I celebrated my tenth birthday on January 30th, 1981. Two nights later, I recorded the third item on VHS tape A1, another edition of Disney's Wonderful World on NBC.
Donald Duck has always been my favorite Disney character, thanks to the brilliant stories written and drawn by Carl Barks which I had discovered in my father's comic collection. So it was no surprise that I wanted to preserve This Is Your Life, Donald Duck. The special had made its debut on ABC's Walt Disney Presents back on March 11th, 1960:
Ostensibly a parody of This Is Your Life, it was another excuse to string together unrelated Donald cartoons from the Disney archive. The first four of these ("Donald's Better Self", "Donald's Lucky Day", "Donald Gets Drafted", and "Sky Trooper") had all been released from 1938-1942, during the period when Barks worked in the animation department.
Very little of his influence is apparent in these shorts, the best of which is "Sky Trooper", pitting Private Donald against Pete, his platoon sergeant. Clarence Nash's nonchalant delivery of the line "I've waited all my life for this opportunity" as Donald boards the plane slays me. I also love "Feelin' Ducky", the catchy tune Donald sings in "Donald's Lucky Day".
The Donald shorts from the early 1950's ("Working For Peanuts", "Bee At The Beach", and "Donald's Diary") are drawn in a fussier style, lacking the charm of the earlier efforts; "Donald's Diary" is particularly stale, full of mother-in-law and anti-marriage jokes, with Daisy drawn as Doris Day for some reason.
"Working For Peanuts", co-starring Chip and Dale, was one of the first cartoons produced in 3-D, although it's not presented that way on TV. I remember seeing it in 3-D at Walt Disney World in 1993 as part of a pre-show. The "elephant shoots peanuts from her trunk" gags are dull in 2-D, but Donald gets another catchy song to squawk at Dolores (the pachyderm in question).
My father also had the Dell comics tie-in to This Is Your Life, Donald Duck, although it contained original stories unrelated to the shorts in the TV special (and no contributions from Carl Barks):
This Is Your Life, Donald Duck was repeated in 1968, 1977, and 1980. During one of the latter two airings, the final scene was partially re-animated to include a brief shot of Elliott, the title character in Disney's 1977 film Pete's Dragon. Here's a latter-day airing of the show on YouTube which mostly matches what's on my tape:
The above is missing a brief chunk of "Bee At The Beach" and all of the segment featuring "Mickey's Amateurs", so I've included the latter in my condensed edit of the February 2, 1981 airing. What remains are all the commercial breaks, giving us further glimpses at NBC's 1981 schedule courtesy of Casey Kasem. Is Buck insane?
Other ads tout the new Bic Roller pen, Orbit sugar-free gum, Come 'N' Get It dog food (beef... cheese... liver... chicken...), Slenderalls, the new McChicken sandwich, High Point decaffeinated coffee, and Cheer (featuring Arrow garments in it's [sic] ads).