Obit of the Day (Historical): The Original Voice of Donald Duck (1985)
Clarence Nash walked into the Disney Studios in Lake Silver, California in 1934 at the prodding of a friend. Showing off an impressive range of vocal impressions, including farm animals, Walt Disney himself was rumored to have shouted, “We found our duck!”
And that is how Donald Duck got his voice. Mr. Nash, who would earn the obvious nickname “Ducky,” would perform as the temperamental fowl for fifty years beginning in 1934 with Donald’s first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” and his final animated performance in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, when he was the only performer to voice his original character*.
Along with Donald, Mr. Nash was also the voice of Donald’s young nephews Huey, Duey, and Louie, and for a time was even Daisy Duck. During his career, Donald Duck animated shorts earned nine Academy Award nominations which resulted in two Oscars: Der Fuehrer’s Face^ (1942, above) and Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959, for documentary short subject). Donald’s animated shorts received more Oscar nods than any other individual character in the Disney pantheon.
Mr. Nash voiced Donald even for international versions of the cartoons, reading scripts in dozens of languages, often spelled phonetically. For fun, as he got older, he would head over to a nearby elementary school and surprise kids by using Donald’s voice.
Clarence Nash died on February 20, 1985, one year after Donald’s 50th birthday, in honor of which Mr. Nash was given a plaque by President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Nash was 80 years old. Since 1985, Tony Anselmo, Mr. Nash’s protege, has voiced Donald - only two men in 80 years.
Sources: LA Times original obituary, NY Times obituary, sandcastlevi.com, and Wikipedia
(Video of “Der Fuehrer’s Face” is copyright Walt Disney Company and courtesy of Firaja on YouTube.com)
* Mickey Mouse was originally voiced by Walt Disney who retired from performing in 1946. He was replaced by Jimmy MacDonald who performed as Mickey until Wayne Allwine took over. Mr. Allwine’s premiere performance was in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. He passed away in 2009. The current voice of Mickey Mouse is Bret Iwan.
Pinto Colvig was the best-known voice of Goofy (1932-1939, 1943-1967) - and the original Bozo the Clown, fyi. There were a total of six Goofy voice actors, with Hal Smith performing as Goofy’s “Jacob Marley” in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
^ Although the film won the Oscar and was obviously anti-Nazi propaganda, the uncomfortable sight of Donald in a Nazi uniform after the atrocities of the Third Reich came to light post-WWII caused the film to be locked away for more than 60 years. It was re-released in the Disney Treasures DVD set in 2004.