D.O.N.A.L.D. Germany

D.O.N.A.L.D. M2K poster — 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm)

Each year the the Donaldists hold a national congress that brings together a few hundred scientists to deliver talks that are as serious in their detailed presentation as they are tongue-in-cheek in their intent. They also rely heavily on images providing the punchline to the speaker’s setups. I went to my first congress in Cologne in 1986. Everything I know about giving talks I learned from the donaldists.

In 1988 I started a campaign to bring the annual D.O.N.A.L.D. congress to Rinteln to coincide with the town’s 750th anniversary the following year. (Its Semi-Sesquimillennial? Its Dodransmillennial?) Hosting the congress was a big deal, and the honor usually fell to cities like Hamburg, Munich, or Berlin. But I was relentless. I lobbied, I rallied, I designed fliers, obviously, and Rinteln ultimately won the vote—in no small part due to the fact that one of the writers for Der Donaldist had begun using “rinteln” as a nonsense verb implying illicit activity. Even the intimation of sex sells.

At 15 I felt that I hadn’t earned the right to design the poster for the event, but I still wanted to get in on the action. Instead of following tradition and assigning the poster to one artist, I coordinated a poster incorporating the work of six illustrators—Luciano Bottaro, Uwe Schildmeier, Hans Holzherr, Jan Gulbransson, Jörg Drühl, and me. I had earned the right to illustrate 1/6th of a congress poster. The final assembly—and the bulk of the artwork—was done by Jörg Drühl, a renowned German children’s book illustrator whose style is a mixture of Disney and R. Crumb. He made a poster—roughly 24 x 36 in. in format, drawn entirely by hand at full size—that still stands as one of the most remarkable illustrations I’ve ever seen. It played heavily of the implied meaning of “rinteln,” and was so shockingly explicit that it scared away a national TV news team that had traveled far to report on serious adults talking seriously about silly things.

“Can you please take down the posters, so we can get our footage?” No.

“Uhm… is there somebody we can talk to who’s in charge?” I’m in charge. That’s our poster. “If you won’t take down that poster, we’ll pack up and leave.” Have a safe trip back! (Getting on national TV is fun for a day. Being able to tell the story of how you told the TV crew to fuck off at age 15…  fun for a lifetime.) And no, you can’t see the poster.

I finally got to design a poster on my own for the 2000 Kongreß, based on an invitation from my old friend Gangolf Seitz. The theme would be millennial panic. The place would be Marburg. Thus he wanted the poster to read D.O.N.A.L.D. M2K as a riff on the widely feared Y2K bug. I pleaded with him to let me make it D.O.N.A.L.D. 2000, which struck me as far prettier, and more timeless. By then any Y2K references seemed completely played out to me. Apparently, it was the exact opposite in Germany. I relented. Grudgingly. And I’m happy to show both versions to you here.

For the illustration I turned to the master himself, Carl Barks. I was self-conscious about drawing Donald again. I felt rusty, and didn’t want that to stand in the way of a great poster. I loved the pose of Donald sticking his foot in the cold water and screaming in horror. This came from a story Barks had drawn in the 1940s or 50s, and it struck me as a fine image for the Fear of a New Millennium. The background rays were meant to be fluorescent orange. The German printer decided to make the substitution. “We didn’t have that color you spec’ed, but we had process yellow and that’s pretty much the same.” And this from a German craftsman—supposedly the very pinnacle of craftsmannery! Unglaublich! Good thing for him that I was far, far away.

As this was a job for a German client I used the typeface “German Bold Italic” which was created by Tycoon Graphics for the Towa Tei track of the same name. The font came as a free extra on the enhanced CD version of his brilliant 1998 album SOUND MUSEUM. It’s a truly obscure design in-joke. Nobody has ever picked up on it, and I’m tired of waiting. I’m telling you: Funny stuff!

Share this Page on