On this day in 1934, an ugly duckling destined to quack through life fearlessly and pants-free flapped his wings for the first time. Yes, Mouseketeers, it is Donald Duck’s 75th birthday today, and Yahoo! News marks the occasion with a celebratory article, pointing us toward the improbable fact, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that Herr Donald is something of an icon in Germany.
In Deutschland, the character is known for the savvy literary and philosophical allusions he dispenses (this intellectual cred traces back to an Art History Ph.D. who translated Donald’s quacks from English to German for nearly 50 years). So we get it, Germans can’t resist a little Heidegger, which got us thinking: What other cartoons can be exported and exploited using international cultural affinities?
Popeye – This macho, spinach-loving sailor would seem to represent everything the international community hates about American values, which is why it would be so hilarious if he were a sensitive, poetry-quoting wuss when translated for audiences in France. (Also, Olive Oyl could be the poster girl for that whole French women don’t get fat thing.) Popeye, mon amour pour toi est éternel!
Eeyore – In Japan, this dour donkey might appear downright exotic and cosmopolitan. The rain cloud that follows him? Merely a stylish, avant garde hat, the likes of which is forever showing up in Tokyo’s shops. Gwen Stafani will be wearing a version of it next year, and look for it in Miyake’s fall line!
Homer Simpson – Voters in Argentina wrote him in as a candidate from the Donuts and Beer Party in a recent election; perhaps he can use this grassroots popularity to refashion himself as the Che Guevara of junk food? Free donuts and beer for all!
Betty Boop – Israelis can’t get enough of Betty Boop, who is called “Shalomie Boop” over there. The character isn’t known for her feminine wiles and sex appeal — in Israel, Shalomie Boop is a studious and godly young man on the verge of his bar mitzvah, with his hair cut short in anticipation of future military service.
And there you have it, our version of a United Nations populated by Disney drawings, prime-time heroes, and Looney Toons. Also: To answer our original question, we think that Mr. Magoo would go over great in North Korea, where they have a proclivity for both short-sighted decision making and short-range missiles. Any further nominations?