Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain
Another end of the year, another Christmas-themed Donald Duck collection. This time, it’s historically significant — since Christmas on Bear Mountain is Uncle Scrooge’s first appearance. (His second appearance is in the most recent Donald Duck volume, The Old Castle’s Secret, released this past summer.) In his introduction, Scrooge lives down to his name, sending his nephew Donald and his nephews to a mountain cabin stocked with food and presents only to scare him with a fake bear attack to test how brave he is. It’s a silly story with an artificial premise, but the cartooning is excellent in the many chases and shocked reactions, and ultimately, it’s kind of heart-warming.
The book has a great mix of one-pagers and longer stories, all published from 1947-1948. In various tales Donald attempts to win a gardening contest, follows a treasure map, performs magic tricks, faces off with door-to-door salesmen, gets all mixed up over a dance contest, and tries to become a fireman. They’re full of good, old-fashioned fun and humor, capturing activities from a simpler time leavened with great lumps of imagination and creativity as the stories sprawl in unexpected ways.
Unfortunately, that simpler time also indulged in stereotypes, as when Donald visits the “Volcano Valley” of Volcanovia, where the whole country wears sombreros and serapes, calls people “senor”, and sleeps all the time because everyone is so lazy. In Donald’s “Adventure Down Under”, he hunts kangaroo and gets kidnapped by pidgin-speaking “wild bushmen”. Otherwise, the adventure is exciting and the coloring terrific. I particularly liked “Ghost of the Grotto”, where Dewey gets kidnapped by an armored ghost while the guys are out seaweed-gathering on a ship.
There are story notes on the tales in the back, many of which are quite insightful. Unfortunately, the notes for “Volcano Valley” are the worst in the book. When the writer isn’t merely summarizing the story we’ve already read, he’s justifying the caricature accents and stating (without proof) that “Barks intended nothing… to be culturally derogatory.” Perhaps, but it’d be nice to know why I’m supposed to believe that. The other notes are much better, providing new insight into the tales. On the whole, an entertaining package, with one or two caveats. (The publisher provided a review copy.)