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Western Animation / Paul Bunyan

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Paul Bunyan is a 1958 animated short film (17 minutes) from Disney, directed by Les Clark.

It is, obviously, an adaptation of the myth of Paul Bunyan.note  A gigantic cradle washes up on the shore of a coastal town in Maine, bearing an enormous baby whom the townsfolk adopt and christen "Paul Bunyan". Paul grows up to be a child of staggering size, so huge that he lifts off the roof of the schoolhouse when he wants to answer a question from the teacher.

Grown so tall that his head sometimes pokes above clouds, Paul heads west, where there are trees to chop. He clears out the Dakotas and digs the Missouri River to float logs. He heads further west, only to have a confrontation with a city slicker carrying a steam-powered saw.


  • All Animals Are Dogs: Babe the ox jumps up on Paul's chest and licks his face just like a dog.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Defied. Despite his unusual size, Paul is well taken care of by the townspeople and all the other kids his age treated him as a close friend. This continues into adulthood, as Bunyan is accepted everywhere as a hero and a Living Legend. Basically the only person who doesn't care for him is Joe Muffaw, the city slicker, who thinks he's a relic.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Paul might have lost to the steam saw, but don't feel bad for him: he's still logging, up in Alaska, and still horsing around with Babe.
  • But Now I Must Go: Shortly after finding his calling as a lumberjack and helping his hometown thrive, Paul disappears west to continue his work, leaving a letter for his adoptive family. They never see him again.
    • Happens again at the end of the short when he loses the race and realizes that technology has replaced him and the gap between man and machine will just keep growing. Saddened, he and Babe leaves for Alaska and the last frontier.
  • Dark Reprise: The jaunty theme tune—"Hey Paul! Paul Bunyan!"—is played slower and in a more ominous key after Paul loses the competition to the steam saw. "Poor Paul...Poor Paul Bunyan."
  • Doorstop Baby: Paul washes up on the coast of a Maine town the night a massive storm nearly levels the place. Where he came from is never explained, but he arrived in a giant cradle, tucked in with a giant blanket, so presumably he was lost by an actual giant family.
  • Gentle Giant: Paul is as friendly as can be, despite being gigantic. Even when Joe Muffaw insults him, he accepts the businessman's challenge fair and square, even though he could have easily squashed the tiny man.
  • Happily Adopted: After Doorstop Baby Paul washes up on the coast of Maine he's happily adopted by the townspeople that find him. The tremendous work it takes to make his clothes and bottle-feed him is Played for Laughs, but thankfully the mechanics of giant diaper changing are not dwelt on.
  • "Just So" Story: Why does Minnesota have ten thousand lakes? Because Paul and Babe trod around and made a lot of deep footprints that filled with water. Why does the Missouri River exist? Paul and Babe dug it to flow water to the saw mills. Why is Pike's Peak so tall? Paul needed a high spot so he could look around. How did the Grand Tetons come to be? From Paul and Babe's wrestling match. Why does Yellowstone Falls flow? It's Paul and Babes shower bath that they left running. Why do the Northern Lights appear? That's Paul and Babe wrestling in the snow.
  • Living Legend: Paul is seen as this during his lifetime, and the narrator compares him to contemporaries such as Captain Stormalong, Joe Magarac, Pecos Bill and John Henry.
  • Man Versus Machine: Paul battles a steam-powered saw to see who can chop down more trees. Paul loses by less than an inch.
  • Mighty Lumberjack: An adaptation of the Ur-Example, a lumberjack so mighty he dug the Missouri River.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Joe Muffaw, marketer of the steam powered saw, is painted as an annoying insufferable nerd. Of course he's only selling a saw, and unlike most of these man versus machine stories, his machine wouldn't even necessarily put any loggers out of work.
  • Schoolmarm: The teacher at the one-room schoolhouse is startled when Paul lifts up the roof to the school to answer a math question.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: Throughout the film, everybody treats Paul Bunyan as a friend and equal... except for Joe Muffaw, who considers him outdated.
  • Technology Marches On: In-universe. Even a mighty, superhuman giant cannot outpace innovation forever, and Paul is defeated by a modern steamsaw.
  • Thick-Line Animation: Animation done with thick lines as was fashionable in the 1950s.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: The climax has Paul battling against Joe Muffaw and his steam-powered saw. Paul loses by 1/4 inch.