DuckTales (1987)

If the success of Adventures Of The Gummi Bears was any indication of what Disney could accomplish in an animated television series, than their next series about Scrooge McDuck and his nephews in Duckburg surely wiped away any doubt in what they could achieve.

DuckTales, which premiered on September 18, 1987, was a straight shot out of the park for Disney and much like Adventures Of The Gummi Bears, set the standard for what a cartoon at the time could really accomplish. Entertainingly funny with interesting characters and rich storylines, tied together with good animation – DuckTales was a step up from most other boring cartoons offered at the time. It was also the first show to revive an old, classic Disney character and catapult them into a new era, whilst adding new characters into the mix. This template would be exercised in many more Disney productions to come. The series was loosely based on Carl Barks’ comics, and has been a unique vehicle for bringing many comic-related characters to the small screen such as Gyro, Magica, Gladstone, the Beagle Boys, and the Phantom Blot which successfully translated from comics to the cartoon, albeit with some modifications.

DuckTales is notable for being the first Disney cartoon to be produced in syndication, and paved the way for many future Disney productions. If not for its success it would be hard to question where Disney would have gone with their television animation department. DuckTales was successful in an attempt to create high quality animation for a television series, and Disney invested a far greater amount of money into the series than had previously been spent on animated shows of the time. It was considered a risky move because at the time animated television shows were generally considered low-budget investments. In the end it was a risk that paid off well. Disney gambled on the idea that a larger investment into quality animation could be made back through syndication – a concept that worked well with live-action television reruns, but which had only been used with inexpensive cartoon shows that either recycled theatrical shorts from decades past or only featured limited, low-budget animation.

Disney has yet to top the success of DuckTales after its premiere two decades ago, and it still holds the record for the largest amount of episodes of any Disney cartoon at 100 half-hours. The first season consisted of 65 episodes, the standard length for a Disney television cartoon. The second season included 35 episodes adding new characters such as Bubba Duck and Fenton Crackshell a.k.a. GizmoDuck. Along with them came stories that generally shifted away from the globetrotting plots of the first season, and revolved primarily in the contemporary setting of Duckburg. The final episode of the series is disputed to have aired either on March 11 or May 6, 1990.

The popularity of the show even launched a full-length motion picture in 1990 called DuckTales The Movie: Treasure Of The Lost Lamp – a somewhat rare occurrence back then to have a feature-length theatrical film based on a current cartoon series. This gamble however did not pay off as hoped and the film was not a success finically, which more than likely caused other proposed feature films based on current and future television cartoons to be scrapped. There were plans for there to be several DuckTales movies following this film, but these were all shelved as well. I have a feeling if this franchise had been around in current times, the movie would have been a hit. Several television cartoons now adays have made great transitions over to film. But in 1990 animated movies weren’t the big money makers they are today.

Not only does DuckTales hold the title for most episodes and the only television production to have a feature-length film thus far, it also spun off two other series – Darkwing Duck and Quack Pack. In 1989 Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers was paired with DuckTales in an hour long syndicated block through the 1989-90 television season, and in 1990-91 the block was expanded another hour to create The Disney Afternoon which would see success for many years to come. DuckTales therefore has another merit of being one of the early flagship cartoons in the block. Huey, Dewey, and Louie all appeared in the 1990 drug prevention video Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue, while Scrooge and Launchpad appeared in Disney’s short-lived series Raw Toonage. As for merchandise, there were two series of comic books (one ran 13 issues from 1988-1990, the other 18 issues from 1990-1991), as well as comic stories featured in the magazine Disney Adventures from 1990-1996.

The last time Scrooge McDuck and his nephews were seen in Canada was on Family Channel in the summer of 2003. I watched this show when I was younger, and I remember trying out some episodes when it was last on – at the time I was 18. It didn’t really capture me to stick with watching it, or maybe I just needed to give it a chance. Or maybe I had grown out of its characters and stories? In any case episodes are currently up on Youtube if you want to relive those childhood days without paying for the DVD’s. Of course the opening theme song (and the ending theme) from DuckTales is one of the most remembered cartoon themes not only from the Disney catalogue, but from the 1980’s as well. As stated in my previous post, anyone got any leads on who the singer is?

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