As It Happens

Co-owner of giant Ontario-bound duck denies artist's claim that it's a fraud

A giant rubber duck is making its way to Canada for the 150 celebrations. But the artist behind the original idea cries foul and calls the Toronto-bound duck a counterfeit.
Billed as the world's largest rubber duck, this floating mallard will nest in Toronto as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. (Redpath Waterfront Festival)

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Lots of big plans are being made across the country to celebrate Canada's birthday later this year. But none might be as big — and bright — as the giant yellow rubber duck coming to Ontario. 

The duck's $200,000 price tag has generated controversy among politicans. But this isn't the first time a giant rubber duck has been used as a tourist attraction. And now, a Dutch artist who says he's behind the original giant duck art installation says the duck headed to Ontario is a fraud.

Artist Florentijn Hofman released a statement calling the duck a "counterfeit." As It Happens contacted his studio, but did not get a response. 

Ryan Whaley, one of the owners of the Ontario-bound duck, addressed these allegations from Hofman in an interview with As It Happens host Carol Off. Here's a part of that conversation: 

CAROL OFF: Mr. Whaley, these are serious claims being made about your duck by this artist. Is your duck a fraud?

RYAN WHALEY: It is not. I'd like to remind you that we are talking about a large rubber duck. So, the duck is public domain. That duck was actually created in the thirties, not by Florentijn Hofman as he claims … Our duck is actually based on a toy company in the thirties which is now considered public domain. We've actually had an intellectual property lawyer look into this and we were able to patent our duck and trademark it to have it at events. The duck, itself, could still be used by anybody. So, someone could take a picture of the duck we're using and make a bigger one and there would be no legal precedent at all.

CO: But Mr. Hofman said you have been using his patterns, his design and his intellectual property.

RW: Once again, that duck is public domain. It goes back to the 1930s way before Florentijn Hofman ever did anything.

Students board the Great Lakes schooner Denis Sullivan, foreground, on Friday, Sept. 9, in Erie, Pa. In the background is the World's Largest Rubber Duck, which is moored near the west basin of Dobbins Landing on Presque Isle Bay. The duck, which is sixty feet high, will be on display throughout the 2016 Tall Ships Erie festival. (Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP)

CO: His press release says, "Canada 150 Rented Duck is an Illegal Counterfeit of Real Art." He argues that Canadians are being ripped off. He says, "The duck was never supposed to be used for profit. It was designed to be a public art installation to bring joy and hope wherever it went." And that Canadians are renting this duck when they could have had their own from him, if they'd only just contacted him. He's "deeply saddened" that the Canadian people have to pay for the actions of renting this duck. What do you say to Mr. Hofman?

RW: Pretty hypocritical for him to charge other governments hundreds of thousands of dollars to send them renderings of a duck and require them to build it on their own and come to us and say that Canadians are being ripped off. So, he is just very much a hypocrite in his statements … If he has any legal precedent at all, I would encourage him to reach out. But, he will not.

CO: Alright, now just give us the proportions of the duck that you're delivering to Canada. 

RW: The duck is 61 feet tall, so just a touch over six storeys tall, and it weighs, with its base, 11 tons.

CO: And it floats? 

RW: And it floats. 

CO: And what is this actually costing the Canadian people to have this duck bounce around?

RW: The only thing I can tell you is the entire price of what the duck is costing to go to six locations throughout Ontario is $71,000 US. That's the total price tag. 

CO: … It has been reported that it's actually $200,000 Canadian.

The duck is 61 feet tall, so just a touch over six storeys tall, and it weighs, with its base, 11 tons.- "Mama Duck" co-owner Ryan Whaley

RW: I don't know what that number comes from. It's $71,000, what my company is being paid, to do everything. 100% of the duck management. That being said, I don't know. Maybe that's for other festivals that are involved? But $71,000 US is what the duck costs for all six locations.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. To hear more from Ryan Whaley, listen to the interview above.

As It Happens reached out to the organizers of the Redpath Waterfront Festival, where the duck will be displayed in Toronto, to ask for clarification about the cost of the duck. A spokesperson said that Mr. Whaley's fee of $71,000 US, or about $95,000 Cdn, covered only some of the costs associated with the duck, including transportation by truck and inflation and deflation. The remaining $105,000 is to be spent on other costs including cranes, tugboats, fencing, portalets, on-site labour, and marketing for the six locations where the duck will appear across Ontario.