If you’re Millennial or even a Generation Xer you probably remember the hit Disney series DuckTales. The hugely successful Disney cartoon ran from 1987-1990 and told the hilarious adventures of wealthy yet stingy Scrooge McDuck and his mischievous three grand-nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. The family went on various adventures, often involving searching for treasure and defeating various villains sinister plans.
In conjunction with the original series' 30-year anniversary, Disney has rebooted the series to add new modern updates and a few twists to this beloved classic.
We spoke to DuckTales producers Matt Youngberg and Francisco Angones on how they’ve tried to make the show both relatable to today’s children while maintaining that quintessential nostalgic Disney magic.
The producers are long-time fans
Both Matthew and Francisco are self-confessed DuckTales fans, having grown up watching it in their own childhoods.
“I was a huge fan of DuckTales growing up it was absolutely one of my favourite shows and it is one of the reasons I went into animation. I would come home from school and turn on DuckTales,” said Matt.
“One of the things for both us is that as kids we really identified with Huey, Dewey and Louie, and to now be able to make their own adventures is just great.
"What is particularly special about this it's all about family and to encourage this generation to go on adventures with your family is fantastic. We want to show this generation’s kids an updated version of the show that contains adventures that they can go on with their parents together,” Francisco said.
They've updated a modern classic
Can an 80s toon appeal to today’s connected younger generation? Matt and Francisco certainly think so.
“We are trying to make sure that it’s not just seen as an old-fashioned cartoon. Part of the update we’d done in DuckTales is we try to write and speak in a language that they understand. We try to include all of the things that they understand but wrap it into a classic package. We love the show to have this timeless quality so it can be enjoyed 15 years from now but also be relatable to kids today!” said Matt.
“For the first time ever Huey, Dewey and Louie they have individual personalities so that when kids watch it they will see some qualities that they can identify with. It less just about the traditional adventures and more about finding new spins on the adventures and dealing with familiar tropes, challenges and concerns,” explained Francisco.
They've added a techy edge...
Of course the original ducks didn’t have mobile phones and Silicon Valley was non-existent. But Francisco and Matt are keen to update the ducks with this generation’s tech lifestyle and idols.
“Tech is now part of everyday life and that’s how we weaved it into the show, Huey, Dewey and Louie have access to technology, it’s just part of their lives. But they also play with that a lot where as the nephews will have iPhones and iPads, Scrooge still uses a flip-phone from the early 2000s that’s coloured gold; he has not updated, he is an older man who isn’t into the luxury high-tech items of today!
In the pilot episode Scrooge discovers a clean energy source in some lost treasure, and where there's profit to be made the wily old duck will adapt.
"He is constantly being thrown into contemporary situations so in the original DuckTales he was dealing with rival billionaires that were the equivalent of a Carnegie - oil and steel magnates.
"In the 80s his rival was a personal branding expert, whereas in the new series Scrooge has to deal with a tech billionaire who cares more about buzzwords and 'likes', which Scrooge can’t really wrap his head around,” said Francisco.
...While keeping the nostalgic touches
Neither of the producers wanted to lose the nostalgic visual appeal of DuckTales which Matt believes will still resonate with today’s kids as well as fans of the original.
“We definitely updated the visual style and looks, but we wanted to do something that felt contemporary but that also harked back to its roots in the comic books," he explained.
"A lot of the stories and characters that we are integrating into the new DuckTales actually come from the old comic books so we wanted the look to incorporate some of that classic comic book look.
"We incorporated all of our backgrounds on newsprints, using ink that looked like those used in old comic books pen but we use modern technology to give it these old world looks. It has a fresh modern look because it is being drawn by contemporary artists but we are pulling in things that make it feel vintage and classic."
It's got a star-studded cast
A major selling point of the DuckTales reboot is its stellar cast that sees a Doctor Who reunion of David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Matt and Francisco are particularly enthralled to have Tennant on their rota as the Scrooge McDuck himself:
“The first Scotsman to play Scrooge! And he brings a heightened level of comedy and drama and gravitas. It is very hard to find villains that can stand up to that!” Francisco said.
New episodes of DuckTales air every Thursday at 4.30pm on Disney XD.
Disney XD is one of 60 premium channels available on BT TV along with other channels such as E!, Comedy Central, National Geographic and many more.