Donald Duck the hunter is just a fun concept. It’s the reason why we see him feuding with Chip and Dale so often, and why Dumbell of the Yukon is so fun. In this short, Donald shows his true motivations very clearly, and provides us with a lot of comedy in the meantime.
In this case the action is driven by the fact that Donald needs to get Daisy a fur coat. That drives him to head out into the wild, gun in hand, in search of a bear. Seeing him in this light is amusing, because we’ve grown to know Donald as a bit of a bumbler. Certainly not on the Goofy level, but Donald’s not exactly known for his physical prowess.
Donald finds a baby bear easily, then pulls off an Indiana Jones style maneuver to wrest the baby from its mother’s arms. Anyone can see where this might be headed, but the journey is the fun part. When Donald gets the baby bear back into his cabin, we see him visualizing Daisy in his mind, wearing the skin of the bear. This could be a creepy segment, considering the cute design of the bear, but it’s pulled off very well.
The issue comes when Donald tries to shoot the bear. Try as he might, there’s no real sense of danger for the little bear. Donald is brandishing the gun and doesn’t shoot and ends up trying all sorts of weird ways to attempt the dirty deed. It’s a fun little sequence because the bear just looks at him in a cute way and doesn’t understand.
That makes this work so well. The psychology of seeing the innocent bear pitted against the “evil” Donald lets us enjoy the fact that our hero is getting thwarted at every turn. After all, we don’t want the cute little bear to get hurt, but we’ve been trained by watching Donald to root for the world’s angriest duck.
Where I found the most fun in Dumbell of the Yukon, though, was when the baby bear’s mother woke up. While the baby bear escapes, the mother comes looking, and Donald has to fill those shoes to keep the mother’s rage at bay. Seeing Donald snuggle up to the mother bear is my favorite part, because it reveals Donald’s other motivation – survival. Throughout his career Donald adapts to his surroundings to survive, no matter what it takes. Dumbell of the Yukon demonstrates that with hilarious results.