Good Scouts was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 11th Academy Awards in 1939, but lost to Disney's own Ferdinand the Bull. Also nominated that year from Disney were Brave Little Tailor and Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, setting the record for most nominations in the category for one studio. Good Scouts was the first Academy Award nomination for the Donald Duck series.
Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie are on a scouting expedition at Yellowstone National Park with Donald acting as the Scoutmaster. The ducks march along in military style singing "Polly Wolly Doodle." Arriving at their camp site, Donald unsuccessfully tries to teach the boys wilderness skills. He tries to chop down a petrified tree and pitch a tent with bad knots causing the nephews to laugh at his mistakes.
Frustrated at the nephews' lack of gratitude for his efforts, Donald decides to make them sorry by pretending to have been injured, pouring ketchup over himself. The dutiful nephews spring into action and quickly bandage Donald from head to toe. Donald is then unable to see and wanders aimlessly, eventually falling into a honey jar.
A large grizzly bear soon arrives having been attracted by the smell of food. Trying to escape the bear, Donald runs off a cliff and falls onto "Old Reliable Geyser" (a reference to Old Faithful) and gets his rear end stuck in the opening of the geyser. The water shoots Donald into the air, bringing him closer to the bear who is still above at the cliff's edge.
The nephews try to save Donald by plugging the geyser with a long log and then with three stones, all of which prove unsuccessful. They finally roll a large boulder over it, but the geyser is only stopped momentarily before bursting again, with the water shooting Donald and the boulder up to the same level of the cliff, allowing the bear to jump on top of the boulder to chase Donald, with the boulder rotating under their feet, perfectly balanced on top of the continuous stream of water from the geyser. By nighttime, the chase is still ongoing, and the nephews, having exhausted their means of rescuing their uncle, bed down in their tent for the night, wishing him "Good night", "Unca", "Donald".
Good Scouts was the second animated appearance of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who had first appeared in the Donald Duck comics, and marked a significant change in their behavior. In their earlier appearances, the triplets were mischievous and caused a lot of trouble for Donald. But in Good Scouts the boys seem to have matured a great deal. They are shown as being resourceful, using teamwork, and generally trying to help Donald out of trouble. Although the boys are seen as mischievous in several later appearance, it was this more helpful characterization which would become more characteristic of them.
The film was also the first to show Donald in a leadership role. In earlier appearances he was "someone just trying to go about his business and getting interrupted and irritated by others." As such, the film was an influence to later films such as Sea Scouts (1939) and Home Defense (1943).
- 1938 – theatrical release
- 1956 – Disneyland, #2.18: "A Day in the Life of Donald Duck" (TV)
- 1961 – Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, #8.11: "Kids is Kids" (TV)
- 1965 – Donald Duck Goes West (theatrical)
- 1981 – "Kids is Kids Starring Donald Duck" (VHS)
- c. 1983 – Good Morning, Mickey!, episode #69 (TV)
- c. 1992 – Donald's Quack Attack, episode #61 (TV)
- 1997 – The Ink and Paint Club, episode #1.20: "Huey, Dewey and Louie" (TV)
- 2004 – "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald" (DVD)
- 2005 – "Classic Cartoon Favorites: Extreme Adventure Fun" (DVD)
- 2011 – iTunes (digital download)