This week, I'll be looking at CinemaScope No. 5: "Beezy Bear". I originally was going to forego the pull-a-number-out-of-a-hat method and cover "Hooked Bear," as it was first released to theatres on April 27, 1956, a whole 55 years ago. Well, 55 years and three days by now. But I realized it wouldn't be fair to whichever cartoon I would have pulled the number out of, and so I decided to leave it to chance, hoping to pull out number seven, which is "Hooked Bear." Instead, I pull out number five, but I'm not complaining as "Beezy Bear" is an excellent Humphrey-Donald-Woodlore short. Incidentally, the short also features a cameo by Spike the bee, who was featured in several cartoons from 1948 to 1952.
Beekeeper Donald is checking on his honey farms - is that the right phrase? - and says hello to fellow beekeeper Humphrey. Mere seconds later he realizes Humphrey is actually a bear! He heads directly to Ranger Woodlore's home to complain. Woodlore summons all the bears, including Humphrey, who is late because he was "bathing." After Donald can't pick which bear it was in a lineup, Ranger Woodlore reminds the bears of the border line between the park and Donald's property. Naturally, Humphrey tries to figure out ways to cross the line, which Donald has fenced now, and makes several attempts at stealing the honey. First he tries trapping the bees and simply walking away with a case, but they chase him away and he jumps into a pond to avoid them.
Ranger Woodlore stops by, seeing Humphrey is washing himself yet again. Humphrey tries other attempts, always ending in the pond with Woodlore discovering him. He finally sees a hose and decides to siphon the honey out. He is caught by Donald, who siphons it back, then attaches the hose to a water pump. Humphrey's siphon is stronger, but as he awaits the large globs of honey that he expects, Ranger Woodlore stops him, and takes the hose. Donald rushes over, and is shocked when Woodlore gives him the hose. He passes it frantically to Humphrey, but Woodlore takes it and gives it back to Donald. Woodlore and Donald fight about it, and Humphrey grabs the hose, holding it directly at his mouth just as a great burst of water shoots out, pushing all three into the pond. Woodlore chastises Humphrey, and Donald agrees: he takes too many baths.
As I mentioned earlier, "Beezy Bear" features a cameo by Spike, a bee prominently seen in shorts such as "Inferior Decorators," "Honey Harvester," "Bee at the Beach," etc. It's little touches like these that I always enjoy seeing in Disney cartoons. The recurring characters that you don't expect to turn up are always a joy when they are present. I don't think the animators expected Spike (or his fellow bee Buzz Buzz) to ever gain a series of his own, especially as the new short cartoons (in its traditional 6-7 minute gag-heavy form) were becoming scarcer in the 1950s. Having little appearances like these were nice little reminders to the audience.
There's a lot of potential in all the characters, from the big ones like Mickey and Donald, to the new ones like Spike and Humphrey. It's bittersweet to watch one of their 1950s cartoons, because it generally got smaller as the decade went on. New Mickey Mouse shorts disappeared from theatres entirely after 1953's "The Simple Things." By the 1960s, the studio's shorts division was experimenting with longer running times or one-off characters and stories (like "The Saga of Windwagon Smith"), and aside from the "Winnie the Pooh" shorts, nothing is really prominent to me from that decade.
But back to "Beezy Bear". It's not a particularly strong entry in the misadventures of Humphrey and Donald, but does have a certain charm. The use of CinemaScope is more perfunctory rather than a big spectacle. But the heart of this short lies in the recurring gags. Humphrey always ending up in the pond could have easily been done to death - imagine a montage of just different attempts by Humphrey that all end in the pond. Instead, they make sure to only let it occur a few times, and to spend time on each of Humphrey's attempts. Thus, when the final attempt (the siphoning hose and burst of water) is utilized, it's such a splash that it pushes Woodlore and Donald into the pond with him, making it the funniest - even if it's expected - use of the gag.
As always, this short is only available on DVD in "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Four". And to add to the list: you can also check it out on a website that rhymes with ZooChoob, MooStoob, or NewReub.