In 1985, Walt Disney Animation Television was formed, the first show of which was Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. In 1987, Disney released the Scrooge McDuck-centric series, DuckTales, which was the first show from Walt Disney Animation Television that was specifically designed for syndication. That was followed in 1989 by Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers. Then, in 1990, it debuted the Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block of syndicated cartoon programming that would air on weekday afternoons, with TaleSpin joining the three other shows.
The 1991-92 lineup featuring Darkwing Duck instead of Gummi Bears became the most famous era of Disney Afternoon, as the following year saw the debut of Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men: The Animated Series. Suddenly, though, The Disney Afternoon was no longer the dominant force it once was (it still lasted until 1997, with new shows showing up every year). Since these shows were made for syndication, Disney had a little more leeway with the content, and as a result, the shows would often sneak some racy jokes by the censors. Here, we'll take a look at 15 notable examples from the shows featured in that classic 1991-92 season (so DuckTales, Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck).
15 LEAVE HIS BULBS ALONE!
In the city of St. Canard, the superhero known as Darkwing Duck has fought a number of recurring foes. Five of them even formed together to create the supervillain team, the Fearsome Five. One of the villains on the Fearsome Five was Megavolt, who could control electricity.
He was delusional and believed that he was freeing electrical devices when he stole them.
In one battle against Darkwing Duck, he used his electrical powers to increase the lighting in a store to become so bright that it blinded Darkwing. Darkwing did not stop, though, as he managed to hunt Megavolt down blind. Megavolt then told him to stop "busting his bulbs," which, of course, is a euphemism for a man's private parts. That same episode, Darkwing noted that he sent Megavolt to the Electric Chair twice. Apparently St. Canard has the death penalty!
14 FUN WITH HOMONYMS
TaleSpin was about a fun-loving bear pilot (Baloo, of The Jungle Book fame), whose air-trafficking business in the city of Cape Suzette is purchased by a single mother named Rebecca Cunningham (she re-names the company Higher for Hire). The conflict in the series is about Baloo's laid-back, devil-may-care attitude contrasting against Rebecca's more rigid professional approach to things (basically a riff on Moonlighting).
In "Her Chance to Dream," Rebecca tries to find Baloo at the local bar. She calls them up and the bartender says, "Huh? Where's the hullabaloo? Oh, that Baloo." That's a very clever (if very roundabout) way to work "hell" into a Disney cartoon. We suppose when you're writing for a kid's cartoon show, you take whatever tiny thrills that you can get!
13 FUN WITH ACCCENTS
One of the notable supporting characters on DuckTales was the inventor, Gyro Gearloose (who was one of Carl Barks' many creations to later appear on DuckTales). Gyro was brilliant but he was also pretty much the epitome of the absentminded professor stereotype. In "Sir Gyro de Gearloose," Gyro grew sick of only being the guy who makes gadgets for Scrooge McDuck, so he invents a time machine and goes off on an adventure in the Middle Ages (with Huey, Dewey and Louie along for the ride).
At one point, they manage to defeat a dragon by simply getting it drunk.
In the same episode, they encounter the wizard Merloon, whose thick accent turned the phrase "Work! Work! Work!" into an inadvertent (we hope) curse word (it rhymes with tuck). When the show made it to DVD, the lines were re-dubbed.
12 FUN WITH BIG WORDS
A recurring theme in the various Disney Afternoon cartoons is that they would often play around with less common words by having characters misunderstand and think that the word must be a dirty word. An example of this occurred in the TaleSpin episode, "Sheepskin Deep," where Baloo wants to attend a school reunion but discovers that he cannot since he never technically graduated. So his young sidekick, Kit, tries to help him study.
Baloo, meanwhile, has a sexy hula girl lamp and at one point, Kit asks him how to conjugate verbs and Baloo assumes that "conjugate" is a dirty word, so he tells Kit that it is none of his business. Since it isn't, then technically this wouldn't be a case of getting things by the censors, but at the same time, it's still notable just how dirty Baloo's mind is.
11 ROBOTIC HARASSMENT
In "Metal Attraction," Gyro Gearloose invents a new robotic maid to help Mrs. Beakley with the cleaning at Scrooge's mansion. However, the robot is rude to the children, so Gyro messes with her programming to make her friendlier. As it turns out, it made her too friendly, as she quickly fell in love with GizmoDuck. When he told her that he had a girlfriend, she decided to kill his girlfriend (and destroy Scrooge's Money Bin so that he wouldn't be busy working).
While Robotica tried to woo GizmoDuck, she told him how much he would, "Tickle my transformers. Inflame my insulators. Excite my engines." The sexual innuendos were so much that GizmoDuck broke the fourth wall to tell her to cut it out, as "children are watching this."
10 THE BARE NECESSITIES
In the TaleSpin episode, "My Fair Baloo," Rebecca is trying to get her company taken more seriously by the richer folks in Cape Suzette, so she gets herself and Baloo invited on the fancy "Spruce Moose." Baloo has to learn how to act like a gentlemen. Early in the episode, though, while he is role-playing going on a date with Rebecca (with his buddy Wildcat playing Rebecca), Kit asks Baloo where the woman should sit.
Baloo says, "On her backside like everyone else!" and then slaps "Rebecca's" butt.
Later, when the Spruce Moose is hijacked and it crashes, suddenly Baloo's rough and tumble ways are needed. He has the rich folks sew their clothes into a giant hot air balloon, but he clearly enjoys telling them, "Take off your clothes," especially Rebecca, who he then tells, "On the double, Beckers."
9 BODY HORROR
In the third season of Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, on the episode, "Fly in the Ointment," the villainous Professor Norton Nimnul discovers a way of transmitting his body through telephone wires. However, Zipper the fly (one of the diminutive heroes of the adventuring team led by Chip and Dale) figures out his plan and gets involved, inadvertently ending up with the heads of Nimnul and Zipper switching bodies!
The same thing happens to the other Rescue Rangers, with Gadget and Dale switching heads. Gadget instantly feels exposed since Dale doesn't wear pants and she makes herself a quick skirt (which doesn't make sense, since neither Chip nor Dale ever seem to have a problem with wearing no pants). She is then distraught when she realizes that Dale now has access to her body and has to stop his hands from roaming!
8 THE ONLY G-RATED LOVE SCENE
In the classic DuckTales episode, "Double-O-Duck," Launchpad McQuack discovers that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Bruno Von Beak, an evil spy. So he agrees to go undercover as Beak in this story which bizarrely tries to adapt the adventures of James Bond to children's television. The craziest part is that they actually try to do their own version of Pussy Galore with Feathers Galore.
Let that sit with you for a sec -- they adapted Pussy Galore into a kids show!
There is a sequence where Feathers Galore, in effect, tries to seduce Launchpad/Bruno. It's a bizarre sight to see in a G-rated children's animated program. Amusingly enough, the whole thing ends with a Casblanca parody, to boot! It's like one big parody stew, throwing in disparate influences left and right!
7 FREUDIAN SLIP
One of the most confusing aspects of Darkwing Duck is that when it originally aired, it was not only part of the aforementioned syndicated Disney Afternoon, but Disney also did two 13-episode seasons for ABC that aired on Saturday mornings.
The episodes were technically part of the same show, but they were all over the place, continuity-wise, and seemed to air willy-nilly.
For instance, we met the villainous Morgana McCawber just a few days before we saw her as Darkwing Duck's girlfriend and fellow superhero in the Justice Ducks, which aired before the episode where she officially reformed! In any event, in the episode where she quits villainy, an enamored Darkwing Duck tells her that she is his "prime seduction... I mean suspect!" Smooth, Darkwing, smooth!
6 CHIP 'N' DALE MEETS CHIPPENDALES
It can often be quite amusing to see the disparate people that end up taking inspiration from the same original piece of popular culture. Thomas Chippendale was a famous 18th-century English cabinet maker and furniture designer whose work influenced a whole lot of other furniture makers in the 19th century, as well. Thus, "Chippendale" style furniture is still well-known to this day.
Disney took the name as the name of their two famous chipmunks, Chip and Dale. Similarly, though, when a group of male exotic dancers were starting at a nightclub in the late 1970s, they took their name "Chippendales" from the furniture in the club. In "Double O'Chipmunk," the animators cleverly paid tribute to the strippers by showing Dale putting on a bowtie and a tuxedo-like outfit. As he buttons it, he briefly looks just like a Chippendales dancer (who dance wearing only bowties).
5 A DATE WITH DENSITY
As noted before, as soon as he met the evil enchantress known as Morgana MacCawber, Darkwing Duck was, well, enchanted. However, that did not ultimately prevent him from treating her like an otherwise typical supervillain. His goodness, though, influenced her to reform and she eventually became a member of Darkwing Duck's superhero team, the Justice Ducks, in the episode "Just Us Justice Ducks"
That episode opens with Darkwing preparing for a date with Morgana (it is ruined by a blackout, which leads to the formation of the Justice Ducks, as it is all part of an attack by the Fearsome Five). Darkwing Duck's catchphrase was "Let's get dangerous." As he gets ready for his date, though, he tells himself, "Let's get amorous." We're sure a few parents were fielding some interesting questions from their kids on the day that that episode aired.
4 FUN WITH NUMBERS
Some of the biggest enemies of Scrooge McDuck throughout DuckTales were the villainous Beagle Boys, a family of criminals who were known only by the prison identification numbers that they wore on their chests and their obsession with stealing Scrooge's money bin. In the third season episode of DuckTales, "Good Muddahs," however, we were introduced to the Beagle Babes, their female cousins!
The Babes kidnap Webby to ransom her off for some crown jewels in Scrooge's possession.
The Beagle Babes were named Bouffant, Boom-Boom, and Babydoll. Their prison identification numbers were seemingly just like their cousins, except for Boom-Boom, whose number was 382238, or, more simply put, her measurements (38-22-38). It was a clever way to make her unique among the group, but it was also a bit disturbing to see her body measurements used like in such a fashion.
3 WARDDROBE MALFUNCTION
One of the most interesting Darkwing Duck villains, in terms of powers, was Splatter Phoenix, who was a vain artist who happened to have paints that would allow her to warp reality. She was introduced by trying to hold famous works of art hostage, since her powers allowed her to do things like remove the smile from the Mona Lisa.
She even briefly trapped Darkwing Duck's adopted daughter, Gosalyn, in a painting!
In the episode, "Paint Misbehavin'," Splatter Phoenix decides to "improve" artwork that she finds boring. She creates some minions to help her, but they then turn on her and tear her apart. She recovers (using her paint), but before she does so, we can see that part of her costume was torn - the same part that went missing in Janet Jackson's costume during her infamous Super Bowl performance.
2 THE INFAMOUS RED DRESS
In "Double 'O Chipmunk," Dale decides to emulate his hero, the super spy Dirk Suave. His friends decide to invent an adventure for him to go on, but he then inadvertently got tangled up in a real spy adventure! However, before he actually got involved in the real adventure, Gadget played a part in the fake adventure that she, Dale and Monterey Jack invented and her part was... memorable.
Many a fan still remembers the bizarrely sexualized image of Gadget dressed in a red dress, asking Dale for help in delivering some microfilm for her. When she kissed Dale, he was likely not the only one who was undergoing confused feelings. Even today, "Gadget's red dress" inspires probably way more fan art than it really should.
1 SO DIRTY WE DON'T EVEN HAVE AN IMAGE OF THEM!
As we mentioned earlier, it can get repetitive working on a kid show day after day, so the writers and the animators would often come up with ways to amuse themselves. In DuckTales, one of the things that the animators would do would be to use the backgrounds of Scrooge McDuck's mansion (and the background of pretty much any building) to draw stuff like a duck pin-up calendar (like the old Bettie Page calendars during the 1950s).
The problem is that Disney later caught on and they've since removed all of these sight gags from the episodes once they began appearing on the Disney Channel in the mid-1990s, so we can't really show you what they look like, but just imagine if the painting in the background of this image was a bit racy. Heck, the actual painting in this image is kind of odd-looking, maybe it's something that was snuck by censors itself?