DuckTales: The Duck Knight Returns in 1 Episodic Homage
From Ducktales to Duck Knight
Out of the many animated shows that Disney has created, DuckTales and Darkwing Duck are two of the most beloved. Airing from 1987 to 1990, the original DuckTales was inspired by comic book stories from Carl Barks. In which Scrooge McDuck and his grandnephews Huey, Dewey, and Luey go on adventures for lost treasures.
A year after DuckTales ended, Darkwing Duck began its year long run, about average citizen Drake Mallard saving St. Canard from various cooky criminals as Darkwing Duck. With the aid of his daughter and Launchpad McQuack, a dimwitted pilot who’s a fan of Darkwing and originated in DuckTales.
While DuckTales was a straightforward adventure series, Darkwing emphasized action and was more comedic, parodying various genre tropes found in superhero, pulp, and spy stories. Darkwing was an amalgamated parody of heroes including Batman, The Shadow, and Zorro. Every week he fought his accidental Rogues Gallery in a Gotham-esque city including villains like Megavolt, Taurus Bulba, and Darkwing’s doppelgänger Negaduck.
Most of the comedy came from the slapstick fights and physical farces that Darkwing would and his ego would go through. The over accentuated narrations he gives whenever Mallard introduces himself is wholly thanks to voice acting megastar; Jim Cummings’ brilliant work. Even today, both Ducktales and Darkwing Duck are still beloved by fans.
Thanks to this devotion and popularity, Disney rebooted DuckTales in 2017 with a whole new voice cast, modern animation, and great storytelling. Throughout the show, Launchpad occasionally watches or mentions how much of a huge fan of an older Darkwing Duck show he is. The small clips that are shown are new but still capture the wackiness of the actual show and has Cummings reprise the role.
Rise of The Duck Knight
In the latest episode, The Duck Knight Returns, Launchpad learns that a new movie based on the show is being made with Scrooge producing but that it will take a darker and edgier approach. With Dewey’s help they manage to get Jim Starling, the actor who played Darkwing on the show and who has fallen on hard times, to try and reprise the role and keep a new actor, also a fan, from taking the part. Throughout the movie’s production, Launchpad befriends the young actor due to their mutual love, all the while Sterling tries to hold production to the point that he goes insane.
As the movie is nearly completed, Sterling is almost successful at destroying everything until he is stopped by the two fans. Even when he is stomped, electrocuted, and blown up, the young actor’s devotion to Darkwing inspires him to never give up and manages to convince Sterling to stop his rampage. While Launchpad gives a speech about how important the themes of the show were, a piece of the set was about to fall on him before the younger actor tried to save him only for Jim to then save both but get in the way of the falling set.
With no sign of Sterling as the stage is cleaned and production cancelled, the actor reveals his name is Drake Mallard and Launchpad convinces him to become an actual Darkwing due to his durability and heroism. Meanwhile, underneath the stage and in the sewers, Sterling has completely lost his mind, believes that Drake was behind everything to humiliate him, and has his old purple costume dyed red and yellow to resemble and behave like Negaduck while swearing revenge.
The Duck Knight Returns, much like the rest of the series, is fun, well written, fast paced, and filled with memorable moments. This episode in particular has numerous references to not only Darkwing Duck but other similar works that the movie within an episode, is emulating. Surprisingly dark, this Ducktales episode captures everything that what made the show so great.
This Ducktales episode is not without its continuity issues…
While the fact the original show had established Launchpad had full knowledge of Darkwing’s identity, one would wonder how that would make sense. But since the new DuckTales started and we saw Launchpad watching his favorite show, all we ever saw and hear about was the Darkwing character fighting his famous foes with no mention of his daughter, sidekicks, secret identities, or the nefarious Negaduck.
The producers of DuckTales were smart to do this so as to foreshadow that there will be an actual Darkwing Duck introduced in this new universe. Having Jim Cummings voice the original actor was not only a nice gift for the fans. It was also a passing of the torch of to voice actor Chris Diamantopoulos. An important metaphor of how the movie was looking for a new actor like superhero movies in real life do the same and by keeping Cummings as his evil counterpart to show how Darkwing’s ego and loneliness could have led him to becoming evil.
At one point when Drake and Jim are fighting, the older actor grabbed a chainsaw, a favorite weapon of Negaduck. The episode takes many shots at reboots. Especially at attempts to make old properties dark and gritty. This is cleverly emphasized by the fact that the director is an animated combination of Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder, with Nolan’s appearance and British accent while having Snyder’s belief that the lines between good and evil are blurred.
The trailer he makes for the Darkwing Duck movie emphasizes how dark and moody it is without making it clear if he’s protecting people. Other than the stuff dealing with Drake’s heroism and Jim’s fall from grace, the episode has Scrooge constantly tell people that villains need mustaches to twirl. That that color is a fad and Dewey inserting himself into the film while dancing to Powerline. This is such a fun episode, and it’s the type that you probably have to watch more than once to really notice all of the Easter Eggs appropriately littered throughout.
This episode will probably be available via Disney+ (don’t count your ducks before they’ve hatched). For now, you can view the entire Duck Knight Returns episode in all its glory as 90 second bites on Youtube.