Disclosure: This post is part of my all expense paid trip to Los Angeles, CA provided by Disney. However, typos, misspelled words and opinions are 100% mine.
DuckTales Reboot is finally here! Remember DuckTales? It was one of the best cartoons out there in the 90s. Along with Tail Spin and Darkwing Duck, DuckTales took us all on amazing adventures with our favorite web-footed friends. A favorite show to watch. Even though I wasn’t actually a kid, it made me feel like one! Now Disney XD is bringing back all the feels for both original fans and a new generation with the DuckTales Reboot!
DuckTales Reboot – Everything We Love About the Original with a New Twist
One of the most exciting announcements for me at D23 Expo was getting the official word that DuckTales was coming back! Everyone in attendance got to see the pilot episode, and it was fantastic! From the first note of the new theme song, I knew the reboot was going to be the real deal. So many reboots fail to capture the magic of the original, but not this one! Every second of the pilot gave me all the feels that I had when I watched the original.
Featuring an updated look that still maintains that hand drawn feel that we all know and love from the 90s. It has a look that is just as polished as you’d expect from a modern cartoon, but it keeps that old school feels – just like the rest of the show. In addition to seeing the pilot, we got to hear Matt Youngberg and Francisco Angones talk about the DuckTales reboot and how they wanted to bring it to audiences.
Matt and Francisco on the DuckTales Reboot Pilot Episode
Both Matt and Francisco said that doing a new DuckTales was a labor of love for them. They were both terrified of not doing the show justice, but I can say that they did exactly what they should have.
Matt said they were committed to bringing new audiences a DuckTales that imparts the same feeling that the original did, saying, “Hopefully in 30 years, they’ll (Disney) be coming around and creating the next version of DuckTales and loving it as much as we love the original.”
Francisco followed up, saying that the dedication of the team to bringing audiences a DuckTales reboot that both original and new generations can enjoy was “astounding”. He said, “I just wanna point out that during the 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 of shots even better.'”
On David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck
Matt said David was “the natural choice”. “We really wanted to find somebody who was legitimately Scottish,” he said. ” 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.” He went on to say that David “really balanced the feeling of an old character who has a ton of life left in him”.
Francisco called him the “Willy Wonka of adventure”.
Francisco touched on something else that I thought was amazing. They try to find voice actors from the areas that the show goes to. “If we go to Egypt,” he said, “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.”
On Modernizing the DuckTales Reboot
One of the things that Matt and Francisco did was to create a world in the DuckTales reboot that was modern without being “hey, look at how modern we are!” Just a natural world.
Matt said, “I think our approach was to just 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?”
Francisco added, “But if Louis 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 (technology) without 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 said, “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 said they felt it was important to contextualize the characters until they actually show a new villain. The DuckTales reboot is full of rival wealthy billionaire-type characters. Francisco said, “One of the things we love is they always upstage one another, who Scrooges rivals are for the new age, to keep him relevant.”
“So,” he said, “in addition to Glomgold, who you saw in the very last scene of – this is the cliffhanger for the next episode – who (is) 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.”
On the Animation of the DuckTales Reboot
Matt said the team decided early on to give the new DuckTales a hand-drawn feel. They wanted to avoid the CG route and keep the show feeling hand-crafted for a few reason. One was that the original series “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.” He went on to say that it was an “amazingly animated show” and that they wanted to retain that hand-crafted feel.
He went on to talk about looking at the comic books that inspired the original DuckTales. He said, “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.”
He went on to say that CG would have felt too artificial and it would have been hard to connect to audiences 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.” He said presenting in this style made it instantly relatable.”
Francisco added that they literally put pulp into the DuckTales reboot to give it that comic book feels. “One of the cool things that Matt and our art director, Sean Jimenez did,” he said, “is they wanted to actually put pulp into it. So if you pause and look very closely, everything has a thin layer of actual newspaper pulp underneath it to make it feel like you are watching a 1930s adventure serial. It’s really cool.”
On Character Updates and How Those Decisions Were Made
Francisco talked about the nephews and how they wanted to make the show about a big, blended, interesting family. They wanted to push the boys’ relationship a bit further, so they changed their ages. Rather than be the triplets we remember, they made them “oldest, middle, and youngest”. He said, “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.”
He went on to talk about Mrs. Beakley and Webby, and how they came to the idea that Mrs. Beakley would be the classic maid but also be Scrooge’s bodyguard. From there, it would naturally follow that she would train Webby and that both Mrs. Beakley and Webby would have some real, interesting substance in this version.
“So she (Mrs. Beakley) would train her (Webby),” he said, “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 tomes 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.”
Matt added something that I really adored, saying, “It was also really important for us 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.'”
Francisco talked about incorporating Mrs. Beakley, Launchpad, and Webby into the McDuck family and not just have them as side characters, saying, “That’s what a modern family is.” He went on to say, “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.” He said that was one of the beautiful things about the duck family tree – how far it branched out.
On Keeping the Feels of the Original While Making the DuckTales Reboot
Matt talked about how updating the show was a balancing act between keeping what we all loved about the original but bringing it into the modern age, and that began with the theme song. “We knew we wouldn’t fundamentally change” the theme song. “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.”
He went on to say that it still had to be different enough to show that they weren’t just recreating the old series – that they were doing something different. “So there’s a lot of things you’ll see,” he said, “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 lot of things.” He went on to say that the entire series will have tons of little nods to the original.
Francisco said that the decision to have the McDuck brothers not really aware of all of Scrooge’s early adventures at the start of the show was a conscious decision to show the boys discovering their great uncle’s adventurous side along with the audience.
“That’s why we set up, as you saw at the beginning of the episode,” he said, “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. Webby kinda serves as, like, the DuckTales fanboy who comes in like, ‘You don’t know about Scrooge McDuck?’ And there’s a lot of that going on.”
He went on to say, “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.”
On Easter Eggs Throughout the DuckTales Reboot
Matt said, “We really want to bring in a lot of things we loved as kids from Disney. Ludwig Von Drake makes an appearance on our show, and there are lots of other things.” He didn’t want to give out any spoilers, but he went on to say, “If you’re a 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 said, “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 Lin-Manuel Miranda as Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera/Gizmoduck in the DuckTales Reboot
Francisco took the lead on this answer. He said as a Cuban American and said that “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,'” he said. “Not just a token side superhero. This is our Peter Parker meets Tony Stark/Ironman.” He went on to talk about examining Fenton’s traits and how he was always fast talking, putting together a scheme, and always very earnest and full of ideas. He said, “I was like, ‘This is Lin-Manuel Miranda, and we’ll never get him.'”
“I had the good fortune to write that episode,” he said, “and I wrote it as if it were 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 said, “He said he cried, right?”
Francisco said, “He said, uh, yes.”
Both Matt and Francisco went on to talk about Lin’s enthusiasm for the show. Apparently, Lin is a huge fan of the original show. “His enthusiasm is palpable,” Matt said.
They talked about Lin-Manuel doing voice over work for the show. They give each voice actor lines from other characters to help them put their own lines into context since a cast that big can’t be together.
Francisco said, “We played him the David line, and he stops, and we’re recording. And he was in London at the time shooting Mary Poppins. And we… 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.'”
On Why Scrooge Stopped Exploring and Why He and Donald Grew Apart
Francisco said that this is 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 they fall apart? And there are some hints of that even in the next episode.”
Matt said, “I think thematically, we really look at what it means – 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 history?’ And that’s something in this first season that you really find out a lot more about.”
The DuckTales Reboot is Pure Magic
When I first heard about a DuckTales reboot, I was both excited and dubious. I’m a big fan of reboots when they’re done well. WELL being the key. I can say without any hint of reservation that the new DuckTales reboot is going to be absolutely amazing. The first episode was fantastic, and the amount of time, energy, and thought that the team put into this show is incredible. You can feel the love for the show and the original it’s based on when you watch it.
The Duck Tales airs TOMORROW, Saturday, August 12 on Disney XD. Make sure you tune in!