There are quite a few Disney old timers linked to Donald Duck, with the above two notables: Bill Justice and Clarence “Ducky” Nash. In fact, both had a bit of a mischievous side just like Donald. Thus, I thought it would be a nice birthday wish to Donald Duck to celebrate these two Donald-esque pranksters! Now most of the Disney old timers did have a sort of offbeat sense of humor, it was usually their one common trait. This was manifest in many different ways based on each individuals personality, but regardless of how, each and every one of them had it! I am sure that this was due to the fact that they were in the business of spreading cheer through movies, animation, theme parks, merchandise, and printed material. I mean think of it, if you were an old grump, I’m not sure you would last long in this business (and believe me, there are several Disney old timers that have the reputation of being cranky, sour pusses–sorry if you are expecting names!–but even they, from time to time, would exhibit their propensity for humor and would habitually let their waggish side come through–just like Donald!).
If you were lucky enough to run with the Disney geriatric set in the 1980s and 1990s before they joined up with Walt in the great Imagineering branch in the sky, you would routinely see the sense of humor side of these talented individuals. These two were some of the greatest Disney old-timer pranksters, so for this facet of Donald’s DHI Birthday Bash we would like to pay tribute to Clarence “Ducky” Nash and Bill Justice. Both of them shared personality traits with their most noted Disney association … Donald Duck. (Although a case could be made that Chip ‘n’ Dale are more linked to Justice than Donald Duck.)
Sadly, Ducky was not around for a lot of the fan-related events and fervor that would eventually engulf the Disney world, but he was definitely there for its genesis–and he soaked it in. As such, I got to see first hand the vaunted Ducky sense of humor, a trait that was oft commented on by those that met him. Oakland Tribune reporter Bob MacKenzie wrote this about Ducky’s humor: “It takes nerve just to sit in a restaurant with him. He will start meowing and looking under the table to find the cat. His guests are expected to play along, searching under their chairs. When the other patrons are all looking under things to find the cat, Ducky calmly picks up the conversation as though nothing had happened.”
One of Ducky’s favorite pranks was one that he often “performed” in a large group. When someone started to either nod off or have their attention diverted, Ducky would have something to say … uh, er… or snort, chatter, squeal, grunt, or bleat. I was present for this famous Ducky performance once, when the conversation started to die down and all of a sudden he let go with a boisterous, high-pitched horse whinny that rattled my teeth. Within a few seconds he had everybody’s attention; there he was, with a rascally, albeit innocent, smile on his face to which he exclaimed, “Sorry, just horsing around!” This is why Walt would send him and Donald all over the United States to help promote the Disney world and to spread cheer amongst children at schools and hospitals.
Bill Justice was as well a famous Disney prankster and thanks to good health was around for many more decades of fan interaction. There are numerous Bill Justice joking around stories, and I would like to open it up to all those here at the Institute. In the comments section (or on our Facebook Group Page), please share with the Institute’s audience your favorite funny Bill Justice story or joke. After a week, your humble Disney History Institute team (Jeremy, Todd, and I) will vote on our favorite, and the winner shall receive a DHI Honorary Disney Historian certificate (as many of you have asked about in the past and how to earn one). I can think of no better way to award a DHI Honorary Disney Historian certificate than the relaying of a story about a Disney old timer (oral history at its very finest). And considering the material (Mr. Justice) there should be some real humdingers! Let the games begin! And, oh, almost forgot, Happy Birthday to Donald Duck!
YOU CAN ALSO TELL US OUR FAVORITE BILL JUSTICE STORY OVER ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AT DHI Facebook group, where you can also find unique photos, historic artwork and an ongoing and engaging discussion of Walt Disney and his creative legacy.