Ludwig Von Drake also guest stars

By Marc Snetiker
Updated June 08, 2016 at 01:16 PM EDT
Credit: Disney Channel

After so many years playing second duck to a famous mouse, it’s no wonder Donald Duck is in need of a change.

For the past few years, Disney Channel has been keeping Mickey, Donald, and friends alive through the Twitterific 2010s with the Emmy-winning Mickey Mouse shorts, now in their third season on the network. Unless you have a toddler in house, perhaps you’ve missed the latest reincarnation of the famous Walt Disney characters.

Your beloved characters are in the hands of Paul Rudish, an animation vet who helped develop shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory, and while Rudish has kept them rooted in tradition, he and his team have also updated the familiar gang to make them fresh and modern.

The reason for celebration Thursday, of course, is that June 9 is Donald Duck’s birthday, and EW has an exclusive peek at the short honoring the world-famous duck, who gets something of a character makeover from Mickey as he attempts to hammer out Donald’s rage problems. Although Donald has technically been around since 1934, his animator is keen to keep his real age a secret, so for now, you’ll just have to trust that he’s not a day over 82.

Watch the clip from the short, “Split Decisions,” above, and stick around for a few words with exec producer and supervising director Rudish.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is this short well-suited for Donald’s birthday?

PAUL RUDISH: This particular short puts a spotlight on all we have come to know and love about Donald, as Mickey tries to help his friend work out his anger issues.

What defines your version of Mickey and Donald?

Our version of Mickey and Donald is defined by their iconic personalities that they’ve had since inception. We are really trying to stay true to the spirit of the original black-and-white cartoons. The characters are fun to play with because they are the ultimate odd couple — the nicest guy in the world and the grumpiest temper-tantrum-having guy in the world.

How do you describe the responsibility of honoring the past but creating for the present? And does that come as a challenge?

All of us on the team are huge fans of the vintage cartoons and draw great inspiration from being able to honor Walt and his playbook on Mickey Mouse and how the characters work together. We are contemporary artists with a contemporary sense of humor, allowing that natural process to happen and having fun doing it.

What’s the best feedback from fans or colleagues you’ve ever heard about these shorts?

It’s great to hear people say the whole family enjoys the shorts together, and that they are not just for kids. I hear almost unanimously: “We love watching them as a family.”

How long does every short typically take to create, from inception to air?

Each short takes about 10 months from start to finish. A couple of weeks to break the story, another eight weeks for storyboarding and animatic, and then it goes into design for another four weeks where we do background and characters. The bulk of the time is spent animating, and when finished, we spend another several weeks composing music, adding sound effects and editing the whole thing together for a final product.

What, in your opinion, is the definitive depiction of Donald Duck by which all others are derived/should be compared?

I really like the late 1940s and 1950s Donald Duck, especially in The Three Caballeros. That cartoon is great, because you get all the different facets of him — really cute and enthusiastic and then, of course, his temper tantrums. The animation is so appealing, and he is full of character.

Come on — how old is Donald Duck, really?

Old enough to chase after Carmen Miranda’s sister in The Three Caballeros!

Mickey Mouse airs Thursday, June 9 at 8 p.m. on Disney Channel.