Which Cartoon Character Has A Huge Cult Following In Germany?
Answer: Donald Duck
In the United States, his country of origin, Donald Duck is somewhat of a bit player in the pantheon of animated characters. In the greater community of animation, he’s nearly a nobody and even within the Disney universe he’s still a small fry; a side dish at the main feast of Mickey Mouse.
There is one place where Donald Duck gets his due, however, a place where he is adored in a way no other cartoon character can even approach: Germany. The citizens of Germany love Donald Duck.
How much do they love the fiery-tempered and quirky duck? When Germany began importing U.S. comics in the 1950s (a move considered culturally risky as attitudes toward American culture were still guarded and largely negative at the time), one particular comic caught the attention of the German people. Imported by the Ehapa publishing house, the first American comic to reach German children was “Micky Maus” which, as you might have guessed, featured Disney comic characters.
Although the comic was titled after the famous Mickey Mouse, the majority of the strips therein featured Donald Duck. Now, here’s where the twist in the story comes into play. Rather than translate the comics as literally as possible, the translators and copy editors at the publishing house, most notably one art historian Dr. Erika Fuchs, were instructed to take liberties with the translations and to insert as much German culture as possible into the comics.
As a result, the Donald of the U.S. (a fiery-tempered brute prone to yelling, conflict, and bearing a sour attitude) became an erudite, German literature quoting, philosophical powerhouse who dug into both distant German history and current political events in a way U.S. readers would never have expected.
To this day many Germans credit Donald Duck with giving them their first introduction to German literature and history. Not only do older Germans remember Donald fondly, but to this day over 40,000 monthly Donald Duck Specials are printed per month in Germany and the majority of them are purchased by adult readers. In fact, in 2009 when an 8,000 page limited edition collection of Donald Duck strips was assembled into a beautiful collector’s edition (priced at nearly $2,000 USD we might add), the limited run of the book sold out almost immediately.
He might have had to travel across the ocean to get the attention he deserves, but in Germany Donald is never at risk of being overshadowed by his famous friend Mickey Mouse.