Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Secret Nazi Origins of Scrooge McDuck!

For any child growing up in the 80s, there is one Disney Duck that is second only to Donald himself, and that is Scrooge McDuck.

There should be nothing about Scrooge that says, "action hero". He is old, Scottish, rich, and stingy. Yet somehow, he has adventures that rival or exceed those of Indiana Jones. In fact, much of Indiana Jones is based on the Scrooge McDuck comics penned by Disney duck scribe Carl Barks.

But the similarities between Indy and Scrooge might run deeper than just escaping giant boulders. Both have ties to a very evil and very infamous military power: The Nazis.

For a duck of Scrooge's stature, hearing that he has Nazi ties might make you think some of his imminence wealth is due in part to some seedy McDuck family back room dealings. However, I can say assuredly that all McDuck money was earned in his lifetime with his own feathery hands. It started with a dime you know.

No, Scrooge's Nazi connections come from the creation of the duck himself, as a piece of propaganda.

Enter the Spirit of '43. During WWII, Donald was literally the propaganda poster duck for the war. Disney slapped his bill over anything that could be considered American. For many people, Donald represented the everyman. He wasn't squeaky clean like Mickey, he fell pray to temptation and selfishness. So when moviegoers saw Donald going back and forth emotionally on his stance on war, it gave people a fictional character they could relate with.

For example, in the propaganda cartoon Spirit of '43, after Donald gets paid, he is faced with the dilemma of saving his money and using the taxes to help pay for the war effort, or be stingy and spend the money on something for himself. The part of Donald that tells him to be a spend thrift and save the money, comes in the form of a Scottish duck with the same beard and accent of the Scrooge McDuck we know and love today.

And while the "Scrooge" persona in Donald is his "good" side, it's characteristics are still those of Scrooge McDuck, in that Scrooge would always tell Donald to save his money before spending it.

Here is the cartoon in it's entirety. The Scrooge part is only at the beginning before it goes into a typical "America is so friggin great!" rant:

Scrooge's first official appearance came in 1947 in the Carl Barks comic Christmas on Bear Mountain, though that Scrooge is very different in appearance and attitude than the Scrooge Barks later made the hero of his comics. He eventually becomes much more like the character seen in Spirit of '43.

If we wanted to look at this canonically, we could assume that the "Scrooge" persona in Donald is just his manifestation of his dear Uncle Scrooge, whom he knows would tell him to save the cash. To go along with this, Donald's evil persona is much more akin to his free spirited cousin and adversary, Gladstone Gander. In Spirit of '43 Donald could simply be channeling duck's he already knows and use them to fill the roll of "good" and "bad" in his head. Of course practically all this is impossible because neither character had been conceived yet, but I figured I'd channel the great Don Rosa myself and canonize the most minute of Duck Universe details.

Regardless it is interesting to watch Spirit of '43 and see what I think could be the roots of Scrooge McDuck.