Friday, June 03, 2011

What a Character! - The Mountain Lion

The twilight of animation's golden age is littered with potential cartoon stars that sadly faded with their medium.  Numerous new characters were born out of the 1950s-era Disney shorts, but most were simply not granted enough time to establish themselves.  One such case study involves a character who, despite starring in five different cartoon shorts, did not even earn a name for himself--literally.  In historical texts, he is simply the "the Mountain Lion," although he has unofficially been identified by some scholars as Louie.  For practical reasons, we will apply that monicker for the purposes of our discussion here.

Louie was introduced in the 1950 Donald Duck cartoon Lion Around.  He is an undomesticated creature, an inarticulate denizen of the forest, but certainly not in the benign and harmless fashion of Humphrey Bear, who was also a product of the same time period.  In Lion Around, the nephews attempt to fool Donald with a mountain lion disguise, which of course leads inevitably to an encounter with the real McCoy.  In Hook, Lion and Sinker, Louie gains more of a  comical edge and a personality bordering on buffoonery.  He and his young cub attempt to steal fresh fish from Donald, and their antics bring to mind Disney's coyote characters, Bent-Tail and Bent-Tail, Junior.

The Mountain Lion's finest moments would however be achieved with a different co-star.  He shared the screen with Goofy in both with 1950's Lion Down and its 1952 followup, Father's LionLion Down brings the lion to the city where he has to deal with a blissfully ignorant Goofy.  In Father's Lion, a true Goof classic, Louie again falls victim to Goofy's exaggerated and wholly unintentional bravado, and Goofy Junior's always dead-on aim with his pop gun.

Louie's final appearance was in the Cinemascope cartoon Grand Canyonscope, where he reunites with Donald Duck and encounters J. Audubon Woodlore, who has been displaced from his usual patrols at Brownstone National Park.  It is a widescreen tour de force of sight gags and pratfall comedy, of which Louie is a prominent player.

Disney historian John Grant described the Mountain Lion as, "a rather anonymous character," and noted that, "this indeed was his strength, for it was as a mysterious lurking presence that he had his greatest effect."  And it was through such anonymity that he has at least happily gained some degree of historical notoriety.


Johnny Jackhammer said...

I always loved Lion Down . . . my stepson would ask how he could dig a hole for a tree into a building roof every time it was on!

I saw the article heading and thought about Lambert the Sheepish Lion . . . another one of our favorites!

Cory Gross said...

Okay, now I demand that the Humphrey the Bear and Ranger Woodlore collection I want also include Louie the Mountain Lion!

frederickw said...

The mountain lion was also prominently featured in the Disneyland show "Highway to Trouble", which combined a couple of the cartoons as part of a semi-travelogue about Donald Duck and his nephews on a cross country road trip.