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Through his many short films and outstanding comic book run (thanks to
Mr. Barks), Donald Duck remains my favorite of all Disney creations. Happy
In his first cartoon Donald Duck is a real sailor, living on a boat
and dancing the hornpipe. He's a strong voice character from the start.
When he joyfully shouts 'oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!' we all know it's him,
even when he looks different. Besides his voice, Donald Duck displays
two of his typical character traits: egotism and his tendency to trick
others. His short temper is not shown yet: when ultimately foiled by the
Hen he's not breaking down in anger, but joins Peter in remorseful
self-chastisement. But Donald would show his temper, in his next
Besides Donald Duck this cartoon is interesting for an appetizing and
startling realistic animation shot of butter melting on hot corn.
"Will you help me plant my corn? Will you help me plant my corn?" And
Donald and Peter Pig would say "Who? me?! oh no! I've got a belly ache!"
(That was great timing). And one last thing, the little chicks are very
Speaking of Donald Duck, this cartoon includes his first screen appearance.
No joke. This is the start of a career that would dominate Disney's animated
short films, comic books, and other things.
One of the interesting things about this cartoon (which I learned about from David's book as well as the Silly Symphony Companion) is that an additional scene was animated, but seems to have been cut before it was released. The scene involves Peter and Donald each trying to give the other the castor oil. In fact, in the version we see today you can See Peter thinking of the idea (I always thought he was reflecting on how his
behavior had resulted in this consequence). Also Donald's dance, apparently was originally much longer. I wonder if these scenes still exist. If so I'd love to see them included on DVD some day. This is such a landmark cartoon it's be fascinating to see something 'new' from it!
It would be a while longer before Goofy and Donald really moved into Mickey’s world as his supporting cast, but Donald’s appearance here is striking for a few reasons. Compared to the other characters who appeared after
Steamboat Willie (Goofy and Pluto), Donald appears in a fully finished form. He would evolve his look a bit, but his character, voice and clothing are all the same as we would see them today.
In the story of this short, it’s a familiar parable. The titular hen has a basket full of corn to planet, and approaches her friends Peter Pig and Donald Duck to get their help. Predictably, both beg off, faking a bellyache, so the hen goes out and plants the corn on her own, with her chicks helping out.
When the time comes to harvest the corn, Peter and Donald are together, and again fake a bellyache when the hen comes up to ask if they will help. Their tunes change of course, when the hen has finally harvested everything and cooked up a feast. Corn muffins, corn on the cob, corn chowder and cornbread are all set out on the hen’s table.
She gets the last laugh, though, inviting the boys over for dinner, but giving them a vial of Castor Oil for their tummies instead of food. It’s an old story, but a good one, and one that should be repeated often these days.
The striking thing is how much of a finished product Donald really is. Clarence Nash’s voice is instantly recognizable, and his trademark sailor outfit is there as well. He is the character that we would all know and love. But why did he survive this short and not Peter Pig or the hen?
I think the majority of it has to be Clarence Nash’s voice work. From the second Donald opens his mouth, he is a funny and memorable character. There’s nothing that particularly stands out about his design, although it’s good. But the distinct voice makes Donald an interesting character.
The Wise Little Hen is important for Donald’s appearance, but it’s also a good short. The hen comes across as likeable and funny, and Peter and Donald are also well done. I highly recommend any Disney fan to check this one out and see where one of Disney’s biggest stars got his start.