I am astonished to report that there was a Confederate-claimed Arizona Territory during the Civil War. This would be an answer as to why the lion in this is a Confederate lion, something I’d never understood. I supposed, when I thought of it at all, that I mentally tied it into the fact that the majority of pop culture figures who fought in the Civil War seem to have been Confederates for some reason. Which is a whole other discussion that I should really get to at some point. I am, however, required to point out that the Arizona Territory was the southern half of Arizona and New Mexico—where the slaveholders in the territories were concentrated—and the Grand Canyon is in the north.
Donald Duck, the ultimate Ugly American as always, is on a vacation to the Grand Canyon. Naturally, this includes a tour led by J. Audubon Woodlore, whom we saw last week as well. As is to be expected, he spends most of the cartoon telling Donald not to do things. Donald, who appears to have never taken a not-flash picture in his life, blinds his burro and manages to lose it. Audubon tells him that no one is allowed in the canyon without a burro, and they go looking for it. Instead, they find a mountain lion; Woodlore points out that none have been seen in the canyon since the Civil War, and we find out that this is a very elderly mountain lion. Who, along with Donald, proceeds to completely destroy the canyon.
The best line in the whole short is when Donald is going to “help” the presumably Navajo with a sand painting and is interrupted by Woodlore with, “Please! Don’t disturb the Americans!” That’s awfully progressive for 1954. It kind of makes up for the fact that he’s a stereotype and the only human in the cartoon who isn’t white. But only kind of. It’s also true that the only other humans are a single group of tourists and of course Woodlore; the focus of the cartoon is Donald and the lion.
Woodlore is shown as both a stickler for the rules and not entirely wrong. Donald cavorts about with a blithe disregard for everything and everyone; we’ve seen him do it in cartoons since the ’30s. Woodlore is a force for the rational. He goes a little too far sometimes—it would take more than a few tourists dropping in rocks to fill in the Grand Canyon—but there are other reasons not to do it, and his is a simple one that makes a certain amount of sense.
What makes rather less sense is that, when the canyon is being destroyed at the end, one of the things running out of it is a dinosaur. Why? I have no idea. There are dinosaurs in the Grand Canyon diorama at Disneyland, but the diorama would not be installed for five years yet. It’s a brief gag that I suspect is mostly there because it’s funny to one of the animators.
In the original cartoon, Woodlore tells the group to spread out because it’s Cinemascope. This is referred to on most sites as “breaking the fourth wall,” but that isn’t exactly what it is. He does not say it to us, after all. He is merely, as TV Tropes would phrase it, genre savvy. He knows that he’s in a cartoon, knows that it’s a particularly widescreen one, and reacts accordingly. It’s easily adapted in pan-and-scan versions to “it’s a big canyon.” Which is presumably why Disney set the cartoon there in the first place.
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