DuckTales is an animated television show featuring characters from the Scrooge McDuck universe and is loosely based on the Carl Barks comic books. This series is notable for being the first Disney cartoon to be produced for syndication. A world broadcast premiere television movie called The Treasures of the Golden Suns first aired on September 18, 1987. Afterwards it was turned into a five part serial. A feature length movie was released on August 3, 1990.
The main characters of the series, who appear in almost every episode, are Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. The series also features a mix of established characters carried over from the comics, as well as new ones created for the show. Scrooge's household also consists of his butler, Duckworth; Mrs. Beakley, a nanny hired to look after Huey, Dewey and Louie; and Webby Vanderquack, the granddaughter of Mrs. Beakley.
Initially, other characters include the absent-minded inventor Gyro Gearloose, the heroic but not too bright pilot Launchpad McQuack, the loyal but somewhat foolish Doofus Drake. During the second season, a caveduck from the past Bubba, and accountant Fenton Crackshell.
The show's primary villains consist of characters Magica De Spell, Flintheart Glomgold and the Beagle Boys. Although they are all financial threats to Scrooge in one way or another, they each have different motives. Magica wants Scrooge's Number One Dime so she can take over the world, Glomgold wants to become the richest duck in the world, and the Beagle Boys want Scrooge's fortune. New villains created for the show include Ma Beagle, mother to the Beagle Boys, and Poe De Spell, Magica's brother who has been transformed into a raven.
Other minor characters include Donald Duck, who left Huey, Dewey and Louie in Scrooge's care at the start of the series; Gladstone Gander, Scrooge's inexplicably lucky nephew, Scrooge's old flame, Glittering Goldie O'Gilt; Merlock, a powerful magician who served as the movie's main villain; and Dijon, a thief who worked for either Merlock or himself.
DuckTales is set primarily in the fictitious American city of Duckburg, Calisota, where most of the main cast resides. Duckburg is a port town, but, keeping true to the comics, the city's geographical location is never mentioned. Duckburg is not a huge city by any means, but it is a notable one, as it is the home of Scrooge's many industries, in addition to his Money Bin which houses his fortune. However, it should be noted that DuckTales is not limited to Duckburg, as it features many globetrotting episodes.
The premise of the show is about the adventures experienced by Scrooge and his grandnephews. The nephews who were originally with their Uncle Donald until he wanted to see the world and joined the navy.
Repeating plots from in the series are, Scrooge finding ancient treasure and setting out to find it, Gyro coming up with an invention but something goes wrong with it, Scrooge losing his entire fortune and tries to get it back, and Magica trying to get Scrooge's number one dime so she can make it into a amulet which will give her the midas touch. but other times there are episode with completely independent plots.
The second season introduced Bubba and Fenton Crackshell and had less globetrotting episode and focused mainly on Duckburg. What's interesting is that they rarely featured Bubba and Fenton in the same episode.
DuckTales was the most successful of Disney early attempts at a high quality animated television show. Disney invested a great amount of money into the show which was much more than other animated shows at the time. It was considered a riskey move because at that time most animated show were low budget up to the 1980's.
Many critics at the time said that Disney's animation studio had lost its magic ever since Walt Disney died but the studio did take a lot of risks which paid of well and DuckTales was one of them. They thought that whatever money they spend on the show they could make back in syndication, which worked well for live action sitcom reruns.
The 1987-1988 season features 65 episode which was the norm for Disney cartoons at the time. The next season (1989-1990) consisted of 35 episode which brought the total to 100 episodes, making DuckTale one of the longest running Disney television episode wise.(The longest was Dumbo's Circus). This paved the way for a new wave of high quality animated TV shows.
In 1989 the new television show Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers was paired with DuckTales for an hour long syndication block. Disney expanded the idea and created The Disney Afternoon, a two hour syndication block which started in 1990.
DuckTales is mainly based on the Carl Barks's Scrooge McDuck stories which ran in many different Disney comics publications. Scrooge was originally just a supporting character in the Donald Duck comic book but was so popular he was given his own comic book series, and soon became the center of what fans called the Scrooge McDuck universe. Many things from the comic books are used in DuckTales like the Money Bin, The Junior Woodchucks, Duckburg and many of the characters come directly from the comics.
However there are differences between the comic books and DuckTales. Scrooge, while still miserly is less ruthless in the show. The pilot movie show Scrooge closer to the Scrooge in the comic books he becomes softer throughout the series because he has his grandnephews, Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter all around him. Other changes include the nephews which were normally in Donald's care is now in Scrooges care, new character such as Mrs. Beakley, Webby, and Duckworth(a strange name considering he is a dog), Donald is almost absent from the series except for a couple of episodes, Scrooge is giving a moral compass where he never uses dirty tricks to get money, he believes the only way to earn it is to get it square, The Beagle Boys now have names which all start with B except for Ma Beagle, and Flintheart Glomgold is now Scottish instead of South African which at the time was a very hot political spot at the time DuckTales was made so they changed it.
The success of DuckTales was great enough that the character Launchpad McQuack got a role on the spinoff Darkwing Duck in 1991, one year after DuckTales ended. Although it was set in the same world as DuckTales, the animation was not as realistic and many artistic licenses were taken. Much of the humor was made by physical comedy and there were Tex Avery type stunts which would be fatal or impossible in DuckTales, like Darkwing shattering in a thousand pieces, or getting his face blown up in an explosion. The episode Double-O-Duck was a prototype for Darkwing, and certain factors were integrated into the show.
In 1996 Disney came out with Quack Pack. A show which brought back Huey, Dewey and Louie with Donald, and like Darkwing Duck the humor was mainly slapstick. On Quack Pack the nephews dressed differently and developed different personalities. The premise of the show was much different as it tried to be hip. There is controversy over whether it is in the same universe as DuckTales even though they both take place in Duckburg in Quack Pack there are humans, while in DuckTales there aren't any, but there were a couple of humans on Darkwing Duck but they were portrayed as creatures from another dimension.