Monday, April 6, 2009

Donald in Mathmagicland (1959)

“Donald in Mathmagic Land” (1959) makes math beautiful, sings hosannas to the orderliness and sense of logic that is the foundation of beauty in art, in music, in nature, and in human beings.

A tall order, but Donald Duck handles it well.

Here, the irascible Donald is an Everyduck, marching resolutely through the ominous world of equations and square roots, on a journey through time and space to show us the roots of civilization, the beauty in mankind as expressed through math. We even are shown what infinity looks like.

Only in a cartoon can you see what infinity looks like. Some boxes and some squiggles that keep repeating themselves. That’s about it, really.

Live action scenes of flowers, and of the natural world, and of a fellow giving a billiards demonstration according to mathematical logic are mesmerizing. The lulling voice of narrator Paul Frees is also mesmerizing. I raise this 27-minute cartoon for discussion today because of its remarkably quiet and serene exploration of a seemingly mundane subject, math, and turning it into a compelling journey of the mind.

But it’s the lulling and the mesmerizing aspect, above all, that fascinates. It’s a world where everything, from art, to science, to music, to the human body, takes its beauteous form according to logic. Most majestically and most mercifully in an otherwise chaotic world, here…everything…adds…up.

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