"The Vanishing Private" is a 1942 Donald Duck cartoon with a story by Carl Barks and direction by Jack King; it is the second cartoon to depict Donald's misadventures in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Private Donald has been assigned to camouflage painting duty for the cannon on an artillery base, but his idea of camouflage is a loud colour scheme of red, yellow, and green stripes with black polka dots. The unimpressed Sergeant Pete tells Donald the point of camouflage is "to paint it so you can't see it!" and tells him to find some new paint. Donald wanders into the base's laboratory and discovers a vat of experimental invisible paint; "That'll work," he says, and carries the paint back to the cannon. When Pete sees the cannon seemingly missing, he initially assumes a Fifth Columnist has stolen it, so he is surprised when he bumps into it. He orders Donald, who is painting the inside of the cannon, to get out, and when Donald doesn't obey, Pete blows into the mouth of the cannon, sending Donald flying back into the invisible paint.
The now-invisible Donald flees his irate sergeant, but he soon decides to have some fun at Pete's expense. He skips around the base while singing "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" as Pete tries to track him down, in the process convincing the General his odd behaviour is a sign of mental breakdown. As Donald's torment escalates, so does Pete's retaliation, until he is lobbing live grenades around; the General is now convinced Pete has gone completely mad from sunstroke, and when Donald pokes Pete in the backside with the General's sword, he drops his armload of grenades, which blow up him and the General.
Pete ends the cartoon in a straitjacket and a padded cell, pleading with his guard, the now-visible Donald, to tell the General he isn't crazy. "Do you think I'm crazy?" Donald answers with a smirk.
This sort provides examples of:
- Exact Words: Pete tells Donald the point of camouflage is to paint the cannon to make it hard to see. When Donald finds a barrel of experimental invisible paint, he thinks he's found just the thing, and within minutes, the cannon is completely invisible, leading Pete to think it's been stolen by a Fifth Columnist.
- Invisibility Ink: The experimental "invisible paint" the Camouflage Corps lab has developed can turn anything completely invisible. Donald initially uses it to paint the cannon, but when Pete knocks him into the paint, he uses his invisibility to drive his sergeant insane.
- Invisible Jerkass: Given Donald's Jerkass tendencies even when he's visible, it's no surprise that he's also a jerkass when he gets knocked into the invisible paint. After he initially gives Pete the slip, he spends the next several scenes pranking him. While Pete is trying to explain his odd behaviour to the General, Donald uses a pair of tongs to drop a cactus down the back of his trousers. When Pete sees a stolen pie that Donald is halfway through eating, Donald smashes the pie in his face. He skips around the base with a jump rope while mockingly singing "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush", and as Pete chases him around a tank, Donald ties the rope to a ladder and stretches it to make a trip wire which sends Pete flying. And at the climax, as the General tries to calm the homicidally insane Pete, Donald sneaks up behind his CO, unsheathes his sword, and stabs Pete in the backside with it, causing him to drop his double armload of hand grenades and blow himself and the General sky high.
- Invisible Main Character: The plot revolves around Donald being rendered temporarily invisible after being knocked into a barrel of experimental camouflage paint. He uses his "powers" to troll Sergeant Pete in revenge for his bullying (and score some extra pie).
- Let Me at Him!: In the climax of the cartoon, Pete sees Donald's footprints appear behind the General as the latter is trying to talk him down from throwing live grenades around willy-nilly; he begins roaring "LET ME AT HIM! LET ME AT HIM!", but the General, who is convinced Pete has gone completely insane, tries to restrain him instead of looking in Donald's direction.
- Loophole Abuse: As far as Donald is concerned, if the "KEEP OUT" sign over the Camouflage Corps lab door doesn't say "positively", he can walk right in. Good luck getting that defence to stand up in a court-martial, Don...
- Not Helping Your Case: Pete, having already led the General to think he is going mad by dancing around while throwing flower petals everywhere and asking if the General has seen "a little guy that you can't see", digs himself in deeper when Donald trolls him to the point that he grabs a double armload of grenades from the arsenal and starts throwing them about.
- Pie in the Face: Donald passes a tray of pies cooling on a window sill and helps himself to them. When Pete looks suspiciously at a pie floating in midair with a bite taken out of it, Donald smashes the pie into his face and runs off.
- Polka-Dot Paint: As the cartoon opens, Donald paints the field cannon with red, yellow, and green stripes with black polka dots. All at once, with a single brush and bucket of paint.
- Sanity Slippage: The General thinks Pete is losing his marbles when he sees him skipping around singing "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (in sarcastic imitation of Donald) and throwing flower petals (in the hope of revealing Donald's location); when Pete asks "Did you see a little guy... that you can't see?" and then starts dancing around screaming (Donald having used a pair of tongs to drop a cactus down the back of his trousers), this just reinforces his belief. The invisible Donald's torment eventually does erode Pete's sanity, until he is running around the base with a double armload of live hand grenades. When the General tries to talk him down and Donald uses the General's sword to make Pete drop his grenades, the sergeant ends up in a straitjacket and padded cell.
- Visible Invisibility: Donald becomes completely invisible after Pete knocks him into the invisible paint. Pete (and the audience) can only see where he is from his footprints or whatever he is carrying.
- You Have to Believe Me!: By the time Pete is throwing grenades everywhere to get Donald out in the open, the General is convinced he has gone barmy, so when Pete sees Donald's footprints walk up behind the General and starts yelling "LET ME AT HIM! LET ME AT HIM!", the General doesn't believe him and assumes he's suffering from sunstroke.