Donald Duck and his nephews have provided the fodder for many shorts over the years, mostly with Donald warring with the boys over some sort of privilege or item. In Lion Around, Huey, Dewey and Louie appear again but they take a back seat to a mountain lion as the main adversaries for Donald. It’s a nice bit of misdirection that makes for a more entertaining story than we have seen in recent shorts.
The set up and follow through here are quite nice. We open with one of the boys venturing forth into the forest to stalk what appears to be a mountain lion, but is in fact his brothers dressed in a mountain lion costume. Once they are through playing around, they get the chance to go after Donald, who has apparently decided to start baking pies en masse in the midst of the mountains. The pies are an irresistible lure for the boys.
Donald figures things out rather quickly, though, and it’s at that point that things take a left turn. The boys encounter a real mountain lion who then stalks into the forest and takes up the pursuit of Donald’s pies. These must be really good pies, because no one can resist them. You can probably tell where this is headed. Yes, Donald thinks the mountain lion that heads over to his house is actually the boys in disguise, but it’s not.
This is by no means the most original short I have ever seen, but this little twist on a predictable formula was pretty fun. The design of the mountain lion makes him more of a comedic figure, while still allowing for some sense of danger from the chomping jaws. The scenes with Donald trying to escape while the lion charges and bites his way through a table then dresses up in another animal’s head are both laugh out loud funny. It’s this kind of quick gags that make animation so much fun.
In the end, we’re left with Donald having to feed pies to the lion to keep him at bay, trapped in a tree by the savage beast. It’s good that the boys try to help him out, reversing course from their normal attitudes. This is the rare Disney short that manages to take a well trod path and slightly deviate in order to deliver something different. That’s not easy to do when the studio had done so many shorts at this time. Like I said, it’s not the most original thing ever, but it’s enough of a change that it makes things feel fresh.