February 1, 1956 – A Day in the Life of Donald Duck Premieres on Disneyland.
“You know something Donald? You’re a big international favorite.”
On February 1, 1956, Disneyland audiences spent A Day in the Life of Donald Duck. As Walt Disney explains in the introduction, there have been so many fan letters to Donald, that he thought the audience might want to spend a day with Donald at the studio. Directed by Jack Hannah, with story by Albert Bertino and Dave Detiege, we see how Donald begins his day, as well as his interactions with Jimmie Dodd, Roy Williams, the Mouseketeers, and the most important person in Donald’s life: his voice, Clarence Nash.
“Donald, like any other average cartoon character, lives a simple, unassuming life in a quiet residential section of Beverly Hills,” Disney tells the audience, showing pictures of the neighborhood. “He resides in a modest little cartoon house. He drives to work in a modest little cartoon car. And if he seems a bit reckless, you must remember that Mr. Duck drives with a cartoon license.” As we see Donald pull into a spot marked “No Parking,” he is immediately confronted by a police officer. Donald, however, folds the car into a tiny packet, tucks it under his hat, and walks to his office.
When he arrives at his office, the intercom sounds, and his secretary greets him respectfully as Mr. Duck. Donald responds with, “Just call me Donald, toots. What’s first on my schedule, tootsie?” in keeping with Donald’s personality as a bit of a wolf. She responds that he has fan mail, which he opens eagerly. The letters, however, are not pleasing in Donald’s opinion. One letter openly says, “Dear Donald, I can’t understand a word you say.” This is the last straw in Donald’s opinion, and he demands to speak with his voice, Clarence Nash. Nash comes in with a cheery attitude, which doesn’t change Donald’s mood in the slightest, no matter what Nash does to cheer him up. They end up arguing, with Nash reverting to his Donald Duck voice, even as he pulls out a coonskin cap and starts signing the Davy Crockett theme song. Donald tells him he’s a horrible singer. Nash leaves, with the two still taunting each other, and Donald vows that he’s got to get himself a new voice.
The next guest to enter is Jimmie Dodd (host of the Mickey Mouse Club), who has written a new song about Donald, inspired by fan art from children all over the world. “They’re so great, they had to have a song written about them,” Jimmie explains, and begins the song, which Donald immediately loves. There are versions of the song sung in different languages with accompanying pictures, including Spanish, French, Italian, and German. The images and tunes are stereotypical for the fifties, but somewhat sweet and fun all the same.
Donald then leaves for an 11 o’clock appointment at the Story Room, and when the storymen hear Donald coming down the hall, they begin to panic, as they fear his temper more than anything. They try to make Donald comfortable, and when they try to show him storyboards for a short entitled Peaceful Day, Donald asks for more birds and butterflies. The storymen overeagerly agree to his requests, to the point that Donald gets annoyed, and demands that there be a short with just him in it. This gets them to thinking, and the audience is then shown the brainstorm: the short, Drip Dippy Donald (originally released March 5, 1948).
Back in his office, Donald receives a call from Walt, who asks him to show the Mousketeers around the studio, as Mickey has remembered that they had never seen it before. Donald eagerly agrees, and runs to meet the Mouseketeers, who surprise Donald by making him an honorary Mouseketeer and giving him his own set of Mickey Mouse ears. As they run around the studio, the kids slip into the Sound Effects Department, closing the door just as Donald is about to get inside, leaving him on the outside as the kids see how sound effects were added to the Donald Duck short, Fire Chief (originally released December 13, 1940). One example they show is when a building is set on fire, the special effects team uses sparklers and crumpled plastic to create the sound of the burning ceiling.
When the short ends, the door opens, and Donald is ready to step inside, until an effects man empties a bucket of water over him, which causes half of Donald’s paint to run. This necessitates a trip to the Ink & Paint Studio, where the painter quickly re-paints Donald and hangs him up to dry, an experience Donald finds quite humiliating. The painter explains that twenty gallons of paint are usually used for a Donald Duck picture, which surprises the kids and causes Donald to remark that he is “very expensive.” She also explains that in one picture, they used just one pint of paint for Donald; the audience is then shown the short The Vanishing Private (originally released September 25, 1942).
After the short, we see the kids with Jimmie Dodd again, singing the new Donald Duck song he wrote. As Donald tries to sing the last line of quacks, he is cut off by Roy Williams, the other host of the Mickey Mouse Club. The kids are excited to see him, and he tells them that he’s practicing drawing the characters. To prove that anyone can draw, Roy asks one of the Mouseketeers to make a scribble on the easel. From her scribble, Roy is able to draw an ostrich. Donald, jealous of the stolen attention, challenges Roy and scribbles on the easel. Roy accepts, and ends up turning Donald’s scribble into a humorous image of Donald Duck. As Donald throws a tantrum and jumps up and down on the teasing picture, the kids flee the room and head into the projection room. “And now, in Donald’s honor – he really is a good scout,” Roy welcomes the kids, “I’d like to dedicate this picture to all you Mouseketeers.” Donald is touched by the tribute, and the audience is then shown the short, Good Scouts (originally released July 8, 1938).
This episode is a must-see for fans of Donald Duck. There are many wonderful gags, and the interaction of Donald with Clarence Nash is enough of a reason to watch. It’s a perfect example of all the temperaments of Donald, with the added bonus of it being set in the real, rather than the cartoon, world.