The Biography of Disney’s Donald Duck

Donald Fauntleroy Duck is one of the most tragic, yet uplifting figures in Hollywood history. He started off as a friendly, easy to get along with Duck; but throughout the years many had considered him an over the hill, psychotic maniac with severe anger issues.

Donald Duck was born in 1920 to Hortense McDuck (mother) and Quackmore Duck (father), Below you can see a detailed family tree

While Donald Duck had a fairly idyllic childhood with his twin sister Della Duck, he was also bullied dreadfully at school since, like the African-Americans and Asian-Americans, the Bird community was heavily discriminated against.  This is said to have led to him having a rather violent personality later in life.

Donald also spent most of his childhood being dressed in a sailor outfit because his mother thought he looked cute.

A drawing of Donald Duck (1923)


In addition to this his father had served in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Quackmore’s famed ”Duck, Duck, Goose” maneuver single-handedly won the Puerto Rico Campaign in August 1898 and more or less delivered a US victory.

The stories that Quackmore told enthralled Donald and he grew to have a fascination with war and fighting for his country. At the age of 14 Donald ran away from home to join the US Navy. Obviously too young the Navy instead asked him to join their Film Division (codename : D.I.S.N.E.Y). Donald excitedly agreed.

Due to the building of armed forces in Europe the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt felt that the youth of America had to be slowly (but secretly) indoctrinated into wanting to join the armed forces. Thus from 1934 till the early 1940s Donald appeared in dozens of Navy funded cartoons. These cartoons were considered a great success since navy recruitment greatly increased between 1934 and the outbreak of World War Two.

However during the making of these cartoons, Donald was forced to work with a new person that the navy felt would be more appealing to children……. Mickey Mouse.

The rivalry between Mickey and Donald has been well documented over the years, but on their first meeting it seemed a friendship would blossom. Both of them got along very well and Donald was happy to play second fiddle to Mickey in a few cartoons.

The problems started in 1938 when, at the age of 18, Donald auditioned for the role of Rhett Butler in MGM’s adaptation of Gone with the Wind. The role of Butler was originally written as a young man and Donald was thought to be one of the front runners for the role.

Rather suddenly the role was changed to a much older man and the role was eventually won by Clark Gable; a former roommate of Mickey Mouse’s father.

Rumours arose almost immediately that Mickey had convinced MGM to cast an older actor in order to stop Donald gaining a foothold in Hollywood before him. Though Mickey has strongly denied these accusations the rumours still persist even to this day.

Furious with being denied the role of a lifetime, Donald immediately schemed to topple Mickey from his throne at Disney. Though he tried for many years his quest was ultimately a failure as in 1940 Mickey won the lead role in the feature length movie, Fantasia. From then on Mickey’s fame went through the roof and went on to be loved by millions. Donald, however, was to be left behind and as a result of what he felt was a grave injustice, he threw himself into making more cartoons for the navy.

By 1942 the U.S. Army decided to start a new series of films that followed someone through enlistment and basic training in order to show the American people what military life was like.

The discrimination against the Jews in Europe reminded Donald of his own treatment when he was a child and he immediately volunteered for these new films. Once accepted he threw himself into making these new films for his country.


However over time Donald’s mental state was starting to seriously deteriorate and some footage had to held back from the public (though they have now leaked onto YouTube)

By the end of the war in 1945 Donald was starting to suffer from hallucinations and severe sleep disorders. He started to become far more irritable and began to lose his temper over very minor infractions.

Eventually in December 1947 neighbours of Donald Duck called the police after disturbing sounds could be heard. When dragged out by police Donald is said to have been ranting and raving about ”Chipmunks” and how they were trying to steal his Christmas tree. After holding him for a few hours a Judge ruled that Donald was to be committed until a member of the medical industry deemed him fit to re-enter society.

These 3 years were not kind to Donald and he sunk into a deep depression. The army managed to suppress the news of his mental breakdown and because they had already filmed several dozen cartoons in advance; the general public believed that Donald was still making cartoons until 1959.

On release in 1950, Donald tried to reinvent himself as a serious actor and auditioned for several top films of the decade such as…

Casting agents at the time suggest that he lost a lot of these roles due to his anger issues.

Somewhere in 1955 Donald Duck was invited to one of Hugh Hefner‘s ”Playmate Parties”. Both Hugh and Donald hit it off big time and Donald was invited to shoot for Playboy. For the next few years Donald spent his time photographing beautiful women around the world and lived a true playboy lifestyle.

Donald preparing for his next photo shoot (1957)

Donald dated many of the most desired women of the day such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. He is even said to have had a short fling with Marilyn Monroe and that their relationship helped her get on the front cover of Playboy Magazine in 1958.

Though they had broken up by 1959 they remained close friends. Close acquaintances of the couple tell that it was in fact Donald that suggested Marilyn sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in May 1962. Further sources say that he was ”heartbroken” and ”inconsolable” in the weeks following her death in August 1962

Marilyn Monroe – Playboy (1958)

By the mid-1960s D.I.S.N.E.Y had taken on more commercial work in addition to its military work. They invited Donald back to film some educational pieces which he readily accepted. This would be the last time Donald would appear on screen for almost 20 years.

In the summer of 1966 Donald’s father, Quackmore, passed away peacefully in his sleep. Having lost his father and his ex-lover over a very short period of time, Donald unfortunately turned to the bottle to drown his sorrows.

Unseen footage of Drunk Donald Duck

With the encouragement of his twin sister Della, Donald eventually checked himself into the Mayo Clinic in New York in order to seek help. Little did he know that this decision would change his life forever.

Over the next 18 months Donald’s primary carer would be Dr Daisy Duck (No relation).

Photo from Dr. Daisy Duck’s University Days (taken in 1952)

With 2 Master’s degrees to her name, Dr Duck was considered one of the top minds in her field. It was her that helped Donald overcome his drink problem and to this day he credits her as ”the angel that saved my soul.”

In fact Daisy not only helped Donald with his problems, but also encouraged a pursuit in the music industry. With her help he was alcohol-free by the end of 1968 and by September 1969 he released his first album ”The Three Caballeros” which entered the charts at number 4 and stayed in the top 10 for 27 weeks.

Front cover of Donald Duck’s first album (1969)

Throughout the 70s Donald expanded on his music and dipped his toe into a variety of music genres such as Reggae, Punk and most famously he wrote the song Waterloo in 1974 in honour of his ancestor Frederik McDuck who fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Throughout this time Daisy and Donald had struck up a relationship and in the Spring of 1977, love struck and smitten, Donald proposed to Daisy by playing a fake trailer at the beginning of a public showing of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope. It is said that on saying yes the audience burst out in applause.

Finally after being a bachelor for 57 years, Donald Duck happily married his sweetheart. The wedding was a huge public occasion and even made the front cover of international magazines such as O Casamento Do.

In early 1980 Donald received a phone call out of the blue from Mickey Mouse. Wanting to bury the hatchet, Mickey tried to make amends and with the encouragement of his wife, both Mickey and Donald went on to do Mickey’s Christmas Carol (released in December 1980)

A Reconciled Mickey and Donald (1982)

Unfortunately this time of calmness would not last long and in less than a year another tragedy struck the Duck family. In 1983 there was an outbreak of H1N1 bird flu within the United States. This was the first reported case within the US and for obvious reasons bird flu was consider extremely deadly to the bird community.

Donald’s uncle, Scrooge McDuck, very uncharacteristically used many of his own millions to find a cure for the bird community. While he was successful, unfortunately it was too late for Donald’s twin sister Della.

In 1984 Della passed away from severe advanced stages of bird flu leaving behind 3 young children who Daisy and Donald immediately decided to adopt.

The Duck Brothers on Halloween (1985)

A few years later in 1988 Donald was called to perform in a short scene for a new movie called ”Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Unsure at first whether he should join what was already a very crowded movie, Donald accepted on finding out he would be working with Daffy Duck, a person who’s work he had long admired.

Donald turned out to love working with Daffy and considers those few days of work ”the most fun I’ve had in my working career.”

With lots of offers for returning to the big screen, Donald actually chose to focus on television and his own writing.

In 1987 Donald produced a show called Ducktales which would be one of the industry’s first examples of reality TV. The show would follow his 3 nephews and their Uncle Scrooge and was widely successful. The show in turn paved the way for future reality TV shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

From the early 1990s onwards Donald chose to focus on writing children’s books and raising his nephews. This was a fairly quiet time in Donald’s life where he liked nothing better than to indulge his nephews with a few treasure hunts and read them the stories he had written as they went to bed.

Throughout the 90s Donald would occasionally go back to Disney and shoot a few more films alongside Mickey and his other former co-stars like Goofy and Pluto, but his heart was never really in it and he did so more for his fans than for himself.

By the late 90s/early 2000s Donald had grown very popular as a voice over artist and was offered the role for a lead character in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Due to previous engagements he had to turn down the role of Jar Jar Binks and instead provided the voices for various characters in the new PlayStation game; Kingdom Hearts.

Recently in 2010 he took famed director Christopher Nolan to court over copyright breach in his new movie Inception. Donald claims that the ideas for the film were stolen from his 1992 comic book ”The Dream of a Lifetime”…

Donald has taken Mr Nolan and Warner Brothers Studio to court for $200 million in damages. Both Mr Nolan and Warner Brothers deny all accusations and as of December 2011 the case is still in progress.

These days Donald Duck lives a rather quiet life with the occasional chat show appearance. He has led a fairly amazingly life that many of us could only hope to emulate. But even though he is now in his twilight years, it seems that such a great duck still has a lot more to give us.

Other Disney Biographies
Biography of Disney’s Goofy
Biography of Disney’s Pluto


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