Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This historically based study involves a variety of critical devices to examine the evolving types of humor in the Donald Duck shorts. This investigation encompasses his first appearance in 1934's The Wise Little Hen to his later appearances in the late fifties and early sixties. Part of this study will focus on discovering just what forms of humor were used and to establish working definitions for exaggeration, understatement, black humor, and reversal and see how they function in the Donald Duck cartoon.

In addition, the character of Donald will be examined to see how he is used as a solitary character or in conjunction with some other Disney character, and to find out if his comic function changes depending on these factors. This study was done by viewing the cartoons in relationship to the comic devices established. The selection of cartoons was based on availability.

The evolution of the humor in the Donald Duck cartoon reveals a changing of the comic expectations of the audience in America and the world in the past sixty years. For the most part, the earlier shorts focused on exaggeration in a series of gags, while in the later cartoons a more sophisticated humor and a more complex mixing of comic devices became evident.