Hey there, duck fans and welcome to another episode all about our favorite feathered friends. Years ago, Disney had attempted
to produce numerous films of an educational nature starring their more
popular characters, primarily Donald Duck. Goofy had his ‘How To’ series but those
were purely comical and not what I would call life lessons. Donald, on the other
hand, gave us math, history, languages and culture, even a short film on family
planning! In Donald and the Wheel, we not only witness how one familiar shape makes such an impact on our lives but also how the spirit of invention pushes us
to progress. The 17-minute educational short opens with two spirits of progress
debating over what the best invention mankind has ever created could be. The
father, voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft, insists that the wheel is the best while
Junior argues that so many other things have to be better. With every noteworthy
invention mentioned, Father Progress explains that none of them could have
existed without the wheel. For reasons I’m not entirely sure about, he takes his
son back in time to meet the inventor of the wheel: Donald Duck, or at least his caveman
ancestor. Donald, at first, doesn’t come across as much of an inventor, let alone one for something as breakthrough as the wheel. We meet him trying to pull a heavy sled up a hill towards a cave currently inhabited by a tiger. Upon
being chased by the ferocious feline, Donald knocks loose a crude, rudimentary wheel made of rock from an outcropping which then takes out the
tiger in true cartoon form, wrapping up the big cat and rolling it away. The spirits try to
explain to Donald what he just witnessed, a wheel in action, but it neither impresses nor
educates the cave duck. In an effort to better explain, the spirits take Donald
through time to see all the good the wheel could and will do. To begin with,
the wheel is shown to be primarily important in the progression of
transportation; people go from carts to chariots and then further on to
carriages and cars. Donald seems to enjoy the various vehicles up until the Motor Age.
Traffic in particular drives Donald crazy. In a fit of road rage he decides he’d
rather walk than drive. That doesnt sit too well with the two spirits progress.
Pointing Donald in a different direction, away from troublesome transportation,
Junior explains that wheels exist in our life even without us knowing about them.
The solar system is based on circles, or wheels, and we find that shape everywhere. Mathmagic Land explained that we
wouldn’t have music and the arts without math but here we see that we wouldn’t be able to listen to music or watch films without the wheel. Then there’s the practical side to wheels, how we need gears and such to produce electricity to power untold numbers of devices. Donald, now thoroughly impressed but overwhelmed, decides he doesn’t want to
take responsibility for such a life-changing invention. Well, be it Donald or some other cave duck, the
spirits agree that someone did eventually give mankind the wheel. A little known fact about this short animation is that there was a comic book adaptation that never made it
to North American shores. The comic version is quite a bit different, more
story and a completely different ending where Donald is convinced the wheel is
the greatest invention ever. I think the cartoon ending fits Donald’s character a bit more though. Thanks for watching, Duck fans!