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Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: August 11
, 1934
Stars:
Clara Cluck, Clarabelle Cow, Donald Duck, Goofy, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey Mouse, the Orphan Mice
Rating:
★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Orphan's Benefit © Walt DisneyIn ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ Mickey and the gang are giving a theatrical performance for the orphan mice we know from ‘Mickey’s Nightmare’ (1932) and other cartoons.

We watch Donald Duck reciting ‘Little Boy Blue’, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow and Goofy as acrobats and Mickey and Clara Cluck giving a recital.

‘Orphan’s Benefit’ marks Donald Duck’s second appearance, after his debut in ‘The Wise Little Hen‘ from two months earlier, and his looks are still a bit awkward: he has black feet (because of his transition from color to black and white), an elongated bill and he is very small compared to the rest of the gang. Nevertheless, ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ marks the real birth of Donald Duck: he’s cast outside the Silly Symphonies along Mickey and his co-stars, and he’s really stealing the show. Moreover, for the first time he’s showing his temper and his typical ‘dance of anger’ (created and animated by Dick Lundy).

Besides Donald Duck this cartoon also introduces Clara Cluck, the opera-singing hen. Her career was way less successful than Donald’s: in total she would star in only seven cartoons, and she retired in 1942. Mickey’s role is reduced to a scarcely visible and embarrassingly unfunny straight man. Therefore Orphan’s Benefit marks as much the start of Donald’s career as the beginning of Mickey’s demise.

‘Orphan’s Benefit’ was the only Disney cartoon to be remade. In 1941 it appeared again, now in color and with new designs (especially of Donald Duck).

Watch ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 68
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey’s Steamroller
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Plays Papa

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: December 12, 1931
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Ugly Duckling 1931 © Walt DisneyThis is the first of two versions of ‘The Ugly Duckling’ made by Disney.

Unlike the latter, more familiar version, this ugly duckling is a real duck, accidentally born to a chicken. He’s rejected until he saves his chick brothers and sisters from drowning in a long, fast and exciting action scene, involving both a tornado and a waterfall.

Although looking crude and primitive when compared to the 1939 short, this first version of The Ugly Duckling is a milestone in Disney’s storytelling: while the earlier Silly Symphonies contain a lot of repetitive animation and dance routines, The Ugly Duckling is the first Silly Symphony to tell a coherent story from the beginning to the end. Even the Mickey Mouse films of that time are not that consistent. There still is some rhythmic movement, especially at the beginning, but most of the animation is there to tell the story.

The duckling (who repeatedly looks to the audience for sympathy – not unlike Oliver Hardy) is a real character who transforms from an outcast to a hero, and gains its well-earned sympathy at last. Its best scenes are when it feels rejected, not only by his ‘family’, but also by a cow, a dog and a frog. There’s some genuine feeling of loneliness and unhappiness in these scenes, unparalleled in any other animated film of the time.

This short, which is neither about gags nor about moving to music, would be the first testimony of Disney’s ambitions in storytelling.

Watch ‘The Ugly Duckling’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 25
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Fox Hunt
To the next Silly Symphony: The Bird Store

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