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Ugly Duckling (1939)

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A newborn cygnet searches for a family that will accept him.


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Title: Ugly Duckling (1939)

Ugly Duckling (1939) on IMDb 7.9/10

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The duck's eggs hatched: but the fifth hatchling, a bit late, isn't like the rest, and momma duck chews poppa out. On top of it all, where the ducklings quack, the oddball honks. He's soon ostracized by all the ducks. He also explores a nest of sparrows and a duck decoy, but there's no acceptance there, either (the decoy bonks him on the head like one of those drinking birds). But just when he's feeling worst, a family of swans comes by, and he's got a new family. Written by Jon Reeves <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

duck | duckling | swan | egg | bird | See more »


Approved | See all certifications »



Release Date:

7 April 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ugly Duckling  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Golden Books adaptation of this short is closer to the original fairy tale than the actual short itself, because for some reason the animators didn't follow the original plot. See more »


When the hero is reunited with his family, we discover that he is one of five baby swans. However, for a brief moment, six baby swans appear on screen as they swim around one another before returning to their mother. See more »


Featured in Ink & Paint Club: More Storybook Silly Symphonies (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

The Ugly Duckling in beautiful Technicolor
30 November 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

'Ugly Duckling (1939)' was the final film in Disney's "Silly Symphonies" series, and was also their only remake of a previous Symphony. Wilfred Jackson's 'The Ugly Duckling (1931)' was a rather primitive black-and-white adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's famous tale, which drastically altered the original story to make (at least in my interpretation) a rather touching plea for racial tolerance. Jack Cutting's 1939 film is considerably more polished, animated in vivid Technicolor that speaks to the extraordinary degree of prestige that Walt Disney's company enjoyed throughout the 1930s. It is also considerably more faithful to Anderson's story, following the "ugly duckling" around the pond as he attempts to find his place in society. Unlike the 1931 duckling, which was somewhat grotesquely, Cutting's version is cute and likable, if a bit gawky compared to his ostensible siblings. Nevertheless, either bird, however handsomely they are drawn, will immediately capture your heart with their wide-eyed innocence, amplified tenfold by the persecution that they much endure for simply being "different."

The duckling's hatching causes much consternation at the adult ducks' nest, with the father understandably anxious that his wife has apparently given birth to a youngster that quite obviously didn't inherit his genes. After being unceremoniously banished from the duck family, the "ugly duckling" strikes out alone, desperate to find somewhere where he can be accepted for who he is. Glancing down into his reflection on the pond surface, in one of the short's most touching moments, the duckling sees his own reflection, hideously distorted by the water ripples, and breaks into tears. Fortunately, a happy ending is just around the corner, and the duckling's lonely honks of despair are answered in kind by a family of swans, who immediately take our hero under their wing, so to speak. Unfaultable in terms of animation, music and characterisation, 'Ugly Duckling' is a touching celebration of accepting and savouring one's own differences, and was justly awarded with an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, Disney's seventh Silly Symphony to do so.

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'Ugly?' The main character's the cutest, as far as I'm concerned. :) kellyleighcrutcher
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