The ducklings first appeared in Taliaferro's Silly Symphonies Sunday
page, featuring Donald, for 17 October 1937; but the cartoon that would
feature them, «Donald's Nephews»,
was already in production early that year. In a May 29, 1973 interview by
Donald Ault, Barks recalls that he and Harry Reeves received a "nephew idea"
and had to "develop most of the business by batting ideas back and forth. We
thought, how is Donald going to get the nephews? Well, the doorbell rings and
The story team was also responsible for making the kids troublemakers. "They were real little hellions," Barks recalls in the 1973 interview. "The idea that they were to be mischievous came out of Mickey's nephews... They were brought up according to Dr. Spock, so they thought they could get away with anything." (The reference to Dr. Spock is an anachronism, for his theories did not become popular until the 1940s; but the idea of permissive child-rearing was already current in 1937, when Barks worked on this film.)
Barks and Reeves initiated many of the idiosyncracies we have come to associate with the nephews. They put the words "Unca' Donald" into the boys' mouths and introduced the kids' trick of completing each other's sentences, making them seem an indivisible unit that thinks and acts as one. Barks carried the practice of split sentences into his comics but later abandoned it because the multiple dialogue balloons took up too much space. He also felt that this practice "made them little parrots who were just alike.." (1973 Ault interview) and he tried to differentiate the boys by having one of them take the lead in each story.
As Barks remembers, tne story-men had initially been apprehensive about using the nephews. In April 29, 1987 notes written for the Carl Barks Library, Barks said: "Most of us guys in the Duck unit felt the introduction of three nephews would hamper the development of Donald's character as it was then being channeled. We couldn't see that it would lead to a sort of Duck dynasty completely divorced from the Mickey Mouse influence. I recall some comments about it being too early in Don's career to clutter him with a family."
The writers also had misgivings about the hellion image they had created. In November 13, 1987 notes written for the Carl Barks Library, Barks said: "Harry and I realized that the character of the nephews in their first appearance would quickly become tiresome to audiences. We set out to make them more interesting and acceptable by broadening their characters."