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Who is Donald Duck?

By K T Solis
Updated: May 17, 2024

Donald Duck is a Disney character famous for his bad temper and almost incomprehensible speech. He's a white duck often portrayed wearing a sailor shirt and hat but no pants. The original voice of Donald was performed by Clarence "Ducky" Nash. After 50 years as the voice of the fiery-tempered duck, Nash trained Tony Anselmo to take over the speaking role.

The character made his first appearance 9 June 1934 in the Disney cartoon called The Wise Little Hen. An adaptation of the well-known Little Red Hen story, the cartoon featured a hen who tries to plant and harvest corn. She seeks help from Donald and a character called Peter Pig, both who refuse to help. As a result, the hen and her chicks do all of the planting and harvesting. When the hen prepares a meal using the harvested corn, Donald and Peter are not invited to the festivities.

The American public quickly fell in love with the cantankerous duck, and by the 1940s, movies featuring Donald Duck outnumbered those highlighting Mickey Mouse. Donald originally starred in 128 cartoons. His first starring role was in the animated film called Don Donald. A female duck named Donna appeared with him in the cartoon that took place in Mexico. The lovesick Donald played a troubadour who wished to please Donna, even getting rid of his burro in favor of a car.

While starring in his own animated movies, he also appeared in animated features along with Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto. One particular wartime Donald Duck film won an Academy Award® for Best Cartoon. It was called Der Fuhrer's Face and featured Donald experiencing a nightmare where he lived in Nazi Germany.

On 7 February 1938, Donald Duck starred in his own newspaper comic strip. During the late 30s and 40s, the original strips were reprinted in comic books. Soon, new comic strips featuring Donald were created, capitalizing on the popular comic book market.

Two notable cartoons featuring Donald Duck included live-action as well. These two revolutionary cartoons were Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. In both movies, South America played a central role. The cartoons were created as a favor to the U.S. government in order to express goodwill toward South America.

Donald Duck was honored on his 50th birthday on 13 November 1984. CBS aired a celebration hosted by Dick Van Dyke where a host of other celebrities joined him in paying tribute to one of Disney's most beloved characters. Throughout the years, Donald has remained a popular Disney character, gracing lunchboxes, t-shirts, and appearing on television and movie screens.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ZsaZsa56 — On May 29, 2012

I have a Donald Duck tattoo on my leg. I got it a long time ago and can't really even remember why I wanted it. I do not have any other cartoon character tattoos and I have no special feeling for Donald.

But he does have this really tough, pissed off expression on his face that I guess must have caught my eye when I was in the tattoo shop.

By tigers88 — On May 29, 2012

I gave my son a collection of Donald Duck DVDs last year for Christmas. He loves them. He could sit there and watch them all day if we let him.

I am so pleased. Donald Duck was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I thought my son might find them so old fashioned that he was not interested. Who wants to watch a duck when you can watch a Transformer, or better yet, an Angry Bird. But he rolls on the floor with laughter whenever we put Donald on.

By nextcorrea — On May 28, 2012

I don't know why but Donald Duck has been my favorite cartoon character since I was a little kid. This seems weird because he is always so angry and you can never understand what he is saying but he looks cute and I love that spit filled voice of his.

I have more than a few pieces of Donald Duck memorabilia around my home. I have some posters and few old comics and figurines. I am not a crazy fan but if I see something cool for a good price I will grab it.

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