Thursday, 19 May 2016

Donald Duck: Good Scouts and Sea Scouts

I love Donald Duck.

I've seen some of these cartoons hundreds of times, and still I laugh so hard that I straight up hyperventilate. It's just silly, joyful stuff and a great way to kick off summer.

Up top there is a 1928 short called Good Scouts, which marked the second on-screen appearance of Huey, Dewey and Louie. The nephews actually made their debut in the Donald Duck comics first, which is one of those facts you can shout at a dinner party during an awkward silence.

Good Scouts was nominated for an Academy Award, in the same year and category as Disney's other shorts: Ferdinand the Bull, Brave Little Tailor, and that forgotten classic Mother Goose Goes Hollywood. In fact, the only non-Disney title nominated for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) in 1938 was something put out by Fleischer Studios called Hunky and Spunky. You're all responsible for your own jokes about that. Also, I do not recommend googling it without safe search on.

Ferdinand won, as it happened. And it remains the only time a single production studio had four nominations in one category.

Good Scouts was so popular that a sequel was made in 1939 called Sea Scouts. As you'll see below, it's pretty much the same thing but on the ocean.

What's cool about this is how you can see the early stages of development for one of Disney's most famous pieces of animated slapstick – the sequence where the crocodile chases Captain Hook in 1953's Peter Pan.

Both of these shorts were filmed in Technicolor, by the way. It's funny to think, but in 1932, when Walt Disney premiered the first cartoon to use the three-colour dye transfer system, people thought it was a mistake. Everyone was like: "Walt, that's insane! If people see cartoons that have colours like paintings, they won't be able to distinguish reality from art and civilization will crumble!" 

Herbert Kalmus, one of the inventors of Technicolor, originally had a five-year contract giving Disney exclusive use of the system for cartoons. But it was quickly renegotiated to a one-year contract when the other major studios sent out their leg-breakers.

The good news is that the one year was still more than enough to give Disney a leg up financially, allowing for a higher quality of Donald Duck cartoon! Hooray!

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