Donald Duck in Ancient Persia

Master illustrator's friendly incursion into the land of kings


Donald Duck in Ancient Persia
by Darius Kadivar

Carl Barks (March 27, 1901 – August 25, 2000) was a famous Disney Studio illustrator and comic book creator, who invented Duckburg and many of its inhabitants, such as Scrooge McDuck (1947), Gladstone Gander (1948), the Beagle Boys (1951), Gyro Gearloose (1952), Flintheart Glomgold (1956) and Magica De Spell (1961). The quality of his scripts and drawings earned him the nick names The Duck Man and The Good Duck Artist. Fellow comic writer Will Eisner called him "the Hans Christian Andersen of comic books."

In November 1935, when he learned that Walt Disney was seeking more artists for his Studio, Carl decided to apply. He was approved for a try-out which entailed a move to Los Angeles, California. Carl was one of two in his class of trainees who was hired. His starting salary was 20 dollars a week. He started at Disney Studios in 1935, more than a year after the debut of Donald Duck on June 9, 1934 in the short The Wise Little Hen.

Carl initially worked as an "inbetweener". This involved being teamed and supervised by one of the head animators who did the key poses of character action (often known as extremes) for which the inbetweeners did the drawings between the extremes to provide smoothness to the illusion of movement. While an inbetweener, Carl submitted gag ideas for cartoon storylines being developed and showed such a knack for creating comical situations that by 1936 he was transferred to the story department.

In 1937 when Donald Duck became the star of his own series of cartoons instead of co-starring with Mickey Mouse and Goofy as previously, a new unit of storymen and animators was created devoted solely to this series. Though he originally just contributed gag ideas to some duck cartoons by 1937 Barks was (principally with partner Jack Hannah) originating story ideas that were storyboarded and (if approved by Walt) put into production. He collaborated on such cartoons as Donald's Nephews (1938), Donald's Cousin Gus (1939), Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940), Timber (1941), The Vanishing Private (1942) The Plastics Inventor (1944), and Donald Duck in Ancient Persia (1949)>>>SEE PAGES

Strangely “Ancient Persia” grew out of interest in horror films. Though Barks was no great movie-goer, he saw several horror classics which contributed to the stories eerie atmosphere. A quest to raise the dead, spells muttered over a magic pool, a frustrated marriage, and honor slaked by death – these are all motifs from Boris Karloff’s classic Horror flick The Mummy (1933); and the spooky old mansion on the hill looks like The Old Dark House in another Karloff movie. Even the mad scientist, with his high forehead and deep-set eyes resembles that veteran horror actor.

At the same time what distinguishes Ancient Persia from previous books is not its borrowing but its originality, the way Barks turned his material to new uses, treading a narrow line between terror and comedy and using one to balance the other. His language is also a constant comedic leaven. Between understatement (“The Storm is soon over, but it moved a lot of sand!” ), slang (“My Princie Boy!”), anachronism (“Persepolis… was a roaring boomtown.”), and inspired nonesense (“Princess Needa Bara Soapa”), he leads us chuckling through the graveyard. Barks was also to use The National Geographic’s magazine as a favorite reference. There he found paintings of Persian costume’s and sculpture (Even if he does confuse Babylonia and Persia styles) as well as an aerial view of the Rock of Gibraltar snapped by an Associate Press photographer. All these found their way into the melting-pot of his story, and enriched it visually.


Recommended Viewing:

Shah, Farah and Walt Disney take a ride at Disney Theme Park during State Visit to the Kennedy’s in the U.S.

Recommended Reading:

Diana Of Her Time:Mexican Comic Book (Princess Soraya) by DK

Same Old Story: T-Man Adventures in Iran by DK

Persian History Inspires French Comic Book Masters by DK

Rostam Super Hero: Popularizing A Persian Myth... by DK

Rostam Strikes Back by DK

Très Bien ! Satrapi’s Persepolis hailed in French Press by DK


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