The first comics that I read as a kid were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics. Those last two were especially great since they brought me a lot of joy as a kid. I haven’t read them since sadly (don’t know whatever happened to my copies either), but happily, there are new collections out there that are recollecting these old comics. The latest in these editions is Donald Duck: The Pixilated Parrot, coming out May 15th. Let’s take a look.
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Pixilated Parrot (Fantagraphics)
There are a lot of stories in this collection, so let’s break it down one at a time…
The Pixilated Parrot
Our title story is about Donald’s nephews getting a parrot who can count things for long stretches of time and memorize numbers. The bird ultimately ends up in the possession of Uncle Scrooge and shenanigans ensue from there. First of all, this is a good story to open the volume on since it features Donald, Uncle Scrooge, the nephews, and even the Beagle Boys all at once. The humor is on fire and there are plenty of great jokes going on (personal favorite moment is towards the end where after the Beagle Boys have stolen all of Scrooge’s money, it takes them weeks to divide it up equally and that’s what gets them caught) and the characterization is great here. The only weakness with the story is that it gets a bit sidetracked in the middle and it takes a long time for the characters to discover the Beagle Boys’ crime.
Wild About Flowers
The Duckberg Wildflower Club is out checking the hills for daises now that Spring has arrived. Daisy herself is offering to partner up with the guy who brings her a daisy first, which Donald is all over. However, he’s going to need a lot of help due to the fact that his unnaturally lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander, is also after her affection.
This is a much more straightforward issue in terms of plot and it focuses more on Donald than the previous story did, which was split between him and Scrooge. It’s just Donald trying to win Daisy’s affection while having to deal with Gladstone and his crazy luck. It’s just as funny as the first, especially seeing how Gladstone keeps getting the upper hand and seeing how absurdly things go his way. The resolution is also pretty amusing as well, with neither of them actually winning due to their own problems.
With great luck comes great self-arrogance and douchebaggery.
A crazy scientist kidnaps Donald Duck and the nephews, taking them all to Persia where he hopes to uncover a lost civilization. Surprise surprise, they do find a buried kingdom and the scientist has found a way to resurrect the old inhabitants. This only leads to bad things, like Donald being mistaken for a Prince destined to be married off.
This story had a lot of twists and turns in it, always upping the ante as far as the next crazy thing that’ll happen. Though, this one is not as funny as the others are and there are a lot of moments that feel awfully convenient with how the plot progresses (like how characters end up automatically knowing the language of this lost civilization). The story was also surprisingly darker than the previous tales, especially in the climax, and has a much more adventurous feel to it. This gives the tale a more unique flavor in comparison to the rest of the stories in the collection. All in all, not the best of the bunch, but it’s not awful either.
Donald takes the nephews out into the woods for a nice long camping trip. He’s extremely eager and happy to do so, but he’s kind of causing the kids a lot of grief due to making them do all sorts of work. However, Donald is also having some trouble as well with trying to get this perfect shot of a buck in its natural habit and constantly running into another camper who doesn’t understand fire safety.
This is the longest of the stories available in the book and probably the best of the bunch in terms of story. The plot is written well and feels tight, with most of the story points and events serving some purpose (maybe not the opening so much with the characters driving out to the forest). The character beats are all on point and I especially like how Donald got to be both his funny self but also able to step up as a hero. Most of the stories here have had him as a bit of a punching bag with how many bad things keep happening and there’s bit of that here as well, but his plan that saves everyone from the forest fire and also teaching Huey, Dewy, Louie about camping really do save the day and ultimately lead to catching the true perpetrator behind the fire.
This is an odd PSA for fire safety, I must admit.
This is a very quick, one-page comic about Donald trying to get a parrot to talk. Not much too really say about it other than the punch line is pretty obvious.
Donald’s Grandma Duck
Carl Barks provides the art for this story while an unknown writer does the story. It’s about Grandma Duck and that’s about it. The thing about this story is that it doesn’t have really much focus, just kind of wandering around from Grandma dealing with Gus Goose’s laziness to the nephews coming to visit. In terms of plot, it’s probably the weakest story in the collection, but does at least provide a lot of character bits and jokes throughout at least.
This another story by a different unknown writer while Carl provides the artwork. Donald Duck is acting as a camp counselor and is trying to make the troop respect him, but he keeps screwing up or getting tricked by them. It’s pretty straightfoward and does provide plenty of chuckles in it. The placement of this story is a bit odd though; we see Donald have such a difficult time with camping after Vacation Time where he was shown to be quite the expert when it came to these things.
The Magic Hourglass
One day Uncle Scrooge decides to drop off some worthless gifts to Donald and the kids, a rubbish old hourglass and a decrepit old fishing boat. However, unbeknownst to him, the hourglass is special and it grants the owner vast fortune and treasures the longer they have it. The thing is though that the hourglass has stopped working and the four have to go to Morocco in order to get it fixed, with Uncle Scrooge hot on their tails after he realized what he gave away.
This is the only other adventure based story we had in the collection and of the two, this is probably the best of them. The humor is stronger and more prevalent (I loved the bit where Scrooge bemoans the fact that he is slowly going broke without the hourglass and he’ll lose everything in 600 years) and the story isn’t nearly as contrived as the Ancient Persia one. Sure, some parts of the story feel superfluous to the plot (like the opening part where Donald and kids are arguing over who Uncle Scrooge favors more), but that’s pretty much it.
That day, four suckers were born.
The circus is rolling into town and Donald and the nephews want to go see it. Unfortunately, they are completely broke, so Donald decided to hock Daisy’s special pin for some easy cash (he’ll buy it back when payday rolls around). Unfortunately, through a series of unfortunate events, Donald loses the pin and has to recover it from a circus performer before Daisy finds out the truth.
Overall, not a bad story at all (very focused in on what it wants to tell and doesn’t get distracted by any small points) and the humor was pretty good from start to finish. This is also probably the only story in the collection where everything bad that happens to Donald is actually deserved. Sure, you can sympathize with how hard he tries to get the pin back and constantly fails at it, but he did bring it on himself ultimately when he tried selling Daisy’s pin without her permission.
You Can’t Guess
Christmas time is rolling around and Huey, Dewey, and Louie want to get this cool new building set. When they ask Donald if they can get it for Christmas, he tells them he’ll get them the toy, but only if they can figure out what he wants for Christmas. Problem is though, that’s a lot tougher than it seems, even with asking everyone Donald knows.
This is easily the best story to end the collection on in my mind and also one of the strongest in general. It has most of the characters we’ve seen throughout the book in it so we can see them one last time, the story is very sweet and heartwarming (I am a sucker for a good Christmas story), and the humor is pretty good and hits more often than it misses (I especially love how the nephews asked if Donald wanted an atom bomb of all things for Christmas).
Personally, my favorite part of the story is the fact that Donald ended up having a complete 100% happy ending in this one. After all the stories had pretty much screwed him over or caused him a lot of grief in one way or another, it’s nice for him to walk away happy. The only negative thing I can muster about it is the fact that the first page has an awkward opening sentence, which is a nitpick at best.
I wonder where one gets a flying saucer.
The last things to mention are the bonus material and the artwork. The artwork by Carl Banks is really great as you would expect. His layouts are simple, but very nice and easy to follow, and he actually gives most of his panels backgrounds (sad really that a lot modern day artists seem to struggle with such a thing). The visual humor is great and really sells a lot of the jokes, whether in the foreground or background. Probably his strongest aspect is the way he draws his characters, with just how expressive they are in their body language. You’ll never look at a character in the book and not be able to tell what they are feeling.
Lastly, the bonus material mostly consists of story notes from comic experts, professors, and even people who knew Carl back in the day. These individuals provide their own thoughts on the stories, giving context for events happening in the story that may seem strange or outdated for the younger generations. It’s rather insightful honestly and a decent read.
Donald Duck: The Pixilated Parrot is a great and enjoyable collection of stories featuring Donald Duck and his family. Most of the stories are very good, the humor is enjoyable, and the artwork is very nice. If you love the character or enjoy classic Disney comics, this a must own. Don’t miss out on it or previous collections.