The “Oklahoma @ the Movies” exhibit that opened in May 2012 at the Oklahoma History Center has been extended through the end of the year, but one of the exhibit’s featured guests will be leaving soon. This weekend, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, is the last chance to see the Donald Duck puppet used by Oklahoman Clarence Nash as the voice of the iconic Disney character.
“The ventriloquist puppet has been on exhibit since it opened and will come down early next week to return to Clarence's family in California,” said Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn. “We appreciate Kay Nash Hughes and Maggie Barnes, Nash’s daughter and granddaughter, for their generosity in loaning Donald and look forward to being able to create an expanded exhibit when the OKPOP Museum opens in Tulsa.”
Clarence Nash, born and raised in Watonga, was the original voice of Walt Disney Studios' Donald Duck from 1934 until his death in 1985. Clarence based the voice on one he used when playing with a pet goat he had as a child in Watonga.
The family moved to California in the late 1920s and Clarence got a job selling ice cream in the Los Angeles area. He would push a cart around neighborhoods and would whistle and sing bird sounds to attract customers. He became very popular, and eventually someone suggested that he audition for a new animation studio created by none other than Walt Disney.
“Clarence went to the audition and met with one of the producers, he performed his various bird sounds and when he was finished the less than impressed producer asked if he had any other ‘voices’,” said Blackburn. “Clarence replied that he had a voice he used when playing with a pet goat when he was a kid on the farm in Oklahoma. He proceeded to recite ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ in this voice and the producer promptly got on the intercom and declared, ‘Walt, we’ve got our duck!’”
In an effort to keep Donald’s voice consistent, Nash did the voice for foreign language versions of the character. Speaking about this experience, Nash once stated, “Words were written out for me phonetically. I learned to quack in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and German.”