When Is Donald Duck’s Birthday, and How Old Is He?

For nearly 90 years, Donald Duck has been one of the Walt Disney Company’s most beloved characters, including periods when he was more popular than Mickey Mouse himself. Donald’s enduring appeal has led fans to celebrate the character on his “birthday” each year, which the company observes as June 9th. However, it turns out things aren’t quite that simple. 

Holiday Donald

Before we get into Donald specifically, a bit of history on the Walt Disney company celebrating the “birthdays” of their iconic characters.

Like many elements of the company, it all started with the mouse. Specifically, during the 1930s Disney would celebrate Mickey Mouse’s “birthday” on various different autumn days throughout the decade. This “birthday” would be accompanied by a promotional campaign, including new bookings for Mickey shorts in theaters and other activities. 

Decades later, famed Disney archivist Dave Smith deemed Mickey’s official “birthday” to be November 18, 1928, the day that Steamboat Willie first premiered in New York City. The company still celebrates Mickey’s “birthday” as November 18th to this day. 

Steamboat Willie

As with the initial Mickey’s “birthday” promotions, Disney also first began celebrating Donald’s “birthday” throughout the 1930s, with similar screenings and promotion. However, they first chose to do so in a way that befitted the character’s erratic nature. Specifically, they celebrated Donald’s “birthday” each time a Friday the 13th came along, no matter what time of year it was. 

Also similarly to Mickey, in later decades the aforementioned June 9th date was set as Donald’s “birthday” based on the date his first short — The Wise Little Hen — was supposedly released. However, unlike with Mickey, there’s a bit more question about the accuracy of Donald’s date. 

Hey, Donald!

For starters, while June 9, 1934 was listed as the official release date of the short by United Artists — Disney’s distributor at the time — those dates were often times a perfunctory approximation of a cartoon shorts release date. In fact, there are two specific known examples of Donald’s debut short playing before June 9th. 

The first came over a month earlier on May 3rd, when United Artists screened The Wise Little Hen (as well as the also then not-yet-officially released Mickey Mouse short Gulliver Mickey) at California’s Carthay Circle Theater as part of a charity benefit for the California Commission for the Protection of Children and Animals. 

The Wise Little Hen

The second came on June 7th, when the short was shown in front of the feature film Sisters Under the Skin at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. At the time, Radio City was seen as the most important and prestigious movie palace in the country, and would often see special premieres of shorts and features before their official release dates. 

So, which date is Donald’s “real birthday”? Well, that depends on how pedantic one wants to be. If the first public showing of The Wise Little Hen is one’s barometer, then May 3rd seems to be the choice. However, since June 9th is the short’s “official” release date and the day Disney chooses to celebrate, that seems to be the best answer. 

Of note, while the specific date can be questioned, all of them occur in the spring of 1934, which means that Donald will be turning 90-years-old in the spring of 2024, no matter which specific “birthday” one chooses to celebrate. 

Donald’s Debut – Disney

So, which of Donald Duck’s “birthdays” do youcelebrate? Let us know in the comments below. 

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