Modern Inventions

A Donald Duck Cartoon

Release Date : May 29, 1937

Running Time : 8:49

Synopsis

Donald visits "The Museum of Modern Marvels" including a robot butler, a hitchhikers aid, and an automatic barber.

Characters

Donald Duck
Robot Butler

Credits

Director
Jack King
Animation
Jack Hannah
Paul Allen
Johnny Cannon
Story
Carl Barks

Video

United States
Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 11 : The Continuing Adventures of Chip 'n' Dale
Germany
Donalds Größte Hits
France
Le Meilleur de Donald
Italy
I Capolavori di Paperino

Laserdiscs

Japan
Donald's Greatest Hits
Donald Duck : A Star is Born

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Germany
Zauberhafte Marchenwelt 3
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Italy
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Sweden
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
United Kingdom
Disney Treasures : Wave 3 : The Chronological Donald Volume 1
Walt Disney's Fables : Volume 3

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 26: Classic Donald
Mickey's Mouse Tracks: Episode 7
Donald's Quack Attack: Episode 30
The Mickey Mouse Club : February 6, 1958

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by United Artists Pictures

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : One of my favorites among Donald Duck’s early cartoons is this one: Modern Inventions. Why? It’s a favorite among my kids, and we constantly quote the robot butler from this short: “Your hat, sir.”

You’d have to live in my house to understand, but if you’ve seen this short, you know the robot butler is the best running gag we’ve seen in Disney shorts. That’s right, I said the best. Take Donald’s magic pockets or sleeves that he used in The Band Concert to produce flutes seemingly out of nowhere and combine them with a robot who keeps taking his hat, and you have comedy gold. Donald produces a series of sillier and sillier hats throughout the short, from a top hat to a Napoleon looking general’s hat.

Aside from that running gag, the rest of the short features Donald’s interactions with various mechanical contraptions designed to “make life easier.” As anyone who has dealt with technology over the years knows, sometimes the new device designed to make things easier actually makes it harder. That’s the case for Donald.

He has the first attack come from the automatic bundling machine. Watching Donald get tied up in knots is funny, but it is of course his reaction to that that makes it so good. This is a short that could not have worked with Mickey, because Donald’s frustration and silly laugh make the humor work.

My personal favorite is the baby carriage. When Donald runs away from the robot butler (again), he dives into a baby carriage. This little sequence demonstrates my favorite parts of Donald’s character. He is fun loving, because he gets into the spirit of things, putting on a baby bonnet and playing along with the carriage that plays him music and rocks him. But as always, Donald has to try and push it too far, asking for a bottle, with disastrous consequences.

The final sequence, with Donald stuck upside down in a barber’s chair, is classic Donald. Watching his tail feathers get turned into a finely coiffed hairdo is funny, but I like the way he gets his face polished with shoe polish.

Donald’s frustration is classic, and it’s what makes us love him. I said it before, but Donald is what we all end up being, even though we want to be Mickey. Donald is like me, so I love to watch him go through things that are just larger, more cartoonish versions of what I’ve gone through.


From Mac : This is yet another cartoon I'd love to see the original titles to. I've read many times that this was the first cartoon in the Donald Duck series, but since this is the last of the Disney cartoons to be released by United Artists, I wonder if the original titles still labeled it as part of the Mickey Mouse series.

It's a great cartoon though and one that's well worth re-watching not just because it's so funny, but also to check out some of the excellent background paintings. Once again there's an art deco feel to the interiors and there's some wonderfully elaborate contraptions (some barely only on screen for a second). In fact there's an incredible attention to detail about everything in this cartoon. Notice how everything shiny is especially highlighted right down to the transparent cellophane that Donald gets wrapped in so we can see him thrashing about inside.


From Tom Wilkins : Something to ponder: did Walt Disney or Adolph Zukor come out with this first? The inventions used in the cartoon and the short subject series by Paramount may be different, but the idea is strikingly similar. In Donald's case, he still is not learning how to control his temper at this stage. He's the victim of a Moe Howard with the hitchhiker's kit, disguises as a baby but the robot butler does not fall for it, and gets a hair (I mean, fanny) cut in the end. Hats off (literally) to Donald for hanging in there...he must have had as many hats as he did flutes in The Band Concert a couple years earlier! At least cartoon characters like Donald can handle this torture.
From Lee Suggs : Donald Duck goes to the "Museum of Modern Inventions" and gets nothing but trouble. A robot butler keeps taking his hat (each time causing Donald to magically produce a new one, just like he produced new flutes in The Band Concert.) Donald gets into trouble with several other inventions, most notably with a robot nannie (baby bottle down the throat) and a robot barber. (Donald gets a tail feathers trim, and a shoe shined face.) Of course, by the end of the short Donald is throwing one of his famous tantrums. This short was probably a reflection of the the 1930's idea that the technology so embraced in the 1920's had failed Americans. (Remember the depression was still going on in 1937, in fact there was a recession that year that ended a short period of apparent recovery.) Today there are many people who are frightened by the amazing pace of technological change. That is probably why the "MouseWorks" animators have already had at least three shorts (Mickey's New Car, computer.don, and Mickey's Mechanical House) that deal with the pitfalls of technology. It has been many decades since any Disney Shorts reflected American Culture. I'm glad their doing this with some of the "MouseWorks" shorts since it makes the cartoons more interesting, and more important.
From K. Richard : Carl Barks, who was working as an animator at the time, suggested the barber chair routine to the storyboard dept. and, as a result, was subsequently bumped up to writing scripts for Donald cartoons.
From Jerry Edwards : My favorite Donald solo short. I guess this is the last short in which Donald repeatedly pulled items magically out of "thin air." I would have enjoyed Donald more in later shorts if he at least occasionally had kept this trait. Loved the various inventions and Donald's misadventures with them.
From Atsuko : Easily my favorite Donald Duck cartoon, this is a true piece of comic genius. The assorted inventions are all very kitschy and futuristic (back then anyway) and I especially loved the mechanical baby carriage. The idea of it talking was great! Poor Donald gets everything in the book here, he throws more tantrums than I can count!
From Ryan : This could very well be considered Donald's first solo appearance. He visits "The Museum of Modern Marvels" and looks at all the modern (new-fangled as you old folks would call them) gadgets. I liked the robot butler who kept removing Donald's hat. Donald gets pretty ticked off (a similar scene was reused in The Trial of Donald Duck) and tries to avoid it. Another scene that was funny was seeing Donald sit down in the automatic barber's chair. The chair seems to have tipped Donald upside-down. Donald is seen getting his tail feathers cut while the barber yaks on and on as barbers/cosmetologists tend to do. One arm of the machine takes out some black shoe polish (wouldn't do any good with Donald since he doesn't wear shoes anyway) and ends up painting Donald's face black. Donald is fed up with this crazy place and decides to leave. He walks out with a blackface and a hat on. Isn't it rather odd how Disney deletes every scene with black caricatures, yet they don't delete this. Well let's keep our mouths shut so as not to give them any ideas.
From Joan Goss : My children and I saw this on TV many years ago and never forgot it, especially the robot saying, "Your hat, sir." We were in stitches. It was the funniest cartoon we ever saw.
From Daniel Scott : I saw this cartoon as a five year old and my dad recorded it onto Betamax video. I still have it somewhere. "Your hat sir"! will live with me forever!
From Johnny : It was so funny when the robot butler keeps taking Donald's hats! "Your Hat, Sir"
From Ajisai : Donald checks out the "Museum of Modern Marvels" and chaos ensues. There's the hat-stealing Robot Butler and that springy Hitchhiker's Aid robot, and there's the Automatic Bundle-Wrapper, which wraps him up in plastic after he ignores the "Do Not Touch" warning. The Robot Nursemaid sequence is great; Donald is so cute acting as a baby! I just love all the little details here: the whirring motor on the underside of the carriage, the pink bow around that horn that comes out of the top of the carriage and starts singing and speaking in baby-talk. When Donald realizes he's in over his head, he's grabbed ("Uh-uh, baby fall!") and gets powdered and diapered!

Of course, the climax, with the Robot Barber's Chair, is just so great. Poor Donald gets strapped down and ends up with his behind getting a trim and styling, and his face getting covered in black shoe polish and shined. All! the while, he keeps yelling and squawking to be released, and the machine just prattles on (reminds me of a few barbers/hairdressers I've had.) I like the part right before the hot towel is put on, where robotic hands are just mussing up his tail feathers and totally humiliating him...so funny, even though I feel kinda sorry for Donald! He ends up with a shiny blackface and well-parted bottom. And his hat still gets taken!

I love those old cartoons from the 30's and 40's where we see "futuristic" things like robots and such, because we still don't have anything like them (although that might be a good thing!) But I love all the design work that went into this cartoon- there's so much interesting stuff in the background, and the foreground. I also really like the music in this cartoon, it's so upbeat and we get some great themes during each sequence with a machine, and the sound effects and voice work in particular are great too.

Donald cartoons just don! 't get any better than this for me, it's side-splittingly funny. The whole thing just comes together so well, it's a great cartoon that deserves a lot more exposure than it gets.


From Grace : One of my favorite Donald Duck cartoons. Donald is visiting a museum, a stupid robot keep taking his hats, ended up dressing up as a baby but Donald was really funny and cute acting as a baby and basically a hilarious short. I give this a 10!
From Dino Cencia : This is one funny Donald Duck cartoon. Donald goes to a museum and sees all kinds of modern inventions. But a stupid robot butler keeps taking his hats every time he checks out the modern inventions. Also funny in this cartoon was the barber chair. Donald puts a coin in the slot and says "Give me the works!" And the chair tipped him upside down. Donald gets his bottom tail cut and his face gets a black face with shoe polish. That part was really funny! And last, the robot butler took his hat again! (angry quacking!) That is a great cartoon to watch. Even my cousin loves that cartoon, too! I give this cartoon a 80.
From Baruch Weiss : According to the book "Disney A to Z : The Official Encyclopedia" this cartoon was released as a Mickey Mouse cartoon even though he doesn't appear. Donald Duck is the star of course, but this is 100% incorrect. I've seen this cartoon on "The Continuing Adventures of Chip 'N' Dale with Donald Duck" and on Volume 1 of "The Chronological Donald" released as a Donald Duck cartoon!

I loved the musical score during the title and end presentation and I loved the part where Donald is getting "The Works" and the "Barber" gives him a cut on his butt and says "This is the very latest in creation and should be very becoming to you sir; brings out your personality!" I also agree with Ryan that this could very well be Donald's first solo appearance, but doesn't it seem odd for him to be all alone in one big museum? It would have been nice to include some other familiar Disney characters including the nephews!


From Mark Lamb : This Cartoon is absolutely hilarious. I especially love the Robot Butler. And how hilarious Donald would react. Pulling another hat yelling "SO!" The weirdest invention I didn't get was the wrapper one. But all and all, best Donald cartoon ever!

Referenced Comments