Donald Duck’s career has been one of battles with other people or animals. In the beginning, it was teaming up with Mickey and Goofy to battle Pete or other menaces, but his solo career was different. The idea in Donald’s latest solo shorts is to show him as a suburban man tending to a garden or trying to take a rest. Inevitably either Chip and Dale or someone else gets in the way, and in Bee On Guard, it’s yet another encounter with bees. Donald apparently has quite the taste for honey.
In fact he’s almost another Winnie the Pooh, since this isn’t the first time he has gotten into it with bees. In this case, the bees make their presence known by swooping down out of the sky to steal pollen from Donald’s flowers. This is a big mistake on their part, because it leads to Donald finding ways to steal the bees’ honey from their “tower” of a tree. That means, of course, Donald dresses up like a bee to fool the guard on duty.
And there’s the first issue with this short. The pacing is completely off. The first minute or so of the short shows the bees and their internal hierarchy, such as how they take off, land and store their wares. By the time Donald comes in, he’s not the main character, or becomes so only because we are familiar with him. Then, it’s hard to root for Donald to get the honey out of the tree, because we have already invested ourselves in the bees.
That makes the main conflict even stranger. About 5 minutes into a 7 minute short, Donald is successful in stealing the honey, and the bee who has been standing guard is now an outcast from the swarm. As a viewer, I felt awful for the poor bee, who was fooled by a simple minded trick by Donald. That late into the short, it's hard to switch allegiances and root for Donald, and in fact the short doesn't ask you to do that. Instead, the bee gets his revenge on Donald and gets back into the good graces of his swarm.
While the visuals are funny (seeing the bee with Donald's giant stinger for example) it left me flat. The shifting viewpoints from the bees to Donald and back again were hard to follow, and although I was never confused, it was hard to say who I was supposed to sympathize with in the end. Add to that the lackluster gags of Donald dressing up like a bee, and it makes for a short that is subpar, even by the lower standards of 1950s Disney shorts.
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