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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Donald Duck
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
In this final volume, our chronicle of Donald's solo-starring shorts wraps up with some of his rarely seen, feather ruffling adventures from 1951 through 1961. And, for the first time on DVD, Donald's CinemaScope cartoons are presented in their original widescreen format. This collection of classics includes two of Donald's Academy Award nominated Best Shorts - "Rugged Bear" (1953) and "No Hunting" (1955); a retrospective of Donald's career in comic books; and a storyboard presentation for an unproduced Donald Duck cartoon pitched by famed Disney animator Eric Goldberg. From bit player to superstar, Donald gave voice to the frustrations of everyone and in the process endeared himself to the world. Featuring exclusive introductions by film historian Leonard Maltin, this is a timeless collection from generations past for generations to come.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural (For All Shorts Except “Grand Canyonscope”)
English Dolby Surround 2.0 (“Grand Canyonscope” Only)
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 201 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 11/11/2008

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Leonard Maltin Introductions
• “From the Vault” Bonus Shorts
• Audio Commentary for Working for Peanuts
• “Donald Duck Goes to Press” Featurette
• “The Unseen Donald Duck” Featurette
• Galleries
DVD Two:
• Leonard Maltin Introductions
• “From the Vault” Bonus Shorts
• Audio Commentary for Grand Canyonscope
• 10 Mouseworks Cartoons


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Chronological Donald: Volume IV (1951-1961)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 20, 2008)

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We find the final collection of Donald Duck cartoons via The Chronological Donald Volume Four. Like you might expect, this one picks up where Volume Three ended. It presents 25 shorts that span a period of 10 years. We start with 1951’s “Dude Duck” and progress through 1961’s “The Litterbug”.

For each short, I’ll offer the following information: the year in which it was produced and its director. I’ll also provide a quick synopsis of the cartoon plus my number grade for each one done on a scale of 1 to 10.

DVD One (one hour, 32 minutes, 41 seconds):

Dude Duck (1951, Jack Hannah): When a bunch of babes visit a dude ranch, a horse named Rover Boy hopes they’ll ride him. Instead, he gets stuck with Donald, a fate he does his best to avoid. Rover Boy provides a surprisingly good foe for Donald, as their interactions provide solid sparks. I don’t know if we ever see Rover Boy again, but this makes for a strong short. 9/10.

Corn Chips (1951, Jack Hannah): Chip an’ Dale interfere when Donald Duck attempts to enjoy some popcorn. No characters get under Donald’s skin quite like these chipmunks. “Corn” takes a simple premise and makes the most of it. 8/10.

Test Pilot Donald (1951, Jack Hannah): When Donald’s prized model airplane lands in his tree, Dale takes it for a ride, much to the Duck’s consternation. Some of the Donald/Chip an’ Dale shorts tend to favor the rodents, but this one balances the two factions fairly well. It provides a moderately clever concept and turns into an enjoyable cartoon. 7/10.

Lucky Number (1951, Jack Hannah): Donald’s nephews want to surprise him with a new car won in a contest, but first they have to retrieve. Unwittingly, Donald stands in their way and complicates their mission. I suppose shorts like “Number” should benefit from the manner in which Donald sabotages his own happiness, but I gotta admit his behavior becomes somewhat frustrating. I actually feel bad for the characters, and that harms the comedy. 6/10.

Out of Scale (1951, J. Hannah): Because it doesn’t fit with the proportions of his backyard train, Donald tries to remove the tree in which Chip an’ Dale live. As with the prior cartoon, the chipmunks create a nice foil for Donald, and that helps make “Scale” another winning short, especially when it takes a clever twist toward the end. It does make one question the pair’s sexuality when they set up house together, though. 7/10.

Bee On Guard (1951, Jack Hannah): Donald tries to pilfer honey from a tree and comes up against a dim-witted but determined guard. Initially I feared that this short’s lead bee would be that annoying buzzer from earlier efforts, but I don’t think that’s the case. He uses the same basic design but seems fatter and dopier. That makes him a more satisfying foil for Donald, and the short fares pretty well for itself. 7/10.

Donald Applecore (1952, Jack Hannah): Chip an’ Dale steal apples from Donald’s tree and he tries to halt this. Although I dislike the extremely self-destructive behavior of “Lucky Number”, I think Donald works best when his own faults undercut his success. In “Applecore”, however, he seems too much like the victim. Actually, I suppose Donald’s too aggressive and angry to feel like a true victim, but I think he earns some sympathy since the chipmunks clearly provoke him with their theft. It’s not as much fun to see Donald punished when he doesn’t do anything wrong. 5/10.

Let’s Stick Together (1952, Jack Hannah): An elderly bee named Spike reminisces about his earlier collaboration with clean-up man Donald. Yes, Spike is definitely that “Honeynut Cheerios” bee from the earlier days, though it’s odd to see him befriend Donald. This actually provides some clever moments, at least until they inevitably come to blows. Even for Donald, it seems cruel to which him attempt to kill Spike’s bee girlfriend! Nonetheless, it’s usually a good little short. 7/10.

Trick or Treat (1952, Jack Hannah): Donald toys with his nephews on Halloween. This cartoon offers a funny and entertaining look at the Duck's Halloween sadism and his inevitable comeuppance. 8/10.

Don’s Fountain of Youth (1953, Jack Hannah): Donald and the nephews visit Florida, where they find the old stomping grounds frequented by Ponce de Leon. Donald uses the opportunity to mess with the boys. The Duck’s attempts to trick his nephews become amusing, though never particularly inspired. 7/10.

The New Neighbor (1953, Jack Hannah): When Donald moves to a new house, he has to deal with the obnoxious behavior of neighbor Pete. Unlike most Donald shorts, this one gets some points for our ability to connect with its tale, as virtually all of us have been stuck with pushy, annoying neighbors. It remains a little odd to see Donald as the aggrieved party, but the cartoon still has its moments. 7/10.

Working for Peanuts (1953, J. Hannah): When the chipmunks see all the peanuts a zoo elephant receives, they try to horn in on that action. As I previously expressed, Chip an’ Dale worked well against Donald Duck, but you won’t tell that here. Donald receives primary billing for this short but plays a surprisingly small role. Instead, the chipmunks mainly battle Dolores the elephant. She’s not a very interesting character, and that leaves “Peanuts” as a lackluster short. 5/10.

Canvas Back Duck (1953, Jack Hannah): Donald goes to the carnival and finds himself involved in a boxing match with Pete. Did Disney ever develop any real evil characters for their shorts other than Pete? Maybe, but I can’t think of any. He made many appearances over the decades and remains the quintessential Disney baddie. “Canvas” follows a fairly predictable path, but it comes with a good number of laughs. 7/10. 109:16

DVD Two (one hour, 49 minutes, 16 seconds):

Donald’s Diary (1954, Jack Kinney): We watch the first meeting and gradual romance between Donald and Daisy and compare his version with the reality. This short doesn’t excel, but it has some good moments. It doesn’t make much sense that HD&L appear here as Daisy’s brothers, but no one looks toward Disney cartoons for internal consistency. Who knew Daisy was such a slut, by the way? 7/10.

Dragon Around (1954, J. Hannah): When Dale sees Donald’s construction vehicle, the imaginative rodent thinks he’s a dragon. The pair battle both mechanical beast and Duck. This one uses the usual basic story, but its use of the construction device and the fantasy theme make it more creative than most. 8/10.

Grin and Bear It (1954, Jack Hannah): Donald visits Brownstone National Park and interacts with a hungry bear named Humphrey. I’m not sure if “Grin” represents Humphrey’s first appearance or not; he’d show up a few more times, though I don’t think he ever became a particularly beloved Disney character. Frankly, he’s kind of irritating, but “Grin” gets in some laughs anyway – some unintentional, as the way we view the word “molest” today gives the “don’t molest the bears” sign a different meaning. 7/10.

The Flying Squirrel (1954, Jack Hannah): Donald sells peanuts in a park, and the title character tries to steal them. The lead rodent comes across as nothing more than a solo variant on Chip an’ Dale. He flies and he’s not as goofy, but otherwise he’s a lot like his tree-dwelling predecessors. His aerial exploits offer some fun gags but the short remains less than stellar. 6/10.

Grand Canyonscope (1954, Charles A. Nichols): We follow Donald as he tours the Grand Canyon and also encounters a gruff old lion. The first of a few CinemaScope shots found here, the short ran along with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The short uses the full CinemaScope frame to good effect and presents decent laughs. 6/10.

Bearly Asleep (1955, Jack Hannah): A few shorts back, Donald was a tourist at the national parks, but now he’s a ranger? Well, he was selling peanuts in a park recently as well; no one looks to Disney cartoons for continuity. Here he deals with Humphrey’s attempts to stay in his house during the cold winter. I still don’t much care for Humphrey, and “Asleep” doesn’t benefit from the widescreen treatment as well as “Canyonscope”. 5/10.

Beezy Bear (1955, Jack Hannah): For CinemaScope short number three, Donald runs an apiary and Humphrey tries to steal honey. Oddly, he’s back to civilian status here and is no longer a ranger, though his farm abuts the park. Humphrey’s charms remain modest, so “Beezy” doesn’t do much to charm. 5/10.

Up a Tree (1955, Jack Hannah): Lumberjack Donald attempts to fell a huge tree, much to the dismay of its inhabitants, Chip an’ Dale. Since the last few shorts have featured inferior characters like Humphrey and the flying squirrel, it’s good to come back to our favorite chipmunks. Granted, I’ve never been wild about the gay rodents, but they’re better than their competition. “Tree” features a simple but effective battle between the Duck and the boys. 7/10.

Chips Ahoy (1956, Jack Kinney): After a quick return to 1.33:1 dimensions, “Ahoy” brings us back to CinemaScope glory – and delivers our first look at widescreen Chip an’ Dale. The boys try to use Donald’s model boat to traverse water and get some nuts. This allows for some aquatic hijinks that generally amuse, though it’s never particularly clear why Donald tries so hard to stop the chipmunks; I guess it’s just his natural sadism. In an unusual turn, it makes the normally dopey Dale out to be pretty bright; he predicts all of Donald’s attacks and addresses them before they occur. 7/10.

How to Have an Accident in the Home (1956, Charles A. Nichols): For the set’s final CinemaScope short, “Accident” combines comedy with information. It shows all the ways folks can increase the odds something bad will happen to them in their houses. “Home” gets across its message without too much preachiness and it makes its points via some decent comedy. 6/10.

Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959, Hamilton Luske): A long (27:38) educational film, Donald enters the mystical “Mathmagic Land” and learns how important math is to the world. If I were stuck in class right now, I’d enjoy “Mathmagic” as a fun diversion from a boring lecture. However, I finished school a long time ago, so I can’t find much in “Mathmagic” to entertain me. As educational programming, it’s fun. As plain entertainment, it doesn’t do anything for me, though we do get the bizarre sight of Donald done up like Alice in Wonderland. 5/10.

Donald and the Wheel (1961, Hamilton Luske): Also unusually long (17:55), “Wheel” provides another educational piece. Wise old “Senior” teaches scatting, jive-talking “Junior” about the amazing wheel. Donald pops up in historical vignettes that depict the wheel’s use over the years. It’s faster-paced and more enjoyable than “Mathmagic”, though it’s also more dated with beatnik Junior. Still, it’s fun for what it is. 7/10.

The Litterbug (1961, Hamilton Luske): We end the set with a short that’s closer to a public service announcement than a piece of comedy. “Litterbug” posits Donald as a thoughtless jerk who creates lots of waste. It’s interesting mainly as a curiosity, as it’s not particularly entertaining. Frankly, it’s more sanctimonious than I’d like. 4/10.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Most of The Chronological Donald, Volume Four appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few exceptions occur: “Grand Canyonscope”, “Bearly Asleep”, “Beezy Bear”, “Chips Ahoy” and “How to Have an Accident in the Home” all appear in an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, and those do feature 16X9 enhancement. Though a bit of a mixed bag, the visuals usually held up well over the years.

For the most part, sharpness appeared very good. A smidgen of softness occasionally interfered with wider shots, but the majority of the elements looked accurate and concise. Few issues with shimmering or jagged edges materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement.

Source flaws varied but usually remained modest. Grain stayed within acceptable limits, and other defects cropped up without great frequency. I noticed occasional specks, blotches and marks, but not lots of them. Some shorts suffered from more damage than others – “Working for Peanuts” was probably the worst of the bunch, and “Mathmagic” showed more grain than most - but the majority demonstrated pretty nice cleanliness.

Colors also seemed a bit up and down, but they usually satisfied. The shorts favored broad, basic hues that appeared pretty vivid and full most of the time. The grain occasionally diminished their power, but I thought the tones were generally positive. Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows demonstrated nice definition. I thought “Working for Peanuts” appeared a bit bright, but it wasn’t a terrible offender. All in all, the shorts looked solid.

Note that while “Grand Canyonscope” originally appeared on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea DVD, this wasn’t the same transfer. That one lacked 16X9 enhancement, whereas this version gave us the full anamorphic treatment. I appreciated that and I was happy to note that the short got a visual upgrade.

The monaural audio seemed fine given the age of the cartoons. As always, speech played a minor role. Even the best recording of Donald would remain essentially unintelligible, and few other lines appeared in these shorts. The bits of dialogue seemed acceptably well-defined and suffered from no obvious problems.

Music became a dominant part of these tracks, and the shorts’ scores offered fairly good reproduction. Those elements lacked great dimensionality, but they seemed clear and reasonably robust. Effects also came across as acceptably accurate and clear. Only a little background noise interfered with a few of the shorts. Nothing about the audio excelled, but the tracks were just fine for shorts made in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Note that “Grand Canyonscope” offered Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. For it, the sound quality remained similar to what I heard in the mono cartoons, but the soundfield opened up a bit. Don’t expect a whole lot, however, as the various channels didn’t offer a ton of material.

The music still sounded pretty monaural, so we simply heard occasional effects and a little directional dialogue from the side speakers. I noticed no distinct information from the surrounds. While the soundscape of “Canyonscope” didn’t dazzle, it broadened the impact of the short in a decent manner.

As usual, we find a mix of extras across the two discs of The Chronological Donald. On DVD One, we get two shorts under the banner From the Vault. This area collects politically incorrect cartoons and segregates them so they don’t warp unsuspecting, innocent minds. Here’s what we get:

Uncle Donald’s Aunts (1952, Jack Hannah): As he walks home, Donald spills sugar and attracts the attention of ants. Usually Donald goes up against one foe, so it’s interesting to see him fight hundreds of them. The short makes clever use of household objects and provides good entertainment. 8/10.

What makes this one controversial? The short depicts the ants as African tribesmen, so it indulges in broad stereotypes.

Rugged Bear (1953, Jack Hannah): Hunting season arrives, and Humphrey the bear attempts to avoid a fate as a rug. To do so, he impersonates Donald’s rug! The simple situation produces nice amusement and some creative bits. 8/10.

What puts this one in “The Vault”? I honestly have no idea – it’s offensive to gun nuts? I watched the short twice and couldn’t figure out what was problematic about it.

Under “Bonus Features”, we discover three pieces. We find an audio commentary for “Working for Peanuts”. Film historians Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck discuss the short’s 3D origins and the use of that process as well as cast and aspects of the cartoon. They don’t get much time to talk, but they provide some nice details.

Donald Goes to Press runs 12 minutes, 48 seconds and features remarks from Disney Comic Books archival editor David Gerstein, Disney Comic Books freelance scripter Joe Torcivia, Disney Comic Books managing editor Bob Foster, Disney historian Brian Sibley and artist, illustrator and cartoonist Bret Blevins. We learn about the origins of Disney comic books as well as their development over the years. We get a lot of good notes here, especially when we hear about characters created specifically for the comics as well as the way they took off overseas. This becomes a short but useful program.

For a look at an unfinished short, we go to The Unseen Donald Duck: “Trouble Shooters”. During this 10-minute and 12-second piece, Maltin chats with director Eric Goldberg about “Shooters”, an aborted project from 1946. Essentially Goldberg takes us through the story pitch, so we see original sketches created to sell the short as the director acts out the scenarios. It’s a fun look at an abandoned cartoon.

Expect the usual Leonard Maltin Introductions here. On DVD One, he gives us a three-minute and 29-second chat that provides an overview of what we’ll find on this disc and the decline of the animated short at Disney. Maltin also provides a 26-second intro to the “controversial” shorts found in “From the Vault” to place them in their period context.

Over on DVD Two, we get three more shorts From the Vault:

Spare the Rod (1954, Jack Hannah): When Donald’s nephews slack off and fail to do their chores, “the voice of child psychology” teaches him “modern methods” to get them to cooperate. As one who works in child psychology, I find it amusing to see the current debates about child rearing existed in virtually the same way five decades ago. It takes some weird turns and proves pretty enjoyable. 8/10.

What lands this one in “The Vault”? We find some “man-eating pygmy cannibals” as part of a circus. The nephews also pretend to be various kinds of native warriors. Occasionally I think that the Disney people are too PC when they put some of the shorts in “The Vault”, but I can’t complain here; clearly “Rod” indulges in quite a few stereotypes. It doesn’t do so in a mean, ugly way, but it does seem radically outdated.

No Hunting (1955, Jack Hannah): Another CinemaScope offering, one of Donald’s ancestors magically returns to life and recruits the Duck to go hunting. I bear no affection for the barbaric “sport” of hunting, so I like the way the short mocks the shooters and their ilk. The cartoon also boasts a clever and hilarious cameo from a major Disney character. 9/10.

This one gets “Vault” treatment due to a very brief appearance of a stereotypical Indian guide. It’s a quick glimpse, but I guess the folks at Disney though it was enough to merit the short’s placement in the “Vault”.

How to Have an Accident at Work (1959, Charles A. Nichols): A non-CinemaScope sibling to “How to Have An Accident in the Home”, “Work” shows all the problems people can cause on the job. I don’t know why they used Donald for these shorts, as Goofy seems like the more logical participant. It’s really weird to see Donald with a wife and kid. Like its sibling, “Work” provides a decent mix of laughs and information. 6/10.

What puts “Accident” in “The Vault”? A quick moment in which JJ Fate presents an “old Chinese proverb” with both a stereotypical voice and look does the trick. It’s more obvious than the offending moment in “Hunting” but not nearly as bad as what we saw in “Rod”.

Yes, you’ll find more Leonard Maltin Introductions here. He gives us a three-minute and 13-second lead-in to DVD Two as well as the same 26-second preface for the “From the Vault” shorts found on DVD One. The main intro tells us a little about Donald’s shorts in the era found on this DVD.

Another audio commentary pops up on this disc, as Maltin and Beck chat about Grand Canyonscope. They discuss the CinemaScope production of the short and the challenges that came with the widescreen format. They also chat about the short’s crew and cast, its design, its stereo audio, and other aspects of the production. Once again, Maltin and Beck offer enough useful notes to make their chat worth a listen.

Part of a 1999 TV series, we get 10 Mouseworks Cartoons. These run a total of one hour, one minute and 54 seconds. During his intro, Maltin promises these shorts will be a pleasant surprise. Is he right? Yeah, they’re not bad. They come with a mildly more modern sensibility, but they don’t feel disconnected from their predecessors. They offer decent amusement.

Finally, the DVD’s booklet includes a short text overview from Maltin as well as some archival images. An insert card displays a reproduction of the poster for “Grin and Bear It”, and we get a “Certificate of Authenticity” as well.

Donald Duck’s run as the star of short cartoons ends in The Chronological Donald Volume 4. Happily, the quality of the Donald films remained strong from beginning to end, so V4 finishes the series on a good note. Fans will especially love the inclusion of unusual CinemaScope shorts. The DVD presents the usual fine picture quality along with more than acceptable audio and a smattering of useful supplements. Chronological Donald V4 belongs in the collection of all Disney animation fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main