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STUDIO: Walt Disney Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 5 hours 44 minutes
• Maltin intros and commentary on 2 shorts
• “Donald Goes To Press” comic book history
• The Unseen Donald Duck: “Trouble Shooters”
• 10 extra Mouseworks Cartoons
Before Ducktales (oo-woo-hoo!), a cantankerous water fowl with a speech impediment spreads his misery to family, neighbors, and Mother Nature alike… while refusing to wear pants.
Some chipmunks, bees, bears, but mostly ducks, man. No no, not “Duckman”… eh forget it.
Before the Rescue Rangers had formed, the “Libertine LARPers” were keeping the streets safe!
Uncle Walt was devoting much of his time to live-action content during the Baby Boom period, but his animation studio kept busy creating shorts with the popular duck. This tin collects 31 shorts from that 10 year span (’51-’61), with an extra 10 Donald-centric toons from Disney’s more recent Mickey’s Mouseworks series. A good chunk of the main events were helmed by the prolific and consistent Jack Hanna, who wrote, animated, and directed tons of Disney material for 20+ years.
Huey, Dewey, Louie, Chip, Dale, Humphrey the Bear, Ranger Woodlore, and others pop up regularly to bounce off our volatile lead. The sycophantic Leonard Maltin stops by to explain how a few “From the Vault” entries are products of their more naïve times and the unwitting Donald even participates in educational films about littering, the wheel, and mathletics. Amidst his characteristic temper-tantrums, Donald smokes more cigars, carries more guns, and has a more varied resume (he makes Goofy look employable by comparison) than my aging mind remembered.
Look out, Count Duckula, the curse of the WereLOLf strikes again!
Another great collection of classic shorts here. Like the previous Donald (and other character) volumes, it’s a must-own for fans of hand-drawn output from the House of Mouse. Between the sheer amount of material in this set and the archived quality, I’m once again impressed. It also contains one of my (and my wife’s) faves which was once featured in the now-unavailable Disney’s Halloween Treats special… the holiday-themed musical cartoon, “Trick Or Treat”. With my hearty recommendation out of the way, I thought it best to use the space to explore two revelations I’ve had since my childhood, two theories backed up by this very WD Treasures tin…
1] The Disney story-men were either mentally unstable, subversive, huffing, or all of the above.
The animation, gags, and characters are all very entertaining, BUT…
The premise for many of these toons raises quite a WTF eyebrow. Sure, Donald is a park camper in “Grin and Bear It”, and then a park ranger in “Bearly Asleep” and then a park-neighboring beekeeper in “Beezy Bear” (that poor Humphrey). In Vol 4, he flies model planes, rides model trains, rides horses, sails boats, cares for an orchard, cares for a zoo elephant, sells popcorn in the park, picks up trash in the park, works construction, works at a gas station, works his nephews over, etc. Just about any and every occupation or hobby is used throughout Don’s film career as the basis for one of his cinematic adventures. I certainly don’t need continuity in my cartoons and I’m sure the story department must have been struggling for fresh concepts at the tail end of this theatrical short run, but the ink well they dipped into must have kicked off some toxic fumes… especially in the instances when dress-up was a central plot-point. Examples:
“Bee On Guard” – Donald is such a junkie for honey, he disguises himself as a giant stinging insect in order to siphon the sweet sticky stuff from a nearby beehive… instead of just going to the store, like normal folk.
“Lucky Number” – Donald pumps gas and cleans windshields for a living. To add insult to injury, one of his nephews cross-dresses in hopes of seducing Uncle Donald for a full tank.
“Spare the Rod” – Donald’s nephews, play-acting as pygmy cannibals, cause trouble for Donald when a trio of real pygmy cannibals escape from a passing-by circus train. Political incorrectness and child beatings ensue!
Alas, I had to wait until 1986 to get my first glimpse at duck tits. Thanks, Lucasfilm!
2] Donald Duck is an Asshole… And he is us.
Very few Toontown residents can swing from protagonist to antagonist as effortlessly as Donald. In one short, you’re rooting for him to succeed (Canvas Back Duck, 1953), in the next, to fail (The Flying Squirrel, 1954). He’s selfish, sometimes cruel, and inevitably explosive, but generally a more versatile jerk than WB’s Wile E. or Hanna-Barbera’s Tom (both great in their own right). Daffy’s white counterpart here is a self-fulfilling prophet of Murphy’s Law, bringing bad luck onto himself, and almost never learning from his mistakes either. No character arc. All comeuppance. And yet, after all these years, he’s a fan favorite. We see our own ugly side in the hot-headed white duck, and love him all the same for being able to express his uninhibited anger. Donald’s self-destructive/defeating personality is his fatal flaw, his roadblock, but also his fuel, and his glue, forever maintaining an underdog status and endearing him to us… and especially satisfying our sadistic desire for Schadenfreude.
“Only YOU… can prevent years of therapy for our poor local fauna. And that goes doubly for you… Mister Treadwell.”
Due to the time period of their release, most of the early material here has a FS aspect-ratio, but some of the mid-to-late 50s shorts on Disc 2 are in glorious CinemaScope for the first time. All looks and sounds great. Colors are bright and picture is sharp. All the cartoony sound FX and unintelligible duck-cursing comes in loud and clear. In addition to the hours upon hours of classic and newer bonus cartoons, there’s commentary on two key entries. Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck give insight on “Working For Peanuts” (one of Disney’s first 3-D shorts) and “Grand Canyonscope” (Disney’s first cartoon in CinemaScope). There’s also a feature on Donald’s varied (from suburban Joe to adventuring hero) and pioneering (most of Duckburg’s denizens debuted in print) history in comic books called “Donald Goes to the Press” and a storyboard pitch session for an uncovered unproduced short called “Trouble Shooters”, where our telephone repairduck battles a territorial woodpecker. Like the other chronological volumes before (1-3) and another Treasures set I reviewed, the packaging is slick, if overly-bulky, and will probably be available for a limited time only. So, good luck with your Duck Hunt.
8.5 out of 10