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Let’s celebrate Halloween with the creepiest Disney short ever made: Jack Kinney’s Duck Pimples. It’s quite unlike any of Kinney’s Goofy shorts from the same period, not to mention unlike any short ever produced at Disney.

The weirdness might be attributed to the writing team of Dick Shaw and weirdo-genius Virgil Partch, who were parodying radio crime/noir dramas, but veered off into some wildly surreal territory. It’s not exactly a great cartoon, but it’s entertaining, which can’t always be said for other Disney shorts of the period.

The animation is top-drawer, and the human character designs are big fun. The effect of Donald’s hallucinatory dream is enhanced by the backgrounds that abruptly change each time a new character appears in the film.

The biggest mystery in this whodunnit is who’s responsible for the animation of Pauline, which is one of the finest pieces of cartoony female animation this side of Preston Blair. Milt Kahl is the most likely candidate if we look at the credits, but in studio records, Marc Davis and Fred Moore have both been credited as working on the cartoon too.

Animation drawing by Freddie Moore. (via Andreas Deja)
Animation drawing by Freddie Moore. (via Andreas Deja)

Disney didn’t use a strict unit system in the 1940s like other studios; usually whichever animators had downtime would work on a short, so it’s conceivable that Kahl, Moore and Davis all contributed to Pauline’s animation. Now that’s a scary amount of talent!

  • juan alfonso

    Spoiler alert-Hugh Hennesy did it!(Disney layout artist)

  • pure joy

  • uncle wayne

    Damn…that IZ a pure joy. Thank yoo. I love its music is only organ, a la “Who Killed Who!?”

  • hannah

    Ha ha, I used to have this on the Donald Duck’s Scary Tales VHS with Donald and the Gorilla and Donald Duck’s Lucky Day. Total mind trip when i was a kid.

    • Alison

      OMG, me too! Amazing how different the colors were on the restored version on DVD compared to the tapes. I definitely had scares from these chosen shorts but still watched them all the same.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I remember watching this on a similar tape that had others “Skeleton Dance” on it.

  • tomm


  • Amid: “entertaining, which I can’t say for most other Disney shorts”. I guess we can’t all be Disney shorts fans.

    • And I would like to add, there are many entertaining Disney Shorts.

  • Fleischer Fan

    Thanks for the post, Amid. I disagree only on one point. I do think it’s a great cartoon!

  • snip2354

    Now if you want a more recent cartoon full of unusual nightmare fuel, Runaway Brain is so crazy, Disney won’t even acknowledge its existence!

    • Runaway Brain is definitely crazy, but not so much that the Disney studio ignored it. They liked the film enough to submit it for Oscar consideration, where it got a well deserved nomination. And they included it on the DVD box set Walt Disney Treasures – Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two.

    • It’s also not too hard to find Runaway Brain merchandise at Disneyland.

    • ajnrules

      Seems to me like they are refusing to acknowledge the existence of ‘Redux Riding Hood’ and ‘Lorenzo.’ Those certainly seem like madcap adventures on the trailers available on YouTube, but I wouldn’t know. They seem to be locked up in the Disney vaults.

  • Mr. James

    Loved it! Don’t remember ever seeing this one and if I did it was YEARS ago so thanks for posting it again for our enjoyment.
    Reminded me of scenes from Alice In Wonderland in the best possible way. Especially the scene where the lady’s arms are coming out the thugs coat and scratching his chin. The multiple arm/hand gags always crack me up!

  • Actually, I don’t think any studio had a strict unit system at the time. Animators were always being pulled in from other units to help out at Warners, MGM and Lantz. Disney at the time had little feature work and most of the feature guys were working on shorts.
    I can defintely say that the Traveling Salesman animation looks to be exclusively Kahl. The girl, although well animated and very appealing as a cartoon character is handled very loosely. Kahl and even Davis favored drawing women with long hands and the second and third scene where she appears has that but it looks to be Kahls work as it’s very controled. The first scene where she comes out of the book looks to be Moore as well as some of the later scenes with Pauline on the telephone. I see expressions that the Detective uses which screams out being Moores poses, but the animation is a little weak plus the flow isn’t there and may have been followed up by another animator. Hal King was a very capable animator and he might have handled these scenes as well. Also, I beleive right around this time, Moore ended up leaving Disney and ended up working for Lantz (not sure of the dates). The scene where the detective screams ‘Kidnapped’ is Kahl’s work, along with the scene where The Detective is bouncing Donald like a basketball.
    Kahl is pretty much all over the human characters in this one, except for most of the stuff at the end when J. Harold King comes out of the book.

    • Thad

      No love for John Sibley?

      • Looks like Sibley did the animation of the ‘book’ salesman riding on the imaginary bike, as well as the Detective dunking and eating his donuts…errrr..bracelets.

  • Doug

    That is one strange cartoon — nothing like anything else I’ve ever seen from Disney. I agree that it’s beautifully made.

    I liked the electric organ accompaniment, which I thought was a nice touch. I’ve sometimes wondered why animators and other filmmakers haven’t made more use of electric/electronic and pipe organs.

    • xevo

      Many radio shows that could not afford orchestras were scored with organ music. Since this cartoon was a spoof of such shows, it was natural to go with an organ.

  • Classic cartoon. I’m always up for some Donald Duck action.

    BTW.. Here’s a link to a Donald costume I found on Ebay. Maybe someone in this community may know something about it:

    It’s definitely hand-made, but from what era??

    Any information would help. Thanks! :)

  • TheDirtyVicar

    No panties. Sweet.

  • dbenson

    Always enjoyed how the guy in the raincoat looks EXACTLY like a VIP cartoon when he first appears. Once he goes into action he Disneyfies a little, but it still makes you wish somebody took a shot at animating his peculiar “adult” gags.

  • Mike


    Okay, who else is tempted to start an animation studio that specializes in weird cartoons like this? C’mon, it’s just what the world needs!

  • Brian Kidd

    That was GREAT! I don’t know how I’ve missed it up til’ now. I have the Donald Treasures sets, but I must confess to not having worked through every short. How weird and wonderful!

  • Notice the names of the characters closely: H. U. Hennesy refers to Hugh Hennesy. Leslie J. Clark was a lightly disguised tip of the hat to animator Les Clark. J. Harold King could refer to either animator Hal King, or Jack King … or both!

  • The mixing of three fingered and four fingered characters always disturbs me. I notices this in the feature films like “Robin Hood” where some shots have three fingered characters and some four fingered, but not in the same scene! Good thing it’s Halloween.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      That never bothered me at all! I usually don’t mind it if it’s humans getting four while animals end up with three since it just seems typical that way. Often times though you get moments where someone forgets and you end up with an extra finger on a character that’s suppose to have three.

  • Scarabim

    Weird as hell.

    I prefer Runaway Brain.

  • What I loved about the Donald Duck cartoons is that they were close on the lines of the work of Tex Avery. Although, they didn’t go to the extremes. A good example on Donald being close to the likeness of Tex Avery is the short “Clown of the jungle”.

    This short feels more on the lines of Bob Clampett(particularly the short “Great Piggy Bank Robbery). It would be very nice to see Disney produce a Donald Duck cartoon on the lines of this short. Although knowing Disney, they wont give a damn about its golden age and would focus itself for heavy $$$.

  • JOE

    I take it I need not mention that the woman’s name is Pauline; hence the pearls (perils) of Pauline.

  • TheBandSnapsBack

    Please, let us not forget Lonesome Ghosts, which many of us remember from the Fisher-Price movie viewer. . .

    • dbenson

      Also as a silent 8mm reel. Was impressed at how many of the Disney 8mms were perfectly clear without soundtrack or subtitles. In “Lonesome Ghosts” we totally get the ghosts’ boredom and the content of the phone call. Even “Chef Donald” manages to get across that the duck is inspired and guided by a radio show.

    • wever

      Oddly, ABC Family aired that last year!

      Pretty much the only time any of the classic Disney shorts was ever aired on television today!

  • I remember this Donald Duck short. This was definitely one of the stranger ones. My favorite part I’ve always enjoyed is the scene where the scary-looking man in the yellow raincoat comes in and suddenly acts like a little kid riding an invisible bicycle.

  • Great one!

    Anyone knows/remember a Donald Duck/Ludwig von Drake cartoon ( a very psychoanalytical one) in which Donald had a little man/duck (?) inside his head, driving his actions to meet a girl, I think it was about libido, or sex, or psyche…Some years ago I was looking for this, then I get tired of looking…


    • I think the cartoon you’re thinking of is a 1943 WWII Disney cartoon called ‘Reason & Emotion’. It’s just the way you descibe except it utilizes human characters featuring a very familiar looking caveman that resembles Ward Kimball.
      The cartoon was shown on The Wonderful World Of Color in 1962 in the Von Drake featured episode called, ‘Man is his Own Worst Enemy’. It was rerun later in 1970 and 1976 as Ducking Disaster With Donald Duck.

    • Reason and Emotion is on You Tube! Stop looking and start watching! It’s also available as part of the Disney Treasures set, On The Front Lines, which can be found used or new for about $ 25 on ebay.

  • Jeffers

    As far as strange Disney shorts go I was always a little weirded out by “Mickey’s Garden” as a kid. “The Mad Doctor” is also pretty dark. I agree Runaway Brain was very well deserving of Oscar Nomination and I’d love to see more cool merchandise from it. There have been a few very cool toy sculpts from it. Love Dr Frankenollie!!!

  • DB

    Now I know where most of the footage for “Right Wing Radio Duck” came from – which is a lot scarier and funnier than this.

    Can’t say I liked this cartoon at all – its like a lead-footed attempt to recreate the magic of the sublime earlier “Porky in Wackyland’ (sp?)

    The lady sure seems like a Fred Moore girl to me, but I’m not the expert some of y’all are in these matters.

  • Fun cartoon, great post!! I love seeing these gems pulled out to be revisited!

  • Toon

    Jessica Rabbit?