It’s Donald Duck’s 81st birthday this month and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down. IDW has debuted a new Donald series, featuring both new stories and classics from greats like Cark Barks and Don Rosa. Donald will also no doubt guest star in the upcoming Duck Tales reboot in 2017.
It’s a good time to be a Donald fan, and no better time to celebrate his legacy. Here are a few vital things to know about the greatest Disney character (come at me, Mickey fans) that ever was.
The birth of greatness
Donald first appeared in the 1934 short The Wise Little Hen alongside a proto-Porky known as Peter. In the cartoon, the titular hen asks Donald and Peter to help her plant corn. The two fake belly aches to get out of working, so the hen eventually eats all of the corn herself. Donald went on to enjoy an 81-year long career, while the hen fell to obscurity and probably alcoholism. Who’s wise now?
What’s in a name?
Walt Disney came up with the idea for Donald because Mickey Mouse had become too goody-goody and he wanted a character with a little more edge. While in the character creation process, he read about Australian cricketer Donald Bradman, who’d made news after being dismissed for a duck. Donald’s middle name is Fauntleroy, a name he understandably does not use that often.
A few good ducks
Donald has been something of a war hero over the years. We all remember the cartoon in which he faces off against SCHULTZ and eventually Hitler himself, but this is only one of Donald’s many wartime cartoons. He helped sell war bonds and made regular appearances on the noses of WW2 era planes. He received an honourable discharge from the army in 1984 but civilian life never quite stuck. In Duck Tales, the reason he’s fobbed off his nephews onto his Uncle Scrooge is because he’s gone off and joined the navy.
Family and friends
We all know about Uncle Scrooge and Huey, Louie and Dewey, but what about the rest of Donald’s friends and family? Donald’ first girlfriend, believe it or not, was not Daisy, but a sexy little duck with a penchant for Mexican clothing called Donna. There’s Fethry, his eccentric cousin who makes his life even more difficult than it already is. Finally, few Donald fans can fail to hate his smug, preternaturally lucky rival, Gladstone Gander.
Donald Duck is ridiculously popular around the world. In South America, he’s a firm favourite thanks to his movie appearances with fellow fowls, Brazilian Jose Carioca and Mexican Panchito Pistoles. In Europe, kids continue to buy his comics in their hundreds of thousands. In some Nordic countries, it’s a Christmas tradition to watch a certain Donald cartoon. There’s even a Donald Duck political party in Sweden, though sadly it has never won an election.
Little gold men
Sure, Mickey may have had Fantasia, but Donald’s the bigger film star. He’s appeared in more films than any other Disney character – 225 to be precise. He’s won an Oscar, been nominated for 11 more and even co-hosted the ceremony in 1957, the only cartoon (and pantsless duck) to ever do so. In 2005, he was awarded his own Hollywood Star.
Donald is short-tempered, prone to jealousy and a luckless loser, yet he’s one of the most beloved characters in the world. It’s precisely his negative traits that make him the most relatable of Disney’s characters. He’s an imperfect guy who’s with a good heart who’s just trying to make it in the world. And even though he gets upstaged and beaten down at every turn, he never gives up. Here’s to 81 years of Donald inspiring us all.