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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950)
Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // December 11, 2007
List Price: $32.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted November 27, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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As part of the upcoming Wave Seven for the enormously popular (and certainly controversial) Walt Disney Treasures line of tinned DVD collections, Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) debuts next month, giving animation fans and Disneyphiles another selection of cartoons from Walt's "Gable of the stable," Donald Duck. 31 titles from 1947 to 1950 are included here, with some interesting (but relatively bare) extras to entice buyers.

As fans of the Walt Disney Treasures line of DVDs no doubt already know, the issue of transfers has been the main sticking point for purists and buffs who are upset that optimal original materials haven't been used in past releases. As a historian, I tend to side with those individuals; if more complete, true representations of these classic animated shorts exist, it's Disney's duty to present them as close to perfect as they can possibly get. If you're viewing a piece of history, the document itself should be as faithfully reproduced as possible. Leaving behind scholarly concerns, and thinking just as a consumer, I still expect Disney to present the Donald Ducks shorts here in as complete a manner as can be rendered. These are high-end collections, attractively packaged, with the intention of marketing to the public the notion that these "Treasures" are finally made available in their best possible light. If they're not, then I feel slightly cheated if I discover that better original materials were available, but not used, for these DVDs.

That being said, the video transfers for Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) look exceedingly good. Yes, there are occasional screen anomalies; each and every cartoon here hasn't been digitally "wiped" of imperfections. But all signs indicate that care was taken to reproduce high-quality images for each title. None of the 31 Donald Duck shorts included here stands out as inferior, VHS or laserdisc-quality reproductions. All of the shorts sport bold, primary, deep, rich color, and a generally sharp picture. There are one or two shorts where there's a line missing from Donald's theme song during the opening credits (all of the offending later Buena Vista logos that were tacked on have been eliminated), but I didn't notice any egregious editing. But then again, I'm not an expert on these particular shorts; if something small is missing from a particular title, I wouldn't know (to that end, I've included run times for all the cartoons, so you Disney experts/fanatics - whom I label so with great affection - can note and compare).

And on that note, I think it's also important to mention at this juncture that not everyone buying the Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) tin are hard-core Disney animation buffs and historians. It's a lot of fun to join a discussion group on-line and sift through the minutia of these releases, but frankly, most purchasers of these Walt Disney Treasures are casual viewers who either loved these shorts as a kid, or who want to now share the experience with their children. They're not going to care if the color values are off a half-variation on a Donald Duck/Chip an' Dale cartoon. As for Disney lovers from my generation, many of us saw these cartoons cut up and edited on the various incarnations of Walt's TV show (with quite a few of these Technicolor marvels broadcast originally in black and white). So balanced against the fact that you might notice a scratch or a dirt speck in these transfers, is the realization that hands down, the shorts in Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) by and large look better than any of us have ever seen them.

As for the shorts themselves in Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950), these batch of cartoons show the irascible duck with severe anger management problems again reflective of the times in which these shorts were produced. Gone now are the concerns of WWII that showed up so noticeably in The Chronological Donald: Volume Two collection. Donald's troubles in Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) are largely those idyllic preoccupations of post-war suburban America (Donald's sweet little suburban home is shown quite a few times as an establishing shot in the shorts), with Donald battling not the Axis powers but angry bees, vexing little chipmunks and his three punk nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Donald's biggest problems are quite closely related to problems around the home, or with complications arising from leisure activities (picnics, camping trips, even jungle exploration).

I know there are Disney historians and animation fans who see a softening of celebrated Disney characters when they start to move into the 1950s (certainly most notable with the failing, rather bland Mickey Mouse shorts from that time period), but I've always rather liked this time period from Disney. Despite the studio's frequently shaky financial footing, there's a beautifully smooth, self-assured, confident, full tone to the animation that repeatedly intones, "prestige." There are those who see that "prestige" as a negative, viewing Disney's more measured efforts of the late 1940s and early 1950s in a lesser light compared to the relatively violent, raucous, smart-ass shenanigans over at Warner Bros. Looney Tunes.

And while I adore those Looney Tunes, that Disney "prestige" translates into gorgeously animated shorts with beautifully timed sight gags - something the more verbal-based, slightly cruder-drawn Looney Tunes couldn't always achieve. And despite the notion that Disney shorts started to go soft during the time period covered in Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950), there's still plenty of quite energetic mayhem (and even a nasty undertone of threatened violence) from our sputtering duck here. Whether battling his rodent nemeses Chip an' Dale (probably his best on-screen enemies), or trying to mind his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, Donald is not only always a hair-trigger away from real violence, he patently enjoys it. Watch how many times Donald does something essentially cruel to a small animal (or even his nephews) and then laughs at the results of his handiwork. Of course, the animators keep the balance by having Donald frequently pay for his cruelty by getting a dose of his own medicine (or worse, having him feel contrition for his unwarranted anger (in Donald's Happy Birthday, after going on a rampage, unfairly, against his nephews, Donald shrinks to the size of worm when he realizes how wrong he was). But despite those tacked-on moral endings, he's still a surprisingly angry, perhaps even psychotic character - and terribly, terribly funny, as well.

Here are the 31 Donald Duck shorts included in Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950):

DISC ONE:

Straight Shooters (1947) (6:23)
Donald is a carnival barker who sets out to cheat his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Sleepy Time Donald (1947) (6:38)
Donald has a date with his best girl, Daisy, but there's only one problem: he sleepwalks through the whole evening!

Donald's Dilemma (1947) (7:16)
A blow to the head turns Donald into a Sinatra-like crooner - as well as into a class-A jerk, which upsets Daisy.

Crazy With the Heat (1947) (6:07)
Donald and Goofy's desert trip turns perilous when their car breaks down.

Bootle Beetle (1947) (7:13)
Bootle Beetle tells the story of bug collector Donald Duck, to warn off his runaway grandson.

Wide Open Spaces (1947) (6:38)
Too cheap to pay $16 bucks for an outdoor folding cot, Donald tries skipping the motel and sleeping rough on an air mattress.

Chip an' Dale (1947) (6:38)
Donald's piece of firewood happens to be store Chip an' Dale's entire supply of winter nuts!

Drip Dippy Donald (1948) (6:45) A leaky faucet keeps exhausted Donald awake - and fuming.

Daddy Duck (1948) (6:34)
Donald adopts a baby kangaroo - with predictably disastrous results.

Donald's Dream Voice (1948) (6:35)
No one can understand brush salesman Donald's voice, so he takes a magic pill and winds up sounding like Ronald Colman.

The Trial of Donald Duck (1948) (6:49)
Donald's trip to a fancy restaurant results in an enormous bill - for a cup of coffee.

Inferior Decorator (1948) (6:20)
Donald is hanging flowered wallpaper - which proves very appealing to Spike the Bee.

Soup's On (1948) (6:54) Huey, Dewey and Louie won't wash up, and Donald sends them to bed without supper. But they of course exact their revenge.

FROM THE VAULT:
As with previous Walt Disney Treasures, certain cartoons are isolated from the main grouping, on their own separate menu, with an introduction by host Leonard Maltin. Identified as potentially offensive due to racial stereotypes or "inappropriate cartoon behavior," these shorts include:

Clown of the Jungle (1947) (6:16)
The crazy Aracuan Bird gives South American explorer/photographer Donald Duck an enormous headache (twice the Aracuan Bird attempts to hang and shoot himself, as well as drink poison. Donald fires off one sweet automatic machine gun).

Three for Breakfast (1948) (7:05)
Chip an' Dale want Donald's pancakes, but he's not obliging (the cartoon ends with Donald and Dale drawn as Asian stereotypes).

Tea for Two Hundred (1948) (6:45)
Donald's picnic is ruined by marauding ants (one of the ants is an obvious black stereotype).

DISC TWO:

Sea Salts (1949) (7:32)
Bootle Beetle, now old friends with Donald, recalls how their adventures aboard a ship.

Winter Storage (1949) (6:53)
Chip an' Dale bedevil Donald again, now a Park Ranger, with their insatiable quest for acorn nuts.

Honey Harvester (1949) (7:14)
Spike the Bee sets his sights on Donald's greenhouse.

All in a Nutshell (1949) (6:46)
Donald's "Nut Butter" Stand proves too tempting for Chip an' Dale.

The Greener Yard (1949) (7:18)
A beetle takes up residence on Donald's pristine lawn.

Slide, Donald, Slide (1949) (6:54)
Donald's baseball game on the radio, is interrupted by Spike the Bee.

Toy Tinkers (1949) (7:36)
Presents under the Christmas tree provide amply cover and ammunition for a war between Chip an' Dale and Donald Duck.

Lion Around (1950) (6:57)
Donald doesn't know it, but that a real mountain lion, not Huey, Dewey and Louie in disguise.

Crazy Over Daisy (1950) (6:25)
Chip an' Dale spoil Donald's bike ride to Daisy's house.

Trailer Horn (1950) (6:27)
Chip an' Dale spoil another Donald outing: this time, he's camping.

Hook, Lion and Sinker (1950) (7:18)
Louie the Mountain lions wants Donald's fishes - or else.

Out on a Limb (1950) (6:32)
Chip an' Dale's home is being pruned by Donald - and they don't like it.

FROM THE VAULT:
As with previous Walt Disney Treasures, certain cartoons are isolated from the main grouping, on their own separate menu, with an introduction by host Leonard Maltin. Identified as potentially offensive due to racial stereotypes or "inappropriate cartoon behavior," these shorts include:

Donald's Happy Birthday (1949) (6:42)
Huey, Dewey and Louie do chores to buy Uncle Donald a birthday surprise: a box of cigars. But Donald wants them to save the money (the nephews are shown being forced to smoke cigars by Donald).

Bee at the Beach (1950) (7:05)
Spike the Bee and Donald battle it out at the beach and on the ocean (all I can assume is someone thought that the shark attacks on Donald are too frightening?).

The DVD:

The Video:
As I discussed above in the review, the full screen, 1.33:1 video image for Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950) is quite good, with deep, saturated colors and no compression issues whatsoever. The picture is sharp, and aside from the occasional screen anomaly, beautifully valued.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track accurately reflects the original theatrical presentation. All dialogue, music, and sound effects are crisp and reproduced at strong levels.

The Extras:
A few interesting extras are included in the Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950), but it's not a treasure trove of material, as with previous releases (it's important to note here again: this review is based on a screener copy, not a final shelf product. It is possible, but not likely, that additional material may show up on the final shelf product). On disc one, there's The Many Faces of Donald Duck, a look at Donald Duck's career and his position as one of the screen's true stars. Leonard Maltin hosts, and interviews Jerry Beck (animation historian), Tony Anselmo (animator and voice of Donald Duck since 1985), and Mark Kausler (animator and animation historian). It runs 14:17. Next, we have Donald Duck on The Mickey Mouse Club, a short intro by Leonard Maltin, alerting the viewer to ten Easter eggs hidden throughout the discs that will play all of Donald's animated intros to The Mickey Mouse Club.

On disc two, there's a short featurette, Sculpturing Donald, which looks at how animator Ruben Procopio fashions a macquette for Donald Duck. And again, we have the exact same intro by Leonard Maltin, telling us there are hidden Easter eggs on this disc, for the animated Donald Duck intros for The Mickey Mouse Club. There are also picture galleries of pencil sketches and pre-production drawings for quite a few of the shorts included here. And that's it - pretty thin offerings for a Walt Disney Treasures collection.

Final Thoughts:
Donald moves smoothly from previous war-time concerns to the battlefield of the American Suburban Home, in the Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950). Whether he's warring with pesky Chip an' Dale or nasty Spike the Bee, Donald's post-war adventures are comfortably domestic (and almost instantly nostalgic), combining that gorgeously full, self-assured Disney house style with some cleverly-plotted scripts. Plenty of gags, some surprisingly violent (I love the vicious shark attacks in Bee at the Beach), keep Disney shorts' tendency to drift towards safeness in the coming decade, at bay. Yes, these transfers do show the occasional screen anomaly, but overall, these shorts look marvelous, with deep rich color and a sharp picture. Only the relative paucity of extras keeps this from getting our highest rating here at DVDTalk. I'm therefore highly recommending Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Three (1947 - 1950).


Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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