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Donald Duck is well known for his nearly unintelligible speech. Out of universe, this voice was the invention of actor Clarence Nash, and Walt Disney Studios selected it for Donald because the casting director (or in some versions of the story, Walt Disney himself) thought it sounded like a duck.

What's confusing is that the other ducks in the Disney core universe don't currently talk anything like Donald. Donald's girlfriend Daisy, and his cousins Huey, Dewey, and Louie, used to have the same ducky voice, but this was dropped after a few years and the characters now have fairly normal voices. Many other Disney ducks, such as Scrooge McDuck and Ludwig Von Drake, have always had perfectly normal voices.

Has there been any in-universe explanation, according to whatever passes as Disney canon, as to why Donald is the only duck who speaks so unintelligibly? For example, apart from Daffy's throwaway line in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has any other duck referred to Donald as having a speech impediment?

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  • i do know that in the new Duck-tales he got a voice box and suddenly started talking normal... so might be a medical issue.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 12:46
  • Possibly to keep the character unique, and viewer's comprehension: imagine an entire episode with dialogs between Donald + Daisy + Huey + Dewey + Louie + Scrooge and they all talk like that!
    – Luciano
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 15:30
  • @Luciano: That's an out-of-universe explanation, not the in-universe explanation I'm after.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 15:47
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    Why not the reverse question? Why is Donald Duck the only duck who sounds like a duck? The reason why Donald talks like a duck is because he’s a duck. Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 17:35
  • According to the Donald Duck talk wiki page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Duck_talk Walt Disney based the character around Nash's pre-existing goat voice which he performed at his original Disney audition, because Disney felt that it sounded most like a duck. I think since the voice existed before the character would mean any in-universe explanation would then be justification of what Walt Disney thought a duck sounded like. As you noted, all Disney ducks sounded like this at first. Donald sounds suspiciously like the Gadwall duck which can be found in Missouri where WD grew up.
    – shigginpit
    Commented Dec 29, 2022 at 22:24

1 Answer 1

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Donald's Dilemma is a cartoon episode in which Donald gets hit on the head and becomes suave and well-spoken (Similar to how Steve Urkel transforms into Stefan Urquelle), including a beautiful clear singing voice. At this point, his articulation is clearly impeccable.

Initially, Daisy much prefers this new and more eloquent Donald. However, as the episode progresses, this new Donald also does not remember Daisy and does not care for her, and Daisy misses the more flawed but genuine old Donald. In the end, Daisy knowingly hits him on the head in order to bring the old Donald back.

Video link to the episode in question

Assuming this is canon, this suggests that Donald is physically able to articulate, but he simply does not.

Donald does seem to be a much more primal character compared to the other ducks you mention. He's not as civilized and much more driven by instinct and emotion, as opposed to rationality and intelligence. This might suggest why his speech is closer to that of a duck than for the other (more civilized) ducks. This would be similar to the difference between Goofy and Pluto, where Pluto is decidedly less civilized and therefore less anthropomorphized.

Whether Donald's speech is a reflection of his childish and tempestuous character, a particular brain anomaly (which the first flower pot rectified and then the second flower pot reverted it), or maybe simply part of how he was raised, is something we can only speculate on.

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  • Thanks for jogging my memory; I vaguely remember this cartoon as well. I saw it some time in the 1980s or early 1990s. I suspect it may have been an old theatrical short that was rerun on The Magical/Wonderful World of Disney TV series.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 8:55
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    @Psychonaut Found it! I remembered a flower pot hitting him and that was enough for Google to find it. See update in answer.
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 22:35
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    I also remember the episode of a short Donald Duck cartoon where he buys a box of pills that make his voice very suave and manly, allowing him to sell his brushes, and then by the end, the last pill he had that he planned using to ask Daisy to marry him was swallowed by a cow who got the suave and manly voice (FR dub)
    – prout
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 14:03
  • @prout: That sounds really familiar. I had to fix this answer as I got some details wrong and reading your description, it sounds like I must've originally conflated both episodes.
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:07
  • @Flater I don't think so. Maybe, that episode you mentionned legit exists, so does the one I described
    – prout
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 8:09

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