Clara Cluck as Juliet.


Original medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1934
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Every acting troupe needs a prima donna, and in the Disney ensemble of the 1930s, the prima donna was Clara Cluck. Starting with her very first appearance, Clara was the one …

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… most at home on the stage, the one who enjoyed the spotlight more than any of the others. Every time Mickey Mouse and his friends put on a show, Clara would be sure to get in on it.

Clara was a chicken, as far as her general body type went, but not a scrawny-looking pullet like Gyro Gearloose or Super Chicken. She was built like one of those middle-aged female opera singers with huge lung capacity, and her singing voice (provided by actress and singer Florence Gill) was every bit as strong as you'd expect from looking at her. She also dressed for show-biz success. Her plumage was eye-catching, yet tasteful, and she usually wore an out-sized hat topped by an even more out-sized feather. She may have been inspired by the mother hen in The Wise Little Hen, the Silly Symphony that introduced Donald Duck, whose voice was Gill's only other role in cartoons. But her stage presence far surpassed that of the earlier barnyard fowl.

For all her thespian ambition, and her obvious joy in performing, Clara was only moderately talented. This, of course, accounts for her limited choice of venues, i.e., the fact that she was always available for Mickey's rinkydink neighborhood productions. She also wasn't a very prominent Disney character, appearing in about as many cartoons as The Big Bad Wolf. The first of them, Orphan's Benefit, was released August 11, 1934. It was directed by Burt Gillett, whose best-known production was Three Little Pigs.

Clara's final appearance during the classic era of Disney shorts was in 1942, when she turned up briefly in Symphony Hour — which, by the way, also contained the last appearance of Horace Horsecollar, another Disney supporting character who never became a big star. She did appear in a few minor roles in comic books published by Dell and Gold Key, usually as a friend of Daisy Duck, and lasted much longer in that venue. She's also said by some to have partly inspired Lady Kluck, a supporting character in the 1973 feature Robin Hood, but the resemblance isn't overwhelmingly strong.

Other than that, Clara wasn't seen again until 1983, when she played a minor role in Mickey's Christmas Carol, where many of the old characters made walk-ons. Five years later, she was spotted in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but then, practically everybody Disney owned had at least a cameo there. Nowadays, she turns up occasionally in a crowd scene on Mickey's Saturday morning TV show, but again, isn't exactly a star.

Her aspirations, however, remain. If persistence and hard work mean anything, stardom must certainly be in her future — and, no doubt, always will be.


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Text ©2002-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © The Walt Disney Co.