April 14, 2018


(Syndication, September 18, 1987-November 28, 1990)

Walt Disney Television Animation, Tokyo Movie Shinsha (season 1), Wang Film Cuckoo’s Nest Studio

            Disney was looking to duplicate their success with Adventures of the Gummi Bears with another animated series exhibiting a higher quality of animation generally found on television. They looked towards the world of Duckburg, largely created by cartoonist Carl Barks, for inspiration and came up with DuckTales. Developed by Jymn Magon, the series followed wealthy Scrooge McDuck (Alan Young) as he went on adventures with his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie (all Russi Taylor). Often, these adventures involved discovering some lost treasure to increase Scrooge’s fame and wealth, but other times it was protecting his businesses and interests from rival Flintheart Glomgold (Hal Smith), his #1 dime from evil witch Magica De Spell (June Foray), or his beloved money bin from the Beagle Boys (Frank Welker, Terry McGovern, Chuck McCann and Brian Cummings), and sometimes one of inventor Gyro Gearloose’s (Smith) inventions run amok.

From top: Gyro, Launchpad, Duckworth, Mrs. Beakley, Huey, Dewey, Scrooge, Doofus, Louie and Webby.

            While largely inspired by Barks’ comics, DuckTales did have some differences. Scrooge wasn’t as much of a miser as he was extremely thrifty, for example, as well as wearing a blue and red coat instead of a red and black one (although, funnily enough, some of the tie-in comics for the show would use the classic coloring). Other changes saw Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo), who played a large part in Scrooge’s adventures, only present for the first episode to drop off his nephews; and Glomgold was depicted as Scottish rather than South African due to American’s tensions with the country at the time, among others. New characters included Scrooge’s butler Duckworth (McCann), housekeeper Bettina Beakley (Joan Gerber) and her granddaughter Webby (Taylor), accountant-turned-superhero Fenton Crackshell aka Gizmoduck (Hamilton Camp), accident-prone pilot Launchpad McQuack (McGovern), the boys’ best friend Doofus Drake (Cummings), and more. 

The family that steals together... Ma Beagle and her Beagle Boys.

            DuckTales premiered in syndication on September 18, 1987 with a 65-episode first season. The most memorable part of the series has proven to be the show’s catchy theme, written by Mark Mueller, which was commissioned by Disney looking for a pop sound over a typical cartoon song. A second season of 10 episodes and a third of 18 followed. In 1990, the series was given its own feature-length movie, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, which while successful didn’t quite reach Disney’s expectations, shelving any further entries. However, the show’s own popularity prompted Disney to look into producing further shows with their high-quality approach, leading to the debuts of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck starring Launchpad. Together, these shows would be united into the syndicated programming block The Disney Afternoon, where DuckTales’ 7-episode fourth season debuted. DuckTales left the block in 1992 and entered into syndicated reruns, particularly on The Disney Channel, between 1995-99, while Launchpad and Scrooge made appearances on Raw Toonage in the interim. Almost exactly 30 years later, Disney premiered a reboot of the series with stronger inspiration from Barks’ work.

No comments: