THE MIGHTY DUCKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES
|The alternate (top) and more well-known Mighty Ducks team logos.|
In 1992, Walt Disney Pictures released The Mighty Ducks directed by Stephen Herek from a script by Steven Brill; a movie about a team of rag-tag kids coached by a lawyer (Emilio Estevez) who is assigned the task as community service. Together, they became a winning team both on the ice and in the box office as the film proved a financial success. Then Disney President Michael Eisner stated that the movie served as market research as they entered into the next Disney enterprise: sports ownership. In 1992, the National Hockey League (NHL) awarded Disney an expansion franchise for an entrance fee of $50 million dollars. In 1993, The Mighty Ducks (their full name including “of Anaheim”) were formed at their new home, “The Pond,” also known as Anaheim Arena (as of this writing The Honda Center) which was a stone’s throw from Disneyland in California. Their logo was a duck-shaped goalie mask over two crossed hockey sticks.
|Tanya, Wildwing, Canard and Duke.|
To keep the brand in the public consciousness, Disney continued to produce its media incarnations of the Ducks. After a sequel to their hit movie in 1994, in 1996, they gave the concept the Disney treatment and created an animated series called simply The Mighty Ducks developed by David Wise, who served as the series story editor and head writer. The Ducks featured were aliens who resembled human-like ducks that originally resided on Puckworld; an ice planet that made it perfect for its inhabitants’ way of life: hockey. Centuries prior, Drake DuCaine used a high-tech goalie mask to repel an invasion of Saurians, a war-fueled reptilian race, and strand them in dimensional limbo. However, the Saurians, led by Lord Dragaunus (Tim Curry), escaped limbo and renewed their attack on Puckworld. A resistance led by Canard Thunderbeak (Townsend Coleman), who had found DuCaine’s mask, stopped Dragaunus and forced him to flee through a dimensional portal in his ship, The Raptor. The Ducks followed, and Canard sacrificed himself along the way to save them from Dragaunus. The Saurians and Ducks land on Earth where they continue their battle under the guise of a professional hockey team.
|Tanya, Grin, Nosedive, Wildwing, Mallory and Duke.|
The remaining Ducks were comprised of Wildwing Flashblade (inspired by the team’s official mascot and voiced by Ian Ziering), Canard’s insecure best friend who was given his mask and leadership of the team; Nosedive Flashblade (Steve Mackall), Wildwing’s younger brother who, by comparison, was more impulsive and childish and often looked to Wildwing for support and protection; Tanya Vanerflock (April Winchell), the team’s resident genius who suffered from acute allergies (including one to feathers…don’t ask); Duke L’Orange (Jeff Bennett), a former jewel thief who changed sides to battle Dragaunus; Mallory McMallard (Jennifer Hale), a master martial-artist with a strong military background that often left her distrustful of Duke and his past; and Check “Grin” Hardwing (Brad Garrett), who was as wise as he was strong with a massive sense of honor, achieving a Zen-like philosophy from his days in training with a grand hockey master. When playing they wore standard hockey uniforms. For battle, their uniforms varied between them but all maintained the official color scheme (white, jade and purple) in use by the real team at the time.
|The Ducks with the Aerowing and a Duckcycle.|
While each were excellent fighters in their own rights (minus Tanya, who was more brains than brawn), primarily, they used weaponry that fired variations of hockey pucks called Puck Blasters. However, Duke was most fond of his Ducksabre; a golden sword whose blade could be dematerialized. Their base was located under their rink, called The Pond, and housed their super computer, Drake One, their battle van, the Migrator, their jet, the Aerowing, and their motorcycles, the Duckcycles, and their boat, the Duckfoil. Tanya wore a special Omnitool on her wrist, which had almost everything she needed to deal with technological and mechanical problems.
|Wildwing firing his Puck Blaster with Phil and Capt. Klegghorn.|
The Duck’s primary human ally was Phil Palmfeather (Jim Belushi), who helped them get established on Earth and set up as a hockey team. He also served as their manager, which often put his quest for profiting off their brand at odds with their duties to protecting the world. Thrash (Bennett) and Mookie (Winchell), a pair who dress like punk rockers, were the first people the Ducks encountered and owned the comic shop that Nosedive frequented. Captain Klegghorn (Dennis Franz in a likely nod to his role from NYPD Blue), a police officer, was the Ducks’ most reluctant ally. Not fully trusting them or believing in the Saurians’ existence, he did manage to overcome his bias enough to help them on occasion.
|Dragaunus with Chameleon, Siege and Wraith looking on in the background.|
The Saurians, unable to return home, set out to conquer Earth in the meantime. Many of Dragaunus’ schemes involved trying to create fuel for The Raptor, as well as destroying the Ducks. Aiding him in his quest were Siege (Clancy Brown), an aggressive soldier and Dragaunus’ second-in-command; Wraith (Tony Jay), a warlock often at odds with Dragaunus over his belief in using the dark magic of their ancestors; Chameleon (Frank Welker), a shape-shifter who enjoys making corny impressions of human celebrities; and Hunter Drones, robotic foot soldiers of Dragaunus. Lucretia DeCoy (Kath Soucie) was a Duck who betrayed her kind to serve as a spy for Dragaunus, and Duke’s former associate Falcone (Reed Diamond) took some jobs for the Saurians.
Aside from homegrown threats, Earth also presented some challenges in the form of Dr. Droid (Charles Adler), a self-made android who desired to turn the world into robots; Daddy-O Cool (Jim Cummings), a deformed beat poet who planned to poison the world’s drinking supply to make everyone cooler; Stanley Strazinski (also Cummings), a former hockey player with a grudge against the Ducks mutated by Dragaunus; and Asteroth (W. Morgan Sheppard), a wizard hailing from a supernatural version of Anaheim, amongst others.
|Ad for the series.|
The Mighty Ducks ran for a single season beginning on September 6, 1996. It aired concurrently in syndication as part of the final season of The Disney Afternoon 2-hour programming block on Fridays, as well as Disney’s newly-acquired ABC on Saturday mornings. Along with Wise, writers included Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Gordon Kent, Len Uhley, Chris Bartleman, Blair Peters, David Ehrman, Tad Stones, Judith Reeves-Stevens, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Rob Humphrey and Jim Peterson. The series’ theme, as well as the musical score, was composed by Carl Swander Johnson and performed by Mickey Thomas of Jefferson Starship. Along with the constant threats the Ducks faced as heroes, on the ice they often played against parodies of real NHL teams who were given recognizable (but slightly altered) logos. The series won the 1997 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing-Special Class.
|The new Anaheim Ducks logo.|
Banking on the series being as much of a success as their films, Disney partnered with Mattel to produce a line of 25 action figures with collectible trading cards and vehicles, as well as a Puck Blaster (called a Duck Dazer) and Duke’s Ducksabre. A set of 8 PVC figurines was released both together and individually, as well as a Migrator playset to use them in. There were also four 12-inch plush dolls. Tiger Electronics released a handheld game, the Disney Store a tabletop hockey game and yoyo, Wham-O a Frisbee, and an official weight hockey puck by Vegum. Other items included a CD holder, various window clings, a PVC coin bank, prismatic stickers by Sandylion, a plastic and soft lunchbox and thermos produced by Aladdin, folders, bubble cup, a sipper cup, a mug, bubble bath, glycerin soap with an action figure in the middle, lip balm, bed sheets and officially licensed animation cels. A line of clothing featuring the Ducks were made including t-shirts, underoos, sneakers and watches. In 1998, when DisneyQuest opened in Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, it featured a game called Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam where players could control pinballs on a screen to score. Wildwing was the only character featured as both the goalie in the game and a cutout at the front of the queue line.
Tying in to the show were various food item promotions. McDonald’s Happy Meals included a set of four characters on rolling hockey puck bases. Nestle’s Wonderball featured a set of six characters similarly mounted to the McDonald’s ones inside the chocolate balls. However, they were produced at the same time as the massive Wonderball recall that led to candies being included inside the balls instead of toys to prevent choking hazards. Pepperidge Farms Goldfish included one out of a set of four temporary tattoos. Pillsbury Foods offered a mail-away promotion where one of three pucks could be obtained, which opened to reveal smaller stickers inside.
Golden Books published six Mighty Ducks activity pads, which featured coloring pages, water coloring, stickers and activities. They also released two paperbacks adapting the episodes “Phil in the Blank” and “Dungeons and Ducks.” For older readers, Disney Press released two books in their Disney Chapters Series adapting the episodes “The First Face-Off” and “Power Play.” Disney’s Action Club magazine featured five comics based on the series as well as one of the featured comic strips in Disney Adventures magazine. The only actual home video release for the series was the first three episodes edited together to form a single movie and released as the VHS Mighty Ducks the Movie: The First Face-Off. In 2019, it became one of the launch titles for the streaming service Disney+.
|A page from the June 1st, 1997 issue of Disney Adventures.|
A month after the series debuted, Disney released its third and final film in The Mighty Ducks film trilogy, which saw the Ducks going off to college and having to re-earn their colors once again. In 2005, Disney sold The Mighty Ducks team to Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife Susan for $75 million dollars. In 2006, the team was officially renamed The Anaheim Ducks with the new team colors of orange, black (white for away games) and gold. The logo was also changed to a “D” that resembled a duck’s foot, however the original logo was restored in the 2010 season with the team’s new color scheme as a patch on their jerseys.