What happened to Saturday cartoons?
Waking up on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons used to be my favorite thing in the world, right next to curling up on my Pop’s lap to read the Sunday “funnies”. Now that I have kids of my own, I’ve noticed a really huge gap in great cartoons that are available on Saturday mornings. They seem either too mature for my youngers or way too young.
When we were at D23 Expo, finding out that the DuckTales reboot is going to be AMAZING gave me life, but when I found out that it’s going to be premiering Saturday, August 12, on Disney XD I realized I might be able to enjoy lazy Saturday mornings with my kids again, making pop culture memories a thing of the present, not the past.
The show is going to be great. I’m already super stoked for my kids to see the pilot episode that I got to watch at D23 Expo. You know what I have to say about DuckTales, now see what the men behind the whole thing have to say about it! And watch some fun clips too!
On the pilot episode we saw
MATT YOUNGBERG: We hope you liked it. It was, as we said coming into this, it’s a real labor of love for us. We are, as Frank likes to say, we’re terrified of screwing it up.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Yeah, yeah.
MATT YOUNGBERG: We love “DuckTales” so much that the only thing we want is to present a “DuckTales” to a new audience that gives the audience the same feeling that we had. And hopefully that in 30 years, they’ll be coming around and creating the next version of “DuckTales,” and loving it as much as we love the original.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: I just wanna point out that during that entire screening, as Matt was watching it, he was leaning over to Suzanna, our line producer, and we said, ‘I think we made a couple shots even better.’ See, where, the dedication of this crew to presenting something that lives up to the “DuckTales” names is astounding. I’m very proud to be a part of it.
MATT YOUNGBERG: As am I.
On David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck
MATT YOUNGBERG: I mean, David Tennant seemed to be the natural choice for this. We really wanted to find somebody who was legitimately Scottish. We thought that was really important in this iteration. But someone who had the character to bring this icon alive. And David is an amazing actor. He’s morphed into this role in an incredible way. Because, when you think David Tennant, you think young and kind of vibrant and all of these things, and Scrooge you think of as old and miserly.
But as you can see in our version, he is miserly and old, but he has a youthful energy to him, adventuring has kept him young. I think David has really balanced the feeling of an old character who has a ton of life left in him.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Yeah, he’s you can say he’s the Willy Wonka of adventure. To the point that Matt made, one other thing, ‘cause we know that “DuckTales” is a globetrotting adventure show. It’s part of the reason why in our pilot premier we do half of the episode in Duckburg, which is this amazing adventure local, and the other half going all around the world.
And one of the things that we wanted to try to set up every time we go to a different location, we always want to try to be authentic. So, we would genuinely try to find voice actors. If we go to Egypt, we try to find Egyptian voice actors. If we go to China, we’re gonna try to find Chinese voice actors to bring that extra level of interesting diversity and authenticity, and present a world that kids actually see around them every day.
On modernizing characters, like Donald on a cell phone
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Yeah.
MATT YOUNGBERG: I think our, our approach to that was to just present a world, like Frank was saying, present a world that kids understand and know, but without beating you over the head with it. Like, we didn’t want the characteristic of Louie to be, ‘I have an iPad.’ You know? That’s not his character trait.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: But if Louie is trying to break into a room, he’s gonna do the same thing that every kid would do, pull out a YouTube! video and look up how to do it.
We wanted to be conscious of it without really paying too much attention to it. They’re not gonna get stuck in virtual reality. They’re not gonna get all those kinds of things.
MATT YOUNGBERG: The characteristics of the characters kinda tell us how they would live in this world. For example, if you watch that, yeah, Donald has like an iPhone type phone. And then Scrooge has a full gold flip-phone, because he hasn’t upgraded in 30 years.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: And we felt it was important to contextualize until we actually have a new villain.
So “DuckTales” has all of these rival wealthy billionaire types that are industrialists. And one of the things we love is they always upstage one another, who Scrooge’s rivals are for the new age, to keep him relevant. So, in addition to Glomgold, who you saw in the very last scene of —thisthe cliffhanger for the next episode—who kind of our go-go 80s billionaire. Then we also have a new character we’re really excited to introduce called Mark Beaks, and he is our tech billionaire who cares more about buzz than bucks.
He’s constantly trying to sell the next big innovation. He’s the one person that Scrooge and Glomgold hate more than each other.
On the animation and its comic book/newspaper feel
MATT YOUNGBERG: Yeah. That was something that we decided early on as we started developing the show. We wanted to make sure it still had a hand-drawn feel to it.
We wanted to make sure it felt hand crafted. We didn’t wanna go the CG route because there were a few reasons for that. One was the original series when it was brought onto the air it was it was just a bunch of Disney animators making a TV show, and it was like the best Disney feature animators making the best TV show that they could. And it was an amazingly animated show. And it had the handcrafted feel that we wanted to retain. But also, as we got into developing the show, we looked at the source material beyond just “DuckTales.”
We looked at the comic books that inspired “DuckTales,” that were made by Carl Barks and other artists. And we wanted to be able to kind of harken back to the roots a little bit more. And so, we developed this style, not only in the having it be traditionally animated by hand. But also in creating a style for the world that looked like it was inked by an artist brush so that like it looks like comic book pages come to life a little bit. So, it was really important for us to kind of pay homage to where it came from and make it. And that also to me helps kind of ground it a little bit, and make it feel more tangible and real.
I think if it was CG, it would feel a little bit more artificial, and it would be hard to connect with because you’ve got this world of crazy weird ducks. If you think about it, “DuckTales” doesn’t make any sense. It’s about ducks that go on adventures. But presenting it like a comic strip that you automatically buy into.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: And one of the things we said is that “DuckTales” and Carl Barks, they’re all pulp adventure stories. And one of the cool things that Matt and our art director Sean Jimenez did, is they wanted to actually put pulp in it. So, if you pause and look very closely, everything has this layer of actual newspaper pulp underneath it to make it feel like you are watching a 1930s adventure serial. It’s really cool.
MATT YOUNGBERG: Yeah. It was important that even though it’s hand drawn, but everything nowadays, even when you’re doing it hand drawn, you’re doing it on a computer. So, we wanted to find a way to bridge that digital divide a little bit to make it feel like it was warmer and more inviting than something that was really flat and graphic and digital. So, we put in that pulp, that layer of pulp. And the lines on the characters are a little bit more sketchy. So those things all help it feel that way.
On the character updates and the decision to make those
FRANCISCO ANGONES: So for the nephews, it was one thing. We really wanted to make this a show that was about a family. A big, blended, interesting family that each had their unique characterization so they could bounce off of each other. So, we wanted to push the boys’ relationships a little bit further, and their characteristics a little bit further. One of the things that we said was, ‘All right, well everyone says Huey, Dewey, and Louie, so let’s just make them oldest, middle, youngest.’ Hewey is the oldest, he’s kinda the nerdy responsible one. Dewey is the middle child eager to stand out. Louie is the youngest who likes sliding under the radar, ‘cause he can get away with more stuff.
And then when it came to Webby, the idea was to come at it from a place of character. We were looking at all these old Cark Barks’ duck family portraits, and they’re all very nice. It was like, ‘Well if Scrooge McDuck is our version of Scrooge McDuck is the world’s greatest adventurer, he’s not just gonna have a housekeeper. He’s gonna have a housekeeper slash bodyguard, because people are constantly trying to break into his mansion to steal his money and his riches, and do him harm because he has a very long list of sworn enemies.’ So once we figured out that Beakley was the housekeeper, and she kept Webby in the house with her.
This was a girl whose grandmother, the woman who raised her is incredibly skilled at combat, has all this training. So she would train her and know that she was in for a lot of danger, ‘cause she’s deflecting Beagle boys every day. But she’s also surrounded by all of these artifacts of Scrooge’s life, all of these relics and tones and stuff. And, she’s essentially being built for adventure, but she’s never been allowed outside the house because Scrooge hasn’t been adventuring for a long time. And so, that kind of just naturally came from the situation.
We’ve always wanted to make sure that whatever we did update, it was based on character and story and situation. It wasn’t just kind of randomly like, ‘This kid plays the guitar, and this one has a skateboard.’ We wanted to make sure that it came from a 3-dimensional place.
MATT YOUNGBERG: It was also really important for us as fathers. Frank has two daughters, I have three daughters, and it was really important to be able to present a female character that they would gravitate towards, and not be a character who was written off as someone who needs to be rescued, who is like, ‘Ew, a girl.’
We didn’t want that feeling to come across with Webby. We wanted to make sure that she was somebody that kids could relate to and that’s why we really dug into her character. It’s like, ‘Okay, this character who lives this way with these people, how would she really be?’ And that was really important to us to present a really well-rounded character so that she could go toe-to-toe with the boys and with Scrooge. She definitely stands up to Scrooge.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Because it’s a family, we wanted to make sure that the side characters from Webby to Launchpad to Beakley weren’t just side characters. They were also incorporated into the family, because that’s what a modern family is. It’s not just a father and a mother and two kids. It’s an uncle, and a great uncle, the housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s best friend, and the cousins, and the everything. And that’s one of the beautiful things about the duck family, if you look at the duck family tree and how far it branches out. We’re pulling in a lot of those influences.
When we talk about Hewey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby, we never refer to the leads of the shows as the boys or the nephews. We always say it’s the kids, ‘cause the four of them are a unit. She becomes this sister to them. And just exploring how that happens, opened up a lot of opportunities for storytelling as the season went on.
On capturing the feeling of the original series
MATT YOUNGBERG: One of the big things was, of course, the theme song. The theme song is kind of the litmus for the whole series, uh, our approach to the whole series. The theme song was something we knew we couldn’t fundamentally change. It had to be something that felt close enough to the original that you knew we weren’t just getting rid of things that we loved.
But it would have to have enough of an update that you can tell we were still trying to do something. We weren’t just recreating the old series. We’re doing something different. So there’s a lot of things you’ll see, even in this episode, when they go into the Wing of Secrets, I don’t know if you caught it. There’s a lot of little Easter Eggs to the original series. There’s a lamp in there, and a couple of skeletons that are recognizable to fans of the old series. There’s a lot of things. We weave in these things, and then throughout the whole series, we weave in more from the original series.
We weave in more from the comic books, from the video game. We’re bringing in all of these influences that people have loved for 30 years and still integrate them into the show, but we’re trying to make sure we find a fresh take on it, so it feels like the original, but is created through the lens of modern storytelling.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Especially because we have to appeal to kids who have never heard of it, whose families didn’t grow up with it. We really wanted this to be an all ages experience, but we’ve gotta start with the kids.
And that’s why we set up, as you saw at the beginning of this episode, the kids kind of know who Scrooge is, but they don’t know that he’s related to them. And they don’t know the specifics of his adventures, and they don’t know. Webby kinda serves as like the DuckTales fanboy who comes as like, “You don’t know about Scrooge McDuck?” And there’s a lot of that going on. But it was great to have that take on the boys, because then it allows new kids coming into the show to get sucked into that and learn about that crazy huge history that the property has and that our version of Scrooge also has.
It allows us to introduce it in a new way while still hopefully appealing to older audiences.
On Easter Eggs
MATT YOUNGBERG: We really want to bring in a lot of the things we loved as kids from Disney Ludwig Von Drake makes an appearance on our show. And there’s a lot of other things. I don’t wanna give it all away yet. I think you’ll be excited to see some of them. If you’re big fan of the old series and the old Disney afternoon, I think you’ll be a big fan of what we’re doing on the show.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: If you’re paying attention, there are a couple of places that were mentioned in this particular episode that Scrooge has business holdings in that were not put there by accident.
On getting Lin-Manuel Miranda as Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera/Gizmoduck
FRANCISCO ANGONES: I’m Cuban. I grew up in Miami. So, when I grew up, I was a comic book nerd, and we only had one Latino superhero, his name was Vibe. He had breakdance superpowers, and he was a member of a street gang. And every time I saw Latino representation, even to this day in movies, there’s not a lot of Latino superhero representation, and I wanna be able to give my kids a Latino superhero.
I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the main superhero of DuckTales was Latino?’ Not just a token side superhero. This is our Peter Parker meets Tony Stark/Ironman. As we looked at adapting the character, we looked at the original traits, he always had another idea. He was always fast talking. He was always putting together a scheme. He was very earnest and I was like, ‘This is Lin-Manuel Miranda, and we’ll never get him.’
I had the good fortune to write that episode, and I wrote it as if it was Lin. I was like, ‘Even if we can’t get Lin, there is a Lin-ness about this adaptation of this character.’ And we sent him the script, and I sent him a letter telling him why this was important to me, and I’d been a huge fan of his.
MATT YOUNGBERG: He said he cried, right?
FRANCISCO ANGONES: He said, uh, yes.
MATT YOUNGBERG: Yeah.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Ben said he cried. Yeah. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Ben Schwartz and Lin are pretty tight.
MATT YOUNGBERG: And Lin is a huge fan of the original series. The thing we’re finding that with a lot of the actors around our age is that they’re also huge fans. And, then you have this earnest letter that makes him cry.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: You guys, I’ve never worked harder on anything that I did on that letter.
MATT YOUNGBERG: On that letter?
FRANCISCO ANGONES: That was a whole lot of work.
MATT YOUNGBERG: It was an amazing chance to get him.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: And he’s awesome. And he’s so excited to do it. I can’t wait for you guys to see his interpretation of the character.
MATT YOUNGBERG: The first thing he did when he came into the record was to sing the moon theme from the videogame.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: DuckTales video game used to be his ringtone. And so, he started signing that.
MATT YOUNGBERG: Before we started recording, he just started. He said that should show how much he loved it.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: And then we played the very first episode recording, ‘cause obviously we have a huge cast, we have to record everybody separately. When we got him into record, we usually feed him a line that’s already been recorded, so that they know the context and whatever, and they could play off of it.
And so, we played him a David [Tennant] line, and he stops, and we’re recording. And he was in London at the time shooting Mary Poppins. Uh. And we recorded him and felt that the feed went dead, or that he hadn’t heard it. We’re like, ‘Lin, are you okay?’ And he just goes, ‘That’s Scrooge McDuck.’ And he started to freak out. It’s like, ‘Okay, we’re in a good place.’
MATT YOUNGBERG: His enthusiasm is palpable. That person you see out there being enthusiastic about everything, that’s genuine.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: That is not an act.
MATT YOUNGBERG: That’s who he is.
FRANCISCO ANGONES: It’s great to hear him say, ‘Blabbering Blatherskite.’
On finding out why Scrooge stopped exploring and why he and Donald grew apart
FRANCISCO ANGONES: Now, you all signed an NDA, right? Anything that’s said in here is the property of the Disney TV Animation? Yeah. That’s one of the bigger stories of DuckTales. We’ve gotta solve mysteries and rewrite history. One of the main mysteries over the course of the first season is why did that happen? Why did the boys never talk to their great uncle? Why, if they were an adventuring team, did that fall apart? And there’s some hints of that even in the next episode.
MATT YOUNGBERG: I think thematically we really look at what it mean, as Frank was saying earlier, what it means to be a family. And thematically a part of that is where did we come from?
Like, ‘What’s our family’s story?’ And that’s something in this first season that you really find out a lot more about.