Who Would We Add to Disney’s Fab Five?
As we get closer to the 100th anniversary of the Disney Brothers Studio, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the famed Fab Five: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. That quintet certainly represents the pinnacle of classic Disney animated characters, but why stop at five? What if we were to add a sixth member to that legendary lineup? It sounds like a great idea, but who would it be? This is a fun topic that lots of Disney fans like to toss around, and in this week’s Celebrations Disney Podcast, we decided we would do just that. But then we thought, why limit our discussion to animated characters? What about all those other elements that make up this magical Disney universe? What if we made a Fab Five list of our favorite Disney songs, or snacks, or even villains? That’s exactly what we did, so if you want to listen in just click here!
But back to the topic at hand, the original Fab Five. Who would YOU add if you could nominate a sixth member to the hall of fame? There are plenty of candidates to choose from, so let’s get started with the most obvious…
It always seemed to us that if Minnie was in the Fab Five, surely Daisy belonged there as well. True, Daisy doesn’t have the filmography of Minnie, but just imagine how even MORE rascally our old pal Donald would be without his love interest to calm him down. (Of course, those nephews aren’t helping things, but that’s another story!) Daisy first appeared in…well, that’s actually a bit of a question. Daisy Duck (as the character was named) made her debut in 1940 in the cartoon short Mr. Duck Steps Out. While she didn’t make nearly as many film appearances as her Disney costars (appearing in only 11 shorts between 1940 and 1954), she had a far greater career on television. As far as her film roles are concerned, she always played a supporting role, save for one starring appearance, that being the 1947 cartoon Donald’s Dilemma.
However, a character named Donna Duck appeared in the 1937 cartoon short Don Donald. But was she an early version of Daisy? There’s been some confusion on this point over the years, but according to several sources Don Donald is listed as Daisy’s debut. Additionally, Don Donald was included on the Disney-produced DVD “Best Pals: Donald and Daisy.” The question seemed to be settled in 1999 when Disney released a collector’s pin as part of their “Countdown to the Millennium” series which read “Daisy Duck debuts as Donna Duck 1937.” Despite this, if you look up Daisy’s birthday, it is officially listed as June 7, 1940, when she first appeared in her now-familiar form. Whichever year you prefer though, there’s no question she looks great for her age!
Chip ‘n’ Dale
We’re going to bend the rules and let these two mischief makers in as a pair. Chip n’ Dale made their first appearance in the 1943 cartoon short, Private Pluto, though at the time they didn’t have names yet. It would be another four years before they got their names, when they starred in their own short, Chip an’ Dale (and yes, we spelled that correctly). By this time, Pluto evidently had had enough of the mischievous duo; Donald Duck was the new target of their mayhem. Originally, their name was spelled with an additional ‘a’ in the middle, but it wouldn’t be long until it was changed to the familiar n’.
So how do you tell them apart? Chip has a small black nose (think chocolate chip), while Dale has a big red one. Additionally, Chip has one tooth while Dale has two widely spaced buck teeth. Curiously, it took a while for them to acquire their different looks; when they were first seen they were virtually indistinguishable.
The diminutive fairy appears just about everywhere in the Disney universe, even in attractions such as Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Soarin’ Around the World, where she appears with a pixie dust-filled wave of her wand. And let’s not forget her evening flights from high atop Cinderella Castle. Curiously, one of the first pieces of Tinker Bell merchandise ever offered at Disney parks was a glow in the dark wand, even though she never actually used one in the 1953 Disney film Peter Pan.
But let’s get back to her evening flights over Main Street. This tradition started in 1961 in Disneyland, when the part of Tinker Bell was performed by Hungarian-born circus performer Tiny Kline, who was 71 years old at the time! But about that pixie dust… While Tink is known for sprinkling pixie dust around (and indeed, pixie dust has become synonymous with magical happenings throughout Walt Disney World), pixie dust is purely a Disney creation. In the original play it was merely fairy dust.
Winnie the Pooh
Oh bother! Winnie the Pooh might just be the most famous Disney character outside of the Fab Five, and could even make an argument for the true champ! Why? Pooh generates nearly $1 billion in features and merchandising sales annually, which is estimated to be more than Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy combined. Not bad for a silly old bear.
Winnie the Pooh was born on October 14, 1926, when A.A. Milne’s original book, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” was published. That makes Pooh older than Donald Duck, Goofy, and even Mickey Mouse himself. But let’s clear up one minor detail. When A.A. Milne first wrote the tale of this lovable bear, he was called Winnie-the-Pooh, hyphens and all. When Disney adapted the beloved stories into the classic series of featurettes, the dashes were dropped – a boon to typists everywhere.
And speaking of Milne, we can also clear up a story that’s been making the rounds lately. Supposedly, as the tale goes, the copyright for Pooh has now expired, and the character is now in the public domain. Is that true? Well, not exactly. The original story by Milne is the piece of work that has fallen into the public domain (meaning you can now make your own Pooh film based on the original character from the books). But the Disney character (red shirt, hyphens, and all) is still very much the property of Disney, so you needn’t worry about the lovable chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff leaving anytime soon!
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Though for many years most people (not even devoted Disney fans) knew who Oswald was, but thankfully his popularity has grown steadily in recent years. Long before Mickey Mouse came on the scene, Walt Disney had created a character named Oswald the Lucky Rabbit for Charles Mintz and Universal. Walt was contracted to produce 26 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, but unfortunately he lost control of Oswald in 1928 in a contract dispute with Mintz. Initially dejected, Walt quickly turned the disastrous turn of events into an opportunity, and Mickey Mouse was born. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of the Oswald saga.
In 2006, ABC (which was owned by Disney) lost its contract for NFL broadcast rights (stay with me here!). The NFL’s Sunday Night package would now be broadcast by NBC (who owned Universal), who had a contract with John Madden. Madden’s long-time partner, Al Michaels, hoped to join Madden on the Sunday broadcasts, but Michaels was still under contract to ESPN (also owned by Disney).
In one of the most unusual trades in sports/entertainment history, then-CEO Bob Iger agreed to let Michaels out of his ESPN contract so he could go to NBC and rejoin his old partner, John Madden. In exchange, NBC/Universal gave Disney the rights to Oswald, as well as the 27 shorts that Walt Disney had worked on. Universal transferred the character’s trademark to Disney, and after 78 years, Oswald was back home.
So those are our nominees for the sixth member of the Fab Five (though I suppose we’d need to rename them the Sensational Six!). Do you agree? Who would YOU nominate? Send us your candidates and we might include them in an upcoming blog! In the meantime, don’t forget to listen in on our latest podcast to check out our other Fab Five lists…enjoy!