March 31, 1944 – The Donald Duck Short Film, Donald Duck and the Gorilla, is Released to Theaters.
“Where’s Uncle Donald?”
On March 31, 1944, the Donald Duck short film, Donald Duck and the Gorilla, was released to theaters. The short was directed by Jack King, with Clarence Nash voicing Donald Duck and the nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. As with many of the early Donald Duck shorts featuring the nephews, it was hard to tell which one was which, as the colors for their outfits were used interchangeably. This would be remedied with the show Ducktales, in which the nephews played lead roles and the stories were vastly more complicated.
But back to Donald Duck and the Gorilla: It’s a stormy night, and Donald is sitting around the radio with his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The announcer informs the audience that the terrible gorilla, Ajax, has escaped from the city zoo. The nephews cling to each other in fear, while Donald laughs. He then notices a pair of gloves next to him that resemble gorilla hands, and gets the fiendish idea to scare the boys. He turns out the light, and the boys, frightened, call out for their uncle. When the boys turn on the light again, Donald is gone from the chair.
Still holding on each other, the boys are unaware of two large, hairy hands coming around the corners of the couch until the hands almost grab them. The boys scream and take off into the other room, slamming the door shut. Peering out through the keyhole, they see their Uncle Donald laughing hysterically at their flight. Angered by their uncle’s prank and bent on revenge, the three find a gorilla costume and begin to creep into the room where their uncle is getting ready to relax. Donald grabs a book and sits down in his chair to read, unaware that it is now occupied by a “gorilla.” Donald continues to be oblivious to the guest in his chair, even when the guest covers the duck’s mouth when he yawns.
Donald finally gets the hint when he takes out a giant lollipop, and sets it aside for a moment while reading. The nephews take a big bite out of the lollipop with the costume’s teeth. When Donald picks up the lollipop again, he is alarmed to see the teeth marks in the candy. He finally notices the “gorilla” in the room and bolts out of there as fast as he can, leaving the nephews to laugh at their success.
Unbeknown to both parties, the real Ajax is standing at the window, watching the scene unfold. With a menacing smile, he tears open the window and growls at the boys. They run into their angry uncle hiding in an umbrella stand, and decide to run off in another direction, only to meet up with Ajax again. They run into separate rooms, with Donald following close behind. When Donald enters the hallway, he sees Ajax and, thinking it’s his nephews, starts pulling at the gorilla’s head, only to find that he was pulling on the head of the real gorilla.
Just as things are looking bleak for the duck, the radio announcer informs all listeners that one can tame all wild animals by looking them straight in the eye. Donald attempts to do so, only to see a tombstone in the gorilla’s eye staring back at him. Donald uses the umbrella to escape Ajax’s clutches, and rejoins his nephews to hunt down and rid themselves of their unwelcome guest. As they sneak around, there are many comical instances with the nephews’ clumsiness with the candle, including pouring wax all over Donald’s tail. Donald snatches the candle from the boys and shoves them into another room, not noticing that he has placed the flame right under the doorknob, which burns his hand.
Donald continues his search, and falls into the gorilla’s trap, but is able to escape – barely. The chase continues through the house, leaving destruction in its wake. Unfortunately, Donald is trapped by the hungry gorilla, and just as it seems that all hope is lost, the radio announcer gives another timely message: the gorilla can be subdued with tear gas. Hearing this, the nephews find some and throw the grenade in just in time. Seeing the gorilla begin to cry, Donald laughs at him, but ends up a victim of the tear gas as well. The two sit together, crying in each other’s arms.