If you grew up in the late '80s and early '90s, chances are you remember 'DuckTales.' The animated adventures of the ridiculously wealthy Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie were Disney's first big TV hit in decades, and they made sure the show and its characters were everywhere. Whether you're a Duck fan from way back eagerly anticipating the upcoming update to the classic NES video game or you wouldn't know Scrooge's Number One Dime from any other ten-cent coin, these fun facts from the history of 'DuckTales' will get you up to speed while you try to get that catchy theme song out of your head.
Uncle Scrooge First Appeared in the Comics
Scrooge was born in the comics, specifically those written and drawn by the legendary Carl Barks. Though he began life as a cantankerous old misanthrope in the story 'Christmas on Bear Mountain,' he quickly evolved into the adventurous old duck we know and love.
The basic premise of 'DuckTales,' along with many of the characters, locations, and concepts from the show, are straight out of the Barks' comics. Barks even has a writing credit on some episodes (like 'Back to the Klondike') that are directly adapted from his stories.
There are Four Versions of the Theme Song
Everyone who's ever heard it -- even just once -- knows the 'DuckTales' theme song. But did you know that there are four different versions of it?
There's the one most people are familiar with: a single verse, chorus, bridge and the final chorus. The Disney afternoon version is slightly shorter, with the first line of the chorus removed. A version heard on read-along cassette tapes includes an instrumental section and an additional chorus. The longest one is the rarely heard full version in the video above, which includes a guitar solo, a fadeout ending, and an additional verse:
When it seems they're headed for the final curtain, cool deduction never fails, that's for certain. The worst of messes become successes!
There's some debate about whether it's "cool deduction" or "bold deduction." Listen and tell us what you think.
Donald's in the Navy Now
Despite the series' heavy reliance on the Barks comics for inspiration, a few things were added or changed from the source material. For example, in most Uncle Scrooge comic book stories, Donald was along for the ride. But the decision was made early on to focus 'DuckTales' on Scrooge and the nephews.
Still, the show's creators felt that they had to account for Donald's absence, so they had him join the Navy. This left him unable to look after Huey, Dewey, and Louie, so the three young ducks went to live with their Uncle Scrooge. Thus the era of Donald as a deadbeat duck dad begins.
Scrooge knows Mister Ed
Since 1974, Scrooge McDuck has been voiced by Alan Young. Fans of classic TV know Young as Wilbur Post, the human half of the man and talking horse duo on 'Mister Ed.' The 93-year-old Young will be voicing Scrooge once again in the updated version of the 1989 'DuckTales' video game, due out later this year.
The Duck Family Tree Exists
Perhaps you're wondering how all of these Duck family relations work out. Is Scrooge Donald's uncle, or Huey, Dewey, and Louie's? Fortunately, there is a definitive Duck family tree, lovingly illustrated by the amazing artist Don Rosa. As this detail from the full version shows, Donald is the son of Quackmore Duck and Scrooge's sister, Hortense McDuck. Huey, Dewey, and Louie are the sons of Donald's sister Della (called 'Dumbella' in their debut cartoon) and a never seen, seldom mentioned father. Scrooge is their great-uncle.
Which Nephew is Which?
Speaking of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, did you ever wonder which nephew is which? It doesn't really matter, since they're almost always treated as interchangeable. There are a couple of mnemonic devices to help you remember what color goes with what nephew, including this one from Disney archivist Dave Smith:
Huey is in red because red is the brightest "hue." Dewey wears blue, the color of "dew," a.k.a. water. That "leaves" Louie, the nephew wearing leaf green.
Hungary Has a 'DuckTales Generation'
'DuckTales' was a hit with children all over the world, but only Hungary has it's very own "DuckTales generation." The term, Kacsamesék generáció in Hungarian, refers to people born in the first half on the 1980s. In 1993, an episode of 'DuckTales' was interrupted by the announcement that Hungary's first democratically elected Prime Minister had died, giving the young audience an unexpected first encounter with the world of politics.
Flintheart was an Afrikaner
Another change from the Barks comics involves the nationality of Scrooge's rival Flintheart Glomgold, the second richest duck in the world. In 'DuckTales,' Flintheart shares Scrooge's Scottish background. But in the comics, he's an Afrikaner: a South African with primarily European ancestry.
Since tension between South Africa and the international community over apartheid had come to a head when 'DuckTales' was airing, Disney was not keen on having a character -- villainous or otherwise -- who called South Africa home. So Flintheart became a Scott.
'TaleSpin' was never a Launchpad Spin-Off
Contrary to popular belief, the 'Tale' in 'TaleSpin' is not an indication that the show was originally planned as a 'DuckTales' spinoff starring crash-prone pilot Launchpad McQuack. The rumor comes from a misunderstanding of a statement from 'TaleSpin' co-creator Jymn Magon. Magon recalled an old idea from 'DuckTales' in which Launchpad was an independent cargo pilot, as opposed to Scrooge's personal pilot. The abandoned concept was part of the inspiration for 'TaleSpin,' but Launchpad was never considered for the starring role. Launchpad did eventually leave Duckburg for St. Canard, becoming Darkwing Duck's sidekick.