Monday, December 3, 2018

"The Big Switcheroo"

CP 6, 1954. You know, I said that that last story was the worst one on the list, but as much as I might not *like* the fake-snow thing, it at least made for a coherent story; it wasn't a madman's dream that no human mind could follow in its inhuman contortions without descending into an endless howling, shrieking void. So it had that going for it.

I actually really like this opening. I mean, it seems like a reasonable thing to do, doesn't it? Reminiscent of a Barks cover gag. You have to wonder, though: surely he still had to buy the...sheet metal?...that makes up the tree's structure, as well as that trunk thing and that star on top. Would you really save that much? Hmmm.

This upsets Donald. What does "get him!" mean? I have been pondering that question for a while without success. Maybe it's a stray speech balloon from another story. There's a potentially kind of interesting thing about age and people being jealous of other people, which isn't really a very common duck theme (though you can think of examples), but could be cool. But, you know, it's Connell, so don't hope for too much.

So what's weird is: Donald's protestation in the top left looks like obvious pious bullshit, doesn't it? The hell you're nothing but altruistic. And yet...the kids completely buy it, and it certainly appears as though the reader is meant to swallow it just as easily.

"Those kids across the tracks" will naturally make you think of "Shacktown," and guess what? THIS STORY IS JUST AS GOOD AS THAT ONE! WHAT A TWIST! No, it's not. Sorry. I should've known I couldn't fool you. It's just that stating the obvious over and over about things like this can get tedious.

But anyway, it's impossible for Unca Donald to become Unca Scrooge, so...I guess we're done here. Next story!

Efforts to get money from Scrooge meet with a predictable end. I do find his reaction there pretty amusing. I'll admit it.

It truly is deplorable how writers rely on Gyro's ability to do magic to solve their problems. But just go with it: we can switch people's identities with this machine (this just says "personalities," but it's clearly whole identities).

Gyro's expression there is truly a something of something. I think we can all agree on that.

So we need to be absolutely clear: the idea is that Donald's mind enters Scrooge's body and vice versa. That accomplished, Donald-in-Scrooge's-body can take advantage of this switch to buy toys for the poor kids, while Scrooge-in-Donald's body goes to play in the snow. Do we all understand this? Does this make sense? No, it's not that complicated, but you'll see why I'm belaboring it soon enough.

Note that the kids extract a promise from Donald that his first act as Scrooge will be to buy presents for the poor kids. Note it!

Okay, let's do it. Go!

So this is all very confusing because the story never clarifies it or even seems to be aware that it's an issue, but the first problem is that although they've switched bodies, they're apparently not aware of what happened (and Donald-in-Scrooge's-body seemingly just forgets the whole presents thing). So they still act like themselves, basically, but in different bodies. Okay. But...

But here's the real...thing here.  Um...why are you thinking that Scrooge-in-Donald's-body would starting buying presents? Have you forgotten your own plan? If HDL were meant to be confused within the story it would be one thing, but...that doesn't seem to be the case.  Also, note that although the selling point for Scrooge was that he'd be young and thus not have his aches and pains, apparently he does anyway, with no explanation.  And Donald, in spite of being in Scrooge's body, doesn't.  This stuff could all be explained, but it's not.  It seems like Connell just somehow lost track of the premise of his own plot, resulting in this weird, defective storytelling.

In another bit of pointless confusion, we see that, while Donald was pissed off at Scrooge's ostentation, Donald-as-Scrooge is just amused and indulgent about the whole thing. That might mean something in a more coherent story. Note that the nephews never try to talk Donald-as-Scrooge into giving money; they remain fixated on the idea that Scrooge-as-Donald should do it. Beyond the obvious aspect of that which makes zero sense, if it's what you're doing, why did you even bother with this whole, baroque personality-switching thing in the first place? I really can't adequately stress how bizarre and nonsensical this whole thing is.

Yeah, so they try to get Daisy to, uh, seduce Scrooge into being generous. Ugh. I have nothing more to say about that, and thankfully I don't have to, because it's a completely discrete segment that could easily be chopped out of the story entirely, losing nothing.

Seriously, ya coulda just started with the "generous pill." Would've made things shorter, if nothing else.

Nonetheless, the pill does its job.

Yeah, let's not get carried away. We wouldn't want everyone to have a jolly Christmas. That's just excessive.

But...he didn't order all these toys; you did. Okay okay, you wouldn't expect Scrooge to make such a fine distinction. But the story never acknowledges that there's even a distinction to be made.  It's like Connell just immediately forgot about the "generous pill" thing and is under the impression that the original plan worked.  I have a very strong feeling that it never even occurred to him (who strikes me as having been a very confused individual) that there was an issue here.

Again, we see that even DONALD is apparently under the impression that he's the one who placed this order. For the love of...

I guess given the much more significant nonsense in this story, it would be superfluous to note that Connell apparently conceptualized jail as functioning like a debtor's prison. Jeesh.

Uh...what? Well, don't think too hard about it; the above two panels are the only place that this magical, long-distance hypnotism...thing is even mentioned.  Is it supposed to be...a joke?  Maybe, but it's tough to say, given that it really just looks like Connell's usual bizarre sensibilities at play.  Western did have editors, as we know from the fact that they censored various Barks stories, but apparently that was their only job; doing something about insane nonsense like this would've been too much to ask.

AND YET--IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING--holy shit, dude, this panel. The pathos here is just unbelievable. I mean, it doesn't contribute anything to the story as a whole, which is still just gibberish, but if this were a better story--damn, man. I especially like him trying to talk to the dollar bill. If "like" is the word. It's terrifying.

SIGH. Everything's bad. Sure, it's cool that the kids across the tracks (you know...THOSE kids) are having a good time, but, you know, even that's not THAT great. Blargh.

I actually don't object to this part. It's fine. It's okay that he didn't spend the money under his own volition; he still realizes the value of charity. That mankind is his business. That the common welfare is his business; that charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence are, all, his business. That the dealings of his trade are but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of his business. Or something. If only the story had built to this in a less sanity-blasting way.

No, seriously, this stuff is fine. Just reprint the last few pages and pretend that every copy of the entire first part was lost in a fire or something, and you'll do fine.

...well, I mean, there *is* this fairly dopey bit at the end where they wonder whether he's crying tears of joy, or tears of bitter sorrow because of being out a thousand dollars. That's not so great. But comparatively, it's FINE.

I would like to tediously point out that this convenient happenstance shouldn't work. Scrooge isn't just sad at being out a thousand bucks; he's sad about being out THAT thousand bucks. What's a thousand dollars to him when he makes billions a day? Nothing; it's just the principle of the thing. Still, better authors than Connell (...are there any worse ones? No, seriously, can you name a worse Disney writer than Connell?) have done similar things, so in the spirit of good will towards all man, we'll let it go. The last panel, again, is good. I'll just be repeating myself if I lament that it just needed a more sensical build-up, so you can take that as read.

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Blogger Achille Talon said...

an endless howling void of chaos

Wait, is a void of chaos not by definiton the presence of order? I don't think this sentence means what you meant for it to mean. By all means. I mean… am I mean?


December 3, 2018 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Anyway, I read this story as a child and my thoughts greatly echoed yours. Nice opening the first part made my head hurt, then the ending buggers off to be a completely different, and much better, story, albeit kind of by-the-book.

To try and make sense of it, perhaps the reason Huey, Dewey and Louie are trying to get Scrooge-in-Donald's-body to surrender the money is that halfway through the plan they realized it was just immoral fraud to have Donald-in-Scrooge's-body abuse of Scrooge's riches, but they hope to salvage the situation by taking advantage of the idea that Scrooge-in-Donald's-body will be less cranky and more mellow.

As to why they would think that… Remember that the machine just switches identities, not brains; memories are exchanged and each thinks he's the other, but on a physical level it's not a mind-switch, just each being hypnotized into thinking he's the other fellow. So perhaps it's a nature-over-nurture deal where they hope that even if he has the identity of Scrooge, Scrooge-in-Donald's-body will keep Donald's generous impulses.

December 3, 2018 at 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

The whole identity-switching aspect of this story makes zero sense, as you well demonstrate. When I first read it (as an adult), I kept thinking that there must be something wrong with *me* because I wasn't able to make sense of it. Wait, did I miss something essential? No, Connell confused something essential. I am actually relieved to read this post and be reassured of my own sanity. HDL are supposed to be getting Donald-in-Scrooge's-body to give presents to poor kids! Scrooge-in-Donald's-body should be skating with no aches and pains!

Nonetheless, I have kept my copy and every now and then look at that extremely poignant and terrifying scene where Scrooge talks to the dollar bill. There really has never been a stronger statement of the poverty of Scrooge's money-obsession at Christmas.

As for the "Get him" line: I read it as the nephew saying to his brothers, "Get a load of him (Unca Donald)!"

December 3, 2018 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

"Void of chaos" was definitely maladroit. Slightly edited.

December 3, 2018 at 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Andrebyboer said...

Sorry, but you are all misunderstanding how Gyro's machine works, and the story does (mostly) make sense.

You go wrong right off the bat, when you say "we can switch people's identities with this machine (this just says "personalities," but it's clearly whole identities)". No. That's explicitly not what the machine does.

Gyro says "I've made the grouchy pig think he's the happy pig, and vice versa!" And later on Louie says "They think they're each other!" In other words, the machine does not actually put Donald's mind in Scrooge's body and Scrooge's in Donald's: it essentially hypnotizes them both, so that Scrooge (remaining in his own body) believes he is Donald, and Donald believes he is Scrooge.

This resolves almost every objection to the logic of the story, although it's true that the nephews are a bit confused: they should of course have pursued Scrooge (thinking he's Donald) to fulfill Donald's promise, although they'd probably have to explain it to him again, rather than Donald (thinking he's Scrooge).

Also agree that "Get him!" is a variation of "Get a load of him!"

December 3, 2018 at 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Andrebyboer said...

To clarify further: I'm not convinced the machine actually switches memories, but the hypnosis is apparently psychosomatically powerful enough that it imbues the person with the physical characteristics of the person they think they are.

However, since Donald doesn't remember his actions as "Scrooge", I don't suppose Scrooge remembers feeling young as "Donald" either, so it doesn't seem that there was much in it for him after all.

December 3, 2018 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

This resolves almost every objection to the logic of the story, although it's true that the nephews are a bit confused: they should of course have pursued Scrooge (thinking he's Donald) to fulfill Donald's promise, although they'd probably have to explain it to him again, rather than Donald (thinking he's Scrooge). say this as though that isn't the primary objection to the story. :/ This would explain Donald's thinking that he did in fact buy the presents, but that seems to be about all. It may be true that this is what Connell sort of vaguely had in the back of his mind, but it's in no way clear from the actual story. He obviously spent no time thinking about the "rules" of this switch.

December 3, 2018 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

It's one thing for Del write a story that makes little sence... Hey, it happens. Sometimes even the best writers won't notice their logical flaws until a person will point them out. When you are writing you are in your own little world...

The fact that neither the artis (who HAD A LOT OF TIME TO THINK WHILE HE WAS DRAWING THE DARN THING) or the editor and the publisher (who's job it is to look for such thing) didn't bother to brind this up - or find it problematic - it' odd to me.

They either had to find it normal or didn't had the balls to point it out to Del. Very, very odd...

December 3, 2018 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...


I don't know if they could have, y'know. I'm not entirely sure how things worked in those days, but it's very plausible to me to think that Connell submitted his script to the editors, and they (well, more likely, a secretary working for them) sent it to the artist of their choosing, with neither man knowing who they were collaborating with.

I find this all the more likely in that I really don't think Carl Barks would in his right mind have let Kay Wright touch any of his stuff.

December 3, 2018 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Plus, writing a script, even a stupid one, and then having it drawn, takes time. Even if someone spotted the mistake, for a Christmas story like this one, there was even more of a deadline than for any other, and so there might not have been time enough for a correction.

December 3, 2018 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

To be fair in my career I did meet some artists who have the attitude "I don't care if the script is good or not as long they are paing me I'll draw it" (I myself prefer work with artists who will actually talk things over before they draw the thing)

But still, the main culprit for me is the editor who clearly didn't cared is the script is consistent or not... or had realy poorly planed scegual and was like 'Well, I should call Del and tell him to fix it, but screw it, we don't have time".

December 3, 2018 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Þorgrímur Kári said...

In this story's very slight defence, I feel like body-swapping stories in popular culture weren't properly... codified at this point in time. I only say that because I've seen other similarly confused body-swap stories from before the 1980s where it's unclear how complete the swap is and how completely the swapped persona is in control of their swapped body, notably the Frankenstein movies "Ghost of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein Created Woman". In both of those movies, there seems to be a notion that the consciousness of the original body's owner somehow still resides in the body after a different brain has been inserted. So, I dunno, maybe the plot-holes in this story would seem less galling to a kid who hasn't seen this plot a million times and had all the rules drilled into their brain.

December 4, 2018 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's an interesting point that I hadn't considered--probably because I'm not familiar with any of these old mind-control stories. But yeah, that could, if not excuse the story's lapses, at least explain them. I can sort of imagine being an uncritical kid and just glossing over the myriad bits of nonsense.

December 4, 2018 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Lieju said...

I remember this! I wondered if it was just confusing in finnish but nice to know it made little sense to begin with.
BTW the finnish version does cut the weird hypnosis stuff and the talking to the dollar bill bit (and the translation makes the daisy part sound less creepy... HDL are just happy to see her and believe she knows what to do)

December 5, 2018 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Andrebyboer said...

This would explain Donald's thinking that he did in fact buy the presents, but that seems to be about all. It may be true that this is what Connell sort of vaguely had in the back of his mind, but it's in no way clear from the actual story. He obviously spent no time thinking about the "rules" of this switch.

It also explains why Donald is the one who experiences aches and why Scrooge doesn't respond to the dollar tree with the same attitude as real Donald did.

As for the nephews' plan, I agree that they were confused, but I think you're mischaracterizing what it consisted of. It was never to have "Donald-in-Scrooge's body" take advantage of the situation to fulfill his promise (that would rely on the identities being genuinely switched, with the subjects aware of it and remembering promises they'd made before the switch). It was, apparently, to hypnotize Donald into thinking he was Scrooge, and then hold him to the promise he made (as Donald).

Now the flaw in this plan seems obvious and the snag predictable, but that's pretty much par for the course in many of these stories. And depending on how total you expect the hypnosis to be, it was not entirely unreasonable, either. (For example, in a stage hypnosis show, if the hypnotist first extracted a promise from a participant, then hypnotized them into thinking they were Napoleon, and then asked them to fulfill their promise, you might well expect them to comply, because they're not actually Napoleon, and they retain their actual identity and memories underneath. And sure, this sort of hypnosis may not be "real", but the outcome is in line with the conventions that exist for how it works.)

So I think the problem is that you're applying the wrong trope in interpreting the story. It's not a mind-switch gimmick, but a hypnosis gimmick, and makes relatively good sense within that framework. Admittedly the way it is presented makes it easy to get confused, but there is a quite a lot of dialog that specifies what's meant to be going on. And it's also possible that at the time, hypnosis was a more established trope than mind-switching, and thus a more readily available frame for the reader.

December 6, 2018 at 3:31 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

With just a few added panels, the story could be explained as a series of "Old-California" style "shared" dreams by HDL. After each weird dream, they'd wake up with a collective "blink, blink" (like Donald at the end of the "Old Demon Tooth" story) then immediately plunge back into an even weirder one. At the very least, I would place "blinks" at the end of the Daisy sequence; just before they tackle the over-generous "Scrooge" in Donald's body; after Donald's arrest; and, finally, after they idiotically/pathetically try to hypnotize Scrooge's photo, which was SO bizarre and out-of-character that they wake up for good. Of course, this doesn't explain away all the story's problems (like why Donald was really in jail), but it helps keep me from losing my own mind trying to wrap my head around convoluted arguments that attempt to defend the logic of this piece-of-crap story as written.

December 13, 2018 at 9:29 AM  

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