The phenomenon of the cartoon mirage has long been a fascinating one to me. I’m familiar with heat haze, goodness knows, having grown up in LA. Even the so-called “inferior mirage,” where you see what looks like water shimmering under the thing you’re looking at. But that’s not what people see in cartoons. They don’t even see the Fata Morgana, the more complicated mirage that looks like a city or what have you. What people in cartoons get is full-blown hallucinations. What’s interesting here is how very different the two characters’ hallucinations are and what that tells us about them.
This is one of a string of cartoons featuring Donald Duck and Goofy together. In this one, they’re driving across the desert—Wikipedia calls it a desert road, but there’s no road here. They’re just driving in the middle of sodding nowhere. Their car runs out of gas, and they are left to wander the desert in the hopes of finding civilization before they die. Naturally, this being a cartoon wherein two characters are suffering from the pressures of nature, and specifically the heat, they start to hallucinate.
Goofy clearly has a richer inner life. What he hallucinates is a full-on soda fountain. He orders an ice cream soda, and alas it vanishes before he can drink it. The proprietor—there’s a proprietor, who’s your standard Stereotypical Movie Arab—takes his raised finger of protest to be ordering more, and so forth, and then eventually charges Goofy “six bucks.” Which Goofy won’t pay, on the grounds of not actually having been able to consume any ice cream sodas. So he’s set to wash dishes—which somehow are not hallucinatory.
Donald’s a lot more boring. He sees giant spiky icebergs. He then of course goes running off through the desert in search of them, and all things considered, it’s a wonder he’s able to find Goofy in order to crash into him and those dishes. Honestly, a cartoon where Donald is alone in the desert would be pretty boring; Donald works best when he has someone to play off of where you can actually sympathize with the other character. It sucks for him here, but the only cartoons where I don’t feel sorry for the characters trapped in a Goofy cartoon with him are the ones from the suburbia years.
It is, I’ll admit, a pretty awful Stereotypical Movie Arab, but something in me is strangely fond of the admonition, “Thou shalt not break one—thou shalt not.” And he’s Paul Frees, so at least he’s voiced well, even if it makes you wonder what’s going on inside Goofy’s head that this is how he pictures the proprietor of his hallucinatory soda fountain. I also can’t help wondering what Mickey’s hallucination would have been had he been in this cartoon as well.