Darkwing Duck (1991)

By this point and time, Disney could do no wrong with their cartoons – many of their shows became hits with viewers and fanbases grew rather quickly. They had created a perfect formula for creating great shows. Disney was on a hot streak of finely produced animation – and this success continued with a crime fighting duck who proclaimed himself to be “the terror that flaps in the night”.

Premiering on September 8, 1991, Darkwing Duck was Disney’s seven venture into television animation, and the third show made up of entirely original characters. It was a spin-off from the massively popular DuckTales series, and like the TaleSpin concept originally, Launchpad McQuack was slated to be the star. For whatever reason this was not meant to be, and he was demoted to the role of siderick for this series.

While the show establishes its own originality, it’s largely regarded as an affectionate satire on superhero mythos and lore. Darkwing’s costume, gas gun, and flashy introductions are all direct references to superheroes such as the Crimson Avenger and The Green Hornet. The fictional city of St. Canard, Darkwing’s rouges gallery, and the relative darkness of Darkwing compared to other Disney heroes reflect Batman and Gotham City. A few James Bond parodies exist as well, such as the villain Steelbeak, whose beak makes him similar to the Bond villain Jaws.

Darkwing Duck was another homerun hit for Disney, so much so that 91 episodes were produced, placing the series in second place to DuckTales for the most episodes in a Disney cartoon. The series aired its last episode on December 5, 1992. The two-part episode “Darkly Dawns The Duck” originally aired as an hour-length special on September 7, 1991, serving as the show’s pilot. After its initial airing the film was edited for time for the launching of the series and aired as the show’s first regular episode the following day. It features Tim Curry, who does an excellent job voicing the super-villain Taurus Bulba. Seasons one and two were aired simultaneously on different networks when the show premiered; season one in syndication as part of The Disney Afternoon block, and season two syndication aired Saturday mornings on ABC. This screwed up the chronological order of the episodes, and I wonder why Disney would choose to confuse fans by airing the series this way.

What’s even more puzzling is for the type of show Darkwing Duck was – why was there never an official conclusion to the series? Surely it was planned; Taurus Bulba’s abrupt exit in the episode “Steerminator” was, indeed, meant to ultimately lead into his return (and inevitable defeat) in a series finale that never came to be with the cancellation of the show following the last season, meaning this plot line would never be resolved. Why was there never a fourth season? Why did episode production stop at 91 episodes, an odd number for any series, and not continue to 100 full half-hours perhaps concluding the series within the last nine episodes? Surely Darkwing Duck deserved a full-length motion picture movie; it would have raised the elements of the show to a whole other plateau and given it much more of an edge. If not this, than a television special structured similar to the pilot so the series could end properly, all neat and tidy with all loose ends tied. All of this however never came to be; I’m not sure if fans every discovered why Darkwing Duck was left basically on a cliffhanger.

Darkwing Duck got the standard merchandising – Happy Meal toys, plush figures, books, stickers, coloring books, videogames, plus a special four issue comic book based on the pilot. Subsequent comic stories were featured in the magazine Disney Adventures from 1991-1995 as well as the Disney Afternoon comic book published by Marvel Comics. The series was also Emmy-nominated as well. The character of Darkwing Duck appeared occasionally in the series Bonkers, and Gosalyn appeared in the series Raw Toonage (although I never remember this happening). It should be noted that Darkwing Duck was the first Disney cartoon, that I can recall, broke the fourth wall where the characters of the show portrayed actors of the show they were in – this was showcased in the episode “A Star Is Scorned”.

The last time this masked crime fighting caped crusader and his crash landing sidekick were seen in Canada was on Family Channel around 1999/2000. Darkwing Duck is one of my favorite shows from Disney’s prime days of television animation. While I watched it a lot as a kid, I came to find I liked it even more with age. I ended up watching many episodes of the series online in late 2007 for the first time in years, and can say Darkwing Duck is a show that has aged well as I still found it plenty entertaining. It has many funny moments and has amusing stories. Darkwing Duck/Drake Mallard is an awesome character; you got to love his over-inflated ego coupled with his lack of common sense, all wrapped together by the lively voicing of Jim Cummings. Gosalyn is another favorite character of mine, always full of sprit and wanting to go on adventures. Christine Cavanaugh did an excellent job voicing her in the series and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that. It makes one wonder why she retired from voice acting and all but disappeared from the industry, as she was a talented actress. DVD’s of the show first started coming out in 2006, but one Youtube user has uploaded the entire series for viewing online. Of course the opening theme song (and the ending theme) is etched in the mind of anyone who watched this show; it has a very early 90’s pop sound to it, matched with good lyrics and clips. As usual, I have no idea who the singer is.


Gena said...

I luffed Goof Troop~ <33 LOL, now those three-episode-DVDs is REALLY something I wouldn't spend my money on, LOL

DeBT said...

It's probably a little after the fact, but BOOM! Studios did some very noteworthy followups with their comic line of Disney comics before they were unceremoniously canceled. At least they were fortunate to conclude with a well-deserved crossover with Duck Tales in their last issues.