The premise of Tea for Two Hundred sounds like a can’t miss hit – Donald Duck protects his picnic from some raiding ants. It’s simple, it allows for Donald to be himself and it presents opportunity for some great gags. So you can imagine my disappointment when watching this final short of 1948 when it didn’t quite live up to those expectations.
The biggest problem with the short is that it takes too long to get going. While the ants are introduced almost immediately, the funny parts of the short don’t begin until about 2/3 of the way into the proceedings. We have to take the time at the beginning to establish that Donald’s having a picnic, that the ants are invading and that the ants are persistent. I don’t know about you, but I think I could have gotten that rather quickly.
Instead, we spend time with Donald tormenting one small ant, piling more and more onto the back of this one ant and laughing as the ant attempts to carry all the extra weight. While this is true to Donald’s character, it’s really not necessary for the short. The good stuff starts when that ant returns to the colony and relays to his brethren all the great stuff that awaits them at Donald’s picnic.
This is where Tea for Two Hundred is really a great short. The ants grabbing the food and running around with it is comedy gold. My favorite bit is when the animators choose to have the food items personify the ants, and get into a football huddle ready to attack Donald. That’s just one gag, but they come fast and furious in this last 2 minutes of the short. When Donald overreacts, as he is wont to do, and blows up the ant hole with dynamite, it’s inevitable that it hurts him more than it does them.
1948 had been a great year for Disney to this point in terms of quality. The short that immediately proceeded this is Mickey and the Seal, one of the classics. So Dear To My Heart was a fantastic film, and the shorts early in the year were quite good. Tea for Two Hundred is still good, but compared to the bar set by those films, it doesn’t quite measure up. Still, if you enjoy seeing Donald get his comeuppance, you’ll like this one.