Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: DuckTales! Woo-ooh!

A few months ago, I mentioned that I'd be getting into some of the different series that populated Disney's syndicated lineup of weekday afternoon animated fare produced during the late-'80s and early-'90s. First up is the thing that got the whole shebang started for the Mouse House, and if you sang the headline above instead of reading it, rest assured, you're right in the sweet spot for this week's Nostalgia Theater: Disney's DuckTales. Here's the intro for the show, which featured the globe-trotting exploits of Donald Duck's cantankerous, gazillionaire uncle Scrooge McDuck:

Premiering in September of 1987 with the five-part miniseries "Treasure of the Golden Suns," DuckTales took its primary inspiration from the reams and reams of comic stories written and drawn by the legendary Carl Barks. Those comics had helped create an entire extended universe of escapades for Donald, Scrooge, and nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie (plus series-created originals like wacky pilot Launchpad McQuack and superhero Gizmo Duck) that stood entirely separate tonally from Disney's theatrical shorts during the '30s and '40s, but were a perfect fit for '80s auds.

DuckTales lasted a total of 100 episodes over four seasons, wrapping its run in spring of 1990. That's an impressive sprint for any show, much less an animated offering that's expected to be there-and-gone. More than that, by then it had birthed the aforementioned Disney Afternoon, and its success on TV also led to a theatrical spin-off, DuckTales: The Movie - Treasure of the Lost Lamp. That flick, which hit the big screen in August of 1990, didn't quite light the box office ablaze with its $18 mil take (scuttling any planned sequels in the process), but it seems to have retained a decent cult following even today.

From a modern perspective, I think what DuckTales did so well was to tell adventure stories that were "safe" enough for the kiddies, but engrossing enough to engage slightly older kiddies, making for a show that played across several demos. I loved it as a kid, and I still enjoy watching it with my brood today. Most importantly for Disney, its success with DuckTales, a considerable financial gamble, paid off handsomely enough to ensure an entire decade's worth of programming in its wake, including a spin-off or two. More on them soon.

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