Thursday, June 11, 2015

192. Donald's Gold Mine

SERIES: Donald Duck

Donald's working deep in a mine shaft with his cantankerous burro, when he strikes gold ore. He then gets caught up in the refining machinery.

When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite Donald cartoons. I think that had to do with the fact that so much of it is taken up with the machinery and all the crazy gags along the conveyer belt. Since I was young, I've always been a sucker for contraptions and gags that involve Rube Goldberg-style mechanics. So I think that's why this one resonates so much with me. I was always anxious to get to the part where he falls into the machine.

As usual, this cartoon opens with Donald singing a song and appropriately the choice is "My Darling Clementine" this time around. I would also like to point out this was before the song became associated with Huckleberry Hound.

Donald's co-star this time is a burro. This is not the burro's first appearance. In fact, he appeared with Donald in the second short of Donald's solo series, Don Donald. That cartoon was also the first appearance of Daisy Duck. It just missed the cut-off for this list. In that cartoon, Donald sells his trusty burro for a fancy car to impress Daisy. The burro then made another appearance with Donald in The Village Smithy, which is similar to Donald's Gold Mine, only he's a blacksmith in that one. I find the interactions with the burro to be very good in Gold Mine because Donald gets back what he dishes out. Sometimes he's helpful, sometimes he's not, and sometimes he just laughs. He's a lot like Donald, and Donald doesn't realize that. When Donald accidentally swallows all that coal, it's a win-win solution for  Donald to ask him to kick him in the butt. Also, if the design of the burro looks familiar, it's probably due to this being the early 1940s and the studio had just made Pinocchio. The design doesn't differ much from all the boys-turned-donkey in that film. A young burro would also appear in a sequence for The Three Caballeros the following year. He also shows genuine sorrow when he thinks Donald is gone. He may laugh at Donald's expense, and resent his treatment, but I think he still likes him.

This cartoon is mainly in two sections. The first half is Donald's trials with excavation, full of delightful sight gags. The best bit of business is when he gets stuck in the pickaxe. All the permutations of this struggle make for wonderful sight gags. It's the sort of business usually found in Pluto cartoons, but I think it works very well with Donald here. There are moments that I still laugh out loud sometimes.

The second half comes after Donald strikes it rich. He can't be that lucky, so he gets dumped in the ore processing, and then it's all conveyor belt gags as he runs for his life. Disney's gotten good at doing machinery by this point, having done The Old Mill, and Clock Cleaners and a few others with all those cogs and gears. They also had a bit of a run of shorts in the early 1940s with contraption sequences like this (The Practical Pig is a good example). The shots are nicely designed, and the animation cycles are good. All the close calls for Donald are fun. They were especially fun for me as a little kid. It's also a variation on a theme in Donald cartoons where he's done in by machinery. This trend began really with Modern Inventions, which is higher up the list, and continues in things like Early to Bed, where he wrestles with his mattress.

This isn't the deepest of cartoons, and if you asked most people to recall favorite Donald Duck shorts, this probably wouldn't come up. Maybe I'm a little biased because of my youthful rememberances. It's not a masterpiece by any means, but it does have some bright, amusing moments. That whole business with the pickaxe elevates it for me, as I think that's one of the sequences of wordless Disney comedy. It's a shame that for the Disney Treasures collection in which this one appears (The Chronological Donald Volume 2) they didn't remaster these early 1940s cartoons like with the first volume. The image quality is not as good as it good be.

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