Once again its time to celebrate a legendary birthday. Disney’s favorite fowl, Donald Duck, made his debut eighty years ago, on June 9, 1934 in the Silly Symphony short The Wise Little Hen. In this short Donald serves as Vice President of the Idle Hour Club (Peter Pig, President) and uses a stomach ache as an excuse to not help harvest corn. In turn for his lack of service, Donald is presented a basket of Caster Oil instead of cornbread and muffins that Wise Little Hen has prepared.
It would not be until August 11, 1934 that Donald would first appear with Mickey Mouse in an animated short. The Orphan’s Benefit is the first time the two are teamed together, and it is here that Donald also first displays his fiery temper that quickly became one of his trademarks. It would not be until 1936 that Donald would be redesigned into the rounder figure he shows today. To date, he has never worn pants.
Donald would go on to appear in his first staring role in an animated short on January 9, 1937 in Don Donald, where Daisy is also introduced at his love interest. Our favorite mallard would go on to star in over 100 animated shorts, some with Mickey and Goofy, others with his nephew’s Huey Dewy and Louie, and at other times with Chip and Dale.
Although Mickey would go on to have his own televised club, it was Donald who would be the first animated short star to star in an animated feature, starring in both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. As well, Donald is the only animated character to be a mascot for a major American university. In 1947, a handshake agreement between Walt Disney and University of Oregon athletic director Leo Harris enabled Donald to be the official mascot of The Mighty Ducks of Oregon.
One of the reasons Donald was such an (in)stable character for Disney is because of the voice, provided from 1934 until 1983 by Disney Legend Clarence Nash, who passed away in 1985. Tony Anselmo took over the role of Donald in 1984 and continues to do so to date.
Donald Duck, you have aged well. Happy 80th Birthday!
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