Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Donald Fracas"

It's no joke: I am so excited about this one I can barely breathe. The story is "Donald Fracas." The translation is by me. The place to download it is right the fuck here.

The story is based, extremely loosely I'm guessing, on a novel by Théophile Gautier. But that is neither here nor there. I do not know what Guido Martina was thinking when he wrote this story: whether he was really going for something special, or whether it was just business as usual. Certainly, the issues of Topolino in which it was originally published look pretty much like the usual thing. However, it certainly feels as though it's meant to be an Extravaganza. And I'm not the only one who thinks so; the source I used for my translation is a magazine celebrating Walt Disney's centennial ("100 years of magic," it says, which seems questionable--how much childlike wonder was three-year-old Walt invoking?).

Part of the reason for this--obviously enough--is that the story features characters from three different classic Disney films. I kinda feel like it should be a surprise when they come up, but the story spoils who they are in its title panel:


Now, chances are good that you are, at best, indifferent to the idea of Snow White & Co appearing in a duck story. Very likely, you're actively antipathetic to the idea. When I was introduced to the concept, I kind of grumbled: what is this madness? Why is this here? Oh well; I claim to like weird-ass Italian stories, so I'd better read it. And then I was quite taken with it--so much so that the cheap digest I'd first read it in wasn't good enough, and I bought the magazine with the better printing so I could do the translation. I certainly would not like it if all--or even more than a very few--of my duck stories did this kind of crossover thing, but I feel it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the story, and reinforces the idea that you're reading something special.

However, while the use of movie characters might be the way the story initially draws attention to itself, it's not the reason that I think it's the best story I've ever read by Guido Martina as well as the best story I've ever translated--both by some margin. No--that would be because I feel it does incredibly well by its protagonist. Look at other stories I've translated--look at pretty much any of them, with the partial exception of "Marco Polo." I like them. They're fun stories to read. Otherwise, I wouldn't have spent so much time with them. But it seems undeniable that they are more or less indifferent to Donald himself. They bat him around for a while, have him lose his temper or act dumb, and there's your lot. Maybe he gets a reasonably happy ending or maybe not, but as a reader, your sympathies aren't very highly engaged. They are certainly not character pieces.

"Donald Fracas," however, is completely different. This story is all about Donald as a character, and before I read it, I would never have imagined that Martina could treat the character so sympathetically. Basically (as you know if you've read it already, and if not, you really ought to), Donald lets his temper get the best of things and fucks things up, and then has to deal with the guilt from that and fight through his fears in order to do what he has to do and be the person he wants to be--all without losing his essential Donald-ness. And in the end, he emerges wholly triumphant. That's another part of the reason that this story feels like it was meant to be special: Martina simply does not write things like this--except, apparently, when he does.

Point is, I recommend it. I think it deserves to be counted among those semi-legendary, never-published-in-English stories.

It should also be noted that this is by far my most restrained translation. That wasn't a conscious decision or anything; it just felt, somehow, as though the script was richer than those of other stories I've worked on, and that embellishing it excessively would've been gilding the lilly. That's not to say that I didn't take liberties when necessary, but you won't find too much pop-culture zaniness here. I did re-watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Alice in Wonderland in order to get the characters' voices right to the best of my ability. As it happens, the Cheshire Cat--while the best thing in Alice in Wonderland--doesn't really have enough dialogue to give one a clear idea of exactly how he should speak. I just tried to make his dialogue suitably strange. The lines he's always quoting from "Jabberwocky" are my addition, following the movie.

(The two French versions I read have similar but different translations--in the earlier one, the Cat is referred to as "Lucifer"--ie, the cat from Cinderella. You really, really have to wonder how that could have happened. Did Martina himself fuck up, or was if something bizarre with the translation?  That would be pretty egregious on Martina's part, but on the other hand, how the hell could you screw that up in translation?  Anyone who's read it in the original Italian: tell me!).

See? Burning the catnip is just spiteful and irrational, and it sets the entire plot of the story in motion.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! Though truthfully, it would very easily be Snow White and the Two Dwarfs. When I re-watched the movie (and goddamn is it a great movie), I quickly realized that when you come right down to it, only Grumpy and Doc have really distinctive voices. Martina seems to have likewise noticed this, as those two get virtually all the dwarf dialogue in the movie. Sleepy and Sneezy get a few desultory bits involving, uh, being sleepy and sneezing, respectively. Happy gets a few generic lines. Dopey and Bashful? Nothin.' Still, I'm not complaining; it surely would not be easy to give substantial screen-time to all seven, especially given that most of them have pretty limited personality-gimmicks.

(As I noted on facebook recently, Doc is named "Prof" in French, which very likely answers the pressing question of whether he's meant to be a medical doctor or just a PhD.)

The question of just when the hell this is supposed to take place in relation to the movie is an open one. In the original, it was the Evil Queen herself who cursed Snow White; having it be someone else is one of very few substantial changes I made to the story (which I could do with impunity since she never actually appears), 'cause dammit, the queen dies at the end. She falls off a mountain, a huge boulder falls on her, and the vultures swoop down to feed. Sure, you don't see her mangled corpse, but show me the dead Disney villain you do see. Alternatively, we could assume this is meant to be taking place during the timeframe of the movie, and this is just a part that, uh, the movie forgot to include; that would explain why Snow White isn't with her personality-challenged prince, but it's also super-lame. It's a dilemma for anyone wanting to expand the Snow White story, the same as for Beauty and the Beast: the parts of the movies that people like and would want to see more of are no longer operative by movie's end. So what do you do? I think Martina's strategy of basically just ignoring the question is probably the right one.

"Fracas" in French and Italian is a verb meaning "smash."  In English, it's...not.  "Donald Smash" would sound pretty dumb, and entirely too Incredible-Hulk-ish.  It was necessary to sort of finesse things.

Oh, and here's the one bit of the story that I just found genuinely baffling. The monkey talks with its stomach? What? I was seriously thinking of just breaking the shit out of the fourth wall and noting in that lower-left narration box that this is just gibberish, but I decided to do the decent thing and try to brazen my way through.

Definitely a bit more violent than your average Disney story, with characters earnestly attempting to murder one another.

So is this dude supposed to be serious, or is it just a lame excuse? You would think it's the latter, but you have to allow that it's really, really hard to know in stories like this.

Ah, yes.  Honest John and Gideon. Okay, fine. I think Pinocchio is one of the most overrated Disney films, but I don't mind. BUT…well, if you buttonholed a bunch of people and asked them to name one trait of Gideon from Pinocchio, you know bloody well that one hundred percent of them would say "DOESN'T TALK." So what does Martina have him do here? Yeesh. It's a wonder he doesn't have Dopey soliloquizing. Reminds me of that Christmas Carol story I rewrote, where the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had dialogue, but in that instance, I was able to more or less solve that problem. Here, there's just no getting around it: Gideon has multiple lines of dialogue. I figured that maybe if he had a stutter, it would explain why he never said anything in the movie. Eh…what can you do?

That IS a cool image, though, you've got to admit. Scarpa's art overall is quite good here, though you will inevitably note that his ducks are wildly inconsistent-looking. I've never known a comic artist whose art was quite as endlessly variable as Scarpa's.

Note that I have Donald calling the dwarfs in order from best to worst. I know some might cavil at me putting the nondescript Happy in the middle, but I think Sneezy and Sleepy lose big points for not even having personality traits to fall back on, just physical reactions; and I always just want to tell Bashful, man, give it a rest.

For a while, I kept thinking that the owl was another movie character that I was somehow forgetting, but this listing of Disney owls (of COURSE the internet has a listing of Disney owls!) disabused me of that notion. He's called "Magus Gufus" in the French version, but if I called him that, you'd be confused and disoriented when he wasn't played by Goofy.

Okay, it may not be a fair challenge, but sheesh--asking Donald to do a thing like this in order to save the girl. That is hardcore. And he does it! He doesn't like it, but he does it. And that's what I like about this story. Our guy gets some serious hero cred, and it feels earned.

Just don't even ask about the weird deus-ex-machina things the catnip does. Just. Don't. Ask.

Nor should you ask about why the hell the Cat's treasure turns out to be key, or whether the blindness cure would've worked if Donald hadn't happened along with all this pure-of-heart stuff. Instead, just note that this whole scene is beautiful and oddly poetic. The owl's true form is a comet. Fancy that.

The story sort of flirts with the "it was all a dream!" business, but thankfully, it never does any more than that. Boy that would be lame!

Well hey--this may be an atypical offering from Martina, but he just wouldn't be he if he didn't show Scrooge acting completely psychotic. It can't be denied that this anger feels a bit forced. But Scrooge collecting ancient weapons? Eh--could be. After all, we've seen in Barks plenty o' times that he collects sundry cultural artifacts.

So much for earning it square, eh? I like the way HDL are so emphatically on Donald's side.

…AND I like the way they achieve TOTAL VICTORY. It was just one thousand in the original, but that did not seem like enough to me. Upping the amount doesn't change the emotional tenor. 

Seriously, I love this damn story. Please tell me if you know of any other Martina stories that treat Donald similarly. I wanna read that shit.

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Well Dope don't get any lines in the movie becose his... well... mute ;) Still him trying to kiss Snowwhite is the best running gag in the movie. Actually after Doc and Grumpy I found him most active dwarf in the movie as he get's plenty solo screen time.

However If you like to see Dopey to an entire monolog then check out Disney Italian adaptation of "Devian Comedy" (which I'm supprise you didn't review yet) Not only Dopey has a long monolog but Diegon get's few lines as well.
Then agian - that story is one of the most creepy things Italian Disney ever produce so in a way Dopey talking works for the errie factor.

THANKS FOR THE STORY BTW!!!! Never know this one existed.

January 30, 2014 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, I didn't want him to SAY anything--but I would've expected, I dunno, antics of some sort from him which we don't get.

And you're welcome!

January 30, 2014 at 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Swamp Adder said...

re: Gideon talking -- I'm reminded of this story, which features a talking Dumbo.

Thanks for doing all these translations, Geo. Interesting to see the kind of things those wacky Italians got up to!

January 30, 2014 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...


January 30, 2014 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Why do you don't like Disney "Pinochhio" BTW? I have mix reaction myself, but mostly positive.

As a fan of the oryginal book (It was actually first book I read as a child all by myself when I was 7) I must say this movie is a bit of a waster opertunity as they basicaly cut out all I found fascinating about Collodi story, which BTW is a very dark and twisted children book. I was almost angry when on DVD commentary Leonard Maltin started talking how Disney "made the story more darker". DID HE EVEN SEEN THE BOOK!?

As an animation student and animation fan in gernal however I have LARGE if not gigantic respect for this one as from technical point of view they did plenty of trully amazing stuff (without quote on quote "computers") and I think it's artisitc masterpeace.

As a person who likes to pop in DVD and whatch a movie he enjoys... I find it cute. I like the songs, I like the character's (maybe Pinochio himself could been a bit more interesting), some of the gags are funny and the big climax with Monstro is scary as hell. Some parts are bit of a filler but I don't mind them this much.

I think story wise It's a improvment over "Snow White" which sadly I don't think aged well in terms of the script and most children find it boring today. "Snow White" is a very symbolic story told (at moments) in a very symbolic way, which is fine. However "Pinochio" has much more complex plot.Still, from this period of Disney I prefer "Fantasia" (holly crap I could went for hours why this is a great film) and "Dumbo" (for the story)

BUT THEN AGIAN my favoirte Disney movies are "Mulan" (even if childhood nostalgia plays a lot in this one) and "Fox and the Hound", so who em I to judge?

January 31, 2014 at 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

According to this Scarpa story, the witch-queen from Snow White actually survives her fall, while the boulder vanishes and two of her soldiers, apparently anticipating her fall, await her at the bottom, rescue her from the vultures, and bring her home:

January 31, 2014 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I wrote about Pinocchio here, consistently misspelling the name in the process.

Thanks for the info, Unca Papasu. I...guess I should be glad that there's some kind of explanation? It's pretty risible, though. Does anyone ever explain why she apparently abandons the cardboard prince?

January 31, 2014 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

In that particular story she doesn't abandon her nameless lover, who is only seen once in silhouette. I don't think it's meant as an explanation for the Snow White comics in general, just an attempt to make a story which doesn't contradict the movie.

I had a look at the Dutch translation of "Paperin Fracassa". The first narration panel says: "Donald's dream starts at the moment he brought his nephews to a summer camp and is driving back to Duckburg..." I can see from the scan on Inducks it doesn't in the French one. Starting the story like that is even worse than saying this at the end of the "dream". Also, if Donald was dreaming this all while driving, it is even more surprising he finds his car undamaged.

Was "Castle of Babel" in your source? What could be the reason for this name? The Dutch translation says "Ghost castle", and I couldn't give a reason for that either.

I also notice some differences in the art between the original format and the remounted version, e.g. the top of the splash panel on page 7 and the background on 8.3.

February 1, 2014 at 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Even stranger: In the remounted version professor Magistus changes into a female comet, whereas in the original format, at least in the Dutch version, he becomes a male, bearded comet.

February 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sorry I missed your comments; interesting (and bizarre!) about the art changes, and especially the gender switch. It is indeed called the Castle of Babel in French. No idea why; maybe I could've come up with something better, but I decided to just let it ride.

February 5, 2014 at 1:23 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Also! I just checked the OLD, digest-format version of the story I have, from 1971, and the comet is STILL a lady. I would have assumed that that was the original version, but if YOU have a version in the original format in which it's a dude--I have NO idea what happened.

Also, in the older version, the castle is called, brilliantly enough, "The Castle." I suppose that was probably more for reasons of space than anything else; not much room for a long name in such a compressed format.

February 5, 2014 at 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Here's the comet from the Dutch publication:

I see the 1971 publication also contains "Paperopoli Liberata" ("Donaldville Libérée"). I'm interested to know what the French translator made of the poem "Canto l'armi furiose e il capitano". It seems to be the only foreign publication to include it.

February 7, 2014 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I actually bought that issue specifically to see a duck version of Tasso, which struck me as one of the weirdest ideas ever. It's odd that other publications wouldn't include the invocation; translated from the French as literally as possible, it reads:

Good people! The hour is come
to sing the marvelous saga
of a courageous captain named
Donald. Fiery and intrepid, he was
the hero of an epic battle against
a frightening enemy that had
weapons as mysterious
as they were unexpected.

And you, Muse, who attended this
battle of Titans, cover in ineffable
glory one who, engaged in a
fierce assault against an
immovable, impassable, flawless
wall, fought also against the rabble.
He was named Donald-the-terrible, who
gives his name to Duckburg!

Doesn't exactly sing, does it? If I were translating the story, I'd use some (appropriately modified) material from Edward Fairfax's 1600 translation, which I like best.

February 7, 2014 at 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Thank you and sorry for being this off-topic!

I assume the French version is in rhyme, but the lines are much less than eleven syllables (visible on the Inducks scan). The translator seems to have tried to stick close to Martina, while changing a few things to make it rhyme, forgetting it should refer to Gerusalemme Liberata. There is no connection between "Good people! The time has come" and "Canto l’arme pietose, e ’l Capitano".

I made a Dutch version some time ago, because the publication was lacking it. I don't want to say it's beautiful or funny, but it does use the ottava rima (a b a b a b c c rhyme with eleven syllables per line, or ten for masculine rhyme) and it combines parts from Tasso's original with elements from the story.

February 8, 2014 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger mina said...

Have you read "papernik..the diabolical avenger"? Donald is sooooooooo cool in that one...but not quite the hero type

February 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sure--when I first read that, I was quite surprised to find that he didn't start out as any sort of "hero." I haven't read all that many DA stories, though, so I'm unsure of the character's evolution.

February 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger mina said...

Then this should help

February 19, 2014 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

About Paperinik: he was not created to be a super-hero, but a character inspired to Arsene Lupin and Phantomas, as well as italian comics character Diabolik

May 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

About Paperinik: he was not created to be a super-hero, but a character inspired to Arsene Lupin and Phantomas, as well as italian comics character Diabolik

May 7, 2014 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

About Donald Fracas, I have a few thing to say:

In italian the castle is called Ca' Babele, I don't know why.

The comet is a girl. About the owl, I thought it was like a mix of Merlin's owl and Merlin himself.

The Cheshire Cat is called Stregatto (witch-cat) like in the film. And it talks in rhyme :)

Mix of characters both from films and comics wasn't so unusual, expecially in Christmas stories, and many of them featuring characters from Snow White (who often comes back to visit her friends in the forest).

The monkey is defined a ventriloquist, that literally means "someone who speaks with his belly". So, kind of joke by Martina, although still very weird (the reason I love him so much :)

I'm happy you liked the story so much, now I don't feel so lonely--many italian readers this story too extravagant, or at least the youngers do. Sheesh... what a lack of imagination! Where will it all end? :)

May 7, 2014 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you get that idea about the Evil Queen having an evil sorcerer brother seeking vengeance from this? :)

I think I probably would just kept the reference to the Queen herself. I mean, if you're going to worry about continuity with the movie, you might as well ask why Snow White now apparently co-exists with the modern-day Donald Duck, as well as Honest John and the Cheshire Cat. I think that these guest appearances by Disney film characters are generally just meant to represent the general, perennial notion of their film counterparts, as opposed to literally being a continuation of their stories as told in their respective films. Much like how each Donald Duck cartoon generally has little to nothing to do with the next one, and how the comics have little to do with the cartoons.

In that sense, I think even actually writing a story where the Queen survives to justify having her appear is an unnecessary over-explanation.

August 9, 2014 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, point taken. I think I have this unconscious idea in my mind that Disney movies somehow have a naturally greater level of continuity than any given comic or cartoon short. Still, to be fair, even if a given comic/cartoon doesn't actually reference any other, it also usually doesn't overtly contradict them. I think that's why I'm more apt to notice something like this.

August 10, 2014 at 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""Fracas" in French and Italian is a verb meaning "smash."": the Italian verb is "fracassare".

January 13, 2015 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

GeoX, you were busy answering the second part of the comment, but you didn't answer the first part. Did you, or didn't you get the idea of the Evil Queen's brother from Filiation's infamous Happily Ever After ?

February 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I am wholly unfamiliar with Filiation's infamous Happily Ever After.

February 14, 2016 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

It's not Filiation but "FILMATION". It's that stupid automatic grammar corrector that changed it unbeknownst to me.

So, if you don't know, it was an unauthorized direct-to-video sequel to Disney's "Snow White", and the main antagonist was Sir Maliss, the Evil Queen's brother and an evil sorcerer who puts a curse on the Prince. It's not unwatchable, but it really looks ridiculous and disrespectful when compared to the original movie, especially for the animation's quality.

So for someone familiar with this movie, the idea of an evil sorcerer brother to the Queen was bound to evoke Happily Ever After.

February 15, 2016 at 6:39 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Hell, sounds ridiculous enough to be worth checking out.

February 15, 2016 at 7:54 PM  

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