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Last November we celebrated a milestone for one of Disney’s most iconic characters. Today we gather for another – Happy 85th Birthday Donald Duck!
There’s a certain irony to Donald’s popularity: in the theme parks or shows like The Mickey Mouse Club or House of Mouse, Donald is portrayed flagging behind Mickey in fame and adulation if not outright forgotten. But in the real world so many people prefer Donald over Mickey, and I can see why. Mickey’s status as the company’s mascot rarely allows him to be a mischievous rascal like in the old days. Donald on the other hand has always been the feisty fowl generations could relate to due to how much he’s put through the wringer and his resulting temper flares.
Because he’s not on as high a pedestal as The One That Started It All, he’s given more freedom of personality, and, as a result, much more to do. Donald’s worn a variety of hats throughout his five-and-fourscore-long career. This also expands beyond traditional media. You’d be hard pressed to find a Donald Duck video game that isn’t at least a little fun to play. Getting to bash things with his trademark temper tantrums is a treat, and Disney always takes full advantage of it. In fact, before Sora was created to be the protagonist for Kingdom Hearts, Tetsuya Nomura imagined Mickey as the main character, but Disney wanted it to be Donald! They’re well aware that no matter how bad the scenario, Donald can take a licking and keep on ticking, and that’s done him well these past 85 years.
So to mark the special occasion, I’m counting down my Top 21 Favorite Donald Duck Shorts. Why that many? Because I like to go eleven steps beyond.
The rules from before apply: I’m not counting segments from or complete feature films like Saludos Amigos or The Three Caballeros. Donald has to be the main focus of the entire short feature, and not just “Mickey’s name is in the title though Donald takes up 90% of the action but it’s totally a Mickey short, you guys, for reals”.
But par the course for this blog, a few Honorable Mentions first:
- Pomp and Circumstance – This highlight from Fantasia 2000 has Donald assisting Noah before the flood then reenacting An American Tail with Daisy on the ark.
- Trick or Treat – A Halloween classic where Donald falls victim to a witch’s tricks after he deprives his nephews of their treats.
- Donald and the Wheel – Two spirits of innovation try to inspire caveman Donald to invent the wheel, but it doesn’t quite stick. Meant to be educational, but the music is unbelievably catchy.
- Drip Drippy Donald/Early to Bed – These shorts featuring Donald being robbed of a good night’s rest would be hilarious if they weren’t so relatable.
- Donald’s Dilemma – The title’s a bit of a misnomer; Daisy’s the focus and there’s barely a dilemma. But it reveals a darker side to her romance and shows just how far she’d go to hold on to him.
- Orphan’s Benefit – While an ensemble piece for Mickey and Friends, it’s Donald who steals the show as usual.
- Commando Duck – Horribly blatant anti-Japanese sentiment aside, this World War Two-era short of Donald behind enemy lines has a fun chase at the climax.
- Cured Duck – Donald tries to cure his temper once and for all with an insult machine.
- Slide Donald Slide – Another one of Donald’s quarrels with Spike the Bee wins points for mirroring the World Series game playing on the radio, but winds up here because Spike is technically in the wrong this time around.
- The Wise Little Hen – The one that started it all.
- Donald’s Double Trouble – Donald hires an inexplicable doppelganger with better manners and English to win back Daisy only for it to backfire terribly.
- Donald’s Golf Game – Donald goes golfing with his nephews and their usual amount of mischief.
- Donald’s Valentine Dollar – Donald must retrieve his last dollar from all sorts of shenanigans in order to purchase a valentine for Daisy. It’s completely silent, but that repetitive piano music can get grating.
- Donald’s Camera – Donald’s attempt to shoot wildlife with a camera instead of a gun goes as well as you’d expect. Interestingly, I never knew about the original ending for years since they abruptly cut it off whenever they aired it on tv.
- Sleepytime Donald – A sleepwalking Donald takes Daisy out on a late night date, and it’s up to her to make sure he doesn’t wake up in a precarious situation.
- Mickey’s Philharmagic – Yes it’s a 3D show in the Disney parks and Mickey’s name is in the title, but don’t be fooled. Donald is the star of the show, and seeing him interact with some of the most iconic musical moments of the Disney Renaissance in stunning CGI animation for the time is astounding.