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Western Animation / The Ugly Duckling (1939)

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So cute!

The Ugly Duckling is a 1939 animated short film (nine minutes), from Disney, directed by Jack Cutting. It was the last installment in the Silly Symphonies series that ran from 1929 to 1939.

It is of course an adaptation of "The Ugly Duckling" by Hans Christian Andersen. A mama duck hatches five eggs, resulting in four cute little yellow ducklings, and one duckling that looks—different. It's white, with a big beak, and it honks noisily rather than go cheep-cheep like the cute ducklings. The father stalks away in a rage. The mother and the other ducklings shun the Ugly Duckling, which eventually wanders away from its family, looking for a place to belong.



  • Abusive Parents: The mother duck treats the ugly duckling cruelly.
  • Chocolate Baby: The parents see the ugly duckling, which quite obviously doesn't match the others. The father duck gets angry and points and squawks at the mama duck. The mama duck gets defensive and angry and eventually slaps him. The father duck stalks off, never to be seen again. The clear implication is this trope.
  • Circling Birdies: Actually stars. The ugly ducking sees this after cuddling up to a bobbing duck decoy that the ugly duckling thinks is real. The bobbing duck bobs down and whacks the ugly duckling on the head.
  • Companion Cube: The ugly duckling finds a duck decoy and thinks it's real. At first he's happy that it appears to accept him and let him jump on its back, but as the decoy bobs back and forth, it appears to attack the ugly duckling and then reject him by turning away.
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  • Happily Adopted: At the end of the short, a swan family adopts the ugly duckling, saving him from despair and accepting him as one of their own without hesitation.
  • Informed Attribute: Much like the original, the duckling is treated as ugly, but while it looks different, it's actually rather cute.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Nothing but birds quacking and chirping.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The ugly duckling -actually a baby swan- swimming away with its new swan family, after scornfully turning away from its old duck family.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Opens with the father nervously pacing and squawking and pestering the mother for updates.
  • The Remake: The second Silly Symphonies short to tell this story; it was previously made in black and white as "The Ugly Duckling" in 1931.
  • Riddle for the Ages: How did a swan's egg get in a duck's nest? (The original fairy tale didn't explain this either.)
  • Your Cheating Heart: The angry argument between mama and papa duck strongly implies the father thinks the mother cheated on him and produced a Chocolate Baby.

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