October 23, 1953 – The Donald Duck Short Film Rugged Bear is Released to Theaters
“This is Bear Country: a quiet, peaceful part of the forest reserved exclusively for Mr. Bear.”
On October 23, 1953, the Donald Duck short film Rugged Bear was released to theaters. This marked the second appearance of Humphrey the Bear overall, and the second of five appearances in Donald Duck short films. The short was directed by Jack Hannah, with story by Al Bertino and Dave Detiege.
The short begins at a section of the forest for Bear Country, with dozens of bears sleeping soundly. The bears are alerted by the narrator that hunting season has begun, and while they all flee to their cave, Humphrey the Bear continues to sleep. He is soon woken up by flying bullets, and is locked out of the cave when all the other bears seal themselves inside. Humphrey runs crazily around the woods, dodging hunters, and comes across a house in the woods. Once inside, he realizes he’s in a hunting cabin, with guns and stuffed bear heads on the walls. As he tries to escape, he sees Donald walking to the house, holding a shot gun. He frantically tries to hide, and disguises himself as a bearskin rug.
Donald pretends to shoot his bearskin rug, making his “rug” rather nervous
Donald wipes his feet on the nervous bear’s back, and as he sits to clean his shotgun, he pretends to shoot the rug, which causes Humphrey to nearly panic. As Donald decides to light a fire in the fireplace, he uses Humphrey’s nose to light his match. Humphrey barely suppresses a yelp, and when he looks behind him to see where Donald (and, more importantly, the gun) is, he gets his nose stuck in the barrel and has to quietly follow Donald through the house. He manages to free himself when the kitchen door is slammed in his face, and when he tries to sneak away, he finds that hunting season is still occurring, and has to stay inside to stay safe.
Donald returns from getting his snack, and sits on Humphrey’s back in front of the fire. After swallowing a stray bit of Donald’s popcorn, Humphrey gets the hiccups; fortunately, Donald thinks he has the hiccups instead of his rug. After getting a drink of water, Donald returns and decides to take a nap on his rug. A stray spark from the fire jumps out and lands on Humphrey’s back, and he catches on fire, but he masks his scream by turning up the radio, waking Donald, who quickly puts the fire out. Seeing the mess this caused, Donald throws Humphrey into the washing machine. Poor Humphrey emerges after the dry cycle as a giant fur ball, which Donald remedies by cutting off his hair with a yard trimmer. Donald then curls himself up in the rug to fall asleep, much to Humphrey’s dismay.
Humphrey is relieved that Donald has left for the season
Hunting season soon ends, and the bears clean up the mess the hunters left behind. Donald leaves his hunting cabin, and Humphrey, looking more than a little worse for wear, is relieved that he can finally escape. He hears a strange knocking from the wood box near the fireplace, and is surprised to find that the bear rug he’d rolled up and replaced at the beginning of the season was, in fact, another live bear, who thanks Humphrey for hiding him and taking his place. Humphrey looks at the camera with bloodshot eyes, a look of disbelief on his face.