Today is the classic Walt Disney character’s birthday, and I wanted to pay tribute and give a special shout out to my favorite Disney cartoon character of all, Donald Duck. He has inspired me to create my own band of cartoon characters with personalities and passions in which I have captured in animations of my own. Thank you and have a very happy Birthday.
Donald was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing a peculiar voice while reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Nash described the voice as a goat; Walt, however, insisted that it was a duck. Nash was hired on the spot, and with a voice in place, a stage was needed to put this new duck character to the test. The solution came in the form of Walt’s experimental Silly Symphonies cartoon series. Donald made his first appearance in The Wise Little Hen on June 9, 1934. In the cartoon, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig, lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. Donald’s appearance in the cartoon, as created by animators Art Babbitt and Dick Huemer, is similar to his modern look; the feather, and beak colors are the same, as is the blue sailor shirt and hat, but his features are more elongated, his body plumper, and his feet bigger. His iconic voice, done by its originator Clarence Nash, is also the same. Notably, the manner of speech in which the characters’ voices are based on their respective animals is used for every character, rather than being a trait belonging solely to Donald. Donald’s personality is not developed either; in the short, he merely fills the role of the unhelpful friend from the original story.
The Wise Little Hen
Starring Donald Duck – June 9th, 1934
Bert Gillett, director of The Wise Little Hen, brought Donald back in his Mickey Mouse cartoon, Orphan’s Benefit on August 11, 1934. Donald is one of a number of characters who are giving performances in a benefit for Mickey’s Orphans. Donald’s act is to recite the poems Mary Had a Little Lamb and Little Boy Blue, but every time he tries, the mischievous orphans humiliate him, leading the duck to fly into a squawking fit of anger. This explosive personality would remain with Donald for decades to come. Although Orphan’s Benefit was Donald’s second appearance, the film was the first to significantly develop his character. Many of Donald’s personality traits first seen in Orphan’s Benefit would become permanently associated with him, such as his love of showmanship, his fierce determination, belligerence, and most famously his easily provoked temper. The film also introduced some of Donald’s physical antics, such as his signature temper tantrum of hopping on one foot while holding out one fist and swinging the other. This was the creation of animator Dick Lundy, who termed this Donald’s “fighting pose.”
Starring Donald Duck – August 11th, 1934
Donald continued to be a hit with audiences. The character began appearing in most Mickey Mouse cartoons as a regular member of the ensemble with Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Pluto. Cartoons from this period, such as the 1935 cartoon The Band Concert — in which Donald repeatedly disrupts the Mickey Mouse Orchestra’s rendition of The William Tell Overture by playing Turkey in the Straw — are regularly hailed by critics as exemplary films and classics of animation. Animator Ben Sharpsteen also minted the classic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy comedy in 1935, with the cartoon Mickey’s Service Station. After the success of Mickey’s Service Station, Donald would often be grouped with Mickey and Goofy in several shorts, where the trio’s laughable flaws would cause mayhem to befall upon them.
The Band Concert
Starring Donald Duck – 1935
Mickey’s Service Station
Starring Donald Duck – 1935
Donald was redesigned in 1936 to be a bit fuller, rounder, and cuter, starting from Moving Day (1936). He also began starring in solo cartoons, the first of these being Don Donald, released on January 9, 1937. This short also marked the first appearance of Daisy Duck (here called “Donna Duck”), as well as Donald’s car, 313. Daisy went on to become Donald’s longtime love interest and a recurring co-star in his cartoons, mirroring the relationship between Mickey and Minnie.
Starring Donald Duck – 1936
Starring Donald Duck – January 9th, 1937
Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, would make their first animated appearance a year later in the 1938 film, Donald’s Nephews, directed by Jack King (they had earlier been introduced in the Donald Duck comic strip). It is around this period that Donald began to surpass Mickey in popularity, both in the favor of audiences and even the animators, who found it increasingly difficult to create new and entertaining shorts for Mickey to star in. According to Jack Hannah, there were several cartoons developed specifically for Mickey, but when the gags became too “rough”, the story was changed to star Donald instead.
Starring Donald Duck – 1938
Thanks for the laughs, Donald!