Clarence Charles "Ducky" Nash (December 7, 1904–February 20, 1985) was an American voice actor, best known for providing the voice of Donald Duck for the Walt Disney Studios. He was born in the rural community of Watonga, Oklahoma, and a street in that town is named in his honor.
Beginning his career
Nash made a name for himself in the late 1920s as an impressionist for KHJ, a Los Angeles radio station, on their show, The Merrymakers. He later was employed by the Adohr Milk Company for publicity purposes. Dubbed "Whistling Clarence, the Adohr Bird Man", Nash rode the streets with a team of miniature horses and gave treats to the children. In 1932, Nash happened by the Disney Studio with his team of horses, and decided to leave a copy of his Adohr publicity sheet with the receptionist. As it turns out, his name was recognized from a reprise appearance on The Merrymakers a few days previous, and Walt Disney himself had been impressed by Nash's vocal skills. He was asked to make an informal audition.
Nash went through several of his voices, and Walt Disney happened by when Nash gave his impersonation of a family of ducks. Disney declared Nash perfect for the role of a talking duck in their upcoming animated short, The Wise Little Hen. The duck, of course, was Donald Duck, who Nash went on to voice for over 50 years, in over 120 shorts and films. The last film to feature Nash's famous voice was Mickey's Christmas Carol, released in 1983 although he continued to provide Donald's voice for commercials, promos and other miscellaneous material until his death.
Donald Duck went on to become one of the most famous cartoon characters in the world, and a great part of this was due to Nash's distinctive voice. It may well be one of the most recognizable character voices in history. The voice is distinctive both for its ducklike quality and the fact that it is often very difficult for anybody to understand, especially when Donald flew into a rage (which happened fairly often). To keep Donald's voice consistent throughout the world, Nash voiced Donald's voice in all foreign languages the Disney shorts were translated to (with the aid of the phonetic alphabet), meaning Donald retained his same level of incoherency all across the globe. Mad magazine, in its 1950s comic-strip style satire of Disney characters ("Mickey Rodent" in issue #19 ), featured a "translation" of "Darnold" Duck's "quacky, incomprehensible" voice.
In addition to Donald's voice, Nash also voiced Daisy Duck (in her earliest appearances, when she was little more than a female version of Donald), as well as Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. He also voiced the Rough House statue in Pinocchio, PJ in the cartoon Bellboy Donald, a bullfrog in Bambi, vocal sounds for some of the dogs in 101 Dalmatians and vocal sounds for The Bear in The Fox and the Hound. Nash also provided the meows of Figaro the kitten in a handful of shorts. Nash also provided Lenny's voice in Cars.
Several Tom & Jerry cartoons directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera featured a third main character, a duckling named Little Quacker. Red Coffee provided Little Quacker's voice, though the voice is sometimes attributed mistakenly to Nash because it sounds similar to Donald Duck's.
When Disney shut down their shorts department in 1962, Nash continued to voice Donald in various projects over the next two decades, notably performing the song "Macho Duck" on the Mickey Mouse Disco album in the 1970s. (Contrary to popular belief, however, Nash did not perform the duck voice for Rick Dees' "Disco Duck")
Nash's performance as Donald in Mickey's Christmas Carol made Donald the only character in the film to be voiced by his original actor. Despite the fact that Scrooge is voiced by his most famous voice actor Alan Young, voice actor Bill Thompson was in charge of the voice in the 1967 cartoon Scrooge McDuck and Money.
In the late 1970s, Nash was known for often taking walks in the neighborhood around Fremont Elementary School in Glendale, California, entertaining children with his Donald Duck voice.
Despite lending his voice to hundreds of films, shorts and television programs, Nash made few appearances on camera, such as a contestant on a 1954 episode of What's My Line, as a guest on a 1976 episode of The Mike Douglas Show and in a cameo in 1984 for the Donald Duck 50th Birthday TV Special.
Clarence Nash died of leukemia in 1985 at the age of 80 and was interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California. The tombstone of the grave he now shares with his wife Margaret Nash (who died in 1993) depicts a carving of Donald and Daisy Duck holding hands .
After Nash's death, Donald's voice has been taken up by Disney animator Tony Anselmo, who was trained under Nash personally, probably because Nash knew that one day he needed to be replaced. Anselmo is also among the many voiceover artists to have also voiced Huey, Dewey and Louie over the years. Later characters whose voices owe considerable credit to Nash's duck voice have been voiced by actors such as Jimmy Weldon, Frank Welker, Luba Goy and Red Coffee. The most prominent of these is Weldon's Yakky Doodle for Hanna-Barbera.