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Director: Jack King
Release Date: April 15, 1938
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Donald's Nephews © Walt Disney‘Donald’s Nephews’ marks the screen debut of Donald’s famous nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Al Taliaferro had introduced them in the Donald Duck Sunday Page of October 17, 1937, and by April 1938 they had become regular stars of the Donald Duck comic strip. Their screen debut is explosive, however. Once inside the “angel nephews” initiate a game of polo on their tricycles, wrecking Donald’s house within seconds.

Luckily Donald Duck discovers a book on ‘Modern Child Training’, which gives him ideas to treat the three kids. First, Donald tries to sooth the brats by playing Pop Goes the Weasel on the piano, to no avail. Then he tries to calm them down with a nice turkey supper, still without success. In the end of the cartoon the three nephews rush off back to Aunt Dumbella, supposedly their mother, but they would return three months later, in ‘Good Scouts’. In fact, Uncle Donald clearly became their surrogate father, as Aunt Dumbella was never seen in either comic strip or animated film.

‘Donald’s Nephews’ is a wonderful cartoon: the gags come in fast and plenty, and there’s a real battles of wits going on between Donald and his nephews. There’s nothing of the slowness of Donald’s earlier cartoons. Instead, there’s a lot of speed, and some remarkable exaggeration, like Donald Duck’s hand swelling up three times its original size, and the sound effect of horses galloping when the three nephews rush to the dinner table. Highlight of ‘Donald’s Nephews’ may be the saying grace scene, which is anything but devote. Donald’s attempts to pacify his nephews come from a book, a story idea later copied in e.g. ‘Goofy’s Glider’ (1940), and the Tom & Jerry cartoon ‘Mouse Trouble’ (1944).

Speed, exaggeration, weird sound effects, the book idea – all these elements look forward to the zanier cartoon style of the 1940s, of which ‘Donald’s Nephews’ can be regarded as an early example.

‘Donald’s Nephews’ is an important cartoon: it clearly establishes Donald Duck as old enough to be an authority figure to the three kids. His school-going days of ‘Donald’s Better Self’ were now over. Moreover, the wrecking trio are a worthy adversary to the duck, really testing his temper. This would lead to many great cartoons, e.g. ‘Good Scouts’, ‘Hockey Champ’ (both 1938), ‘Sea Scouts’ (1939) and ‘Mr Duck Steps Out’ (1940). Huey, Dewey, and Louie starred 23 cartoons in total, lasting until Donald Duck’s very last theatrical cartoon, ‘The Litterbug’ (1961).

Watch ‘Donald’s Nephews’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 4
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Donald’s Better Self
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Good Scouts

‘Donald’s Better Self’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Chronological Donald Volume 1’

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Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: January 20, 1950
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie, the mountain lion
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Lion Around © Walt DisneyIn ‘Lion Around’ Huey, Dewey and Louie use a remarkably lifelike mountain lion costume to fool Donald in order to steal a pie. Unfortunately, Donald discovers the deceit, and then, off course, a real mountain lion shows up.

This story line was already formulaic by 1950, and it doesn’t lead to anything particularly funny. In fact, the highlight is the nephews’ costume itself, with its remarkable ability to stretch. This is some funny animation, unmatched by that of the ‘real’ mountain lion. Nevertheless, the real one would return later that year in ‘Hook, Lion and Sinker‘, and in two Goofy shorts: ‘Lion Down‘ (1951) and ‘Father’s Lion’ (1952).

Watch ‘Lion Around’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 83
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Toy Tinkers
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Crazy Over Daisy

Director: Jack Kinney
Release Date: March 5, 1954
Stars: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Donald's Diary © Walt DisneyIn this strange and original cartoon Donald is a bachelor in San Francisco during the 1920s, who falls in love with Daisy, but who flees from the prospect of marriage, after having a horrible nightmare.

Like Mickey in ‘Mickey’s Nightmare‘ (1932), Donald has a rather distorted view of married life. While Mickey was haunted by hundreds of little kids, Donald’s fear is virtual slavery.

This short is narrated by an eloquent voice over (reminiscent of Donald’s dream voice in the cartoon of the same name from 1948), supposedly Donald’s ‘written’ voice. Most of the gags originate in the contrast between what’s being said and what the viewer sees.

‘Donald’s Diary’ is a very atypical Donald Duck cartoon. Maybe because it was not directed by his regular director Jack Hannah, but by Jack Kinney, whose own Goofy series had stopped the previous year. The short uses strong and beautiful 1950s backgrounds, more angular animation, and a very different design of Daisy. Moreover, Huey, Dewey and Louie are not Donald’s nephews here, but Daisy’s little brothers.

‘Donald’s Diary’ was the fourth of five Donald Duck cartoons Jack Kinney directed. In it he reused some animation from his first Donald Duck cartoon, ‘Der Fuehrer’s Face‘ from 1943.

Watch ‘Donald’s Diary’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 105
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Spare the Rod
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Dragon Around

Director: Jack Hannah
Release Date: May 30, 1953
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Don's Fountain of Youth © Walt DisneyDonald and the boys are on a holiday in Latin America. But Huey, Dewey and Louie only have eyes for their comic book.

Donald then fools them by pretending a fountain of youth has made him younger. He even uses an alligator egg to make them believe he turned into an egg again. This leads to an encounter with the mother alligator, whose not amused. In the end we watch Donald and the boys fleeing into the distance.

The backgrounds in this cartoon are extraordinarily colorful. The characters don’t really read well against these backgrounds, but their lushness is overwhelming and an extra highlight besides the gags.

Watch ‘Don’s Fountain of Youth’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 99
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: Trick or Treat
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: The New Neighbor

Director: Jack King
Release Date: 
April 10, 1942
Stars: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Donald's Snow Fight © Walt DisneyThe world is covered in snow, and Donald goes for a sled ride, wearing a ridiculously broad fur overcoat.

He purposely ruins Huey, Dewey and Louie’s snowman by sledding right through it. They seek revenge and build a snowman resembling Donald around a rock. This feud leads to a snow-fight between admiral Donald on a battle ship made out of ice and his three nephews on an ice fort.

‘Donald’s Snow Fight’ is a classic Donald vs. his nephews cartoon, but the complete film is quite slow, due to Jack King’s tame directing. Despite some excellent gags, it doesn’t live up to ‘Hockey Champ’ (1939), the other classic winter cartoon featuring Donald and his nephews, or ‘Truant Officer Donald’ (1941), which also features a battle between Donald and his nephews.

The short’s excellent story is by Carl Barks, who reused its theme two years later in his Donald Duck comic WDC 44-442.

Watch ‘Donald’s Snow Fight’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Donald Duck cartoon No. 31
To the previous Donald Duck cartoon: The Village Smithy
To the next Donald Duck cartoon: Donald Gets Drafted

Director: David Hand
Release Date: April 18, 1936
Stars: The Three Little Pigs
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Three Little Wolves © Walt Disney‘Three Little Wolves’ follows ‘The Big Bad Wolf”, being the third cartoon in the ‘Three Little Pigs’ series.

Penned by Joe Grant & Bill Cottrell, it introduces the Wolf’s three sons, who anticipate Huey, Dewey and Louie (who would make their cinema debut two years later, in ‘Donald’s Nephews‘). They even speak in a similar way. The wolf, on the other hand, suddenly has an inexplicable German accent.

In this cartoon he dresses up ridiculously again, this time as Bo-Beep, but he does manage to lure two of the little pigs to his house. When he closes the door, the pigs turn red and say ‘why, Bo-Beep!’, as if they’re being seduced. Of course, the wise pig comes to the rescue, this time using an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, called the ‘wolf pacifier’.

The three little wolves would return in the last ‘three little pigs’-cartoon, ‘The Practical Pig’ (1939), but in the subsequent comic strip only one would remain, and he eventually would befriend the pigs, contrary to his lookalikes in this cartoon, who are even more aggressive than their father.

The end-shot of this cartoon was later reused in the propaganda film ‘Food will win the War‘ (1942).

Watch ‘Three Little Wolves’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 60
To the previous Silly Symphony: Elmer Elephant
To the next Silly Symphony: Toby Tortoise Returns

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