Thursday, September 07, 2006

Donald's Lucky Day Part 2

According to Hans Perk, this cartoon was written by Carl Barks, Jack Hannah and Harry Reeves. After Barks left Disney, he went on to write and draw decades worth of Donald Duck comic books which are held in the highest regard.

There are at least four elements in this cartoon that are common in Barks' comic book work. The gangsters that motivate the plot are similar to the Beagle Boys, enemies of Scrooge McDuck. Barks had Donald attempting to succeed at various occupations numerous times in his comics. The black cat in this cartoon is similar to many trouble-making animals in Barks' comic book work. Finally, the topic of luck plays a large part in Barks' stories, though Donald usually has bad luck compared to Gladstone Gander, whose effortless good luck drives Donald crazy.

It's impossible to know if these elements in this cartoon originated with Barks. It's quite possible that Barks drew on his experience at Disney and re-used ideas and themes that worked, regardless of who created them.

For all the Barks-like elements in this cartoon, the story is something of a mess. There's no comic justice in this film and many story elements are left hanging. The gangsters who motivate the story are pure exposition. I suspect that they were done in silhouette because they disappear from the cartoon after setting up the story; by keeping the characters in the dark, the audience can't get involved enough with them to care that they're gone.

It would have been relatively easy for the bomb to go off in a way that damaged the gangsters or exposed them to the police. That would have brought them back at the climax and created the potential for more comedy.

Donald's efforts are not what save him. He's a passive observer of the climax. All the effort he's expended to deliver the package or get rid of it does no good whatsoever. I guess that's where luck comes in, but he would have been luckier if he lost the package immediately and saved himself a lot of effort.

Finally, the black cat who is the instrument of Donald's salvation never gets thanked or rewarded. The cat vanishes from the film once the bomb goes off, even though showering Donald with fish presented a good opportunity to reward the cat. The gang of cats that swarms Donald doesn't relate to anything and is just a gag tacked-on for the fade-out.

Jack King was not a director with a good head for story. He should have sent this one back for more work.

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