Walt Disney Home Video presents
The Chronological Donald: Volume Two (1942-46)
"I want to fly!"- Donald Duck, in Donald Gets Drafted (1942)
Stars: Donald Duck
Other Stars: Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Huey, Dewey, Louie
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 03h:52m:00s
Release Date: 2005-12-06
DVD ReviewMickey Mouse may be the leader of the club that's made for you and me, but deep in our hearts, I think we all know that we're more Donald than Mickey. The forever cheerful mouse always seems to have a sunny disposition, and if life gives him lemons, then doggone it, he's going to make lemonade. Donald, on the other hand, is like the rest of us—temperamental, easily frustrated, quick to anger, feeling like, too much of the time, the world is getting the better of him. Add into the mix some comically ghastly diction, and you've got yourself one hotheaded little duck in a sailor suit.
This two-disc collection brings together 32 shorts from the apex of Donald's onscreen career—he's the duck we know and love, and you can see why he was so wildly popular, both with audiences and with Disney animators. He's a cartoon character in a series of dead-end jobs—wrapping presents at a department store at Christmas, for instance, or trying to shoe a particularly uncooperative horse— who has issues with his girlfriend, Daisy, and who can't seem to maintain even a modicum of control over those dastardly little ducklings, Huey, Dewey and Louie. He does have a friend, at least—no, it's not Mickey here, but the adorably lanky and appropriately named Goofy, who's up for anything, and doesn't much mind getting knocked in the head, repeatedly and with gusto.
You sense, watching these, that the Disney studio had really hit its stride with Donald. Disc One starts with seven Donald shorts from 1942 and 1943—he doesn't much cotton to the guests as Bellboy Donald, for instance, and the nephews get the better of him in Donald's Snow Fight. He's constantly doing battle with other animals, too—a pesky little gopher eats through his prize-winning watermelons in Donald's Garden, and Ben Buzzard tries to perpetrate some insurance fraud by selling Donald a hopeless wreck of an airplane, The Flying Jalopy. These are all entertaining, but sociologically, much more fascinating is a collection of eight Donald shorts dealing with the Second World War. The most notable of these is probably Der Fuehrer's Face, from 1942, in which Donald imagines himself a citizen of the Third Reich—it's a very strange sight to see Donald Duck in a Nazi uniform, but you can almost feel the desperate glee of American audiences, thrilled that someone is sticking it to Hitler, even if only in a cartoon. More typically here, Donald is a buck private facing the rigors of life during wartime—these have more than their share of Japanese yellow peril stereotypes, but those aside, it's a kick to see Donald get drafted, on KP, tormented by his nephews while on leave, and dealing with the whimsies of a demanding and inconsistent sergeant.
The second disc offers seventeen more shorts, from 1943 through 1946—these are the best years of a duck's life, in many respects. Back home, he's tormented by the nephews on Donald's Off Day while trying to make his tee time; he considers getting some back when he's cash poor and promises to take out Daisy, so does he dare to commit Donald's Crime and rob the boys' piggy banks? He falls down on the job as a forest ranger, as a sailor, as a lighthouse keeper, and as a big game hunter; not until Charlie Brown attempted to kick that football would we again see a cartoon character face so much frustration and failure, so consistently. And of course there's something deeply endearing about Donald, who is almost Sisyphean in his efforts—we know (and he probably knows, too) that his endeavors are doomed, but he keeps on giving it the old college try, and blows a gasket each and every time things don't go according to plan. Hang in there, my little feathered friend. Though you might want to think about a trip to see a speech therapist.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The condition of the shorts varies greatly; some look fine and pristine and saturated, others scratchy and faded. Overall level of presentation is reasonable, if not optimal, on these discs.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The mono tracks are reasonably well preserved, though static creeps in with some frequency—and Donald is hard enough to understand as it is.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
- sketch galleries
Disc Two has a few more morsels, starting with Drawing and Talking "Duck" with Tony Anselmo (11m:52s), who has been providing Donald's voice since 1987. It's not from the right time period, obviously, but in an interview with Maltin, he discusses his own life as an animator. More relevant to the shorts in the set is The Art and Animation of Carl Barks (09m:37s), who oversaw the Donald Duck comic books, and developed the Donald persona we've come to know—the featurette includes tributes from animators and historians, giving him the highest praise: "He was the duck man."
A bonus short from 1940, The Volunteer Worker, also comes with a Maltin intro—it shows Donald going door to door for charity without success. An animated timeline (04m:13s) of the activities of the Disney studios during America's involvement in World War II (1941-45) doesn't quite coincide with the years covered by this set. Finally, there are sketch galleries from 14 Donald shorts, not all of which appear on this set; they're lovely to look at, but the DVD menus are rather a challenge to navigate.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsTwo discs' worth of poor Donald falling gloriously and hilariously on his face, from the apex of his screen career. He's more than just a sailor on shore leave or a character running around a theme park—he's a leading man, and this set gives him his well-earned reward.
Jon Danziger 2006-03-23