Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Donald Duck Tells about Kites"

"Did you see the news? Another kid fried himself by hitting our power lines with a kite!"

"Christ, this is a PR nightmare.

Hey, I know! What if we commissioned some kites-related comics to show the little bastards how to not kill themselves? Kids love comics!"

"Great! Let's get on it!"

That's about how I imagine it going, at any rate. This story was indeed done--in several different versions--for several different power companies.

So: "Donald Duck Tells About Kites." Per Inducks, It's only been reprinted in the US in the Carl Barks Library and then in the Library in Color. And I happen to have a copy of the issue of the color version that includes it! What an honor! Just shows how big Barks was--the other two stories, "Pinnochio Learns about Kites" and "A Kite Tail" featuring Brer Rabbit, have never been reprinted. Mind you, that still doesn't explain the fixation on kite safety. Nor why Disney thought they should assign their best artist to the kite-propaganda story (he only drew it, though--presumably some random power-company hack wrote it).

So Donald's pissed off at the kids because their kites are getting caught in the power lines and screwing up his TV reception. He's going to spank them for it, until grandma appears out of nowhere, like a bat out of hell, and demands that he learn the ins and outs of kite operation instead.

Naturelement. This he does, using a set of four massive, hardbound kite tomes:

I'll spare you the details of his awesome pedagogical efforts, but his rage when HDL don't observe proper kite safety etiquette is truly a sight to see.

(this is also the comic featuring the image about which I made the lame Wire joke of which I am so enamored, for what it's worth)

There's also a really strange thing in this comic (it's also in the classic Scrooge story "The Seven Cities of Cibola"): see this dude?

See how he's a normal, dog-nosed guy? Now see the heroic lineman whom the electric company will allegedly send if you get your kite caught in a power line:

Ack! You don't bat an eye at the normal people in "Dangerous Disguise" and "Big-Top Bedlam," but when they coexist with the dog-noses--that's some SERIOUS cognitive dissonance. I don't know--was this just a random thing, or did the power company people want their agent to look super-cool and heroic? It's very odd, and it does yank you out of the story, to the extent that you were ever in it.

Anyway, that's about it, really. SPOILER: they learn about kite safety. For your edification, the seven rules of not getting killed by your kite are:

1. Never fly a kite in the rain
2. Never fly a kite near electric lines
3. Never fly a kite with metal in the frame or tail
4. Never use tinsel string, wire, or any twine that has a metallic substance
5. Never run across streets or highways while flying kites
6. Never pull on the string or climb a pole to loosen a snagged kite
7. Never let a kite go over radio or TV aerials

Man, that's a lot of "never." Kind of reminiscent of the Old Testament. "And the gates of the chapel were shut. And 'thou shalt not' writ over the door./ So I turned to the garden of love, which so many sweet flowers bore/And I saw it was filled with graves, and tombstones where flowers should be/And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds/And binding with briars my joys and desires."

Okay, I think I'm getting flaky. As hard as I try, I'm not having much luck wringing any kind of deeper meaning out of "Donald Duck Tells about Kites." I mean, fercrissake! He tells about fuckin' kites! What more do you want me to say? It's kind of an interesting little novelty, but it doesn't have a whole lot in the way of lasting value.



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