The Ugly Duckling is a Disney movie that was released in April 1939. The film was based on a fairy tale released in 1843 with the same name by Hans Christian Andersen.
Clyde Geronimi directed the movie, and Jack Cutting and Albert Hay Malotte were music composers. However, Disney did not credit Albert for it. RKO Radio Pictures was the one who distributed the film.
Before the animated movie released, Disney made Silly Symphony based on the same fairy tale. It was a show which had 75 short musical films.
The Ugly Duckling Story – Original Version
The Ugly Duckling movies, musicals, operas, etc., were all adapted from Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author and poet. The book was first published in November 1843 in the New Fairy Tales First Volume First Collection.
Other than The Ugly Duckling, there were 3 different short stories in this volume, and all of them had good reviews with critically appreciation.
The Ugly Duckling Story Summary
The story begins with a mother duck who gave birth, and one of them is called ugly by other animals and birds on the farm. This duck suffers from both physical and verbal abuse from other animals.
The duck wanders around to run away from this farmhouse and live with geese and wild ducks. But after some time, hunters slaughter almost everyone. He then starts to live in a house with an old lady.
But her hen and cat bully and taunt him every day, and hence he leaves that place. He then sees some wild swans in a lake and fills with excitement. However, he cannot join them because he cannot fly and also, he is young.
During his first winter, the duck experiences freezing cold. A farmer sees him and takes him home. But the farmer’s kids were loud and noisy. The duck feels frightened and flees from this place too.
He spends all his winter alone and inside a cake near the lake. When spring arrived, the swan flock came to the lake again.
Now that he is grown, he decides to throw himself at the swans thinking he would rather be killed by these beautiful birds rather than live like this. But he was shocked when the swans happily accepted him. He then looked at his reflection and realized that he is not a duck but a swan.
All the swans fly, and he too now spreads his magnificent wings and flies with his new family.
The Ugly Duckling Moral
The moral of the Ugly Duckling is that you should accept yourself for who you are. There will be people who will love and appreciate you just the way you are.
If you loved the summary of this story, you can find the PDF of the Ugly Duckling on the internet. Also, the book the available on different online shopping sites.
The Ugly Duckling Disney Movie Plot
The movie starts with the father duck pacing around the mother duck. Suddenly the mother duck hatches her egg and gives birth to 4 tiny ducklings. The father duck was delighted at that sight.
However, there was a 5th egg that hatched after a few moments revealing a duckling whose color was mismatched. The father duck was furious and was arguing with the mother. He implied that the mother duck was having affair with someone else.
The ugly duckling tries to join his duck family. However, they all turn their back. Hence the duck attempts to join another bird family and befriend a hunter. But they all reject the duckling.
He is very upset about his situation and cries all night. But a mother swan with her family approached him. The ugly duckling wanted to join the family and they accepted it.
The mother duck and her other ducklings were surprised to see this and were happy that he found his family. At the end of the movie, the mother duck bid him goodbye.
The Characters in The Movie
The ugly duckling is the protagonist of the film. He is a cygnet found in the nest of the duck family who thought he was their own. Once hatched, they immediately rejected him because he did not look like a typical duckling.
At the movie’s beginning, he was a carefree and silly duckling. He was extremely oblivious to how the father and mother duck find him unusual and could not even understand their hatred towards him.
When the duck family abandoned him, he considered his ugliness compared to the other ducklings. This realization made him depressed and lonely.
He tries to find a new family, but everyone refuses to accept him until he meets a flock of swans. After that, he learns his true identity and accepts himself. In the end, we see him taking pride in himself.
UglyDuckling’s’s Role in The Movie
Since he is the film’s protagonist, we have divided his role into 3 parts.
The duckling caused a fight between the father and mother duck after hatching. Both the parents do not understand how an odd-looking duckling broke out of the egg when the others were normal.
After the fight, the duck parents went on their separate ways. The duckling soon follows the mother duck and the other ducklings to a lake to swim with them.
Once they were getting out of the water, the other ducklings climbed on the mother’s back, and he also jumps in to join others. However, as soon as the mother duck realizes he is on her back, she immediately throws him off.
But he thought this was a part of the game and honks at them to wait for him and chase after them. But the mother duck snaps at him and tells him to go away and thus leave him all alone near the lake.
He was confused and did not understand why the mother duck did not like him. Then he looked at his reflection – at first, he felt frightened. He soon realizes he wan different from his siblings. He then realizes how happy they are now without him.
Once he realizes he is not welcomed, he wanders away and finds a farmhouse with a bird’s nest. It was a sparrow chick’s nest, and he decided this would become his family. So, he climbed inside the nest but was chased off by their mother as he ate a worm for her babies.
While running away from that, he goes to a pond where he sees a wooden duck decoy. He notices that the wooden duck did not scold him or chase him away he thinks the silence means he is accepted and feels this wooden duck is his mother.
However, when he was playing with his new parent, he accidentally tips over it and the duck decoy knock him on his head.
He was shocked by this sudden attack, and he ran away again. While running, he looked back and saw that the decoy was turning its back to him like the mother duck.
After this, he thought he was extremely ugly for anyone to love him, and he gives up on finding any family and breaks down.
His sobs became despondent and louder, and a flock of swans approached him. They felt sorry for him and honked to get his attention.
He was surprised that someone was calling for him and was happy to see someone like him. Then he stopped crying and went to play with the baby swans until the mother swan called for her babies.
Moreover, he thought that the mother swan would reject him, so he decided to paddle away, but the cygnets were blocking his way.
The mother swan swims up to him and reaches for the duckling. At first, he thought she would attack him and cowered in fear. But she pulls him closer to her and embraces him in a loving hug. He realizes he is one of them and now knows where he belongs.
When he was swimming with him, he saw the mother duck and the ducklings at the pond’s bank. The duck family invites him to stay with them, but he refuses and instead wants to be with his true family. He turns his back to the duck family and follows his new family.
The mother swan appears near the end of the movie. She and her cygnets were swimming in a pond when they heard someone was crying. They saw a lonely cygnet was sitting near a tree who mistakenly thought he was a duckling.
The mother swan feels sympathetic and asks the duckling to come and join her. They introduced themselves and asked him to play with them. At first, he did not want to go, but he hesitantly went towards them. Once he knew he looked like the swans, he was happy to see it and found his real family.
In the end, we see the mother swan lead the cygnets along with ugly ducklings. The movie never mentioned whether the mother swan was the duckling’s birth mother who somehow lost his egg or an adoptive mother. But the duckling got what he wanted, which is a loving family.
At the beginning of the movie, the mother and father duck were anxiously waiting for their eggs to hatch, and they were extremely when four baby ducklings were born. However, when the 5th egg, which was larger than others, hatched, the duck family was disgusted to see an unusual duck.
We see the mother duck again at the end of the film. She sees the duckling swim away with his new family. When she saw him with the swans, she realized who he was and asked him to live with her.
When the first 4 eggs hatched, the father duck was very happy and kissed the 4 little ducklings but furious when the 5th egg hatched. The parents had a fight, and father duck said that his babies could not be this ugly, so he left the family.
We do not know if the parents ever reconciled or not at the end of the movie. He wasn’t there when the duck family said goodbye to the cygnet (ugly duckling).
Facts about the Ugly Duckling movie
Like other Disney movies or shows, this short has been adapted many times in children’s books. Some of them were directly published by Disney and the other companies associated with them, such as Little Golden Books, a non-affiliated company.
The movie was a success when it was released. Thus it was featured in other places. There was a newspaper strip of the story, released in 1939. Also, it was featured in many Disney comic books.
In the 2002 movie Lilo & Stitch, Lilo read this story to Stitch. After listening to the story, it had a big impact on Stitch. The story inspired him to go out and look for his real family.
Like most other Disney films, there are not many Disney merches for this movie. However, you can spot and buy a few decorative pins in Disney stores. Most of the time, they are in a limited-edition collection.
The Ugly Duckling is a sweet and simple story that teaches us not to judge people on how they look. Moreover, it helps people deal with rejection and initiate self-love. The moral of the story is that no matter who you are and how you look, there will be people in the world who truly accept you for you.