We can all recall Mickey’s deeds of giant-clobbering glory as the Brave Little Tailor, Donald Duck’s storybook trip to Bahia, and Goofy’s super-goofy horseback-riding lessons! But how many of us remember Donald’s adventure delivering a doll across town in the short The Delivery Boy?
When The Delivery Boy began development in the late 1930s, it was about Donald delivering groceries—or so early publicity suggested. But in 1943 a revised plot was created: The fruit and veggies went out and discarded Pinocchio mechanical doll gags went in. A cute bobby-soxer design was drawn up… but in the end, The Delivery Boy was never delivered.
Holes in the plot reveal why not. The story crew never figured out the doll’s destination: To whom would a museum rent a robot jitterbug? And speaking of jitters—how self-aware was this living doll, anyway? She was sentient when it helped the story, but otherwise a thoroughly mindless mech. Perhaps that’s why this wind-up story wound down.
Delivery boy Donald rides his bike to the Doll Museum, where dozens of life-size mechanical dolls are on display. But when curious Donald tries to wind them up, he is sternly warned: Don’t touch!
The assignment: Donald must deliver a teenage bobby-soxer doll across town. But this proto-fembot is too big to carry. So Don ignores the warning, winds her up, brings her to “life”—and teaches her to pedal his bike. Now she can take herself to her destination… and Don can take it easy!
But alas, en route a construction crane hooks the doll and lifts her onto a ship under construction. Lazy Donald, already paid, could just leave her to wander… but then comes a message from the Museum: The order has been cancelled. Don must get the bobby-soxer back!
Our hero chases the teenage robot along some high beams. But she kicks him into a steam shovel’s gears, then returns to the museum on her own. Dazed Don catches up just in time to be thanked—and warned again: Don’t touch!
These story sketches from The Delivery Boy help us visualize what this short might have looked like if it had been animated.
Images courtesy Walt Disney Animation Research Library.