Thursday, February 25, 2010

Donald's Ostrich

Goofy is my favorite of Disney’s cartoon stars, but Donald is a close second. I’ve always said that I see a lot of myself in Donald. The frustration he expresses in nearly every cartoon he is in is something I tend to see in myself, but I don’t express it the way he does.

Donald’s Ostrich is a good example of that frustration. Were I to find myself in a situation where I was confronted with a rogue ostrich that was eating everything in sight, and knocking me all over the place, I doubt I would be able to contain my anger anymore. Donald gives us all the voice that we want to have, but don’t use publicly.

The set up here is just as described above, but it doesn’t get much beyond that, and that’s the problem with this. I come into this short to watch Donald Duck, but I end up getting a lot of focus on the ostrich, and not the ostrich’s interactions with Donald. I don’t care about the ostrich unless he annoys Donald.

Hortense the ostrich is not a compelling character. Hortense parades around the train station where Donald is working, and eats everything in sight. But that’s all there is to him. There is a sequence in the middle of the short where we see Hortense eating an accordion, a clock, balloons and radio. During that entire sequence, Donald is absent.

Hortense’s voracious appetite is established from the get-go, with the tag that Donald reads after the ostrich breaks loose. So why do we need to spend a couple minutes out of an 8 minute short trying to re-establish that with the diet I listed above? Is it funny? Somewhat, but it’s the same gag over and over – Hortense eats something, it gets stuck in his throat, causing the throat to distend, then he swallows it.

The best part of this short is the inventive use of the radio as a device throughout the short. The beginning of the short shows Donald switching stations and looking for something fun. Then, in the middle, Hortense is startled by the radio, looking for the voice that is coming out of the radio. Finally, the voices coming out of the ostrich because he swallowed the radio startle Donald at the end.

There was also a gag about Hortense developing hiccoughs towards the end, which causes him to change the stations on the radio and stumble around. It just doesn’t come off as funny to me, although I admit that’s probably individual taste. This short does not come close to something like Modern Inventions, which shows Donald in a variety of situations that raise his ire. In this short, it’s a loose confederation of gags by Hortense that cause Donald inconvenience. It seems like the focus is taken off of Donald and put onto the ostrich, which really turned me off to this short.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


  1. Not one of my absolute favourites, but it's pleasant enough (I think I enjoy it a little more than you)! One thing I've noticed about the Disney shorts of late is that they ALL have lovely rich colours and an abundance of detail (with shadows and highlights etc) it's not just the Silly Symphonies and occasional 'special effort' short that have special attention lavished on them (A lot of the 1936 Mickeys looked a little flat and sometimes had slightly drab backgrounds in my opinion). Although I have to admit that the recent Symphonies, despite being less frequent, have gone off the scale in terms of use of colour and special effect work.

  2. Oh and don't forget, Hortense is a "woman ostrich"!


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