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Race Cars, Lasers, Aeroplanes: 15 DuckTales Secrets You Never Knew

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Race Cars, Lasers, Aeroplanes: 15 DuckTales Secrets You Never Knew

It’s been 27 years since the Disney Afternoon last took us to Duckberg, but the newly released premiere of the Disney XD reboot has indicated that life there is still, in fact, a hurricane, replete with race cars, lasers, and at least one aeroplane. And interestingly enough, the final shot of the premiere does indeed solve a mystery, and rewrite history, but more on that in a bit.

RELATED: Rejected: 16 Failed Cartoons You Almost Grew Up With

Let’s face it, for kids of a certain age, it didn’t get better than DuckTales, a show that was both unapologetically fun and engrossingly adventurous. The stories had stakes, the characters had real emotions and motivations, and a slew of memorable scenes and villains (both from the series and the comic series on which it was based) are still remembered fondly by fans today, along with the insanely catchy theme song. Yet, there may be some things about the life of the show and its iconic cast that even diehard fans may not know, so let’s dive in and learn something new. Woo-oo!


In the original series, Donald has to leave his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie with Uncle Scrooge because he’d just joined the Navy. Of course, one might say that was reckless guardianship, abandoning his nephews when there was no significant US military conflict to serve as a necessity for his enlistment. Also, judging by the dates of Ducktales, we can assume Donald likely engaged in the 1989 Invasion of Panama.

Oh, sorry, do you think we’re overthinking the military career of a cartoon duck? You ain’t seen nothing yet. During World War II, Walt Disney produced a series of propaganda films involving Donald Duck, including Donald Gets Drafted and the Oscar winning Der Fuherer’s Face. Decades later, for a 50th Birthday TV Special in tribute to the iconic duck that featured guests like Dick Van Dyke and Andy Warhol, the actual US Military official presented Donald Duck with discharge papers after 40 years of active duty. His final rank? Buck Sergeant Duck. That’s right, Donald Duck is an actual, real life veteran. Kinda makes you feel bad about that comic where Huey, Dewey and Louie intentionally trigger his war flashbacks.


Though Scrooge McDuck first appeared in the Donald Duck comic book story “Christmas on Bear Mountain” as an antagonist, fans were enthralled by the stingy “adventure-capitalist” and soon Scrooge was spun off into his own comic, first written by creator Carl Barks and later carried on by Don Rosa, who decided to flesh out the history of the character in the 1997 Eisner award winning The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

Rosa tells us that Scrooge came to the US with the hope of striking it rich, inspired by meeting the American millionaire Howard Rockerduck, who got rich in the California gold rush. After some excursions to Australia and South Africa, Scrooge finally struck gold in the Klondike between 1896-1899, missing the 1897 death of his mother. By age 32, Scrooge had invested in a bank and proceeded to grow his business empire. By 35, Scrooge achieved the status of billionaire, complete with the iconic pool of gold coins.


Fans of the show may remember Flintheart Glomgold, Scrooge’s envious archnemesis. The two billionaires of different moral standings were locked forever in a battle over wealth and class. Yeah, Disney predicted that Trump/Mark Cuban rivalry decades early. But you may be surprised to find out that, while in the show, Glomgold mirrored Scrooge in all aspects, including the Scottish accent, the comic books gave Glomgold a very different place of origin.

Introduced in the 1956 story “The Second Richest Duck”, Scrooge travels to South Africa to find Glomgold, who claims that he is in fact the Richest Duck in the World. The two desperately try to prove who indeed has more wealth, even determining who has the “largest ball of string” as their wealth is otherwise equal. Indeed, it seems not even a race through the “Heart of Africa” can determine who has more, until it becomes clear that Scrooge’s true wealth is what Glomgold lacks the most: friends and family. Though Glomgold turned up frequently in DuckTales, Disney decided to change his African origins due to the then-ongoing conflict over South Africa’s policy of Apartheid.


Shortly before the DuckTales TV series ended, Disney produced a feature length film based on the show entitled Ducktales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, which was given a theatrical release in August of 1990. To create the film, Disney founded an entirely new animation studio, originally called Disney MovieToons, now known as DisneyToon Studios. This studio would go on to produce such beloved spinoffs as Planes, the Tinkerbell series and the classic A Goofy Movie.

With a box office of $18 million, DuckTales The Movie did modestly well and made back the film’s budget, but suffered from a glut of family films in the summer of 1990 including Jetsons: The Movie and Problem Child. This lukewarm reception caused Disney to shelve all their plans for continuing DuckTales stories in subsequent films, and the ultimate halting of the entire DuckTales franchise, at least until the nostalgia of now-adults who remembered the series willed it back from the grave.


You might have noticed that the font for the poster of DuckTales The Movie resembled that of Indiana Jones, and even some sequences within the opening credits of the original series seemed to be a tip of the fedora to the classic Lucas & Spielberg adventure series. Indeed, it might seem like DuckTales is riddled with homages to the films, and owes a debt to Spielberg’s inventive imagination, lifting scenes for the show from his totally original film series. Well, take that idea and flip it around…

In actuality, a majority of the iconic images from Indiana Jones, particularly the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, were lifted from Carl Barks’ early Scrooge McDuck comics. Just flip open Uncle Scrooge #7 to the story “The Seven Cities of Cibola,” where the Beagle Boys attempt to steal an idol from a platform. Once removed, the platform sets off the temple’s anti-theft device which is, you guessed it, a giant boulder. Is it any wonder they got George Lucas to write the intro to a collection of Carl Barks’ Scrooge comics?


Of course, Spielberg isn’t the only director accused of stealing from Scrooge McDuck. As recently as 2010, folks were finding eerie similarities between Nolan’s mind-bending work worshipped for its originality and a 2002 Don Rosa story entitled “Dream of a Lifetime,” featuring Scrooge and co. In that story, a group of criminals, The Beagle Boys, decide to enter this wealthy industrialist’s dreams via technology to try and gain access to his massive fortune by getting the combination to his vault.

Of course, the Beagle Boys have to be careful, because they could get stuck in the “limbo” of McDuck’s dreamworld if he wakes up before they get out. In the dream, they discover that McDuck is still plagued by his lost love Goldie, and tries to use this dream world to make a new reality where they stay together, causing himself emotional anguish. Eventually, McDuck becomes conscious that he’s in a dream that’s being invaded, and begins to manipulate reality to expel the invaders. Now, that doesn’t sound too much like Inception, right? But if you think that’s bad, you won’t believe that Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight totally stole some ideas from Batman comics.


CBR’s own Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed once tackled this infamous story, but it turns out movie plots aren’t the only thing the Duck crew did first. Yes, once upon a time Donald Duck denied a Dane a patent. In 1964, Karl Kroyer sought to raise a Dutch ship off of the coast of Kuwait. Kroyer, a clever man who’d invented a sugar substitute and a material for surfacing roads, concocted a rather simple plan: by filling the hull of the ship with small, buoyant balls, the ship would list on its own.

Of course, such a brilliantly simple technique made headlines, and Kroyer was quick to file for a patent. Germany and Great Britain approved it straight away, but the Dutch patent office had some concerns: namely, that the exact same technique was used 15 years earlier by that intrepid inventor known as… Donald Duck. In the story “The Sunken Yacht,” Donald enlists his nephews help to raise a sunken ship belonging to Uncle Scrooge, and their solution is to use a hose to pump millions of ping pong balls into the ship. It worked, as Kroyer later proved it would in real life. As such, the Dutch patent office ruled that prior art had depicted the technique, and Kroyer was denied his patent.


So just how rich is Scrooge McDuck? Well, this isn’t just a question pondered by children and nostalgic adults babbling in a drunken stupor. No, real life professionals have puzzled over this same thing, and you’ll be pleased to know they did their homework and got to the bottom of it, even if Scrooge himself never released his tax returns! Come on, Scrooge… an audit? Nobody’s buying that!

In the comics, descriptions of Scrooge’s wealth have ranged from “one multiplujillionj, nine obsquatumatillion, six hundred twenty-three dollars and sixty-two cents” to “five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and sixteen cents,” but fictional numbers are not nearly good enough for math nerds, so they put their estimation skills to the test. Forbes, for example, determined McDuck to be the top of the “Fictional Fifteen” wealthiest characters, beating out Tony Stark, Richie Rich and even Smaug with a net worth of $44.1 billion. As for his famous gold coin swimming pool? If you want to replicate it yourself, Matt Powers at The Billfold estimates you’d need $210 billion to do it.


On the page and on the screen, the self-described “adventure capitalist” has traveled across the globe, but his most impressive journey may have been in the real world. After decades of a cruel Cold War that left folks in the USSR hidden away from Western media and inundated with propaganda about the dangers of capitalism and the evils of the wealthy, finally economics (and David Hasselhoff) tore down the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union collapsed and Americans were able to export their goods, and more importantly their media, to the new Russia.

So, what do you think was the first thing Disney was sure to send over to a nation taught to demonize excess? That’s right, DuckTales was the very first American cartoon broadcast in Russia after the Cold War. Now, one could say that American media has the power to shape minds, but there’s no evidence to suggest that a show whose hero was a billionaire who liked to do everything with his family, cover everything in gold, build giant buildings named after himself and say cruel things about the poor had any effect on Russian attitudes towards who the “good guys” in America are.


If you were a certain age in that magical era known as the early ‘90s, the hours of 3-5pm were reserved for that most glorious of syndicated TV programming blocks, the Disney Afternoon. The shows, with their thrilling stories, memorable themes and expensive animation, raised the bar for children’s television programming and many of the shows have rich legacies that have lived long past their cancellation. But none of it would have been possible without DuckTales.

Sure, DuckTales was preceded by Adventures of the Gummy Bears, but this was the series Disney dumped an absurd amount of money into, earning the same kind of scorn and derision from the established figures in TV that Walt himself once got from the Hollywood elites when he threw himself wholeheartedly into Snow White. Much like that, DuckTales paid off, becoming a massive hit and inspiring Disney to create an entire syndicated TV block. Without DuckTales, we’d have no TaleSpin, no Goof Troop, no Gargoyles, and worst of all, no Darkwing Duck!


DuckTales only produced new episodes until 1990, but the Disney Afternoon ran a full seven years past that. Was there really no attempt to bring those now-iconic characters back into the flock, as it were? Well, if you watched the Disney Afternoon Tuesday through Thursday during the 1996-1997 season, you likely saw the powers that be try to recapture the magic with Quack Pack, but, well…Quack Pack was whack.

The wholesomeness of the Disney Afternoon, by the mid-90s, had to compete with the grittiness of mature fare like Batman: The Animated Series and the edginess of Nickelodeon, particularly rebellious work like Ren & Stimpy. After their attempt at gross-out failed with The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show, they tried to skew “kewl,” reviving the DuckTales crew, but aging Huey, Dewey and Louie into angsty teens, apathetic to the world outside video games and trying their hardest to be Jonathon Taylor Thomas. The end result was a flop, but some of the ideas, like giving the nephews individual personalities, found itself incorporated into the “official” DuckTales reboot in 2017.


Turns out we nostalgic ‘90s kids aren’t the only ones who remember the Disney Afternoon. Indeed, the creative team behind the new DuckTales has a reverence for what came before, as evidenced by their pilot. In addition to being an absolutely thrilling first episode, the series started out riddled with references, not only to previous DuckTales lore but to other classic Disney shows.

For example, they make mention of Spoonerville, Cape Suzette and St. Canard. Who would they have run into if they went to any of those locales? Why, the casts of Goof Troop, TailSpin and Darkwing Duck, respectively. In addition, keep your eyes peeled in the “Wing of Secrets,” where you’ll spy relics from the original series including the lamp from the aforementioned feature film. The folks at Inside the Magic were clever enough to catalogue all the cameos, but best to check it out for yourself and see what you catch on your own first.


One component of the original that unfortunately cannot come back, and will be sorely missed, is actor Alan Young. Throughout his career, he had many notable roles, from his Emmy-winning work on The Alan Young Show to playing Wilbur on Mr. Ed. But to at least one generation, Young is best known as the voice of Scrooge McDuck.

Young first took on the role in the 1983 Oscar-nominated short Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and continued in DuckTales, the subsequent film, and virtually every appearance of Scrooge thereafter, becoming the definitive voice for the character. Indeed, Young had been in virtual retirement since 2004 and well into his 90s, but had been coaxed by Disney to return to his beloved role for two Mickey Mouse cartoons and three video games, including a remastered version of the iconic NES DuckTales game only a few years before his death. Though he’s naturally been recast for the new series, his legacy lives on.


To revive the beloved series, Disney knew it had a tough balancing act on its hands. On the one hand, it had to placate the adults tuning in to a quick hit of escapism and nostalgia while teaching a new generation to love these characters. As such, its creators knew the right cast could go a long way, and this time around they knocked it out of the park.

Disney wasn’t playing around when they called in the heavy hitters, including some contemporary comedy elites like Danny Pudi of Community, Ben Schwartz from Parks & Rec, Kate Micucci of Garfunkle and Oats, and two SNL cast members: Bobby Moynihan and Beck Bennett. Rounding out the cast is Castle’s Toks Olagundoye, and soon Hamilton composer and Pulitzer Prize winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. Oh, and as Scrooge McDuck there’s this guy named David Tennant who’s done some Marvel show and some English time-raveling Doctor show, nothing major. You probably haven’t heard of him.


One question that has plagued DuckTales fans for a long time is just where Huey, Dewey and Louie come from. We know they’re Donald’s nephews, and the great-nephews of Scrooge, but who are their parents, and more importantly, where are they? Well, to get that answer you have to dive into the comics of Carl Barks and Don Rosa.

In a 1937 newspaper strip, Donald receives a note from his sister (or cousin, depending on where you read it), saying he needs to watch his nephews since their father has been hospitalized after a firework exploded under his chair. By 1942, in a cartoon called The New Spirit, Donald is now mentioned as having adopted the triplets, and in the comic strip “Amen!” the trio is seen praying for their parents. Donald’s sister is depicted in two different family trees, by two different names. Carl Barks identified the sister as Thelma, Rosa as Della. The only indication prior to the new series about the life of Della Duck comes from a Dutch Donald Duck 80th anniversary comic, which states she is an astronaut who left her nephews with Donald before leaving the planet.

Did you know these curious facts? What others do you know? And what do you think of the new show? Let us know in the comments!

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