Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess – guess who?
Who never never starts an argument
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong but always right?
Who’d never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one but Donald Duck!
- The Donald Duck Theme Song from Donald Duck cartoons from 1947-1959
Huey, Dewey and Louie may want to have the fire extinguisher handy for Uncle Donald as the
sailor-suited duck celebrates his 81st birthday.
According to John Grant’s book “Encyclopedia of Animated Characters from Mickey Mouse to
Aladdin,” Donald Duck made his screen debut on June 9, 1934 in Walt Disney’s “Silly
Symphony” cartoon “The Wise Little Hen.” His first on screen appearance found Donald clutching
his stomach when asked by Clara Cluck to help her plant corn. Rolling his eyes in torment,
Donald says: “Who? Me? Oh, no, I’ve got a bellyache.”
Film historian and author Leonard Maltin recounts that Disney cast Clarence Nash as the voice of
Donald after hearing Nash on a local radio show delivering an impression of a duck reciting “Mary
Had a Little Lamb.” Nash provided Donald’s quacks and squawks from 1934 until his death in
1985. Since then Tony Anselmo, who was mentored by Nash, has been the voice actor responsible
for Donald’s classic lines of dialogue.
Donald’s debut was very much in a supporting role to Clara Cluck in 1934 but his popularity in
“The Wise Little Hen” led the studios to cast him and Mickey Mouse in what Maltin considers the
best Disney cartoon short, “The Band Concert.” In the animated short Mickey is conducting a
Sunday afternoon concert in a park bandstand only to be interrupted repeatedly by Donald Duck
who is trying to sell ice cream to the concert goers. The public and Disney studio officials alike
witnessed the making of a future animated star and Donald was quickly cast for a larger role in
“Orphan’s Benefit,” seen by many as Donald’s big break.
As Mickey Mouse stages a vaudeville show for an opera house full of orphans, Donald takes to the
stage and delivers his celebrated rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But every time he tries
to deliver his monologue, the mischievous orphans heckle Donald pushing him into a fit of anger.
His fiery temper would quickly become a signature personality trait along with his humorous voice
and mannerisms. The whitecolored duck with yelloworange bill, legs and webbedfeet is also
known for his close relationship and rivalry with Mickey Mouse. Despite his short temper, Donald
usually maintains a positive outlook on life.
As his popularity grew, Disney introduced Donna Duck aka Daisy Duck as Donald’s love interest
in 1937 and introduced his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie in 1938. By that time polls showed
that Donald was more popular than Mickey Mouse and Donald was cast in a number of cartoon
shorts and was later utilized in a series of World War II propaganda films, most notably “Der
Fuehrer’s Face” with Donald taking home the Oscar in 1942 for Animated Short Film.
That same year “Donald Gets Drafted” was released in which audiences learned the animated
character’s full name was Donald Fauntleroy Duck as it appeared on his Selective Service Draft
Card. Donald would also have roles in two feature-length animation projects. The first was
“Saludos Amigos” which consisted of four short segments, two of them starring Donald Duck. In
the first segment he meets his parrot pal Jose Carioca. In the second feature, “The Three
Caballeros” Donald meets his rooster friend Panchito.
Mr. Duck would go on to star in a number of educational films like “Donald in Mathmagic Land”
and “How to Have an Accident at Work.” He also had cameo roles in a number of other Disney
movies and television projects. In 1983 Donald played the role of nephew Fred in “Mickey’s
Christmas Carol,” the classic retelling of the Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol.” “Who
Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “The Prince and the Pauper” as well as the animated television series
“Duck Tales” and “Quack Pack” are listed among Donald’s most memorable projects.
Donald made a big screen comeback in “Fantasia 2000” in the “Noah’s Ark” segment of the film
where he plays first mate to Noah. Today he can be seen on television on “Mickey Mouse
Clubhouse” as well as “House of Mouse” and in a new series of animated shorts for Disney
The character today is as popular as ever appearing in Disney theme parks around the world and on
merchandise like watches, shirts, ceramic figures, orange juice cartons and who can’t resist picking
up a plush Donald Duck at the Disney Store.
Donald has appeared in more films than any other Disney character, featured in more than 178
theatrical films compared to Mickey’s 137 movies and is the fifth most published comic book
character in the world after Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine.
He has attained worldwide popularity and is known by different names in different countries. For
example in Italy he is called “Paperino”, in Finland “Aku Ankka”, in Denmark “Anders And” and
in Saudi Arabia “Batut”.
So here’s a big Happy 81st Birthday wish to “no one but Donald Duck!”