Sorry, but this one’s strictly for completists. Neal Gabler’s recent Disney biography suggests that in later years at Disney, animated shorts were used as an outlet for secondary talent while the bright lights worked on the features. This certainly seems to be borne out in The Chronological Donald Volume Three 1949-1950.
In the years covered in this two-DVD set, the basic setup remains the same in cartoon after cartoon. Donald Duck is innocently engaged in some activity, and imps like Chip and Dale swoop in to set him off into a towering rage. What the animators and gagmen were clearly struggling with was creating a useful foil for their Duck.
In the introduction, Leonard Maltin points out that the DVD set showcases three: Buzz the Bee, Bootle Beetle, and Chip and Dale. None of them are compelling and the gags are repetitious, especially with the bee. I think Buzz gets his stinger stuck in a cork in every single cartoon in which he appears. Chip and Dale are especially limited and unbearable.
How many situations can you set up in which the comedy is driven by the fact that Donald is somehow stealing their nuts? The folks in the Donald unit apparently were doing their best to answer that question in the late 40s.
The animation itself is perfunctory by Disney standards, perfectly serviceable but nothing much beyond that.
The best two shorts in the entire set are The Trial of Donald Duck and Hook, Line, and Sinker. It’s interesting that in both Donald is the aggressor who is sinned against and who gets over on his enemies. In Trial, Donald is on trial for theft, and we see battle against a snooty waiter in flashback. In Hook, Lion, and Sinker, Donald defends the fish he’s caught against a hungry (but not too smart) Lion and his son.
Hook is especially funny, it has a wilder Warner’s feel to it; it is the jewel of the entire set, easily the best of the 30 included shorts.
The DVD set is handsomely presented in the normal Disney Treasures tin and limited to 50,000 copies. As an aside, I would recommend an earlier Disney Treasures DVD, On the Front Line, with Donald Duck cartoons intended for World War II enlisted men, for better examples of what Donald can do when he is given something really worth going into a rage over.