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Not having seen my father for over 5 years, this Walt Disney production
reminded me too much of him, and gave me some clues to "What on Earth
ever happened to movies?" and "Why don't they make it like they used to
The answer was simple, and came naturally: When young producers grow old, if they are recognized enough, they desist taking part of turning raw ideas into stories, for if they don't... Then they face the risk of losing their reputation over a silly money-making mechanism employee(I am not offending no one), but then(who did this mistake? Nikola Tesla did and Howard Hughes did), hence movies without them are not made fully but came to a senseless conclusion by losing the original idea in an effort to keep the story interesting and the mandatory rules applying.
Whereas Donald And The Wheel is a single executive run Walt Disney studio production, it is only one man's self-inspired work, and it is way ahead of its time. For he is the Walt Disney himself who that one man is, produced the entire footage, wrote most parts, plotted the entire production design, drew sketches on a blackboard with a piece of chalk, just like you've seen today on the animation, and ultimately he invented the first-seen-on-movies 3D human-cartoon match-up visual effect, dated 1961 the same year Walt presented the first full-color TV-programming via his co-production "Wonderful World of Color(**)", 27 years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit(Robert Zemeckis of BackToTheFuture).
But that's not it. The gem in this short animation is that Walt tells the history of world science, from the wheel-invention perspective. If you imagine another world, without no other discovery than the wheel, this is what you get. If you don't believe me, for I don't have a Nobel award, I remind you that in 1904 Einstein has said that "If you take any true scientific discovery and add it to a non-working mechanism, not only will it work the mechanism, but it will operate it solely by itself(*)". Do you think Walt didn't know that?
What goes on the story is that a father and his son sing together a Orson Welles kind of duet, telling the history of science, from the very date of the invention of the wheel in BC.3500, its many uses in carriage, in military defense, in agriculture, in forestry, in ancient metropolis constructions, in Ancient Egypt BC.2000 which the history has more records than the other civilizations as being used for the first type of ground transportation, then in Philosophical Ancient Greece BC.400 when Hippocrates and Aristocrates designed the first horse carriage(via stealing the secret of How to train horses from Persia) and starting from BC.200 Romans how the horse carriages developed in time until AD.1820, when the locomotive and the railroad systems were invented. All displayed within perfect illustrations, like a hands-on science class taught by a never- understood mad professor wearing suede shoes dancing waltz to himself and speaking to himself with a unique jargon you never want to miss.
The professor's illustrations goes on until the automobiles are used in travel to long ground distances(1920s), and the first space satellites(1950s). Meanwhile the father and the son singing duets and dancing, go back in time to BC.3500 to inspire the caveman in motivating him to invent the first wheel. The caveman finds the father and the son too crazy to believe in, and quits his silly idea of inventing something that rolls on its own unstoppably.
-------------------------------------------------------------------- References and bibliography used in this review follows:
Live Science - Invention of the wheel 180008 (**) D23 - about Walt Disney (*) einstein-website.de/z_biography
Ties with The Litterbug as the absolute best of the Donald Duck educational shorts. The animation is really impressive, from the vibrantly coloured backgrounds to some of the best character animation of Donald I've seen. The music is wonderfully jazzy and catchy, the orchestration has so much bite and pizazz to it and the singing is just brilliant. In particular from Thurl Ravenscroft, whose power on the basso notes of his singing is enough to make your jaw drop. The writing has a very witty rhyming structure, and the story is always interesting and educational, always moves and never stops doing so. It also makes its point about the wheel but not in an overly-didactic way. Donald is a great character to react to the educational aspect of Donald and the Wheel, and the short manages to play to his strengths as well. The voice work is impeccable. Overall, a tour-De-force of education in an animated short. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Donald and the Wheel" is an 18-minute short film from 1961 (with lots of music) and the title already summarizes it perfectly: It is a Disney production, in which Donald Duck tells us a bit about the use and history of the well. Oh well, actually it is the two narrators who do and Donald only appears on many occasions for comic relief. But neither this comic relief is working too well nor the informative aspects here. At this long runtime and with many live action sequences, this is very different to the average Donald Duck cartoon. But by the early 1960s (people wanted to learn something from cartoons by the, I guess), they were trying new paths. A couple years earlier, Donald goes on a journey into the land of mathematics. But back to this one here. The narration is fine, Donald also elevates the material, but the precise contents and scientific aspects are not good enough to let me recommend it. I prefer to go for the traditional Donald delivering laughs and I don't need the information on the history of the wheel. Not recommended.
A Walt Disney Cartoon
The Spirits of Progress, father & son, fill us in on some important cultural history as they reveal the story of DONALD AND THE WHEEL.
This Disney educational two-reeler short is an excellent way to get a somewhat complicated (and potentially tedious) idea across to an audience: the overwhelming importance of the wheel and its unavoidable presence in daily life. The story is told in humorous rhyme, the animation is varied & interesting and Donald Duck is the perfect subject to be taught the valuable lessons. Look for a very brief cameo from Daisy. Donald's unique voice is supplied by Clarence "Ducky" Nash; Thurl Ravenscroft, with his basso profundo, does the honors for the Spirit of Progress, Senior.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was always intrigued by drawings. As a lad in Marceline, Missouri, he sketched farm animals on scraps of paper; later, as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War, he drew figures on the sides of his vehicle. Back in Kansas City, along with artist Ub Iwerks, Walt developed a primitive animation studio that provided animated commercials and tiny cartoons for the local movie theaters. Always the innovator, his ALICE IN CARTOONLAND series broke ground in placing a live figure in a cartoon universe. Business reversals sent Disney & Iwerks to Hollywood in 1923, where Walt's older brother Roy became his lifelong business manager & counselor. When a mildly successful series with Oswald The Lucky Rabbit was snatched away by the distributor, the character of Mickey Mouse sprung into Walt's imagination, ensuring Disney's immortality. The happy arrival of sound technology made Mickey's screen debut, STEAMBOAT WILLIE (1928), a tremendous audience success with its use of synchronized music. The SILLY SYMPHONIES soon appeared, and Walt's growing crew of marvelously talented animators were quickly conquering new territory with full color, illusions of depth and radical advancements in personality development, an arena in which Walt's genius was unbeatable. Mickey's feisty, naughty behavior had captured millions of fans, but he was soon to be joined by other animated companions: temperamental Donald Duck, intellectually-challenged Goofy and energetic Pluto. All this was in preparation for Walt's grandest dream - feature length animated films. Against a blizzard of doomsayers, Walt persevered and over the next decades delighted children of all ages with the adventures of Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi & Peter Pan. Walt never forgot that his fortunes were all started by a mouse, or that simplicity of message and lots of hard work always pay off.
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