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
|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
|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
|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
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
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
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.
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.