In late 1937 the idea arose of introducing Donald Duck's three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie to Disney's animated shorts. At the time Carl Barks worked at the story department and he was against the idea. It would just be two more characters to draw, he felt. But by the time he started his long career with comic book stories just 5 years later, he had accepted the three nephews. And not only that; Barks quickly changed their mischievous (and often destructive) nature - much more suitable for the cartoons - to less quarrelsome and more sharp-witted individuals. The kids soon found themselves involved in the world-wide scouting movement called the Junior Woodchucks, and they frequently accompanied their uncles, Donald and Scrooge, on multiple overseas adventures in which they often proved their worth by rescueing them from all sorts of mishaps.
This metamorphosis proved to be a stroke of genius on Barks' part, because nihilistic characters can only go so far. In the long run they are neither interesting nor funny. So Barks supplied the nephews with personalities depending on the storylines, although they were treated as one organism with no special features.

Another twist Barks added in order to make the small duck family more interesting was to turn the traditional parent/child role around. Normally, one would think that Donald should have the parental powers over his nephews just as in real life, but Barks soon imbued the nephews with that superiority in most of the stories. Now it was the nephews who guided and helped their uncle out of his troubles. It worked out better, and it seemed that it appealed to more people that way. Because the readers were kids themselves, they liked to feel a little bit superior to the uncle who was strutting around; it gives the reader a good feeling, Barks explained.

Barks developed Huey, Dewey, and Louie into indispensible characters in his duck universe. Had they not been there, Donald and Scrooge would have had much more limited conditions in the stories, and we, the readers, would have been missing a great asset.




Carl Barks did not invent Huey, Dewey, and Louie. They were first drawn for the newspapers by writer Edward 'Ted' Osborne and artist Charles Alfred 'Al' Taliaferro in 1937, the year after they premiered in the animated shorts. The nephews are supposed to be the sons of Donald's sister, Della Thelma Duck with the nickname Dumbella, and they were temporarily sent to Donald, because they had made a practical joke using some fire-crackers under their father's chair! During his recovery in the hospital the little brats were placed in Donald's care. Where they still are...

The first comic strip with the nephews

Date of publication: October 17th, 1937
Story by Ted Osborne - Art by Al Taliaferro
'Donald's Nephews' - the first animated short with the nephews

Date of publication: April 15th, 1938
Story by Jack Hannah and Carl Barks



Barks did little to alter the nephews' appearance in the stories. They did not undergo the same changes in beak length and clothes that Donald did. Their changes were in their conduct; from intolerable brats to intelligent and mature characters.







The nephews' original American names are really quite odd when you think about it. According to early interviews with Taliaferro they were all named after live persons:
was named after Huey Pierce Long (1893-1935). He was the governor of Louisiana, and he later became a Senator - and a presidential hopeful for the Democrats - until he was assasinated.
Dewey was named after Thomas Edmund Dewey (1902-1971). He was the governor of New York State, and a presidential candidate for the Republicans in two elections, 1944 and 1948, losing them both.
Louie was named after Louis 'Louie' Schmitt. He was an animator at Disney's (Snow White, Bambi and others), until he ended up joining Fredrick 'Tex' Avery at the MGM Studios.

At a few occasions Barks actually added a fourth nephew. See more about him HERE.

Huey Long

Thomas Dewey

Louie Schmitt



The nephews wear caps of different colours (red/blue/green). This has no practical bearing at all, because they function as one organism without special characteristics. Barks had no special relation to the differences in colour either, because he drew in black and white. The colours were added later in the comic book publishing process. A colourist would choose the colours for the panels in the stories, and if the colourist wasn't paying attention, Dewey might end up wearing a blue cap on the first page and a red cap on the fourth page. Few seemed to care...

Much later, the Disney Corporation offered this official explanation: Originally there was no way to tell Donald's nephews apart, because the colors on their costumes were used interchangeably. Because the stories for the 'Ducktales' television series were more complicated than they were for the short Donald Duck cartoons, it was deemed necessary to distinguish between the three nephews. So Huey was dressed in red, Dewey in blue, and Louie in green. You can remember this by noting that the brightest hue of the three is red (Huey), the color of water, dew, is blue (Dewey), and that leaves Louie, and leaves are green.

In the beginning there was no nephew wearing a blue cap. Instead he wore a yellow one. This was probably done so he wouldn't 'clash' with Donald's blue cap. When Barks late in life made his numerous duck paintings, he would often choose the yellow cap over the blue.



Here are two links to more pages about the nephews:
The Junior Woodchucks and The JW Titles.   Date 2004-05-19