Walt Disney Productions are celebrating Donald Duck’s 50th anniversary this year (1984). Chris Pearson looks at Donald’s long and eventful career.
(Mickey Mouse is) so much of an institution that we’re limited in what we can do with him. If we have Mickey kicking someone in the pants, we get a million letters from mothers telling us that we’re giving their kids wrong ideas. Mickey must always be sweet, always lovable. What can you do with such a leading man?
WALT DISNEY (1930s)
Disney’s animators were unhappy with working with a character such as Mickey, and felt that not only did his bland personality provide little scope for gag innovation, but his anatomical differences when compared with the other stars in Disney’s stable also provided problems. After all, as animator Ward Kimball so aptly said, “who ever heard of a four—foot tall mouse?” Animators and gag men soon discovered, however, that Mickey worked best when either placed in un¬likely situations (the south seas, a deserted Robinson Cruesoe-esque island, his own fantasy dream world), or put up against other unlike characters. Thus a whole menagerie of supporting cartoon animals was created, including Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Mickey’s pet dog Pluto and the inimitable Goofy, many of whom became equally as successful as Mickey in their own right, and branched off into series of their own. One such character also became a star in his own right, going on to become Disney’s second most popular creation and one of the most endearing and exciting cartoon characters ever to appear in a short subject. His name was Donald Duck and in 1935, Walt explained how he first debuted with Mickey in an interview with Dana Burnett for the PICTORIAL REVIEW:
Mickey and his gang had been asked to broadcast on one of the N.B.C. programmes. It meant a lot of extra work for the Mouse, but he decided to oblige. Well, Mickey was up there at the mike doing his stuff, when this duck came along and butted in. The duck had learned a piece and wanted to recite it. He kept crowding up to the mike and trying to recite ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb. Well, you know how Mickey is. Always ready to give a guy a break. But he was afraid that Donald would spoil his broadcast, so he shoved him away, and the duck kept coming back and squawking “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the mike…