January 12, 2008

DVD Review: Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947-1950)

In my many years as a cartoon fan, not quite an aficionado but definitely an enjoyer of fine animated fare, I have always tended to lean to the Warner Brothers side of the coin rather than Disney. I prefer the over-the-top violence that he likes of Bugs, Daffy, and the gang provided as opposed to the more family oriented tack that Disney goes for. Now this is not to say that I don't like Disney at all, there is a special place in my heart for their classic characters and toons alongside the Warner gang. In particular, there are always two Disney characters that float to the top of my favorite lists, and neither are the iconic mouse that has defined the brand for all of recorded history. One of them is the comical dog Goofy, I identify with his prolific ineptitude and enjoy his comical antics. The second is the focus of this two DVD set, the easily irritated Donald Duck. This waterfowl is the most irritable of the bunch, and quite possibly the edgiest of the Disney bunch.

The first two volumes of Donald cartoons were released in 2004 and 2005, so it has been a two year wait for this collection of toons. There has to be more to come following this set. While Mickey Mouse may be the face of the company, Donald was the most prolific character as people, young and old, were drawn to his craziness. You see, Donald was allowed to get a little more out there than the other characters. Mickey had to play it safe being the mascot for the family friendly company, while Goofy was firmly entrenched as the, well, goof. This leaves Donald to play with his anger and be a bit more mean-spirited in his shorts.

The Chronological Donald, Volume Three contains 30 cartoons from this era of toonage. I have to tell you, it has been some time since I sampled the earlier sets (I have a few of the other tins) and it is easy to forget just how good these old cartoons are. Seriously, they just don't make them like this anymore and it is a shame. First off, the animation is simply spectacular. It is simply amazing the amount of care and love, yes love, the creators put into their work. The level of detail is spectacular, and the overall quality is hard to beat. They put a lot of today's cartoons to shame. There is also something to be said about hand-drawn cel animation versus more modern computer generated techniques. Neither one is bad, and when done right either can be great, but there is a certain timeless quality to these old hand-drawn toons. I am not sure if there will be the same amount of reverential love for many of the computer animated cartoons of today.

Watching Donald do his thing in these shorts never gets old. You can put a disk of these in, put it on repeat and never get tired of them. That is, unless you have something against old Disney cartoons and, honestly, who doesn't like these?

When it comes to selecting favorites, it is a tough task as there is nary a clunker in the bunch. If push comes to shove, I am sure I can wrangle a few prime cuts:
  • "Bootle Beetle." This features a new adversary for Donald, in the form of a little beetle. It is told from the beetle's perspective as he relates a story of his encounter with a giant monster while searching for adventure.
  • "Chip an' Dale." This was the short that gave the two chipmunks names and personalities, as well as pairs them with a longtime adversary.
  • "Drip Dippy Donald." This is a short is played primarily silently as Donald tries to get some sleep while being incessantly interrupted by a drippy faucet. It is near brilliant in its execution.
  • "Daddy Duck." Donald becomes a father when he adopts a baby kangaroo. It shows a different side of Donald and has a great scene that has Donald pantomiming a fight with a bear skin rug, getting eaten by the skin at one point.
  • "Inferior Decorator." Donald faces off with a persistent bee and gets his in the end.
  • "Slide, Donald, Slide." This has Donald once again facing off with the little bee. Donald is trying to listen to the World Series while th bee wants to listen to classical music.
  • "Toy Tinkers." Donald takes on Chip and Dale in this clever Christmas themed short.

Considering that these cartoons were made in a different era, and reflect the times they were made in, a few of the shorts are separated out in a section called "From the Vault." This section contains those cartoons with more blatant racial stereotypes. Between the two disks, there are five:

  • "Clown of the Jungle"
  • "Three for Breakfast"
  • "Tea for Two Hundred"
  • "Donald's Happy Birthday"
  • "Bee at the Beach"

Audio/Video. Disney has done a great job of restoring the cartoons. They are virtually spotless and the colors are all bright and vibrant. I can guarantee that if you did not see these during their original theatrical presentations, you have never seen or heard them like this. Simply beautiful.

Extras. There are a few featurettes.

  • Introductions. Historian and critic Leonard Maltin, a longtime lover of Disney’s shorts, introduces each disk.
  • The Many Faces of Donald Duck. This chronicles the history and development of Donald and just how big a star the character became. (14.5 minutes)
  • Sculpting Donald. This takes a look at how the characters are rendered in 3D form to use as an animation reference. This is pretty interesting to see how they go about adapting the flat character into a 3D image. (9 minutes)
  • Donald Duck on "The Mickey Mouse Club." Across the disk are hidden the ten different show openings, each featuring a different Donald gag at the end, not unlike the couch gags on The Simpsons. (~2 minutes each)
  • Galleries. There are a number of art galleries with finished stills and pencil sketches from all of the shorts.

Bottomline. What else need be said? If you like Disney, comedy, old cartoons, or animation in general, this set is a must have. There are plenty of great toons to watch and enjoy. Just remember that these tins are limited. This set is limited to 50,000 (each is numbered with a certificate, mine is 40,260).

Highly Recommended.


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