I have made no secret that my two favorite of the Fab Five Disney characters are Donald and Goofy. So it should be no surprise that I enjoy the shorts where the two of them get together. In Frank Duck Brings Em Back Alive, though, it feels like we have a rehash of another company’s material, and it diminishes both of the Disney characters.
Goofy here plays the role of a feral wild man, lost in the jungle. The titular Frank Duck, played by Donald, arrives in the jungle to take him away. No one consulted the Goof about this decision, however, so he manages to fight back with all the resistance he can muster. While this leads to great gags, it feels like something we’ve seen before.
That’s probably my modern retrospective eyes talking. This seems like something that we would have seen many times from the Elmer Fudd/Bugs Bunny camp, and it plays that way. In doing so, Goofy tends to act out of character. He is not supposed to be a cunning acrobat who gets the last word on his opponent. Goofy is supposed to be a bumbler who lucks into (or out of) great fortune.
That Goofy, though, is not what we get here. Jungle wild man Goofy is a confident bumbler, if such a thing can be said. While he still makes some simple mistakes, like helping Donald with a cage that the duck wants to put him in, this Goofy is smarter than Donald. That shouldn’t be the case.
Donald acts the way he should for the most part. He is aggressive and irritable, but still easily fooled by the Goof. That leads to some great gags, like the cage carrying scene, where Goofy gets trapped in a cage with no bottom, but Donald lifts it up to carry it anyway, not realizing that Goofy is not inside. That’s just one gag, but there were plenty more, and they weren’t bad for the most part.
The final one was my favorite, however, as the two enter a darkened cave during their chase, and end up switching clothes somehow. I will not speculate what Donald and Goofy were doing in the cave, but the clothes get swapped and they are chased out by a lion. It’s funny, but again it feels a bit more Looney Tunes than Disney. That’s not necessarily bad, but it keeps Frank Duck from being one of my favorites.