Charlotte Clark Original Donald Duck Figurine

Posted on Tue, 02/01/2011 - 06:00

Although Walt Disney often said he personally identified with the character of Mickey Mouse, many fans would pick Donald Duck if they really thought about it.  With his optimistic outlook on life yet temperamental nature and tendency to overreact, Donald’s a character we feel sympathy for and can understand.  He often displays those aspects of our personalities we’re not always proud of but which certainly make us human.  Donald Duck is like us, and for that reason we’re drawn to him.  

Donald Duck’s First Appearance

For the month of January, The Walt Disney Family Museum celebrated this expressive duck, who was one of the Disney Studio’s famed Fab Five, a group of animated characters who were most prominent in the Studio lineup, and included Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and Goofy.  Donald Fauntleroy Duck made his first appearance in the Silly Symphony, The Wise Little Hen, on June 9, 1934, and then went on to star in 128 cartoons of his own, while continuing to join his friends in other animated shorts.

Was Donald Duck More Popular Than Mickey Mouse?

During the 1940s, the character of Donald Duck increased in popularity, garnering such a fan base that for a time, more cartoons were produced and released featuring Donald than his pal Mickey.  Again, it was that impulsive, hot-headed personality that appealed to audiences, who enjoyed seeing such a flawed but basically good-hearted character. The irascible duck also rated his own daily comic strip and an extensive line of Donald Duck merchandise, including Charlotte Clark dolls, one of which is displayed in our museum’s Gallery 3. 

The Prized Donald Duck Figurine

It was this prized doll that was the focus of our January Look Closer presentation. Standing 17 inches tall and made of cotton fabric, kapok stuffing, buttons and satin ribbon, the doll was fashioned by one of the many influential Disney character designers from the 1930s and 1940s, Carolyn “Charlotte” Geis Clark. Clark was an American seamstress who created the first line of Mickey Mouse and other Disney character dolls, all approved by the company. Initially, these dolls were made just for the Disney brothers to give to friends and business acquaintances or for Clark to sell to retail outlets in Los Angeles. But later, in order to satisfy the growing demand for the dolls, the Disneys approved contracts with select novelty companies for large-scale manufacturing and distribution. Mrs. Clark’s sewing craftsmanship and attention to character detail were highly valued by both Walt and Roy and set the standard for Disney merchandise in later years. Today, Charlotte Clark dolls are among the most coveted treasures in the Disneyana collecting community.

The Iconic Voice Of Donald Duck

In addition to the Donald Duck figurine, our museum brought attention to the famous sound of the character, namely his unmistakable voice, which was originally provided by Disney Legend Clarence Nash. For more than 50 years, Mr. Nash fulfilled this role for which he was given the endearing nickname of “Ducky.”  Currently, Disney Legend and artist, Tony Anselmo, who was personally mentored and trained by Nash, is the voice of the temperamental duck. 

Join us next month as Look Closer highlights Lilly Disney's Oscar® bracelet!

Visit Us and Learn More About Disney’s Amazing History 

Originally constructed in 1897 as an Army barracks, our iconic building transformed into The Walt Disney Family Museum more than a century later, and today houses some of the most interesting and fun museum exhibitions in the US. Explore the life story of the man behind the brand—Walt Disney. You’ll love the iconic Golden Gate Bridge views and our interactive exhibitions here in San Francisco. You can learn more about visiting us here.

Mary Beth Culler
Museum Interpreter
at The Walt Disney Family Museum