Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic's Art - Part VIII
At 5:48 Lundy begins playing with perspective. This begins with the plane dumping the duck over and then charging back up at him in a rapid POV down shot (5:58). He lands backwards on the fuselage but the plane tips him back towards the propeller. Just as his tail is about to be chewed off, Donald spins his endangered butt into a rival propeller (6:29) but this only saves him for a few seconds. His tail is shaved, the plane bucks him back into the seat, and from 6:36 -6:39 there is a spectacular POV circular pan shot at terrific speed from ceiling to floor and back again as Donald hangs on for his life. Again, this sequence was likely storyboarded, but it was Lundy who paced it to take up 48 frames. From 6:40 to 6:45 the plane contorts, spins and rolls in a dizzying descent that crashes the duck to the ground. The fastest actions in the entire short thus takes place in a total of eight seconds, and we feel as disoriented as poor Donald.
6:46 – 6:53 sees Donald's eyes rolling back and forth in the aftermath of the ride (This actually appears to be re-used animation from the previous year's Donald Duck short Window Cleaners). Interestingly enough, this gag goes on for eight seconds, counterbalancing the frantic action that climaxes Donald's battle with the plane. Donald, now green with nausea, staggers out of the arcade at 7:15, ending the short. This was the longest scene at three minutes, ten seconds, but since it contained Donald's comeuppance, it likely had to contain more action.
It's difficult to imagine this short done any better. Lundy's solid handling of a character whose nature had been established seven years beforehand cannot be faulted. The pace of the cartoon is well-handled and the gags are timed to near-perfection. The setting, with its potential for malfunction and frustration, is a good one for the character. The short portrays constant conflict with only brief moments of happiness for the Donald, which is pretty much how his life goes anyway.
Lundy succeeded on all counts. Donald displayed not only his famous temper, but also lust, greed, impatience, and vindictiveness. He did so to such a degree that inanimate objects became imbued with supernatural intelligence in order to exact revenge on the duck. A Good Time for a Dime is a lesson in how an eye is taken for an eye.
How different from Goofy, who might be smacked with a board simply because he did not know how to nail it correctly, or tortured by exercise equipment through clumsiness rather than malice. Mickey Mouse, a far more deliberate character than Donald, could not have starred in this short: Mickey was unsuited to florid displays of emotion or direction utilizing breakneck speed.
Again, A Good Time for a Dime was simply another short turned out by the studio in 1941, one of eighteen produced that year. Jack King, who also directed a number of Donald's shorts in the early forties, might have done equally well, but this triumph belongs to Dick Lundy, who serves as an example of how to successfully direct a cartoon short.
You there, in the third row with your hand up…you have a question? What does a poorly directed animated short look like? I'm glad you asked, because that will be covered in part two of this discussion. We will examine a very bad short that was made, incredibly enough, by one of the greatest directors in animation history. Class dis-missed.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.