Donald Duck – King of Cartoons
With all the success and media attention surrounding the 3d films made by the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks it is easy to forget the hand drawn cartoons and films of yesteryear. If you ask anyone who grew up before the early 90s it is highly unlikely that you will find someone who hasn’t heard of Donald Duck. The grumpy duck crafted by the Disney Animation company must be one of the best loved cartoon characters of all time.
Older fans may not realise that Donald’s full name is in fact Donald Fauntleroy Duck, a moniker which is rarely alluded to in the cartoons. For viewers who are too young to remember some of Disney’s classic characters, Donald was a white Duck who stood upright i n a human fashion and had an orange beak, feet and legs. Comically, he was usually to be found walking round wearing a sailor’s shirt along with a cap and bow tie. Despite having gone to such trouble with the rest of his outfit, Donald Duck didn’t seem to have found the time to put his trousers on in the morning. Whereas most of the Disney animation company’s creations were warm and cuddly characters, Donald Duck stood out mainly due to his wild mood swings which varied from warm compassion one minute to blind rage and frustration the next. It was arguably his personality which saw him rated as the third most popular animated cartoon character of all time, with only Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse being more popular.
Donald Duck first appeared on film on 9th June 1934 in a cartoon called the Wise Little Hen. This is the date to which his birthday was originally credited, however around a decade later in a cartoon called the Three Caballeros his birthday was referenced as being on the 13th March 1942. Apparently this date was chosen as it was a Friday 13th which was supposed to contribute to the bad luck which constantly befell our favourite duck.
Donald’s star rose throughout the 1930s and 40s to the point where he won his first film Academy Award in 1942 for a film called Der Fuhrer’s Face which satirized the Nazi Germany of the day. He was so popular back in these early days that he appeared in more films than Mickey Mouse.
One of the most notable characteristics about Donald Duck was his high tempered, quacking, nasal voice. For all his years, the voice of Donal Duck had always been done by a voice artist named Clarence Nash all the way up to 1985 when he sadly died. Since then Donald’s voice has been provided by Ront Anselmo who was specially trained by Clarence so that he could take on the role.
Later cartoons introduced the audience to Donald Duck’s extended family – including his nephews Huey, Louie and Dewey and their rich Uncle Scrooge. Donald’s success was not limited to the boundaries of an animation company. As computer games became more and more popular throughout the 1990s Donald Duck and is Disney pals started to appear in their own series of highly successful console games, bringing them to a new generation of children to be enjoyed for years to come.
Trevor Richards writes on behalf of Fluid Creativity, a UK animation company.