LONDON: His distinctive quack has entertained generations of children, but there was a moment when Donald Duck took on a far more serious purpose, as the face of wartime America.
A new documentary is to explore not just how Donald helped the Allies win the Second World War, but how he beat Mickey Mouse to the job.
Experts say that the "frustrated everyman" character of Donald resonated with the American public and was made to eclipse Mickey in Disney's wartime propaganda films. While sensible Mickey was given the job of warden, "irascible" Donald became the face of the US home front. A BBC Radio documentary is to explain how Disney helped the Allied war effort with a series of films dedicated to educating Americans on how they could help at home. Others showed public information such as how to collect war bonds, and tried to explain how Nazis were indoctrinated.
The documentary, presented by former Disney cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and to be broadcast on Wednesday, will ask: "Why did Donald Duck get drafted?" It was made to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and will feature archive audio from Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald.
It will detail how Walt Disney Studios helped the US government. The films included The Spirit Of 43, which saw Donald praise income tax; The Fuhrer's Face, in which Donald has a nightmare he works in a Nazi factory; and Commando Duck, in which he destroys a Japanese command base. "He was a duck who was very typical of an American," said Clarence Nash, in a clip featured in the programme. "He would express his opinions real well, you know?"
Brian Sibley, who has written books on Disney, told the programme: "Mickey Mouse was very important to Disney.
"I don't think he wanted him tarnished, really, with having him involved in propaganda.
"If you wanted a character to stand up to Hitler, you couldn't have one better than Donald Duck."
The programme will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday at 11am.