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Not Exacerbating at All
on 20 November 2005
The Walt Disney Treasures series has been a gold mine to Disney lovers who want to own the old classics from the early days. Having previously focused on Mickey and Goofy, the series now turns to Donald Duck for the first of what promises to be many volumes.
This set focuses on his early solo career with 36 cartoons from 1934-1941. It actually starts with "The Wise Little Hen," a Silly Symphony retelling of the classic fable where Donald only plays a small part. He's a co-star in "Donald and Pluto," and finally gets solo billing in the third short, 1937's "Don Donald." That short also introduces an early version of Daisy, who only shows up again one other time in this set, "Mr. Duck Steps Out" on disc two. His nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, make many appearances in this set in such shorts as "Donald's Nephews" (their first), "Hockey Champ," "Good Scouts," and "Truant Officer Donald."
I must admit, Donald has always been my least favorite of the Disney characters. My first complaint has been that I never could understand a word he's saying. I watched every cartoon in the set with the closed captions on, and let me tell you, it made quite the difference. Unfortunately, sometimes it spoiled a joke by letting you guess something was coming, but it was still worth it.
My other problem with Donald is more fundamental. He gets provoked way too easily and has a mean streak. There are some cartoons where I find myself rooting for him to fail, like when he tries to drown a bee for fun in "Window Washers." Of course, I find myself sympathizing with him more often then not, such as when a fly buzzes him for no reason in "Old MacDonald Duck." And sometimes it's just a case of funny bad luck, as is "Donald's Lucky Day" or "Chef Donald."
Leonard Maltin continues to host this series. As usual, we get an informative introduction on both discs. He also gives us a warning before any cartoon that might be considered offensive today. Like many, I find his breaking in more annoying then anything in the cartoons itself, but if that's what it takes to get these cartoons released, I'll live with it. The cartoons have obviously been restored as the picture is sharp and the sound is wonderful. Still in mono and nothing spectacular by today's standards, but you can easily hear everything. The bonus material seems a little light. Disc one has a photo gallery of stills, books, and other merchandise featuring Donald from the period. Disc two features a five-minute mini-biography on Clarence "Ducky" Nash, the voice behind the duck for over 50 years. There are some fun Easter Eggs to hunt for as well.
Ultimately, this set won me over to the exacerbated Duck. Which is fortunate since volume two of this collection is set for this year's wave of Treasure titles.