They love Donald Duck in Germany — not so much for the cartoons, but the comics, which were deliberately smartened up in translation by the great Erika Fuchs:
In the years following World War II, American influence in the newly formed Federal Republic was strong, but German cultural institutions were hesitant to sanction one U.S. import: the comic book. A law banning comics was proposed, and some American comics were eventually burned by school officials worried about their effects on students’ morals and ability to express themselves in complete sentences…
A Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Fuchs had never laid eyes on a comic book before the day an editor handed her a Donald Duck story, but no matter. She had a knack for breathing life into the German version of Carl Barks’s duck. Her talent was so great she continued to fill speech bubbles for the denizens of Duckburg (which she renamed Entenhausen, based on the German word for “duck”) until shortly before her death in 2005 at the age of 98.
[Comics publisher] Ehapa directed Dr. Fuchs to crank up the erudition level of the comics she translated, a task she took seriously. Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens Mr. Barks’s often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children’s comic in Germany to this day.
Think Calvin and Hobbes and their philosophical wagon rides.
I read the Dutch version, the Donald Duck, for years, and I retain my childhood fondness for that poor old duck and all the citizens of Duckstad (our version of Duckburg/Entenhausen). I’ll be sure to look up some of Dr. Fuch’s comics next year when I get to Germany, and see if I can spot the cultural references! I bet it’ll do wonders for my language skills..