widescreen Cinemascope presentation.

No Hunting clearly stands out as one of director Jack Hannah’s best efforts over the course of his tenure with Donald Duck. It is more akin to Tex Avery’s numerous MGM parodies or Goofy’s own “How To” series, than it is to traditional Donald Duck cartoons. Donald and his typical antics are kept to a minimum, in favor of a broader, satirical take on the outdoor sporting life that was especially romanticized during the post-war years.

Hannah's approach to lampooning that era's sportsmen was certainly an interesting creative choice. The director and his crew set their very over-the-top satire in a tableau of World War I and II-inspired battlefields and elements. Hunters hunker in trenches and hunter-paratroopers descend down from the sky. Beachhead landings and devastated landscapes feature prominently. The comedy is broad and often hilarious, despite the use of very harsh wartime imagery as its primary satirical device.

The broad, but still somewhat sharp social satire is combined with well-crafted slapstick in the form of the spirit of Donald's Grandpappy. He is certainly at the heart of the short's humor and foreshadowed future eccentric Donald Duck relatives such as Ludwig Von Drake and Moby Duck.

Hannah discussed No Hunting with Jim Korkis, in an interview reprinted in Volume One of Didier Ghez’s series of books Walt’s People. Here’s an excerpt where Jack relates the inspiration for the short:

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. It shows how timeless these shorts are because it still spoofs hunters and fishermen. They’re still that way.

My students especially enjoyed the joke where all the trash cans are coming down the river and I stuck in Bambi’s mother who says, “Man is in the forest. Let’s dig out.” There was sort of a subtle feeling in the short that Donald wasn’t himself which is why he doesn’t talk. Hunting didn’t mean a thing to him but it was the spirit of his grandfather that came out of the painting off the wall that got into him and now made a monster of him. He was possessed. That’s why he didn’t speak. Donald just wasn’t himself. I never thought of that later as being one of my better shorts but after seeing it recently, I’ve changed my opinion.

Beyond his directing chores, Jack made another interesting contribution to No Hunting:

Talking about this particular short, I stuck my voice in several times. Remember where the spirit of the Duck had antlers on and a moose was down in a hole with him and the moose says, “Hmmm, you’re a cute one”? That’s my voice! The animator I was working with on that sequence, John Sibley, got a big kick out of the way I said it so I finally said, “Hell, I’ll record it.” And I did.

Special thanks to Jim Korkis and Didier Ghez for making the interview material available. Be sure to check on Didier’s terrific Disney History blog, and his Disney Books Network, for more information on the Walt’s People series.

This post is a revision and expansion of an article previously featured on 2719 Hyperion.

Images © Walt Disney Company


Anonymous said...

A small correction: "No Hunting" was released in 1955, not 1954.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Corrected! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

That is great information!

mydisneycollection said...

I LOVED this cartoon as a kid. It feels more like a Warner Bros. than a Disney release. With each wave of the Disney Treasures DVD series I kept waiting. Finally, it's out for everyone to enjoy.