Donald Duck’s Animated Debut: 75 Years Ago

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jun 8, 2009 in Animation |

On June 9th, 1934 Donald Duck made his debut in the Disney short The Wise Little Hen. His original character design (seen above) wasn’t quite the foil that he would evolve to be in later cartoons — although all the essential elements are there from his trademark voice to his sailor suit:

This is a character design sheet from the film — you can see that the original Donald had a much longer beak, a taller neck and was slightly more chubby:

Although I prefer the slightly more grumpy looking duck that would emerge within a few short years. Notice how the shorter beak allows for a wider range of facial expressions and the little tuft of hair (or feathers?) does a nice job of giving him that disheveled appearance:

Donald Duck

Now as much as I’m an animation fanboy I do have to admit that Donald was at his best not on the silver screen, but hit his high point in the many wonderful comics drawn over the years by the talented artist Carl Barks (1901 -2000):

An illustration of the Donald Duck family by Carl Barks

It’s in these comics that Donald takes on a life of his own — and becomes more of a symbol of the everyday man (and his struggles). These comics were loved not just by kids but also by adults when they were published starting in 1942 when luckily for us (and Donald) Barks quit doing animation Disney to draw the strip.

Update: Being a science fiction fan I got ahead of myself, June 9th is tomorrow not today (so I updated the headline).

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