Thursday, March 18, 2021

Donald Duck Fun Annual 1981

Okay!  Something slightly different today, but hopefully as interesting to you as it was to me.  So there's this British book:

I ordered it some years ago from amazon or ebay or something, without having any idea what it was, and then just put it aside when it seemed to be a kind of boring children's book of minimal interest.  But on picking it up lately, I realized that, while it certainly has its boring aspects, it's of more interest than I had thought.

It's indexed on inducks, but only partially.  It contains a handful of short Western stories (with new, more hideous coloring), but that is only sixteen pages worth, and it's listed as being forty-eight pages--which is only true if you include the covers and all the front and back matter, but even so: there's obviously a lot missing from that entry.  And what's missing is all the stuff that makes it worth looking at.  We have a few pages of children's-placemat-style "games," but mainly what we have is text stories--and unlike the comics, these are very obviously locally produced; they're filled with Britishisms, and they're written in that condescendingly twee tone you associate with a lot of British children's literature.  And...look, I'm not trying to keep this secret!  I scanned the whole dern thing, and you can download it here!  But I think it will be edifying to go through some of this material, for reasons that will hopefully become apparent.

...but actually, before we do that, let's look at that cover again:

It seems like a normal kind of thing, but the more you look at it, the more it looks like one of those "find nine things wrong with this picture" jobs.  Roughly from left to right: Clarabelle seems to have only one leg; Pluto's back half appears to be missing; one of the planks in the plane hasn't been colored in; there is no way that Scrooge could fit in there at that angle; Daisy's right leg is at a really fucked-up angle; and Donald appears to be groping her.  Yeesh.  I am not here, mostly, to make fun of the art in this book, but this is not a great job.

What's most interesting about this book on a macro level is how completely out-of-time it feels.  It features Scrooge and Gladstone, so you know it's in some sense post-Barksian, but it does NOT feel that way.  In the early days of this blog, I wrote about an old British Mickey Mouse annual from 1940, and this does not feel substantially different than that.  There is little to no grasp of any of the characters, for one.  We know of course that Disney comics have never really taken hold in the UK, but I am just SO curious about the circumstances here, because notwithstanding the presence of these two (2) characters, it certainly feels as though the writers of these stories are totally unaware of the last forty-odd years of Disney comics.  Like someone told them hey, there's this Gladstone guy, you should include him.  He's super-lucky; that's his trait.  Work with that.  So they gave it their best effort, but, because they didn't know what this "luck" thing was meant to look like in practice, we get this slightly off version.  This just isn't the sort of thing it generally does, and the idea that Donald would be willing to feed Gladstone a feast just because he happened to show up...well, to enter into the spirit of the thing: pull the other one; it's got bells on.

"A scrumptious meal of roast beef."  You know, sometimes the tone here really makes my brain itch, but things like this are just so completely naff that I can't help but find them dopily adorable.  But what's with this idea that Gladstone would go on a diet?  Whoever introduced the writers to Gladstone neglected to inform them that with his luck comes total hedonism.  It seems like an important point.

Don't have much to say about this, but it really is tempting fate to ask the reader to spend time thinking about artistic quality.  Just look how off-model he is there!  Note that the child who owned this book before me started to colour that jolly picture of Goofy and then just gave up in despair, which seems reasonable.

It's interesting to see Scrooge measuring his fortune in pounds--there was no sense of concrete history or context in this conception of Scrooge, though that should've gone without saying--and also that the writers don't understand how his money is supposed to work.  Quick rule of thumb: if you're saying it's any amount of money that a person could conceivably actually have, you're doing it wrong.  It has to be so much money that thinking about economic inequality becomes meaningless.

And this idea that Scrooge would be obsessed with four-leaf clovers...well, actually, even though it seems absurd, I can sort of imagine a latter-day Western story doing something like that.  Not that that makes it any better. 

See!  I was talking about how old-fashioned this all feels: I think "Charlie the Crocodile, old Elmer the Elephant, King Lion and Oscar the Ostrich" make my case.  This thing of just making up other animal characters meant to be living in the same world as the ducks/mice feels VERY nineteen-thirties.

Did you want to know what they looked like?  This!  This is what they look like!  That lion looks naggingly familiar--any thoughts?  

I will say: obviously, our writers here weren't thinking about these characterizations (if you want to call them that) in terms of any kind of Disney history--and yet, I kind of like that ending.  Through the whole story, you think, okay, Donald's being a blowhard, as per usual.  But then, it turns out, no, he's just trying to amuse the kids.  And that's kind of cute, and a fun, atypical thing for him to do.  I must maintain that the story is less "thrilling" than the authors assert, however.

This is probably the most boring story here (with an extremely feeble denouement), and I don't have much to say about it.  But I did want to note this: "Mickey's a real fanatic for his tea!"  There are definitely parts of this book where it feels like it was written by an American thinking, hmm, how can I make this thing as cartoonishly over-the-top British-sounding as possible?

I suppose this is adjacent to a normal depiction of Scrooge, who is indeed known to cadge food from his nephews.  AND YET, this idea--of him visiting Donald's house under false pretenses to bake cakes and then snarling at anyone who tries to take one--makes me laugh immoderately.  Such total nonsense!

This story is, in outline, extremely boring, with a punchline so weak it doesn't deserve the name.  But then we get THIS: "He had lots of films of himself counting his millions and he never tried of watching them."  HE WOT?  Is this like when know what I'm getting at, yeah?  See the Blur song "Stereotypes" for more details.  I mean...gosh.  I suppose that's not necessarily an unfair parallel--maybe Scrooge's interest in money is, if not exactly sexual, then sort of along that same path--but, knowing the British reputations for reserve and repression, I'm sure the hapless person who wrote this would turn beet-red from top to bottom at the very suggestion.  It's obviously completely unintentional, but you've gotta watch yourself, man!  Otherwise, this is what's gonna happen!  Still, even if you totally reject this implication, you have to admit, the idea of Scrooge watching video of himself counting money is incredibly bizarre.

Also, stop calling your pictures "jolly."  I'll be the judge of that.

Okay, this one's pretty boring, but--that seems to be a pattern, doesn't it?  I find few if any of these stories interesting as a whole, but they've all got the weird little details.  Like, why is Donald so fixated on the idea that they may ONLY SWIM FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES?  Is he generally that sort of control freak?  Weird.

"He didn't really like rushing about with dogs."  Noted.  I'm wondering about Donald's "friend" here.  If this were a comic, you'd have to depict the friend, even if it turns out just to be a generic dude, but this is so hazy.  Is that image from some cartoon?  It looks very familiar.

But here's the REAL interesting thing about this one: is his "friend's" dog, Rover, actually...Bolivar?  Of course, we must allow that it could be a total coincidence that the artists decided to draw the dog as a Saint Bernard, but man, I dunno.  Is it possible that they caught a brief glimpse of a Western comic and so made the association?  It's just weird, from the perspective of a person more familiar with this material than these folks clearly were.  Huh.

Hmph.  We save the worst for last.  Well, maybe "worst" sounds overly judgmental, but this thing goes for three pages, and it does NOT earn that space.  I guess it's slightly interesting to make this a crossover featuring Pinocchio and the Pigs, but nothing is accomplished: we just get this really repetitive "oh boy let's enter the race" stuff from all of them, and for WHAT?  Not much!

...they were going the wrong way.  There's yer punchline.  I order you to bellow with hilarity.

I do like how the vintage cars are drawn.  Not so much that egregiously off-model Donald, who looks like the sort of thing you'd see in a Tijuana Bible or some such.

Well, that's about it.  I hope this was as intriguingly odd to you as it was to me.


Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Lion = Prince John?

March 18, 2021 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

And… Yeow, that cover! It looks looks someone traced (badly) a bunch of Bob Gregory art images and just stuck them anywhere they could fit!

March 18, 2021 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous DJ said...

The lion comes from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, as do the other animal characters in that illustration--they're all members of the two soccer teams during the extended fantasy sequence on the island of Namboombu. The lion's "official" name is King Leonidas, but I don't think the other characters have ever been given names. Oddly enough, several of them showed up in the Soccermania short several years later, as members of Huey, Dewey and Louie's soccer team, but are still unnamed.

As for the names that the British writer assigned to these critters, "Elmer the Elephant" is the name of an old Silly Symphonies character, and "Oscar the Ostrich" of course echoes the Gottfredson continuity, but those names seem like naturals for members of those particular species, and are probably coincidences.

March 18, 2021 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

The Lion and his animal companions are from Disney movie "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" animated segent.

Note the crow from "Dumbo" on the cover.

March 18, 2021 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Isn't that crow a badly-drawn "fat" version of Ellsworth?

March 18, 2021 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I'd also assumed it was Ellsworth, but I could be wrong. Dumbo might be a less obscure pull.

March 18, 2021 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Dumbo might be a less obscure pull... but the Crows? They've probably been purged from history by now. I'm stickin' with Ellsworth.

March 18, 2021 at 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

It's not as far off-model as Donald at the wheel of the vintage car...but that drawing of Scrooge above the four-leaf clover story truly gives me the creeps. The eyebrows, that smile...brrr.

March 18, 2021 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Oh, come on guys. That's clearly "fat crow" (as he is officialy named) :

I would be more suspicious of Crows apperance if this was in fact present day publication... but for 1981? Especialy a story that focuses on pulling so much of Disney movies stuff.

Note that Crows being ban from public eye is more recent that one can suspect.

Just few years ago they made a cameo in one of the new "Mickey Mouse" shorts and previews to that they cameo in "House of Mouse" (with dialog!)

Not to mention their cameo as Jessica's Rabbit band in "Who framed Rogger Rabbit"

And I belive not memtion their apperances in modern Danish "Dumbo" stories.

So at early 1980s;s think it wasn't unusual for them to make an apperance

March 19, 2021 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Sorry - I ment "book that pulls so much from the movies" not "story"

March 19, 2021 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Crows in Mickey Mouse short "New shoes" three years ago :

March 19, 2021 at 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Loke said...

Regarding Bolivar -- is it possible they took the art from some other source and then just wrote a story to go with it (disregarding its original context)?

March 19, 2021 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Gladstone in the very first panel is taken from a poses I think I seen before.

March 19, 2021 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Re: Gladstone dieting — well, a hedonist he may be in some respects, but this doesn't feel out of character to me because he's *also* clearly a bit of a preening, self-absorbed dandy.

March 19, 2021 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, yeah, that ‘King Lion’ is clearly King Leonidas from “Bedknobs”.

March 19, 2021 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I have to admit, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is one of the few animated or semi-animated Disney movies to have passed me by. Any good?

March 19, 2021 at 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Hmm. "Any good?" Yes, there's some stuff in the movie worth seeing. Not so much the interlude with the characters appearing in the book at hand...that may be the least interesting part of the movie. If you want a review, go to That Duckfan's reviews on Feathery; he reviewed it recently. The real question, if you decide to view it, is whether you should watch the shorter or longer version, longer version available on DVD. Many fans argue vociferously for the longer, though I myself feel that the movie as a whole works better in the shorter cut.

Anyway, there's a great battle scene with reanimated coats of armor fighting off the invading Nazis. And there's Angela Lansbury, who in my opinion is always worth watching. Incidentally, this movie makes my eclectic list of movies including a heterosexual romance where the man is attracted to the woman for her strengths. A few dozen movies on that list all told, which is pretty slim pickings considering that I've seen thousands of movies in my life.

March 19, 2021 at 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

The Gladstone in my headcanon would never go on a diet. Anyone that lucky would have a metabolism which would enable him to indulge in eating whatever he wants without becoming overweight. It's part of why we love to hate him.

March 19, 2021 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

If I remember correctly Walt Disney wanted to make a "Marry Poppins" sequel (A Marry Poppisn sequel? Can you imagine that?) but since he already had super hard time with the author (see "Saving Mr. Banks" for refrence) he went with "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" insted... So in a way it's a bit of a spiritual sequel.

March 19, 2021 at 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Well, "thousands of movies" is an overstatement. I just went to my Life List of movies, and there are just over 1700 titles. Still, the percentage of movies that qualify as containing feminist-friendly het romance is pretty pathetic. Somewhere between 40 and 55 of the movies I've seen.

March 19, 2021 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

@Pan: As I recall, that's not quite the case — rather, they started to develop “Bedknobs & Broomsticks” while they were in the process of trying to make the *first* “Mary Poppins” movie and the author was beginning to object. Then they shelved it because they got Mary Poppins after all. The long-cancelled project was then dug up in the 1970s because the studios were fetishising, and automatically greenlighting, any uncompleted plans that had been hatched while Walt Disney himself was still alive.

March 19, 2021 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Yep, acording wikipedia you have the right info so my bad.

March 20, 2021 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

22 comments and nobody noticed how Gladstone gets misgandered in that first panel? The luckiest *duck* in the world? No, he ain't!

March 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well...if he's Donald's cousin, he's gotta be at least *part* duck, yeah? I wonder if people in the Duckiverse have old-timey racial slurs that they use for people who are part duck part goose.

March 20, 2021 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

(Let us not forget that in Rosa-canon, Gladstone also has some coot ancestry — as, for that matter, does Donald.)

March 20, 2021 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Look, if someone identifies as a goose, it's only polite to refer to them as a goose. It's the right thing to do! This is a mistake by the British writers.

The concept of characters belonging partially to different species does not exist within Barks' stories (or Disney, for that matter).

March 21, 2021 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I'd say it doesn't exist and it also doesn't not exist. Is there any evidence that, beyond their names, these characters are at all conscious of their species backgrounds?

March 21, 2021 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Whell, there is this one panel in "The Gilden Man" where Donald and the kids see stuffed ducks...

And if you want some non-Barks examples there is that story where Feathy goes duck hunting and shocked Donald react to the idea "I'm domesticated"

Note In DuckTales it took an alien being new to life on earth to noticed that something is of 02:12 :

March 21, 2021 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, okay, fair enough. But do you think if Gladstone had seen those stuffed ducks, he'd've been like, hey, no worries here; I'm a goose? I have my doubts.

March 21, 2021 at 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Also, though you can say that Barks had "geese that were simply anthropomorphic geese" and "ducks that were simply anthropomorphic ducks", not duck/goose mixtures, yet it is the case that he portrayed geese and ducks as cousins, which would have to mean that there was interbreeding somewhere on the family tree.

March 21, 2021 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Ayrton Mugnaini Jr. said...

"We know of course that Disney comics have never really taken hold in the UK"

Indeed, in terms of British rock, a parameter as good as any IMHO, the only positive allusions I can remember right now are:

* the Kinks saying "God save Donald Duck" on their Village Green Preservation Society album

*John Lennon confessing that in his song "Do You Want To Know A Secret" he took the lines "do you want to know a secret, promise not to tell" from a Disney picture he thought was either Cinderella or Fantasia - it was Snow White!

* a 1990s band called Microdisney

* Elton John writing the Lion King score

* Phil Collins doing the same for Tarzan

* an utterly tasteless Sex Pistols parody of Bambi that I won't go into details thereof

As for the cover of this 1981 Annual Fun mag... Cor! Blimey! This is the only badly drawn official Disney mag or book cover I've ever seen...

July 29, 2021 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Come to think of it, I do remember that Kinks lyric. Rather interesting; I wonder what experience Ray Davies had with the character.

August 18, 2021 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger josefina said...

This whole thing made me lose it. The characterizations remind me of how Scrooge is written in TV shorts like "Scrooge McDuck and Money" and "Sport Goofy in Soccermania". It's clearly a weirdly miscommunicated, warped version of the comics characters. Unrelated to the British book, I hate how Scrooge has a Scottish accent in the dialogue because it's so jarring, since he would never drop a "cannae" or "tis" in a comic story.

But back to the book, I'm usually charmed by the 70s-80s children's books, like the Mickey Mouse Cookbook for instance. The art is so specific in style in the American ones and it's just nice in a kitschy, stupid way. This one, however, is possibly irredeemable. But hilarious regardless.

January 21, 2022 at 11:33 PM  

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