While Walt was from Back East (well, the Midwest) and presumably knew a thing about snow, it’s also true that there aren’t all that many Disney cartoons dealing with the subject. The director of this short, Jack King, was from Alabama; one of the two credited writers, Carl Banks, was from rural Oregon but a part of it that doesn’t seem to get much snow. (The other writer, Harry Reeves, is a bit of a cipher as far as IMDb is concerned and doesn’t have a Wikipedia page at all.) So probably Banks knew some about snow, but it just wasn’t on the radar much in Burbank. Last week, my aunt—who lives not far from there—mentioned the rare “dusting of powdered sugar” on the mountains visible from her house. It’s not that the characters are in a perpetual summer; it’s that they’re based on LA for the most part.
Anyway, it’s snowed now. Donald goes outside in an enormous bell-shaped fur coat (but still no pants) to go sledding. He sees his nephews building a snowman and of course sends his sled right into it. To get their revenge, the nephews build a snow “Uncle Donald” around a very large rock. Which Donald plows right into. Then follows a battle between Donald and the boys wherein they’re in a snow fort and he’s in a snow battleship, very little of which makes sense even by cartoon physics standards.
You don’t have to have been reading this column for long in order to realize that I really don’t like Donald Duck. So why do I write so much about him? In this case, because I’ve been snowbound with my own kids for about a week and felt the need to write about something with snow in it. But also because those same kids will routinely be watching the cartoons on YouTube, and something in them will make me so overwhelmingly angry that I can’t even handle it and I will just have to say something. Same principle that drives a lot of my Stuff My Kids Watch writing, really.
If it weren’t for cartoon physics, the nephews’ retaliation to Donald’s destruction of their snowman would be over the top. This, unlike the other things in the cartoon, is potentially lethal. Donald has got a pretty good turn of speed going, and slamming into a rock at that speed is not going to be good for you. At bare minimum, we’d be talking broken bones. However, it is a cartoon, and I honestly don’t blame them for doing what they did. He didn’t accidentally hit their snowman while sledding. He deliberately plowed into it while they were sitting on it. Basically, any time they lash out against his abuse, I’m on their side.
Not that it explains the final battle, of course. The nephews have a hearth in their snow castle, and that’s okay somehow, and then they set a snowball on fire and launch it at Donald’s battleship and melt it completely. Never mind the logistics of firing flaming coals using a bow and arrow. (Yes, obviously flaming arrows have been a thing, but not the way they’re done here.) Even as a child, I had a hard time with this one, because what is going on here?
Incidentally, you can tell that this is set somewhere that doesn’t routinely get snow, because Donald’s front door is shown as having a large pane of glass in it. And no curtain or anything. This is foolhardy anywhere you get serious cold; even here in Western Washington, we tend to put heavy curtains over large windows and things in the winter, and this week’s weather has been an aberration for us. On the one hand, I’d also speculate about the lack of privacy in having an uncovered sheet of unfrosted glass as your front door, but on the other hand, Donald doesn’t wear pants, so how concerned about privacy is he?