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The Ugly Duckling (1931)

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The Ugly Duckling is a black-and-white Silly Symphonies short film that debuted on December 16, 1931. The film is especially noteworthy as being the first in the Silly Symphonies series that focused on plot and narrative format rather than using animation to accompany a musical piece. It was later remade in 1939, being the only entry in the entire series to do so.


The film begins with a mother hen sitting on her eggs from which six baby chicks are born. Though initially overjoyed, her mood changes to disgust when the final egg hatches out a duckling. Though the duckling desperately attempts to win his foster family's acceptance, the mother hen is adamant in her refusal to care for an infant that isn't even her species, let alone not even hers. After accidentally injuring the chicks by trying to catch what he thought was a worm but instead turned out to be a buried spring, the duckling is slapped aside by the mother hen and leaves to find someone else to be his family. As with the chickens, none of the other farm animals want to raise a duckling as their own and he weeps in misery by the pond when a tornado suddenly touches down in the distance. Running back to the chickens, he successfully warns them in time for them to get to a shelter only to be locked out by them. This later turns out to be a blessing in disguise as the duckling buries under the shelter and is left behind when the tornado picks it up with the chicks still inside and dumps it in a flooded river. Despite the cruelty he suffered at their hands, the duckling dives into the river and swims out to the chicks before they can tumble over a waterfall to certain doom. By using the debris in the river, the duckling is then able to lead them safely to the shore where the chicks and the mother hen hail him as a hero and finally accept him into the family.


  • The Ugly Duckling: The hero of the story, who in this version is a duck whose egg somehow found its way into a chicken's nest rather than a swan raised by ducks. Though initially rejected by his Hen mother for being of a different species, the Ugly Duckling is able to earn his family's acceptance when he risks his own life to save his foster siblings from drowning.
  • The Mother Hen: The primary antagonist. She refuses to raise another animal's hatchling as her own, but fully accepts the Ugly Duckling after he courageously rescues her birth children from the river.


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