The Ensemble Dark Horse of the Classic Disney Shorts, Donald Fauntleroy Duck is one of history's most famous cartoon characters.Donald first appeared in the Silly Symphonies short The Wise Little Hen in 1934, where he played one of the lazy animals in the fable, refusing to help the Hen make her bread and was thus denied a reward at the end. His distinct voice, given to him by Clarence "Ducky" Nash, singled him out for stardom. He quickly became a bit player in several other shorts before finally landing a role alongside Mickey and Goofy in 1935's Mickey's Service Station.From there, he took off, gaining a supporting cast. In 1937's Don Donald he got a girlfriend, Donna (who was replaced by Daisy Duck in Mr. Duck Steps Out in 1940). In 1938 his "darling nephews" Huey, Dewey, and Louie came for a visit (officially in 1938's Donald's Nephews, but the story had been told in the comics a few months earlier). The nephews' mother, Donald's twin sister Della *
"Dumbella" in her first appearance and still in some countries' canons
How to Have an Accident at Work, released on 2 September 1959
Donald & The Wheel, released on 21 June 1961 (educational)
The Litterbug, released on 21 June 1961 – the last regular Donald Duck cartoon
Steel & America, 1965 (commercial)
Donald's Fire Survival Plan, 1965 (educational)
Planificacion Familiar, 1968 (educational, "Family Planning", produced for the U.S. Population Council and distributed by Asociación Chilena de Protección de la Familia, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood)
Mickeys Christmas Carol, released on 16 December 1983 and re-issued in 24 December 1987 – in a Mickey Mouse cartoon or movie from Donald Duck Classics after 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo ends
Stuck On Christmas, a segment of Mickey's Once upon a Christmas released direct-to-video on 7 December 1999
Noah's Ark, the segment of Fantasia 2000 released on 1 January 2000
Donald's Goofy World, released on 5 February 2001 – in a Donald and Goofy cartoon released on TV and not in theaters
Tropes associated with this character include:
Adaptation Expansion: Carl Barks was challenged to take the classic 8-minute short Trick or Treat and adapt it for a 32-pages comic book story...And he succeeded. Not only did he invent great gags that were cleverly spun between the scenes of the original film, even elaborating on events that happened off-screen in the cartoon; he also justified Donald's Jerkass behavior toward his nephews, explaining that Don thought of youngsters bothering him for candy as an unwelcome violation of his privacy, Halloween or not...Plus, his proposed beginning has the nephews breaking into their uncle's house to flat-out steal his candy. It also has a more uplifting ending, where Donald warms up to the holiday and decides he’ll go trick-or-treating himself next year.
Art Evolution: He emerged with his trademark sailor suit and feather/beak colors already, but he was much more close in look to a real duck, with his plumper body and larger neck. From 1936 onwards, he was redesigned to have more depth and a rounder shape. An easy way to confirm this is to compare Don's second appearance with the short's remake 7 years later.
Badly Battered Babysitter: Whenever he has to babysit Shelby the Turtle, or his nephews. Or anything at all, for that matter.
Bears Are Bad News: Done in Good Scouts, Donald's Vacation and Dumbbell of the Yukon. Subverted with Donald's encounters with Humphrey the Bear, which is more of an example, at least as far as the short in question is concerned, of Beary Funny.
In Saludos Amigos, this happens as Donald tries to cross a rickety, falling-apart suspension bridge on a llama high up in the air while the narrator provides the play-by-play on how not to behave on the bridge:
Narrator: The traveler should be cautioned against any reckless behavior at this high altitude. Overexertion is dangerous. And above all, one should never lose one's temper. Donald:(struggling) Shut up, you big windbag!
In "Mickey and the Beanstalk", Donald is, to put it mildly, not in the best of moods when his hunger causes him to have a nervous breakdown while the narrator comments on this:
More golf games appear in other comics and newspaper strips, and a House of Mouse short has Chip and Dale screwing the duck's fun by putting metal on his ball, keeping him from hitting it with a magnet's help.
Clueless Chick Magnet: In one cartoon, "Double Date Don", Daisy's neighbor Clara Cluck falls in love with him, with him mostly trying to fend her off and finish building Daisy a brick wall. This seems to happen in a few other cartoons and comics as well. And poor Donald never knows what to do with all the attention. Parodied by a Disney Trading Pin saying "Chicks Dig Me!" while he's surrounded by actual baby chicks!
Correspondence Course: His cousin Fethry takes quite a few, dragging Don to serve as a volunteer, taking no negatives for an answer.
Donald himself is no stranger to these either. Several comic stories has him as the newly-educated "expert" on something after having taken a Correspondence Course or just read a book on the subject. In almost all these cases, his self-esteem is far greater than his actual skills, though sometimes he does show a remarkable talent.
Couch Gag: Early on, Don would open every episode of The Mickey Mouse Club by striking a gong with humorous consequences . Matt Groening has revealed that Donald's gong gag having different outcomes every week actually inspired the TropeNamer.
Courtroom Episode: The Trial of Donald Duck, he’s brought to court as he refused to pay for the food he brought himself. Admittedly, he was already in hot water not noticing the $5 cover charge card on his table after flaunting the nickel he carried with him, but still...
Covered in Kisses: The ending to Mr. Duck Steps Out adds a nice visual gag to the trope; one of Daisy's lipsticky kisses has landed right in the middle of Donald's eyelids. He blinks. Cue illusion of lips smacking!
Disguised in Drag: In Donald's Dream Voice, he briefly disguises himself as a girl in order to get back a voice-changing pill from an antisocial man (who, ironically, becomes quite friendly when he sees the disguised Donald).
In Mickey's Big Break, he gets Dragged Into Drag by Mickey as they disguise themselves as their own girlfriends in order to take a replacement photo after accidentally breaking the old one.
There's also Golden Eggs, where he intends to collect some eggs from his farm but an imposing rooster won't let him get close, so he dresses up as a chick (literally) to do the job. With predictable results.
Disproportionate Retribution: Donald is often both the initiator and the victim to this trope, he and his foes often switching from playing mild pranks to trying to kill each other! A huge driving force in many of his shorts' Escalating Wars is that neither side knows where "an eye for an eye" ends. For example, Donald often plays a prank on, or otherwise annoys, some small woodland creature, which then retaliates in kind and sends Don into a rage, leading to an Escalating War. Usually results in nothing more than total humiliation for Donald, but major collateral damage is not unheard of. (One cartoon ends with Donald's house being blown to bits, while another has him blown straight down to China.)
Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: An usual, effective resource that Donald uses to punish his nephews with when they’re too bratty to endure. However, very rarely is the bottom reddening directly shown; it’s mostly implied, with him frenetically chasing the trio while holding a tree’s branch. (He couldn’t use a belt for obvious reasons)
Duck Dastardly Stops to Cheat: It happens twice in the comic story In the Swim. Don has the lead -by far- in a swimming race against his nephews. Not having enough fun, he stops to put mosquito oil, tickly shavings and laundry starch on their way. Unsatisfied, he swims back to their point and (hiding his newly rented submarine) bets he can still beat them while underwater. Of course he does!...not.
Downer Ending: A lot of his shorts, one in particular being "Donald's Dream Voice".
Ensemble Dark Horse : Believe it or not, this was invoked; the book "Mickey and the Gang" by historian David Gerstein reveals that Walt Disney already thought Donald would be his next star, organizing press kits to theaters that were showing Don's debut, The Wise Little Hen.
Escalating War: Used frequently in later shorts, usually against Chip and Dale.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: His shorts have been particularly guilty about this. Donald in charge of a lighthouse? Lighthouse Keeping. The duck's nephews come for a visit? Donald's Nephews. Donald loses his memory, becomes a singer and forgets about Daisy, who is stuck with the dilemma of her boyfriend abandoning her forever and being completely happy about it? Daisy's Dill...Wait, no, that one's actually called Donald's Dilemma. What do you know!
Experimental Archeology: In one story, Donald gets involved in a bet to discover which means did the ancient Duckburgers use to immigrate from a local Easter Island stand-in.
Feather Fingers: While his original design in The Wise Little Hen played this straight, his current design instead has actual human-like, feather covered, hands.
Feud Episode: Many Carl Barks' comics revolve around Donald feuding with his neighbor Jones.
The cartoon came out in January 1941, before the term "concentration camp" came to be associated with the Holocaust, so the reference was not as tasteless as it sounds today.
Glass Cannon: Literally part of Donald's character in many of the Classic Disney Shorts - he enjoys imposing on others, but when met with adversity he goes down fast. In other words, he can dish it out, but can't take it.
Go Karting with Bowser: Attention, people! Donald Fauntleroy Duck is suspected of ditching Disney's good-natured Halloween party so he could spend All Hallows Eve chillin' out with villains, donning a wise disguise! Here's undeniable evidence!
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In GOLDARN spades. It often sounds like he's swearing for real because of his voice, anyway.
Green-Eyed Monster: Donald gets like this in Donald's Double Trouble, when he tries to get a more civilized duplicate of himself to help win Daisy back for him, only to see the twin actually fall for her himself.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Donald's actions in most of the shorts often wind up coming back to bite him in the tail feathers.
Honor Before Reason: Again, as part of his trademark temper, Donald often exhibits signs of this by standing up to his principles even when common sense states that doing so would be the stupidest thing imaginable. Notable cases include "The Flying Squirrel" where he wastes a large supply of snacks at his vendor stand while simply trying to recover one measly peanut that the titular character of the short steals and "Trick or Treat" where after being called a pushover by Witch Hazel vehemently refuses to let his nephews have any of the Halloween goodies he's been saving rather than be thought as such, even after Hazel casts a spell on him that puts him through numerous pratfalls.
Likely exhibiting the fact that they're related, Huey, Dewey, and Louie can occasionally exhibit signs of this as well. In "Soup's On" rather than just do the easy thing and wash up before dinner they try to trick him into thinking they did it, which leads to him punishing them. When Donald starts to feel guilty for sending them to bed without supper after hearing their (fake) crying, he decides to let up... only for them to prank him with a mouse trap and then eventually fake his death and convince him he's now an angel all so they can get their turkey dinner. This is in spite of the fact, mind you, that he'd already had a change of heart prior to said prank.
Inadequate Inheritor: In a Carl Barks story, Donald is unknowingly put on a test by his uncle Scrooge (who placed 1,000 dollars for him to find) to observe how his nephew will use the money and thus determine if the Duck inherits the buck. Don spends all of it on a new car...to cover a mere down payment; since it costed $2000, by the story's ending he still owes another thousand. His nephews end up being chosen instead.
Inconvenient Itch: In the Wartime Cartoon "Donald Gets Drafted", Donald is instructed by Sergeant Pete to stand still. Unfortunately, he's standing on an anthill.
It's a Wonderful Failure: Donald was treated to a rare non-video-game example of this trope in the 1990 storybook Donald's Dream, in which he has a nightmare where he is shown the consequences of not doing the chores he has promised to do for his friends.
Jerkass: In the shorts where he's the one who starts trouble for either Chip and Dale or his nephews. And then of course there's the short Donald's Penguin where he almost ends up shooting his pet penguin with a shotgun for eating his pet fish.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The gold part shows up far more often in the comics than in the cartoons, but... for all his faults, Donald does have a heart and will usually do the right thing in the end.
The Key Is Behind the Lock: In Sagmore Springs Hotel, Donald, as a hotel manager, accidentally locks the combination to the hotel safe inside the safe. In his attempts to open it, he ends up devastating the entire hotel and destroying his uncle's important cheque.
Kick the Dog: Sometimes he has a very cruel sense of humor and likes to mess with smaller animals or his own nephews, which leads to his undoing by the end of the short.
Lower Deck Episode: An old beetle's narration of the encounters he’s had with the Duck gets the focus in "Bootle Beetle", "Sea Salts" and "The Greener Yard", the last one downplaying Donald's presence to an extended cameo.
It also happened with an elderly bee playing the narrator in "Let's Stick Together".
Mistaken for an Imposter: One cartoon, "Donald Duck and the Gorilla", has Donald's nephews pretend to be an escaped killer ape to scare Donald. He catches them, and when the actual killer ape shows, he slaps it around a few times before realizing what it is and running for his life.
Also, in another cartoon, "Lion Around", two of Donald's nephews dress up in a lion costume to scare Donald while the third nephew goes for a yummy pie. However, one slip-up has Donald discover who the "lion" really is and shoos the nephews out of the house. Then a real mountain lion shows up and goes to Donald's house in an attempt to eat him and the pie. However, Donald thinks the actual lion is just his nephews in costume and tries shooing it away, but the lion persists and enters his house. At once Donald becomes infuriated and even attempts to rip off the lion's head, but then one of his nephews knocks on the window and tries convincing Donald that the lion is real by showing him the costume, which the nephews had taken off. It takes Donald a few seconds to realize that the "lion costume" he attempted to "take off" is actually a real lion, whom he had just ticked off! Oh Crap!
The Napoleon: "Hot-blooded" and "short" are probably two of the most apt adjectives to describe Donald.
Never Trust A Hair Tonic: "Black Wednesday", written by Carl Barks, features Uncle Scrooge selling hair tonic to the "Chillyboot Indians", which actually causes baldness. Donald later returns with a hair tonic made by Gyro Gearloose; that one works too well.
Never Wake Up A Sleepwalker: In one cartoon, Daisy has to race ahead of a sleepwalking Donald to move obstacles out of his way. Considering he's doing gravity-defying tricks such as climbing up walls, it's quite a feat.
Nitro Express: One comic subverts this: Donald thinks this is what he is doing, and spend the journey being terrified (since he has his usual luck), but it turns out not all explosives work like nitroglycerin, and it was one of them he was transporting.
Non Dubbed Grunts: The majority of Donald’s dubs around the globe preserve Clarence Nash’ original laughs, unintelligible tantrums, and so on.
Saludos Amigos took it one step further; both Donald and Joe Carioca's entire dialogue in the segment "Aquarela Do Brasil" were left intact for the Latin American release. As if Donald's voice wasn't difficult enough to understand already...
Other Me Annoys Me: When forced to spend time with a duplicate of himself, he was annoyed.
Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Many times, his strength isn't just due to his Unstoppable Rage, but also sheer determination. In the Quack Pack episode, "Ducks By Nature", the camping leader is jealous of Donald and calls him "city wimp" but Donald carries BOTH their camping equipment (which includes a CANOE!) and then the camp leader challenges Donald to a race to climb up a cliff. Then, he cheats by secretly tying Donald to a tree with an EXTRA-STRONG Bungie cord. Donald struggles for a bit before his determination makes him so strong that he not only uproots said tree but literally SENDS IT INTO ORBIT and gets him to the cliff top faster than the camp leader! In "Bird Brained Donald", he lifts a metal rail in from its post in cement to use as a ladder! And he beats BOTH Mickey and Goofy in a pseudo tug-of-war in "Answering Service". And these are just a FEW examples!
Polka Dot Paint: In "The Vanishing Private", Donald paints a field cannon with red, green and yellow stripes, and black polka dots. All at once, with a single brush and bucket.
Public Domain Animation: The short "The Spirit of '43". However, you won't find it in any compilations—in fact, Disney halted the release of a public domain DVD with Donald displayed on the cover, pointing out that while the cartoon is Public Domain, Donald Duck isn't.
Rain Dance: In the cartoon Grand Canyonscope, Donald fools around with a genuine raindancing costume and manages to summon a Personal Rain Cloud before the ranger catches him and confiscates the costume.
Real Vehicle Reveal: In the cartoon The Autograph Hound, Donald appears to be in a limo with Greta Garbo. He is actually sitting on the fender on the other side.
Shameful Shrinking: A cartoon has him cast as a truancy officer, out to catch Huey, Dewie, and Louie skipping school. When he finally captures them, it turns out school was out for summer. Donald shrinks in shame as a result.
In another cartoon, Donald catches his nephews with cigars and makes them smoke the whole box as punishment. When he realizes the cigars were his birthday present, he shrinks down until he falls through a knothole on the floor.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: While Donald's navy background is never explored fully in the canonical comics, his behavior and general character appears to be in line with a (Disneyfied) version of this.
Shock and Awe: Donald gets lightning powers from Zeus himself to pester Pete in response to bad Trombone playing in Trombone Trouble
Smooch of Victory: At the end of the unfairly ignoredMaui Mallard, a SNES/Genesis/PC videogame. As a reward for saving her island, an Amazon duck pleases Don with the best kiss he's received on his entire existence, then teleports both of them to some unknown destination...Considering she promised to take him "on and adventure he'd never forget" and that the wedding march starts playing as they disappear...OH, LUCKYDUCK!
In a more traditional, approved-for-kids instance, Daisy gives him one (on the cheek, mind you, after risking his life to save her from an evil magician with a wicked mind, come on now)- at the end of last gen's videogame, Goin' Quackers.
Special Edition Title: "Trick or Treat". Donald’s face is painted on a fence at night, instead of the usual head shot on the starburst frame. The credits are featured on a house surrounded by dead trees’ shadows, which serves this Halloween short better than the ordinary red burlap design. Finally, the camera pans around before revealing the title, which is neatly painted on a broken window in a seemingly abandoned house.
The rarely seen original opening for "Rugged Bear" depicts Don’s headshot as a portrait over a fireplace mantle, which pans down to the dark fireplace opening with the title and artist credits. After that, the camera pans down to a shot of a bear-skin rug with the cartoon's title.
Super Senses: In the story An Eye for Detail, an oculist declares that, by training his vision differentiating between his identical nephews for years, Donald’s retina has developed an incredible clarity, allowing him to discern microscopic details with ease (For instance, a mosquito bite behind Louie’s...ear. Louie’s a duck, mind you...). Scrooge sees big financial opportunities on it. Donald grows more and more stressed. As for the nephews? They can’t grasp the mere idea of them looking alike.
Even more so amazing if you take into account that, according to Donald Gets Drafted, he's partially colour blind and cannot tell the difference between green and blue.
The cartoon "Donald's Lucky Day". Donald is a courier delivering a package on Friday 13, and a radio broadcast on the subject puts him on edge. First he narrowly avoids going under a ladder, which leads him to crash into a mirror. Then he finds a black cat trying to cross his path, and spends most of the cartoon trying to elude it. And for added suspense, the package is a Time Bomb.
Synchronized Swarming: In the cartoon "Inferior Decorator", Donald gets into a feud with a bee. Toward the end of the cartoon, it calls on all its friends, which swarm out of the hive and form a question mark, as if to say "Yeah, what do you want?"
"Cured Duck" has Daisy trying to do exactly that: after yet another of Donald's self-induced destructive mishaps Daisy gets him a "temper machine" designed to make him keep his cool. It actually seems to work; then Donald sees Daisy's outrageous hat, goes into hysterics over it, whereupon Daisy throws a frenzy that puts the Don's to shame.
Theme Tune: Originally, Donald’s cartoons were accompanied by diverse instrumental themes, each suiting the short featured, such as the Mexican melody in ''Don Donald''. They would also play prominently within the short itself. This practice was later abandoned; the first two tunes that stuck can be heard here and here. Finally, in the second half of the forties, the theme we’re most familiar with appeared, an inversion of the Bragging Theme Tune, since most of the qualities it attributes to Donald are the complete opposite of his behavior in the cartoons.
Unrobotic Reveal: Scrooge fires his butler, gets Gyro Gearloose to build him a new robotic butler, and eventually requests that it have so many features that Gyro finds it easier to just dress his old butler in a robot costume.
Unstoppable Rage: Varies. Donald's strength seems to be directly proportional to the person (or thing) he is trying to fight. He regularly beats the crap out of his ex-con neighbour, who's twice his height and three times his width, yet once got knocked out cold by a sleepy Volcanovian.
He's lifted up and thrown a wardrobe and uprooted a telephone pole in Cured Duck, he punches out a huge shark in Sea Scouts, and head-butted a large mountain goat in Alpine Climbers. His strength seems to increase even when he's determined as well. In the House of Mouse episode Clarabelle's Christmas List, Donald effortlessly reeled in Monstro thinking it was the Naughty or Nice list. And in Answering Service, he rips a keypad off the wall and beats BOTH Mickey and Goofy together in a pseudo tug-of-war. He's also performed amazing feats of strength in the comics including: breaking free of strong ropes, pulling in a TRACTOR, among others. Basically, don't mess with this duck if he's determined or angry.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Seemed to play into Donald's victory streak according to his enemies. Regardless of who started the war per se, when placed against cute smaller animals or troublemakers, Donald usually didn't stand a chance. When placed against repulsive antagonists like Pete however, Donald was often allowed to win for once.
Who's Laughing Now?: His Paperinik persona started out as a mean for Donald to get back at Scrooge and Gladstone continuously tormenting and humiliating him, and the very first story features Paperinik stealing Scrooge's mattress as he sleeps on it for added humiliation factor.