For some reason, Donald Duck was the one usually put into scenarios dealing with futurism. I don’t know why. Further, these tend to be the cartoons where he strays furthest from Donald Duck, Aquatic Sociopath (though there’s one where he’s in a hall of inventions that’s pretty painful). Donald is just checking out some aspect of the future, and it’s cool. In this one, he gets angry, but he’s not wrong!
Donald is listening to a radio show that’s telling him how to make a plastic airplane. He’s excited and has clearly been waiting for a while to do this. He melts a pile of junk (little of it actually plastic, which we’ll get to) in a giant cauldron. He pours plastic in a mold for his plane, then cuts out and bakes various bits of engine and things, far fewer than he would really need but whatever. Then, he takes the plane out for a spin. All is going well until the host cheerfully announces that the plane has a tendency to melt in water. Naturally, this is when a thunderstorm blows in.
This is not a cartoon that understands literally anything about plastic. So okay, 1944; plastic was not quite as ubiquitous then as now. It had existed for some time, though, and was getting fairly common. Heck, even plastic fabrics were becoming popular—nylon, anyone? So I wonder if audiences at the time looked at this and said, “Wait, what plastic melts in water?”
There’s no Donald Duck Tantrum in this one, either. Donald’s pretty chill through most of it. He’s happy at how his plane is turning out, and he’s happy at being a good pilot. If his plane hadn’t fallen apart, he’d have been happy through the whole thing. Which wouldn’t have been much of a cartoon, I suppose, but even there, I like that he’s still not that mad when his plane starts falling apart—he’s too busy not dying.
This may be one of the Donald Duck cartoons I like best, honestly. The visuals when he’s fighting the melting plane are pretty well developed. Yes, the way he makes the plane is just silly, but I like the idea that you can just whip up a plane in the comfort of your own home (or large warehouse with enormous industrial ovens, but anyway) and take it out for a spin. Sure, why not? It was the ’40s, and that sort of thing was what people were expecting of The Future. For some reason, Donald Duck was the one Disney thought should be introducing people to that.
Maybe it’s a symptom of hesitance, now I’m thinking about it. It’s evidence that they didn’t think the future would be perfect. Yes, you would be able to just dump junk in a giant pot and get an airplane, but that didn’t mean the future was all golden. There were things to worry about. There were reasons to believe not everything would be sunny and clear flying. And if anyone could sympathize with you about the propsect that things would go horribly wrong, it’s Donald Duck.
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