Being Disney's 2nd most universally recognized character (after Mickey), Donald Duck has seen just as much career success as we've seen him lose his temper: a lot. Donald has more theatrical film credits to his name than any other Disney character (including Mickey); he's a wartime veteran; star of more than a dozen video games; and the 5th most published comic book character of all time (the only one in the top five who isn't a superhero). His popularity spawned a sprawling family tree of Duck relatives that have gone on to achieve their own stardom in film and television. So now let's look back on some of the performances that shaped Donald into the icon that he is today.
His debut in The Wise Little Hen, on June 9th, 1934 is the official date of Donald Duck's Birthday, according to Disney. In his first film appearance, Donald was merely a supporting role alongside Peter Pig, both feigning illness in order to get out of helping the titular Wise Little Hen gather corn. But when the Hen and her chicks feast after their hard work, Donald and Peter are regretful in missing out on the fruits of labor.
Donald has had a long military career.
A longtime active serviceman, Donald Duck--though known for his nautical background--was initially drafted into the Army. Proud to serve his country when called upon, Donald Duck Gets Drafted (1942) tosses Donald into the thick of it. Seen going through a painful medical examination and grueling boot camp, Donald learns that a proud life in the service takes a lot of sacrifice. Also, on his Selective Service Draft Card, we learn Donald's full name: "Donald Fauntleroy Duck."
Donald has an exceptional distaste for Nazis. (Though who doesn't?)
WARNING: Sensitive Imagery.
This film cannot be taken lightly in terms of its shocking imagery and context, though succeeds to be a brave and highly critical piece. Der Fuehrer's Face (1943), an anti-Nazi propaganda short features Donald as a factory worker who is tormented, brainwashed and enslaved by the Nazis into making bombs shells and saluting Hitler. Starved, traumatized and distressed, Donald suffers a breakdown, only to awake in his extremely patriotic USA bedroom. Whew. It was all just a nightmare. Der Fuehrer's Face went on to win the Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 1942.
A scene-stealing cameo, in a movie chock-full of cameos.
In a rare partnership with Warner Bros. to create the film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Disney's Donald appeared in a musical battle with his rival studio's speech-impeded duck, Daffy. As dueling pianists, the two waterfowls manage to give a tour de force of Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," all the while lobbing punches and bombs at each other. Sidenote: Despite sharing the surname Duck, there is absolutely no relation between the two. Period.
He doesn't have one "bit hit," but dozens of "big hits."
There is not one clear and definitive film or special appearance that is synonymous with Donald's name, as his career has never waned. We couldn't decide which of these two fan favorites to include, so we included them both.
Toy Tinkers (1949), shows Donald battling the famous chipmunks--Chip 'n Dale--in one of their first appearances. Nominated for the Academy Award of Best Animated Short Film in 1950.
Donald's Snow Fight (1942), a Christmastime short featuring Donald at any icy war with his nephews, was featured in the Donald Duck's 50th Birthday TV special.
He stepped out of the limelight for the sake of others.
In passing over the torch to a new series of lovable Ducks, Donald--who has long cared for his three nephews: Huey, Dewey and Louie--tearfully leaves them in the care of his Uncle Scrooge McDuck as he joins the Navy. Not wanting his presence to distract from the new family storyline, Donald had only a minor few cameos throughout the DuckTales series.
-Donald's appears between 1:27 and 3:07 of this video.
He's actually a Pisces.
Though his first-ever film debut was on June 9th, 1934, in the Duckverse, Donald was actually born on March 13th. A fitting entry to conclude the list, Happy Birthday Donald (1949), displays Donald's famous tough-love parenting to his three nephews. Of course, a punishment goes too far when Donald realizes all the mischief they were seemingly getting into was all to surprise him on his birthday.
We love you, Donald. Thank you for 80 great years.
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