The History of Disney Duck Races Around the World

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Quack, quack sailors!    

In 2008, Fantasyland cast members at Disneyland Resort invented a quirky event that would become a long-anticipated yearly tradition: a cast-exclusive rubber duck race and decoration competition in the iconic “it’s a small world” attraction! Originally, the duck races were limited to cast members who worked at “it’s a small world,” but the event has since expanded to the entire resort — and even around the world.  

“This whole event just highlights how amazing and talented our cast are for such a great cause,” says Tamarah Mack, a Fantasyland retail manager who helped expand the event resort wide in 2011. 

On June 9th, after over 15 years navigating “it’s a small world” in Disneyland Resort, the cast member Duck Races finally crossed the Atlantic and made it to Disneyland Paris – and on Donald Duck’s birthday! The very first Disneyland Paris Duck Races kept the essence of its Californian counterpart, allowing cast members to showcase their talents by decorating their ducks according to the five lands of Disneyland Park: Main Street, U.S.A, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland and their very own Discoveryland.   

There was tough competition this year at Disneyland Paris! Cast members cheered as loud as they could to motivate their champion, and eventually three valiant waterfowls emerged victorious.  

“It was a memorable event!” says Marine, cast member on the Disneyland Paris Live Events team. She won the Fantasyland category of the duckoration contest with her hand-knit “it’s a small world” duck — sporting a cast member costume complete with a nametag and miniature Donald!“It was such a pleasure to decorate my little duck, the vibe was incredible, and we got such nice weather… it was a really beautiful Disney Cast Life event!”  

On the other side of the world, 1,000 ducks raced around “it’s a small world” in Disneyland Park to be awarded the fasted duck in the waterway! The atmosphere was highly competitive, and the tension was palpable as the winning ducks battled to be the first to cross the finish line. Stacy Wise, a horticulture manager, placed first. Her duck was decorated as Ludwig Von Drake, with little Herman tucked in his pocket from “Jack and the Beanstalk!” It was her first year participating in the event, making Ludwig Von Drake one lucky duck. 

Of course, like at Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Resort cast members entered a variety of design categories. Avi Wilk, a Pixar Pier attractions cast member, took home the top spot for the category Most like Donald Duck with his “Angry Donald Duck.” “It’s really incredible to be able to have your work recognized and to be able to receive this honor is really meaningful,” he shared.  

Meanwhile, Alicia Roberts, a retail cast member, won the category for Most Disney Themed, with a duck inspired by the Disney100 Celebration. “From the Disney100 Celebration [nametags], they ask your favorite character and I put Maleficent. So I thought I would take up the challenge to make a Maleficent-inspired duck! And even though she wasn’t going to be seaworthy, I still gave it all my heart.” Talented Alicia also won the Favorite Attraction design category for her “Alice in Wonderland” teacup design!

Aside from being unbeakably fun, this edge-of-your-seat extravaganza enables cast members to contribute to a cause. In the past, proceeds from Disneyland Resort’s event have been donated to nonprofits including Toys For Tots, Make-A-Wish and Goodwill Orange County. This year, proceeds will be provided to My Day Counts, a nonprofit organization that offers employment preparation and community integration activities to program members. And at Disneyland Paris, all the profits from this year’s rubber duck sales were donated to a local charity, La Maison de Tom Pouce, which helps vulnerable soon-to-be and recent mothers and their little ducklings.  

“Thanks to this donation alone, the charity will be able to finance 70 days of care this year,” says Eric, VoluntEARS coordinator at Disneyland Paris. “It’s a great support for them, and I’m proud that our cast members got to be part of it.” What a good way to have fun while giving back to our community!  

One thing’s for sure: there couldn’t have been a more perfect way to celebrate Donald Duck’s birthday! By the looks of it, our cast members are already eager to participate in the 2024 edition of this event. Conquackulations to this year’s winners, and see you next year! 

For more on the Disney Ambassadors and other #DisneyCastLife stories, follow the Disney Ambassador teams on Instagram.