Judge Mike Rubino has a deep hatred for chipmunks because they keep ruining his small-business ventures!
Our reviews of Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Four (1951-1961) (published November 24th, 2008) and Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Two (1942-1946) (published February 7th, 2006) are also available.
Who's got the sweetest disposition?
Donald Duck is a man of constant sorrow, hounded by vermin, plagued by a raspy, unintelligible voice, and continuously caught in terrible predicaments. Sure we may laugh at the duck for all of the crazy things he gets himself into, but deep down he is suffering. While we may never see footage from when Donald was in the Navy (because why else would he wear those clothes?), this latest collection shows us the turmoil he went through in the years after the Great War. And, oh, what hilarious turmoil it was.
Facts of the Case
The seventh round of releases for the Walt Disney Treasures brand brings us The Chronological Donald: Volume Three, which features thirty of Donald's post-World War II cartoons from 1947-1950. Here they are:
1947: Straight Shooters; Sleepy Time Donald; Donald's Dilemma; Crazy with the Heat; Bootle Beetle; Wide Open Spaces; Chip An' Dale; Clown of the Jungle*.
1948: Drip Dippy Donald; Daddy Duck; Donald's Dream Voice; The Trial of Donald Duck; Inferior Decorator; Soup's On; Three for Breakfast*; Tea for Two Hundred*.
1949: Sea Salts; Winter Storage; Honey Harvester; All in a Nutshell; The Greener Yard; Slide, Donald, Slide; Toy Tinkers; Donald's Happy Birthday*.
1950: Lion Around; Crazy Over Daisy; Trailer Horn; Hook, Lion and Sinker; Out on a Limb; Bee at the Beach*.
[Episodes with * are featured in the "vault" section of the DVD because of their possibly-offensive subject matter.]
When I was a kid, I had a VHS tape of Donald Duck cartoons that my parents had compiled every time we had a Disney Channel Preview Weekend (because when I was a kid, the Disney Channel was a premium channel). I watched that tape over and over, slowly memorizing every bit of dialogue Donald choked out. Years passed, and I haven't really watched much of Donald before receiving this collection. Thankfully, I can say that much of what I watched as a child is found within these thirty episodes, and I can wholeheartedly affirm that this collection offers some of Donald's best moments.
In these short cartoons, which usually run about seven or eight minutes, Donald is in his grumpy, vice-filled glory. While watching these 'toons, I realized why, exactly, he has become the most popular character in the Disney Universe: he's human. Unlike Mickey, who is busy being the sugar-coated front man for an international corporation, Donald's life is filled with the frustration, anger, and bad habits we all have to deal with. First of all, no one can understand the poor guy. He grumbles and screeches to himself like a crazy man at a bus station. Making matters worse, his speech impediment is so debilitating that he can barely hold down a job; he is constantly forced to go on his own entrepreneurial adventures, most of which are ruined by small rodents and bugs. Then there's the issue of his temper, which goes from 0 to 60 the moment his personal space is invaded by unpleasantness. We often find Donald alone, content to be by himself, and yet no one is content to let him exist in his own world. It's clear the guy always has big plans; whether it's fishing, cooking, or opening an acorn butter stand in the middle of the forest, he's continuously cooking up ways to make money and be happy. But the second someone interferes, or things go awry, Donald loses it. He becomes a vengeful, sour individual who devises sadistic, and often Rube-Goldbergian, means of inflicting pain. Yes, these cartoons, like Donald's attitude, can go from charming to evil rather quickly. That's why Donald is excellent.
There is also the recurring theme of sleep in this collection. When Donald isn't trying to make a buck or kill a small foe, he is just trying to get some shut-eye. These mishaps further complicate Donald's character, and perhaps explain why he is so angry all of the time: In "Sleepy Time Donald," Mr. Duck goes on a lengthy sleepwalking adventure with his girlfriend Daisy, who is afraid to wake him because he might suddenly die; in "Wide Open Spaces," Donald, refusing to pay for a room in a motel, tries unsuccessfully to get some sleep in the woods; in "Trailer Horn," Donald can't seem to get any sleep in his camping trailer thanks to two annoying chipmunks; and finally there's "Drip Dippy Donald," in which Donald must silence a leaky facet in order to get some Z's. "Drip Dippy Donald," is not only the best of the "sleeping" episodes, but it's also the best short in the entire volume.
Unfortunately, not all of the episodes in this volume are winners. Leonard Maltin, who hosts little segments throughout the set, talks about how Donald's shorts usually introduced smaller characters that never really bloomed into full-on Disney stars. Donald ends up having to deal with this annoying riff-raff time and again with varying success. While some characters, like Chip and Dale, went on to become big stars (they were Rescue Rangers, after all), others like Bootle Beetle and Buzz-Buzz the Bumblebee just flopped. Donald, in my opinion, works best on his own, dealing with his private schemes and wooing his love, Daisy. As the volume progresses (especially in the second disc), Donald's tales become inundated with these small, troublesome characters that seem dead-set on ruining everything the duck is trying to accomplish. It was cute in Oscar-nominated shorts like "Chip An' Dale" and "Toy Tinkers," but is not as fun in "Bootle Beetle," "Winter Storage," and "Honey Harvester."
The volume also contains some cartoons "from the vault," which are separated from the rest of the collection. These cartoons feature some questionable material from back in the day when the idea of "political correctness" didn't exist in television. While not nearly as ethnically offensive as some of the Looney Tunes stuff, these vault classics have their share of Chinese stereotypes, smoking messages, and suicide jokes. Disney handles the material well, though, with a nice intro by Maltin. I'm glad they had the guts to stick this stuff on there, and not lock it away forever—especially since some of these episodes, like "Clown of the Jungle," are really hilarious.
Disney has paid a lot of attention to detail with this set and the preservation of these cartoons. All of the shorts have been digitally restored, and look pretty darn good. While there is still the occasional grain or color flickering, overall everything looks great. The cel animation Disney was using back then was incredible, and it comes through vibrantly. The sound is also very good, even if you can't always understand what the heck these animals are saying. The Disney shorts in this set are all very close to being silent films, relying heavily on orchestration and sound effects to tell a story. Everything seems to be synced with the fantastic musical scores used within each short; even Donald's injuries fit within the tempo of the music.
Rounding out this impressively restored collection are some well-produced special features featuring Leonard Maltin. Forget what you think of the man's movie reviews, he knows his stuff when it comes to Disney history. Maltin has a two-minute introduction for each disc, telling the viewer a little bit about the cartoons. His insights are welcomed, and usually pretty informative. He also hosts the two featurettes in the set, "Sculpting Donald" and "The Many Faces of Donald Duck." "Sculpting Donald" takes a look at the use of maquettes in the Disney Animation Studio. Maquettes are miniature 3D scaled models of the animated characters which can be used as references for the animators drawing them. It was a practice that was employed extensively in the early days of Disney. The second featurette, "The Many Faces of Donald Duck," is a 15-minute look back at the development of the Donald character over the years. It features interviews with some animation historians and Disney animators. There are also galleries on each disc which feature storyboards and concept art for many of the episodes in the volume. Finally there are ten Mickey Mouse Club Easter eggs spread across both discs. They're kind of fun to find, but at over 2 minutes apiece with little variations at the end, you may get tired of watching the same thing over and over.
The set comes in a wider DVD case inside of a steel tin. Each set comes with a numbered certificate of authenticity, a well-designed booklet, and some ads for other Disney releases. Overall, it's a beautiful package that will surely preserve these classics for years to come.
This latest Chronological Donald release may be a little inconsistent at times, but Disney can't do much about shorts produced in the past. What's here is still a welcomed addition to the series, and is a great trip down memory lane. Donald is in rare form here, and some episodes in this set ("Drip Dippy Donald" and "Donald's Dream Voice") are true classics.
For the Disney enthusiast, you'll definitely want to pick this up. If you're a parent who is tired of showing your kids Dora and the Cheetah Girls, why not try getting them hooked on the classics? If anything, Donald will teach them how to persevere through countless failures.
Quack, quack, guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• Disc Intros by Leonard Maltin
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