Since 1934, Donald Duck has been making people laugh with his hot temper and ability to get into trouble. Appearing first in The Wise Hen. The iconic voice, originated by Clarence Nash, was actually pitched to Walt Disney by Nash as the voice of a goat. Walt Disney insisted that no, this wasn’t the voice of a goat but of a duck. Out of this, Nash found himself working for Disney and Donald Duck found his voice.
Following his successful appearance in The Wise Hen, Donald Duck started to appear in more Disney animated shorts. He also changed his appearance. While originally a thinner looking duck, he morphed towards the look that is known and loved today in 1936 for Moving Day. When he received his first solo animated short in 1937, he was known as Don Donald. This short also introduced his girlfriend Daisy Duck (then known as Donna Duck). In 1938 the short Donald’s Nephews introduced Huey, Dewey, and Louie to the animated short world. They had already appeared in comic strips. As Donald grew in popularity, Mickey Mouse grew in stature. Because of this, some of the rougher gags originally written for Mickey were passed on to the hot-headed mallard.
During the 1940s, Donald Duck’s popularity continued to grow. During this time he appeared in four films: Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Fun and Fancy Free, and Melody Time. He also became a part of Disney’s contributions to the war effort during World War II and appeared in multiple propaganda films. Following the War, Donald Duck began to appear in more shorts that have become favorites to many Donald Duck fans through the years.
It was during this time that Donald Duck was paired with Chip & Dale, who so often foiled him. The three of them would appear in 18 animated shorts together as they tried to beat each other in various endeavors.
As Donald Duck moved into the 1950s he soon found himself as the most popular character in the Disney stable. During this time Donald would appear across all forms of distribution of the Walt Disney Company. He also began to follow the lead of Mickey Mouse and grow tamer as he found himself tending after his nephews, dueling with Chip & Dale, and living everyday life on the big screen and little screen. By 1958, Donald Duck found himself even helping host the Academy Awards!
In 1961, Donald Duck made his final theatrical appearance in The Litterbug. While he did appear in some educational films afterward and also a commercial, Donald basically retired from public life after this short. Donald Duck wouldn’t appear on screen again until 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol. In this film, he appeared as Nephew Fred. It also would be the last time that Donald would be voiced by Clarence Nash, who passed away in 1985. His apprentice, Tony Anselmo, then took over the role.
1987 brought the world more Donald Duck with Down and Out With Donald Duck and also his appearance in DuckTales. While he didn’t appear regularly on DuckTales, it did bring about the beginning of seeing more Donald Duck. 1988, Donald Duck again made an appearance during the Academy Awards thinking he was going to co-present an award with Mickey only to find someone already in his place. As the 80s turned to the 90s, Donald Duck once again found himself getting busier. With movies, video games, TV shows, and even park attractions, Donald Duck has continued to be in the limelight with Mickey Mouse and the gang. With the return of DuckTales in 2017, Donald Duck found himself having a more central role in this version of the show.
Donald Duck continues to be loved by millions around the world. His temper and raw humanity make him both humorous and sympathetic. As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve seen paintings of Donald Duck (and others) in schools, on walls, and in shops in pretty much every country I’ve visited. So on this day, we wish Donald Duck a very happy birthday! Here’s hoping it is a day you don’t lose your temper, but probably not!
What’s your favorite Donald Duck appearance? Share your thoughts in the comments below!