SUMMARY: A hen looks for help in planting her corn but her friends Peter Pig and Donald Duck claim to have belly aches to avoid the hard work. But once the corn is harvested and cooked, this same claim does them out of a delicious treat.
WHY IT’S HERE: Although it is a fine cartoon in its own right, narratively ‘The Wise Little Hen’ feels like Disney treading water. It’s yet another fable about irresponsible characters shirking their duties and then regretting it later, a la ‘Three Little Pigs’ and ‘The Grasshopper and the Ants’. However, it is perhaps testament to the Disney studios storytelling skills that the three cartoons can be watched as a trilogy and each one enjoyed for its differences even as the same lesson is preached.
‘The Wise Little Hen is notable for more than just its storytelling, however. This Silly Symphony marked the arrival of yet another Disney star character, Donald Duck. The gimmick in this cartoon is to give each of the barnyard animals a voice that incorporates the noises associated with their species. So the Hen semi-clucks her dialogue and the Pig awkwardly grunts his. In both cases it sounds mildly annoying but when we meet Donald Duck, Clarence Nash’s famed and brilliant interpretation of a duck’s semi-intelligable speech is so perfect that Donald is instantly recognisable as new star material. Following this debut appearance he quickly began upstaging Mickey Mouse in a series of shorts that inevitably lead to his own series of cartoons. With his mixture of happy-go-lucky affability, impish mischievousness and explosive temper, Donald was instantly one of the most interesting recurring characters in Disney’s growing hall of fame.