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Saturday Matinee

Saturday Matinee #95: "Double Date Don" (October 6, 2001)

Published October 27, 2012

by Albert Gutierrez

Continuing with our look at cartoons from "Mickey Mouse Works" and "House of Mouse," this week, we'll take a look at a Donald Duck cartoon. Actually, I'd classify it as a Clara Cluck cartoon. Clara was a minor character who first appeared in 1934's "Orphan's Benefit," but only made a few appearances afterwards, and usually just as a clucking performer. However, she did find work in the Disney Comics, appearing more there than in cartoons, and given a chance to speak normally than through "bawk bawk"-ing. In the "Mickey Mouse Works" universe, she made three appearances, each one as Daisy's neighbor. Her last cartoon, "Double Date Don," is also her best (in my opinion), and shows how she could feature prominently in a cartoon, rather than just be a supporting character.

It's Valentine's Day, and Donald arrives at Daisy's with a special gift: a coupon where she can order him to do ANYTHING for her. She, however, wants just one thing: a brick wall to divide her property from Clara Cluck's. Donald gets to work on it straight away, even though it's not how he expected to spend his Valentine's Day. Over at Clara's, she's watching a soap opera and crying up a storm. Soon, she looks out the window and sees Donald Duck. The dialogue from the soap opera influences her, and she decides she'll try to woo him. He's the perfect duck for her.

Clara first tries batting her eyes at Donald, hoping for a kiss. Instead, Donald continues to build his brick wall, ignoring Clara at every turn, even though she keeps trying to get his attention. One way is to wear naughty lingerie and doing - I can't believe I'm typing this - a sexy dance for him. Daisy brings out some lemonade for Donald, but instead catches him "peeking" through the wall at Dancing Clara. She chastises him for it, and leaves him to continue to work. Clara approaches Donald again, who gets his feet caught in some quick-drying cement. As Clara embraces Donald, Daisy catches them again, and returns to the house in a huff. Donald, still helpless, is dragged around by Clara in their own dance, and once again, is caught by Daisy.

Eventually, Clara returns to her television, where the soap opera seems to suggest the craziest way to win a man. She takes a stack of bricks, ties it to her ankle, and tosses it into the ocean. Donald sees this, and runs immediately towards her. He drags the bricks - and Clara - back to the beach, he needs them for the wall. Clara, however, interprets this as him rescuing her. As usual, Daisy catches them, and she slams the door in Donald's face, even when he gets on his knees asking for forgiveness. He gives up, and finally decides to just be with Clara. Clara takes him to a priest, intent on getting married right away. But Daisy soon arrives, realizing the error of her ways. She pushed him to Clara with all that work. But now, she'll do whatever she can to keep him... even build a brick wall.

Even with Donald getting star billing, and a prominent role, this short truly belongs to Clara. The unlucky-in-love story could have been a recurring theme for a series based on her. Most of Mickey's supporting characters had a counterpart. Mickey and Minnie had each other, as did Donald and Daisy. And Clarabelle Cow could have her pick between Goofy and Horace Horsecollar, at least before Goofy's unseen marriage that led to his son Max. Clara Cluck, however, never really had anyone to act opposite her. Thus, a cartoon series could focus on her meeting various characters, and believing each one to be her true love. Of course, not every character in the Disney canon needs their own series (Minnie and Daisy never got one in the classic era), and a character as minor as Clara likely never would have. Still, it's always fun to imagine what could be.

One of my favorite things about this short is the soap opera that Clara is watching, "The Vain and the Whiny," a riff on soap opera titles like "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful." We never see the soap, and only hear what Clara is watching. That immediately harkens back to the soap opera roots on radio. Radio soaps also used organ music to accentuate the melodramatic dialogue, just like in the short, which even features decidedly soap-operatic names like Dimitri. Organ music as a whole has become so tied to the genre that it is used every time another show imitates a soap opera. Ironically, soap operas themselves had stopped using the live organ in the late 1960's and early 1970's, opting instead for orchestral scoring (and in the 80's, synthesized music). "Soap Opera + Organ" seems to only live on in children and primetime shows that want to mock a soap opera.

Some of the gags in "Double Date Don" do feel out of place for a children's cartoon. Clara's first dance for Donald is hilarious for the adult viewer, and obviously played for laughs. However, it still feels inappropriate for a child. Likewise, although cartoons often have fun with sex and violence, a part of me gets uncomfortable when watching Clara's suicide attempt. There's never any danger, since Donald jumps in immediately to rescue... the bricks. I shouldn't let such gags bother me, but given that this is a cartoon that's meant to mock the "single gal needs a date on Valentine's Day" mentality, I dislike that anyone would go to such extremes to catch a significant other. I still enjoy the cartoon, because the gags are so wildly inappropriate, but I wish the short's writers were more mindful of what would have been too out-of-taste for a children's show. As much as adults can enjoy these "Mickey Mouse Works" shorts, every viewer should keep in mind that its primary audience is still children. But that's opening a can of worms regarding intended audience, which I won't get into.

Like many other "Mickey Mouse Works"/"House of Mouse" cartoons, this one is not available on DVD.


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