Why Are Cartoon Ducks Yellow?

If you search online for “Cartoon Duck”, you’ll find that the vast majority of the search results are pictures of yellow ducks.  Which makes me wonder – Why are cartoon ducks yellow? There are two main reasons:

  • Cartoonists often choose yellow because they are influenced by the classic rubber duck design.
  • Yellow helps the cartoonists maximise the cuteness of their characters because many ducklings start out as being yellow before they mature into adult ducks.

If you think of the psychology of color, what does yellow make you think of? Yellow is associated with many positive traits and emotions. Some reasons why cartoonists would use yellow (for ducks or otherwise) would be to evoke physical aspects such as light and warmth, or emotions such as delight, warmth and hope.


Famous Cartoon Ducks That Are Yellow (And Why it Suits Them)

Yakky Doodle Duck

Yakky Doodle Duck is a cartoon duck created in the 1960’s by Hanna Barbera. Originally he was created for the Yogi Bear Show, but he would sometimes make appearances in other cartoons as well (like Snagglepuss).

Okay, he’s MOSTLY yellow, but he can be forgiven for having green wings. His yellow color fits his image because of his diminutive stature and tendencies to be cute and innocent.

Quacker Jeff Duck

Quacker Jeff Duck is fantastic. He’s this cute little cartoon duck who appears in Tom and Jerry cartoons. He was created by Hanna Barbera and sometimes gets confused with Yakky Doodle Duck. In fact, there was another duckling in Tom and Jerry called Little Quacker the Duckling, who would later become Yakky Doodle Duck.

Again, we have a cartoon duck that is yellow. Why? This guy is ridiculously cute and very trusting (a little too trusting. He’s buddies with Jerry, but holds no grudges against Tom – even though Tom always wants to eat poor Quacker Jeff).

Alfred J. Kwak

Alfred Kwak is a duck from a show I saw a few times when I was a kid living in South Africa, not sure how widespread it was, but it’s about this little orphaned duck who lives in a clog shaped house (As you could imagine, Alfred Kwak was created by a Dutch guy).

Despite losing his parents when he was young, he has a very positive and sunny outlook on life, which definitely makes his yellow color suit him! As the theme song goes “He seldom wears a frown, you’ll never keep a good duck down!”.

Baby Huey

Baby Huey is a cartoon duck from the 1950’s. He’s an immature but overgrown duck who is blissfully unaware of the dangers he finds himself in. He often comes across a fox who constantly tries to eat or him lure him into traps.

The yellow color on this little big fella is definitely fitting. Not only is does the yellow contribute to making Baby Huey look like a… well… baby, but this image is juxtaposed against him also being an absolute giant compared to the other characters.

He probably isn’t on the top of people’s minds when it comes to cartoon ducks, but definitely check him out – the more I look at his hilarious bowtie, nappy and t-shirt combo, the more I love this character design.

Duckman

Okay, apart from being yellow, Duckman has absolutely nothing to do with the other cute ducks mentioned, but I’m adding him in here because he’s just awesome. He’s a cynical, rude and self absorbed duck (but that’s okay, cos he’s hilarious).

I can only imagine that one of the reasons why Klasky Csupo and their team chose yellow for Duckman (and his family) is because by the time Duckman was created in the 1990’s, yellow had already become an iconic color for cartoon ducks.


So What Other Colors Can Cartoon Ducks Be?

There have been many cartoon ducks over the years who have been yellow, but the most famous ducks are either white (Disney), green (Count Duckula) or black (Daffy Duck)

When I say “Cartoon Duck”, what’s the first character that pops into your head?

For me it’s either Donald Duck or Daffy Duck, who are white and black respectively.

Almost all of Disney’s ducks (Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Darkwing Duck, Gizmo, Ludwig von Drake, Launchpad McQuack and all of Donald’s relatives) are white.

The only one who I can think of who is yellow is Darkwing Duck’s daughter, Gosalyn Mallard, who is yellow. And perhaps this was a deliberate move by the character designers, because she is much younger than the other characters in Darkwing Duck. (Let me know if you can think of any other Disney ducks who are yellow, but for now, I’m stumped).

In addition to all these Disney ducks being white, Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck – the Original Gangsta of cartoon ducks is also white!

And then of course there is Daffy Duck, (who is from the American Black Duck species) who was one of my favorite cartoon characters growing up – Daffy’s black feather’s match his over-confident and unhinged personality. A far cry from the cute, yellow ducks that we’ve been talking about in this article.

If you’ve seen Tiny Toons, then you will remember that Daffy Duck’s son, Plucky is green (which is rather different to how young ducks are usually portrayed in cartoons).

Do you know who is also green? Count Duckula! I mention him mainly because his cartoon has the coolest end credits I have EVER seen (Fantastic visuals, great music and offensively 80’s sound effects).

Haaang on! If the most famous ducks are not yellow, then why is there still a general perception that cartoon ducks are yellow?

Sure, cartoonists and illustrators can be influenced by ducks like Yakky Doodle Duck and Baby Huey, but ultimately, the main influence pre-dates animation. As mentioned in the initial paragraph, my opinion is that it stems from the classic rubber ducky. The rubber duck bath toy is a ubiquitous cultural icon that dates back to the 1800s. And cartoonists, whether it is, consciously or subconsciously, have definitely been influenced by the rubber duck’s ubiquitous yellow and orange design.

Let’s Recap!

So we now know that there are several reasons why cartoon ducks are yellow. Whenever a cartoonist decides to make their duck yellow it may be because of:

  • The influence so many famous ducks from the twentieth century cartoons have on us today.
  • The fact that many real life baby ducks have yellow feathers to begin with.
  • The association yellow has with positive and happy feelings
  • The classic rubber ducky design that we see in the movies, on TV (Sesame Street!) or even in our own homes.

When it comes to cartoon ducks, yellow just makes perfect sense!

What are your thoughts on why cartoon ducks are yellow? Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion!


Thank You For Stopping By…

I hope you have enjoyed learning about why cartoon ducks are yellow. If you are ready to start drawing some of your own cartoons, feel free to check out some of the free drawing tutorials on this site.

If you’re interested in enrolling in any of my online courses, start by checking out my most popular course here:

How to Draw Faces – Cartooning for People Who Can’t Draw!

If you’d like to browse my other courses, you can find them here: https://www.discovercartooning.com/courses/

Happy Drawing!

Malcolm Monteith

Melbourne, Australia



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