“Life is like a hurricane, here in Duckburg…”
“Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes, it’s a duck blur,
You might solve a mystery, or rewrite history,
(Oh, come on, you know the words!)
With its ‘tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales’ (A-woo-ooh!), DuckTales made its foray into daily syndication in the fall of 1987. It captured the hearts and minds of kids everywhere, and continued to build upon one of the most successful branches of one of the largest animation empires in the world… Disney Ducks. Let’s take a look back, shall we?
Based upon the works of famed Disney animator, Carl Barks, DuckTales followed the story of Uncle Scrooge (McDuck) and his three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie – who, incidentally, were the progeny of one of the most famous ducks in history, Donald Duck. In order to explain dear old dad’s absence, the story was that he joined the Navy and left his sons in the capable and wealthy hands of his uncle, leaving the door wide open for the emphasis to be on the otherwise lesser-known of the Disney fowl.
Scrooge was a serious businessman, not unlike the Dickensian character of the same name. He was a tightwad, but in the process built himself a fortune so vast that, well, he could swim in gold. As he put it, he was “smarter than the smarties, and tougher than the toughies.” Despite his harsh demeanor, dear old Scrooge seemed to have a soft spot for his trio of nephews, who proved to be clever and intelligent in their own unique way.
Huey, Dewey and Louie were identical triplets, and actually his grand-nephews. With a quick glance, they were identifiable by the color of their clothes: Huey wore red, Dewey wore blue, and Louie wore green. However, upon further inspection, there are a number of other noticeable personality differences between the three that really had their chance to shine in the Duck Tales series. Huey was the leader, Dewey was clever, and Louie was the most creative.
The story wasn’t solely focused on the four of them; the cast of characters within the series ran deep, almost from the get-go: Scrooge’s long-time butler, Duckworth, who was an anthropomorphic dog, Mrs. Beakley the maid and her granddaughter Webby Vanderquack, who so desperately wanted to join the boys and become the ‘fourth nephew,’ were all considered members of the McDuck household.
Others who played prominent supporting roles were Launchpad McQuack, hired to fly in and out of danger and his #1 fan, Doofus Drake was friends with the three nephews. Gyro Gearloose, resident inventor, was also on the scene – occasionally making havoc with his unpredictable inventions. Last, but certainly not least is the second richest duck in the world, Flintheart Glomgold, who would have liked nothing more than to beat Scrooge at the money game and become the Richest Duck in the World. And it doesn’t even end there: the Beagle Brothers, Bubba, Fenton P. Crackshell, Gizmo, Glittering Goldie and a number of other villains, like Magica De Spell, Black Pete (another Disney classic character) and a wide variety of other critters popped in and out of the Scrooge McDuck universe.
The series brought very Indiana Jones-y adventures to the little screen, with various members of the gang trotting the globe, facing challenges and quests in the face of imminent danger. The show’s creators even took time out to poke a little fun at classic literature, history and legends, and even a little pop culture along the way. DuckTales became an instant hit with the kids and even a few parents who unsuspectingly became engrossed in the adventures.
Duck Tales was the first Disney cartoon produced for syndication, paving the way for other Disney syndication greats, like Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin (which was originally set to have Launchpad as the star – he was replaced by Jungle Book’s Baloo), as well as two DuckTales ‘spin-offs’ – Darkwing Duck and Quack Pack. DuckTales proved to be an endeavor well worth taking for Disney’s animation studios. The series ran until 1990, and due to the large volume of episodes produced, it became one of the longest-running Disney shows, ever. On top of it all, the episodes seem to have aged well, and are regularly part of Disney’s cable television line-up, giving younger generations the chance to live out a few DuckTales of their own.
Were you a fan of DuckTales, either as a kid or an adult? Share your memories of this beloved series with us in our comments section as we pay tribute to one of the most popular cartoons from the 80s.