Donald Duck, who turns 80 this week, has come a long way since his debut in the 1934 film The Little Wise Hen.
The character has won a bunch of awards (including an Oscar for the 1943 Der Fuehrer's Face, probably for its anti-Nazi theme during wartime America), and been in scores of cartoons, feature-length films and video games.
So, what is it about this white duck, with his yellow-orange bill, a sailor shirt, cap, and a red or black bow tie (but strangely, no trousers) that has endeared him to audiences for eight decades?
The recipe has remained pretty much the same. Donald set the pace for a host of endearing-but-not-so-nice characters in the cartoon world.
Trouble is his middle name (it's actually Fauntleroy). Mr Duck gets angry and beats up tigers, lions, birds, bees and the like. His appetite for wanton destruction is the perfect antidote to Mickey Mouse's goody-two-shoes character.
In The Greener Yard (1950) he destroys his own backyard chasing a mole, while in the hilarious Wet Paint (1946), he ruins the very car he is trying to give a new coat of paint to (one only wishes that he could have caught that wretched bird that ruins everything). And man, it is fun watching an angry duck quack about.
So popular was this uncle of Huey, Dewey, and Louie that in the 1940s, he starred in more cartoons than even Mickey Mouse!
Donald speaks with a lisp, and is frankly quite difficult to understand. This famous voice was provided by Clarence Nash for over 50 years, until his death in the early 1980s.
In India, Vinay Nadkarni, a Mumbai banker, has been his voice ever since Disney started dubbing the cartoons for local audiences in the early 1990s.
Grumbling and short-tempered as he may be, eventually, Duck is unfailingly kind. His own scheming plans get the better of him most of the time.
One of my favourite Duck cartoons was Lion Around (1950), in which the three aforementioned nephews, out to bother Donald, play a prank on him by masquerading as a lion. Mischief, his famous faux bravado and a sense of family and togetherness are there for all to see. And a real tiger does appear, but it all ends well.
As much as we write about our furry friend, this character's essence is captured best in his own theme song:
Who's got the sweetest disposition?
One guess - guess who!
Who never never starts an argument?
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who's never wrong but always right?
Who'd never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one... but Donald Duck! Yeah!
From HT Brunch, June 8
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