About the Column

Disney nametags: You see them everywhere but do you have any idea how many of them there are? Or how they're designed? Or their fascinating histories? Benson Myers, curator of the Nametag Museum, knows. And in his new column, It's All in a Nametag, he'll spotlight some of Disney's more interesting (and often obscure) nametags so that the next time you see a nametag pinned to a Disney Cast Member you'll know there's a lot more to that nametag than just ... a name!

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FROM: It's All in a Nametag Published Thursdays

Donald Duck's 50th Birthday

After 50 years of corporate service, most people are given a watch, an award, and an escort to the elevator. But if you're Donald Duck, and the corporation is Disney World, you get a parade complete with live ducks broadcast on CBS television.

The year 1984 was the 50th anniversary of the release of the first cartoon featuring Donald Duck. Entitled The Wise Little Hen, it introduced a Donald remarkably different from the character we know today.

Of course, changes in the physical appearance of Disney characters are quite normal. It takes a few years for the artists who draw the characters to refine them and discover their 'personalities'. Although Donald's physical appearance evolved beyond his initial awkwardness throughout the years, he always retained his sailor cap, tunic, and iconic bow tie.

Eventually, Donald grew to have a nice extended family, including his nephews Huey, Duey, and Luey, and his irascible and ridiculously wealthy Uncle Scrooge. Most people, however, remember Donald Duck for his famous speech impediment (which was provided by the same actor, Clarence Nash, for over 40 years).


An early version of Donald Duck from the 1934 short, The Wise Little Hen.


Clarence Nash, the voice behind the Duck.

The title card for the television broadcast of Donald Ducks 50th Birthday.


Donald in a parade with his 50... children?


Nametag worn by Cast Members for Donald's 50th Birthday.

Duck Parade

In 1984, Walt Disney Productions decided to celebrate Donald Duck's 50th Birthday with a gala celebrations both at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World. A new parade was created for both parks, and featured a song that lauded Donald.

Here's a sample of the lyrics:

Happy Birthday.
It's Donald's Birthday.
Happy, Happy Birthday to you.
Hey Donald!
Happy Birthday.
Happy Birthday.
Happy, Happy Birthday to you!

There's a party, party,
a party today.
A once a year occasion.
A party, party!
Is coming' our way,
Donald's Birthday celebration!

The festivities were presented on the CBS television program, The Magical World of Disney, hosted by Dick Van Dyke. Clips from many of Donald's best cartoons were shown, along with scenes from his international goodwill tour of the same year.

Be careful, though. The music for Donald's birthday song is rather catchy, and once you hear it, it will stick in your head for hours, maybe even longer. (At the end of this article you'll find a link to the video of Donald's parade.)

Duck Detective

Now here's the part where you can help me do a bit of amateur Disney archaeology.

Fifty live ducks were used in one of Donald's birthday parades, but I don't know how they were used. One report claims they marched down Main Street, U.S.A. wearing party hats. Other reports claim they road on a parade float. I've only been able to find a single image of the ducks.

Did any of you see this parade in person? I'd love to know whether the ducks performed daily in the parks, or whether they wre just used in the broadcast of the parade seen on CBS.

And here is another small mystery. A special nametag was made for Cast Members to wear during the celebration, but I have only come across four examples of this nametag in all my years of collecting.

Usually, for a given promotion, Walt Disney World makes thousands, even tens of thousands, of the same nametag, and so most of the nametags that were once in daily use at Disney World are quite easy to get. But this Happy Birthday Donald nametag is unbelievably rare. So far, the only examples I have seen feature the names of Disney characters, not the names of regular Cast Members. Why is that? I have no clue. Perhaps one of you knows? Any information would be most welcome!

Duck Video

And now for those video links I promised you.

First, we have the 1984 CBS broadcast of the "Happy Birthday Donald Duck" Program. Beware of the theme song: it's been proven to be harmful and mentally damaging.

Second, we have an episode of the 1950's game show, What's My Line, featuring Clarence Nash. In case you have never seen that show, a panel of celebrities tries to guess the occupation of the special guest. Clarence completely stumps the panel, as the whole time he speaks in his own natural voice. When the panelists give up, he reveals that he voices Donald Duck, and then proves it.


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