The Ugly Duckling
Studio: Disney Release Date : April 7, 1939 Series: Silly Symphony

Cumulative rating:
(2 ratings submitted)


A remake of an earlier Silly Symphony retells the story of an outcast duckling who turns out to become a beautiful swan.



Jack Cutting
Hamilton S. "Ham" Luske


Eric Larson
Stan Quackenbush
Riley Thompson
Archie Robin
Milt Kahl
Paul Satterfield
Gordon Legg


George Stallings


Albert Hay Malotte
Dave Hilberman

Inspirational Art

Gustav Tenngren
Ferdinand Horvath


Walter Elias "Walt" Disney

Assistant Director

Jimmie Hess


Won the 1939 Academy Award (Oscar): Best Short Subject


RKO Radio Pictures

Included in:

From Aesop to Hans Christian Andersen
La Grand Parade de Walt Disney
Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons (added to 1966 re-release)



Mickey Mouse Tracks (Season 1, Episode 19)


United States

Cartoon Classics : First Series : Volume 5 : Disney's Best of 1931-1948


Meister-Cartoons von Walt Disney


Les Chefs-d'Oeuvre de Walt Disney
Contes et Legendes de Jiminy Cricket


I Capolavori di Walt Disney
Le Meravigliose Fiabe del Grillo Parlante
Le Fiabe Volume 2 : Il Brutto Anatraccolo e Altre Storie

Laserdisc (CLV)

United States

Disney's Best of 1931-1948
Cartoon Classics : Limited Gold Editions II : An Officer and a Duck


The Academy Award Review of Walt Disney Cartoons
Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore
All Star Cartoon Review
Starring Chip 'n' Dale
Starring Donald


United States

Silly Symphonies
Timeless Tales Volume 2
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 5 : The Wind in the Willows


Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Zauberhafte Marchenwelt 2


Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies


Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Walt Disney Le Fiabe 3

United Kingdom

Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies
Walt Disney's Fables : Volume 2


Disney Treasures : Silly Symphonies

Technical Specifications

Running Time: 8:59
Production No.: RS-8
MPAA No.: 4025
Animation Type: Standard (Hand-drawn-Cel) Animation
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Cinematographic Format: Spherical
Color Type: Technicolor
Negative Type: 35mm
Original Country: United States
Original Language: English
Print Type: 35mm
Sound Type: Mono: RCA Sound Recording

Reviews and Comments

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From Rod Bennett :

[This] final Silly Symphony dramatically displays just how far things have progressed since The Skeleton Dance. The animation is feature-quality and the emotional range is in the same class with "Bambi." A poignant close to one of the most important film series in history. A surprisingly potent bit of comedy business seems to have got by the censors somehow. In an early scene, the title character's ostensible Dad pointedly corners his mate and questions the paternity of our little hero! How did this "Have you been letting the Postman in?" joke manage to get by the Hays Office? Maybe they couldn't understand Clarence Nash's "ducky" voice either!

From Jerry Edwards :

This is one of my favorite Silly Symphonies - Disney couldn't have ended the Symphonies series on a better note. This is a faithful adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, unlike the 1931 version - in which the "duckling" really was a duckling. This short does a fantastic job of appealing to your emotions. When the ugly duckling is sobbing due to his loneliness, I still tear up myself - even after seeing this short hundreds of times. The animation is just beautiful and the colors are wonderful. A very special short to me.

From Ryan :

I liked this short as a kid, but I don't care much for it anymore. It's somewhat boring and as I've mentioned numerous times I'm not a big fan of the "Silly Symphonies." The animation is wonderful and Disney is good at capturing the swan's feelings. In fact, it makes the viewers feel sorry for the "ugly duckling" as well. I guess Disney had lost interest in the "Silly Symphonies" by then as this was the very last "Silly Symphony" produced by the Walt Disney Company.

From Daniel :

Adapted from Hans Andersen's wistful fairy-tale, this was the last of the Silly Symphonies and one of the loveliest. The Disney animators were at a zenith of artistic technique, especially in the elegant watercolour backgrounds, as well as in the exquisite music. The scene where the little duckling fondly plays with the wooden toy duck because it is the only creature that doesn't reject him is one of the most moving moments in cinema history, ranking with the mother's death in BAMBI and the "Baby Mine" sequence in DUMBO. The legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones once called this "One of the best short subjects ever made". Quite.

From Ashley :

I've always been kinda fond of this one. It does remain fairly true to the actual story, barring a few things, and of course, has a happy ending. I always felt so sorry for the little fellow; perhaps because in a few places in life, I felt rather like the ugly duckling myself. I crack a smile every time I see this one.

On a side note, there is something of a reference to this cartoon (or at least I like to think so) in Disney's animated motion picture Lilo and Stitch. If you take a close look at the storybook that Stitch brings to Lilo, and then when he is considering what the little girl has told him about being a part of their family, you'll see that the "ugly duckling" wandering around the pages of the storybook has the same character design as the one in this short; not to mention the end scene where he is reunited with the family of swans, which is clearly depicted in the pages as well.

From Baruch Weiss :

I haven't seen this short in a while, but it's pretty good and it sort of draws you into the story, but it teaches a good lesson to love yourself for who you are!

From Dino Cencia :

I loved this short! Although it's kinda sad too because I feel sorry for the ugly duckling. My favorite part is when the ugly duckling was playing with the toy duck (he thought it was his mom or dad.) But then the duckling was crying, his real mom and his brothers and sisters came and saw him crying. So sad! And then the duckling's happy that his family is here to have him forever. I give this a 100 out of 100.

From Kyle Peters :

My favorite Silly Symphony . I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project :

The Silly Symphonies were originally a way for Walt and his crew to push the envelope beyond just Mickey Mouse. We saw that in the very first edition of the series, with inventive shorts such as The Skeleton Dance or Hell’s Bells. As the series draws to a close, though, the animators revisited a subject that they had done earlier – The Ugly Duckling.

The 1931 black and white version of this tale was very good, but this 1939 version is a masterpiece. The animation is as good or better than that of Snow White, and the emotions that come from just this small “duck” are amazing. This was truly a pinnacle of Disney animation.

We all know how this story goes, so there’s no need to rehash the basic plot, but it’s the details that make this one so powerful. For example, the beginning of the short features the birth of the title character, and the whole process of revealing the ugly duckling takes almost two full minutes. We see the father duck pacing back and forth, impatient for the delivery, the worried look of the mother, and the joy and elation after the eggs hatch.

Just this sequence alone is breathtaking in its manipulation of emotions. It’s the perfect set up for the next reveal, when the ugly duckling pops out of its shell. All the emotion turns on its head, as the once jubilant father becomes angry and confused. The mother goes from joy to shock, and the joy goes over to the child.

This jujitsu of emotions is amazing to watch. Even moreso when you consider what happens afterwards. The duckling continues on, happy as a clam, ignorant of the fact that he is what caused the tension between the mother and father. It’s only when the mother shoves him away that it begins to dawn on him what is going on.

That revelation is so simple and beautiful, that it’s hard for me to describe. Literally, we see the emotion wash over the duckling’s face, as it begins to sink in that he is without a family, and has been abandoned. Seeing the tears drop and the soft “plink” sound as they hit the ground is very moving.

That heartbreak is only enhanced by the duckling’s encounter with other inhabitants of the lake area. There’s a family of birds and then a wooden hunter’s decoy. You see how hard the little guy is trying to fit in, but it just isn’t working. Seeing him get his hopes up, then have them dashed again is heart breaking.

When he finally unites with the swans, it’s a thing of beauty, because it’s been earned. The feelings developed throughout the short lead to that moment and do so beautifully. This is probably the finest example of storytelling in the Silly Symphonies, and one of the most charming as well.

From Mac :

The final Silly Symphony celebrates just about everything that the series achieved. A sentimental story well told through music, animation and colour. It's beautifully done and, as the swan and her cygnets swim away, so ends the series on a very satisfying note.

Of course, it could be argued that Fantasia presents the next step in the evolution of the Disney Silly Symphony, but we'll get to that later.