Starring Donald appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect, the visuals of this set echoed the quality of the Chronological Donald package, with only two exceptions.
Sharpness generally appeared quite good. At times, some softness interfered with the presentation; periodically, sequences looked a bit blurry or out of focus. However, those instances seemed infrequent, as the cartoons largely were nicely crisp and clear. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but some light edge enhancement did seem visible on occasion.
Print flaws varied but generally stayed minor for material of this vintage. Overall, the most significant issues related to light dust along with some occasional marks, speckles, grit and blotches. These issues weren’t major, however, and the shorts mainly looked solid.
Colors consistently seemed strong. The tones were bright and vivid throughout the shorts, with very few exceptions on display. The cartoons stuck largely with primary colors, and these looked quite distinct and vibrant at virtually all times. Black levels also appeared nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was clear and accurate throughout the shorts. Overall, I was quite pleased with the quality of Donald.
Where did I find the two exceptions I mentioned? From the pair of cartoons that didn’t appear on Chronological Donald, Volume One. Clearly “Inferior Decorator” and “Bee at the Beach” haven’t yet received the same restoration work enjoyed by the other six shorts. They didn’t look bad, but they displayed weaker definition and sharpness along with many more specks and marks. Colors were flatter and the shorts displayed an overblown sense of whites that threw off their contrast. These two cartoons didn’t look terrible, but they were noticeably uglier than the other six shorts and dragged down my grade from a “B” for the Chronological package to a “C+” for this one.
At least the monaural audio of Starring Donald remained consistent. Dialogue sounded a little edgy at times, a factor exacerbated by the naturally rough tone of Donald’s voice. However, for the most part, the lines were acceptably clear and accurate. (I don’t want to call them “intelligible”, though!) Effects showed a bit of distortion and harshness, but they stayed fairly clean and distinct through the shorts. Music also demonstrated variable levels of shrill and rough tones, but this wasn’t unexpected, and the score seemed reasonably solid.
Decent depth accompanied some effects, but the track was pretty thin and tinny as a whole. In addition, the tracks seemed pretty clean for audio of this era. Overall, the sound heard during Donald won’t win any awards, but I found the mixes to come across as pretty clear and accurate for their age.
No significant extras appear on Starring Donald. We get a collection of ads in the Sneak Peeks domain. This includes promos for Bambi, Cinderella, Mulan II, and a two-disc set with Porco Rosso, Nausicaa and The Cat Returns
My favorite Disney character, Donald Duck doesn’t get his due in the lackluster Starring Donald. Of the set’s eight shorts, only one is above average; the other seven are mediocre at best. The DVD presents generally strong picture quality, though one pair of cartoons look noticeably worse than the others. Audio is fine for its age, and the set includes no significant extras.
Fans should steer clear of this bland set. If you want some Donald, go for the vastly superior Chronological Donald. It’s more extensive and includes better shorts. Starring Donald will tempt some fans just to get the two cartoons not yet issued elsewhere. Be patient – they’ll come out eventually in The Chronological Donald, Volume Two, and I’m positive they’ll receive better treatment there.