People keep giving Donald responsibility in these 1940s Disney shorts. I’m not sure that is a good idea, but that’s what makes it so funny. In Lighthouse Keeping, Donald is in charge of a lighthouse, which means all ships at sea better be worried. For those of us watching at home, however, it’s some great animation and laughs.
There are some great gags in this short, with Donald doing some things that you would not expect. Take the beginning for example. He is sitting in the top of the lighthouse trying to read a book, but the light of course starts rotating, keeping him from reading. Donald smartly hooks himself to the wheel turning the light, so that he can keep reading. Sure, it only works for a moment, but it’s quite a clever gag.
The core of this short, though is focused on Donald’s cruelty getting him in trouble. When he gets bored because his reading doesn’t work out, Donald shines the light on a pelican nearby. How this might affect the ships at sea is not really dealt with. It definitely affects the pelican, however, and he ends up coming into the lighthouse to take issue with Donald.
What follows is a tit for tat, back and forth battle over the light in the lighthouse, with Donald attempting to keep it lit while the pelican battles him to shut it down. This is where we get fast and furious gags, in a way that we haven’t seen in some time during the Disney shorts. It’s not quite the frenetic energy of the early Mickeys, but it’s as close as Disney comes in the 1940s era.
The pelican is quite the match for Donald. While there’s a long stretch of just blowing out the candle at the light and Donald relighting it with a lighter, there’s some fantastic gags the pelican pulls. One of my favorites is when he convinces Donald that he’s left, and the main duck hides in the pelican’s beak, thinking it’s a box. The use of the beak is one of the best things in this short.
During the short, I got tired quickly of the back and forth over the light with just blowing it out then relighting it, but it all made sense at the end. The two combatants see the sun coming up, which makes their battle pointless. Rather than give in, though, Donald decides to draw the shades and continue the fight forever. What better summation of Donald’s character could there be? He keeps fighting no matter what, even if it’s pointless. For Donald, it’s all about being right and winning.