‘DuckTales’ is back. Yes, ‘DuckTales.’ Woo-oo.
By DAVID BETANCOURT | The Washington Post | Published: July 23, 2017
Disney’s most famous duck family is preparing for a highly anticipated comeback.
The animated series “DuckTales” ran from 1987 to 1990, starring Scrooge McDuck and his young triplet nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie; Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter Webby Vanderquack; and flight plan-challenged pilot Launchpad McQuack. It now returns in an all new animated series debuting Aug. 12 stateside on Disney XD.
A new “DuckTales” comic book series is also on the way from IDW, with issue No. 0 debuting July 19 and the first official issue of the monthly series arriving in print and digitally in September.
“DuckTales” executive producer Matt Youngberg and co-producer/story editor Francisco Angones were tasked with taking a classic cartoon they both loved and making it fresh for a new generation while also appealing to older fans that made the original series such a hit.
“The challenge is to recreate the feeling you had as a child when you watched it but to do it using modern storytelling techniques,” Youngberg tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Kids today have all of their entertainment at their fingertips, so they subconsciously expect more from storytelling than we did.”
In the new animated adventures, Donald Duck (no stranger to duck fame himself) takes his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to meet their extremely wealthy great-uncle, Scrooge McDuck. Uncle Scrooge has been retired from his famous globe-trotting tales for a long time, so the triplets aren’t really sure he lives up to the hype and don’t even know they’re related to him, which leads to the first of many adventures.
“That idea allowed us to put modern viewers in the shoes of the nephews as they’re introduced to this amazingly weird, wonderful world,” Angones says.
Both producers were frequently asked during production about the “DuckTales” theme song, a part of the original show that is just as beloved as any episode. Youngberg and Angones credit music producer Michael “Smidi” Smith, composer Dom Lewis and singer Felicia Barton with creating a new song that felt new but channeled the original.
“The theme song was something we knew we had to do right,” Youngberg says. “The real sense of relief came from playing it for Mark Mueller, who had composed the original song. Seeing him smile and tell us he was relieved by how it sounded was the sign-off we were looking for.”
The series includes a talented cast of voice actors: former Dr. Who David Tennant as Uncle Scrooge, Danny Pudi of “Community” as Huey, Ben Schwartz of “Parks and Recreation” as Dewey, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan as Louie, Kate Micucci of Garfunkel and Oates as Webby and “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda as Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera/Gizmoduck, a mechanical armored hero.
Angones says the heart of the new “DuckTales” will be Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.
“We wanted to make Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s personalities more distinct to give us more opportunities for character relationships,” he says. “We have based their personalities off of their birth order: As the oldest by three seconds, Huey is the responsible, type-A. Dewey is the classic middle child, throwing himself into danger because he’s eager to find some way to stand out in this big family. And sly youngest child Louie enjoys living under the radar because it allows him to get away with anything.”
They’ve given more prominence to Webby, previously a “tag along character,” he says. “She’s now a capable adventurer in her own right and a longtime Scrooge McDuck fangirl. The boys were born into the family legacy of adventure; Webby earned her place into it.”
Over at IDW, writer Joe Caramagna says some elements of stories appearing in the comic book could actually appear in later episodes of the cartoon — though issue No. 0, released July 19, serves as a prequel to the Aug. 12 television premiere.
“If you want the full ‘DuckTales’ experience, you’ll want to follow both the comic and TV show,” says Caramagna, a lifelong fan of the original series.
The producers over at Disney XD gave Caramagna a “DuckTales” Bible, multiple scripts and animated clips of the new series for research.
“DuckTales is always about race cars, lasers, and aeroplanes,” Caramagna says, with a nod to the “DuckTales” theme song. “But to me, it’s really about family. What makes a family? We have uncles and nephews and Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter all under one roof — not exactly what society tells us is a ‘traditional’ setup — yet they’re a family, because the reality is that families come in all forms. So we explore what makes a family and figure out their interpersonal dynamics through conflict and character-driven adventures as they solve mysteries and rewrite history.”
And then there’s trying to voice Donald Duck in a comic book, which Caramagna says at times requires himself to “speak Donald.”
“I don’t think it’s possible to write Donald Duck without doing the voice,” Caramagna says. “Otherwise he seems too eloquent when you read his dialogue back. Sometimes when I feel Donald is getting a little too un-Donald like, I’ll have another character annoy him so he can do one of his trademark angry squawks.”