Nightmare Nostalgia originally started as an ode to the nightmares of our childhood and lemme tell you growing up in the 80s, I still don’t know how we were spoon-fed things like The Secret of NIMH or The Neverending Story as a family flick. AND LAWD HAVE MERCY DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON E.T. So it only seemed fitting that we revisit this little Disney nightmare I watched quite a bit growing up- Donald Duck and the Gorilla!
Originally released to theaters as part of the cartoon shorts campaign in March of 1944, Donald Duck and the Gorilla played in pretty heavy rotation when I was a kid in the 80s via Disney programming such as Good Morning Mickey! and Donald Duck Presents. Also, was pretty much the best part of Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982) beyond the Sleepy Hollow segment. It quickly became a favorite after a brief stint of this cartoon absolutely scaring the piss out of me as a toddler.
That Gorilla was scary, OK?! He was out for blood man and it gave me some fucked up nightmares.
The gorilla, actually named Ajax, has escaped from the zoo on a stormy night as reported by a radio announcement that Donald and his nephews are listening to. The kids are obviously horrified at the thought of a giant gorilla on the loose, and in true Donald fashion, Uncle
Asshole, erm Donald makes a mockery of the situation pranking the ducklings and laughing the whole way. However, the kids prank Donald right back, as hey, Uncle taught them well, by dressing up in a life-like gorilla suit which turns into a scare-fest of terrifying each other- until the real thing shows up at their front door.
Ajax breaks into the house and with Donald still assuming that Ajax is merely his nephews’ fucking around, grabs the giant monkey by the face to try and pull off the “mask” only to discover this is indeed the real goddamn thing. Donald looks the ape straight into the eye, as per the radio announcer in an attempt to subdue the animal, but only sees a tombstone in the eyes of the animal that read, “Here Lies a Dead Duck.”
Chaos ensues as the chase around the house is tense and electrifying and I gotta say it left me on the edge of my seat as a kid. It helps that there’s a transition from the initial jump-scare scenes to you laughing your ass off during the maze-like house chase and ending as a real “tearjerker”.
Also released in 1983 VHS and Laserdisc style, the short was included in the Disney Scary Tales Volume 3 release and is a national treasure if you can ever get a hold of one.
I have some pretty fond memories of this as a kid, from the nightmares as a young Patti, to the fun of watching this one, especially during Halloween time. Both are equally tangible to me. So let’s revisit this little gem together.
That is all. Brekenridge.