Perhaps so as not to age them too much, most characters from the Golden Age of Animation don't have children. But, as is the premise of DuckTales, they have nieces or nephews to either help them cause mischief or to provide someone to rescue from trouble. Mickey Mouse has his nephews Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse; Bugs Bunny has his nephew Clyde; Minnie Mouse has her nieces Millie and Melody, and so on. But of all the cartoon relatives, the most famous are Donald Duck's nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie.
The triplets were created by artist Al Taliaferro and writer Ted Osborne, who introduced them in 1937 in the Donald Duck Sunday comic strip that was syndicated as part of the Silly Symphony package, six months before they premiered in the animated short Donald's Nephews, voiced by Donald himself, Clarence Nash.
The strip explained that the boys had sent their father to the hospital by lighting firecrackers under his chair, and their mother shipped them off to Donald's. Of course, Donald wound up becoming their legal guardian, and the cartoons shifted to him either combating the nephews or Chip and Dale. And as for comics. Well ...
HEADED THE WHOLE WORLD OVER
Collectively speaking, Huey, Dewey and Louie are the 11th most-published comic book characters in the world and, outside of superheroes, second only to their own uncle. There's plenty of writers and artists who have made them stars, from Don Rosa to William Van Horn to Romano Scarpa.
But the biggest of all is Carl Barks. Part of the story team for the Donald Duck shorts when the boys were introduced, Barks transitioned during the war and fell into producing Disney comics, making Donald a put-upon everyman and creating Scrooge McDuck, among many other accomplishments. Under Barks, the triplets usually wore black sweaters, with only their hats to distinguish them: Dewey wears red, Huey wears blue and Louie green ... usually. It was Barks who created the Junior Woodchucks and made the boys less bratty, usually serving as straight men for Donald and Scrooge, although they still antagonized their uncles.
But for all of their comic fame (at one point, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, which featured loads of Barks duck stories, was the bestselling comic in the world), the triplets never really had any significant screen time, until 1987.
OFF TO TELEVISION
When Disney decided to go all-in on TV animation with 1987's DuckTales, the nephews were picked to star, even if Donald was considered too big to appear on television. All voiced by the late, great Russi Taylor, the boys were just as well-rounded on TV as they were in the comics, although the joke of them being virtually alike still rang true.
DuckTales' wild success in syndication led to the foundation of the Disney Afternoon, anafternoon programming block that ran from 1990-1997 and featured shows like Gargoyles and Goof Troop. It was the latter that, along with the classic Donald Duck shorts, inspired Quack Pack, a ... divisive show, to say the least.
Rather than simply being set in Duckburg, Quack Pack had Donald and Daisy as, respectively, a cameraman and reporter traveling the world while also raising the now-teenage triplets.
Quack Pack gave the boys their own voices and personalities: Huey (Jeannie Elias) was afraid of cats; Dewey (Pamela Adlon) was the techie and practical joker; and Louie (E.G. Daily) was a comics and sports nerd who played the violin. However, by and large, they were merely variations on the 1990s "cool teen" archetype. Quack Pack lasted only one season.
Other than being the focus of a short in the anthology feature Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas and serving as the House Band on House of Mouse, the triplets didn't appear much onscreen. But the DuckTales reboot gave them their biggest break in years -- and stole Quack Pack's one decent idea.
Back and Better Than Ever
Premiering in 2017, Matt Youngberg and Francisco Angones' DuckTales reboot retained Quack Pack's idea of the triplets having distinct personalities, but actually made it work.
Of the three, now raised by Donald since birth, Huey (Danny Pudi) is the closest to his 1980s incarnation, only now so obsessed with Junior Woodchucks rules, logic and science that he can get a bit irrational at times. Louie (Bobby Moynihan) seems to be, and mostly, is just a lazy slacker but, deep down, he's secretly sensitive. However, it's Dewey (Ben Schwartz) who's been the show's primary focus. Forever feeling like the overlooked middle child, Dewey eagerly leaps into adventure as a way to prove himself, regardless of the consequences. Throughout the first season, he investigated the disappearance of their mother Della, first by himself, then with Webby.
He didn't tell his brothers until his clue-hunting nearly got all three of them killed. That understandably caused a rift for a while, but the boys worked together and eventually found out the whole story from Scrooge.
When Della (Paget Brewster) finally returned from space, revealing soon after she met them that the boys were supposed to be named Jet, Turbo and Rebel. Dewey was the quickest to accept her.
The second season of DuckTales is still ongoing and, per Angones' Tumblr page, it doesn't look like the triplets are going to leave their new spotlight anytime soon.