Donald Duck is an American cartoon puppet character from The Walt Disney Company. Donald is a white anthropomorphic duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He usually wears a sailor shirt, cap, and a bow tie, including trousers (except when he goes swimming). Donald's most famous personality trait is his easily provoked and explosive temper. Donald Duck has been officially honored as the third most popular cartoon character of all time with Bugs Bunny of Time Warner. Looney Tunes at number two and fellow Disney creations Mickey Mouse who is number one. Most importantly, he is also the Disney equivalent of Knuckles the Echidna from Sonic the Hedgehog series.
According to the Disney canon, Donald's birthday is officially recognized as June 9, 1934, the day his debut film, The Wise Little Hen, was released. However, in The Three Caballeros (1944), his birthday is given as simply "Friday the 13th", which is in reference to the bad luck he experiences in almost all his cartoon appearances. Donald's Happy Birthday gives his birthday as March 13. The 1942 short "Donald Gets Drafted", as well as the Quack Pack episode All Hands on Duck, also reveals his full name to be Donald Fauntleroy Duck. Donald Duck is a well-known and very popular character especially in Scandinavian countries. Donald's 1942 short film, Der Fuehrer's Face, won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film.
Donald's voice, one of the most identifiable voices in all of animation, was performed by voice actor Clarence "Ducky" Nash up to his death in 1985. It was largely this semi-intelligible speech that would cement Donald's image into audiences' minds and help fuel both Donald's and Nash's rise to random. In 1959, Disney On Parade which toured all over the United States and Canada, hired Ellard Davis as the live voice of Donald Duck. Mr. Davis did the voice for 3 years. Since Nash's death, Donald has been voiced by Tony Anselmo, who was trained by Nash for the role.
Donald in animation
According to Leonard Maltin in his introduction to The Chronological Donald - Volume 1, Donald was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing his "duck" voice while reciting "Mary had a little lamb". Mickey Mouse had lost some of his edge since becoming a role model for children and Disney wanted a character that could portray some of the more negative character traits he could no longer bestow on Mickey.
Donald Duck first appeared in the Silly Symphonies cartoon The Wise Little Hen on June 9, 1934 (though he is mentioned in a 1930 Disney storybook). Donald's appearance in the cartoon, as created by animator Dick Lundy, 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 smaller. Donald's personality is not developed either; in the short, he only fills the role of the unhelpful friend from the original story.
Burt 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 heckle him, leading the duck to fly into a squawking fit of anger. This explosive personality would remain with Donald for decades to come.
Donald continued to be a hit with audiences. The character began appearing regularly in most Mickey Mouse cartoons. 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.
In 1936, Donald was redesigned to be a bit fuller, rounder, and cuter. He also began starring in solo cartoons, the first of which was the January 9, 1937 Ben Sharpsteen cartoon, Don Donald. This short also introduced a love interest of Donald's, Donna Duck, who evolved into Daisy Duck. Donald's nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, would make their first animated appearance a year later in the April 15, 1938 film, Donald's Nephews, directed by Jack King (they had been earlier introduced in the Donald Duck comic strip by Al Taliaferro). By 1938, at most, polls showed that Donald was more popular than Mickey Mouse. Disney could, however, help Mickey regain popularity by redesigning him, giving him his most appealing design as production for the Fantasia segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" began in 1938.
Several of Donald's shorts during the war were propaganda films, most notably Der Fuehrer's Face, released on January 1, 1943. In it, Donald plays a worker in an artillery factory in "Nutzi Land" (Nazi Germany). He struggles with long working hours, very small food rations, and having to salute every time he sees a picture of the Führer (Adolf Hitler). These pictures appear in many places, such as on the assembly line in which he is screwing in the detonators of various sizes of shells. In the end he becomes little more than a small part in a faceless machine with no choice but to obey until he falls, suffering a nervous breakdown. Then Donald wakes up to find that his experience was in fact a nightmare. At the end of the short Donald looks to the Statue of Liberty and the American flag with renewed appreciation. Der Fuehrer's Face won the 1942 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Der Fuehrer's Face was also the first of two animated short films to be set during the War to win an Oscar, the other being Tom & Jerry's short film, The Yankee Doodle Mouse.
Other notable shorts from this period include the Army shorts, seven films that follow Donald's life in the US Army from his drafting to his life in basic training under sergeant Pete to his first actual mission as a commando having to sabotage a Japanese air base. Titles in the series include:
- Donald Gets Drafted (May 1, 1942)
- The Vanishing Private (September 25, 1942)
- Sky Trooper (November 8, 1942)
- Fall Out Fall In (April 23, 1943)
- The Old Army Game (November 5, 1943)
- Home Defense (November 26, 1943)
- Commando Duck (June 2, 1944)
Donald Gets Drafted also featured Donald having a physical examination before joining the army. According to it Donald has flat feet and is unable to distinguish between the colors green and blue, which is a type of color blindness. Also in this cartoon sergeant Pete comments on Donald's lack of discipline.
It is also noteworthy that thanks to these films, Donald graced the nose artwork of virtually every type of WWII Allied combat aircraft, from the L-4 Grasshopper to the B-29 Superfortress.
Donald also appears as a mascot—such as in the Army Air Corps 309th Fighter Squadron and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which showed Donald as a fierce-looking pirate ready to defend the American coast from invaders. Donald also appeared as a mascot emblem for: 415th Fighter Squadron; 438th Fighter Squadron; 479th Bombardment Squadron; 531st Bombardment Squadron.
During World War II, Disney cartoons were not allowed to be imported into Occupied Europe. Since this cost Disney a lot of money, he decided to create a new audience for his films in South America. He decided to make a trip through various Latin American countries with his assistants, and use their experiences and impressions to create two feature length animation films. The first was Saludos Amigos, which consisted of four short segments, two of them with Donald Duck. In the first, he meets his parrot pal José Carioca. The second film was The Three Caballeros, in which he meets his rooster friend Panchito.
Many of Donald's films made after the war recast the duck as the brunt of some other character's pestering. Donald is repeatedly attacked, harassed, and ridiculed by his nephews, by the chipmunks Chip 'n Dale, or by other characters such as Spike the Bee, Bootle Beetle, the Aracuan Bird, Louie the Mountain Lion, or a colony of ants. In effect, the Disney artists had reversed the classic screwball scenario perfected by Walter Lantz and others in which the main character is the instigator of these harassing behaviors, rather than the butt of them.
The post-war Donald also starred in educational films, such as Donald in Mathmagic Land and How to Have an Accident at Work (both 1989), and made cameos in various Disney projects, such as The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and the Disneyland television show (1949). For this latter show, Donald's uncle Ludwig von Drake was created in 1961.
Clarence Nash voiced Donald for the last time in Mickey's Christmas Carol (1982), making Donald the only character in the film to be voiced by his original actor. Since Nash's death in 1959, Donald's voice has been provided by Tony Anselmo, who was mentored by Nash. Anselmo's voice is heard for the first time in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In this movie, Donald has a piano duo scene with the Time Warner Bird Duck Daffy Duck voiced by Mel Blanc and wins the duel with a cartoon puppet cannon. Many fans call this confrontation between the 2 ducks as one of the greatest duels in animation history.
Donald has since appeared in a lot of different television shows and (short) animated movies. He played roles in Mickey's Christmas Carol and The Prince and the Pauper.
Donald had a rather small part in the animated television series DuckTales. There, Donald joins the Navy, and leaves his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie with their Uncle Scrooge, who then has to take care of them. Donald's role in the overall series was fairly limited, as he only ended up appearing in a handful of episodes. Some of the stories in the series were loosely based on the comics by Carl Barks.
Donald made some cameo appearances in Bonkers, before getting his own television show Quack Pack. This series featured a modernized Duck family. Donald was no longer wearing his sailor suit and hat, but a Hawaiian shirt. Huey, Dewey, and Louie now are teenagers, with distinct clothing, voices, and personalities. Daisy Duck has lost her pink dress and bow and has a new hairdo. Oddly enough, no other family members, besides Ludwig von Drake, appear in Quack Pack, and all other Duckburg citizens are humans, and not dogs.
He made a comeback as the star of the "Noah's Ark" segment of Fantasia 2000, as first mate to Noah. Donald musters the animals to the Ark and attempts to control them. He tragically believes that Daisy has been lost, while she believes the same of him, but they are reunited at the end. All this to Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1o4.
In an alternate opening for the 2005 Disney movie film Chicken Little, Donald would have made a cameo appearance as "Ducky Lucky". This scene can be found on the Chicken Little DVD.
Donald also played an important role in Mickey Mouse Works. In the latter show, he is the co-owner of Mickey's night club.
Donald's dominant personality trait is his short temper and, in contrast, his positive look on life. Many Donald shorts start with Donald in a happy mood, without a care in the world, until something comes and spoils his day. His anger is a great cause of suffering in the duck's life, and he has on multiple occasions got in over his head and lost competitions because of it. There are times when he fights to keep his temper, and he has succeeded a few times, but he always returns to his well known, aggressive self at the end of the day.
Donald's aggressive nature is a double-edged sword however, and while it at times is a hindrance and even a handicap for him, it has also helped him in times of need. When faced against a threat of some kind, Donald may get frightened and even intimidated (mostly by Pete), but rather than getting scared, he gets mad and has taken up fights with ghosts, sharks, mountain goats and even the forces of nature. And, more often than not, Donald has come out on top.
Donald can at times be a bit of a bully and a tease, especially against his nephews and Chip 'n Dale. As animator Fred Spencer once wrote:
"The Duck gets a big kick out of imposing on other people or annoying them, but he immediately loses his temper when the tables are turned. In other words, he can dish it out, but he can't take it."
- Donald Duck
However, there is seldom any malice in Donald's pranks. He is never out to hurt anyone, and if he ever goes too far in his pranks he is always very regretful. In Truant Officer Donald, for example, when he is tricked into believing he accidentally killed Huey, Dewey and Louie he shows great remorse, blaming himself and willingly takes a kick handed out by one of the “angel” nephews. That is, of course, until he realizes he has been played a sap and directly loses his temper.
Donald has also been shown to be a bit of a show-off. He likes to brag, especially when he is very skilled at something. This has a tendency to get him into trouble, however, as he also tends to get in over his head.
Still, Donald has proven that he is a Jack of all Trades and are, among other things, a good fisher and hockey player.
Among his personality traits is his stubbornness and commitment. Even though Donald at times can be lazy, and he has stated many times that his favorite place is in the hammock, once he has committed to something he goes in for it 100%, sometimes going to extreme measures to reach his goal.
Rivalry with Mickey Mouse
Through out his career, Donald has shown that he's jealous of Mickey and wants his job as Disney's greatest star. In the early Disney shorts, Mickey and Donald were partners, but by the time The Mickey Mouse Club aired on television, it was shown that Donald always wanted the spotlight. One animated short that rivaled the famous "Micky Mouse March" song was showing Huey, Dewey, and Louie as Boy Scouts and Donald as their Scoutmaster at a cliff near a remote forest and Donald leads them in a song mirroring the Mouseketeers theme "D-O-N-A-L-D D-U-C-K-!, Donald Duck!" The rivalry would cause Donald some problems, in a 1987 TV special, where Mickey is cursed by a sorcerer to become unnoticed, the world believes Mickey to be kidnapped. Donald Duck is then arrested for the kidnapping of Mickey, as he is considered to be the chief suspect, due to their rivalry. However, Donald did later get the charges dismissed, due to lack of evidence. Walt Disney, in his Wonderful World of Color, would sometimes make reference to the rivalry. Walt, one time, had presented Donald with a gigantic birthday cake and commented how it was "even bigger than Mickey's", which pleased Donald. The clip was rebroadcast in November 1983 during a TV special honoring Donald's 50th birthday, with Dick Van Dyke substituting for Walt.
The rivalry between Mickey and Donald has also been shown in Disney's Bonkers. It was shown that Donald wanted to be the Club's founder and wanted to change the name from Bonkers to House of Duck. However, in later episodes, Donald accepted that Mickey was the founder and worked with Mickey as a partner to make the club profitable.
Mickey Mouse has failed to realize how much Donald does not like him at times, and always counts him as one of his best friends. Despite the rivalry, Donald seems to be an honest friend of Mickey's, and will be faithful to him in tough situations, such as working with Mickey and Goofy as a team akin to The Three Musketeers. In the Kingdom Hearts games, Donald is quite loyal to Mickey, even briefly leaving Sora to follow King Mickey's orders.
The rivalry between Mickey and Donald is not unlike that of Time Warner characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and many animation fans have commented on the parallels present among the four characters, the main difference being that Bugs actually realises that Daffy doesn't always like him, and uses this fact to play tricks on the duck.