When you see a short titled The Trial of Donald Duck in the queue to review, you get excited. I’m going to state that as an immutable fact, because I was very intrigued about what this one would be about. After all, it’s not like Donald is one of those characters who would sit idly by and take being cross examined, right? And whatever he did has to be pretty funny?
Watching the short did not let me down. Donald gets in trouble not for some heinous act that he is framed for, but for his every day temper in a new environment – a fancy restaurant. It’s a perfect scenario for Donald, because his aggravated state plays perfectly well against the calm, accommodating demeanor of a restaurant waiter. It’s a study in contrast that makes the whole thing that much funnier.
It’s also a bit of social commentary, because the restaurant bears the brunt of the satire. Donald comes in simply wanting a cup of coffee, and gets served a miniscule drop of coffee that would barely wet his whistle, and the charge for that is obscenely high. On top of that, the unsophisticated Donald pulls out his lunch box and starts chowing down. The waiter then turns on him, writing out a bill for all the items in the lunch box.
This turn in the short, where the waiter turns from a harmless irritant to a cold-hearted and literally stone faced antagonist, is key to the entire short. It makes Donald sympathetic while still allowing him to maintain his temper and short fuse. That’s a brilliant turn that makes this short unique. It’s not something we have seen done well before, but here it works.
Donald even manages to get his revenge after he was sentenced. Despite being forced to wash dishes, Donald instead rushes through his chores, breaking as many dishes as he cleans. The tables get turned on the waiter, which gives this a satisfying ending as well as some great humor. The storytelling in this short is compact, brilliant and a great example of how to use Donald Duck well.