The cast and crew of the upcoming Ducktales reboot were on hand at Disney’s D23 Expo this weekend to share clips and updates on the nostalgic show with fans. If there was one theme in how they spoke of the upcoming show, it was that the production was nostalgic for them, too.
Many cast members shared memories of rushing home after school to watch the Disney Channel lineup with friends or siblings, or even singing the Ducktales theme song in school talent shows. But show creator Matt Youngberg and story editor Francisco Angones said that now that they have children of their own, they found themselves relating a lot more to Donald Duck than Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Building on the core relationships among Uncle Scrooge, Donald and the three boys was clearly key to bringing Ducktales to a new generation. This time around, Huey, Dewey and Louie have more differentiated personalities — Huey’s the type-A leader, Dewey the reckless and outgoing middle child and Louie is the laid-back snarker. They also have a fourth member in Webby Vanderquack, a classic character aged up to be as old as the boys and upgraded from secondary character status to regular lead.
But Angones and Youngberg also seized on a new dynamic for Donald and the kids — when they asked themselves why the nephews would have such a reputation for troublemaking in the first place.
“We said ‘Well, why is that happening?’” Recalled Angones. “Well, their surrogate parent is Donald Duck. And Donald Duck — everything goes wrong for Donald Duck. So he’s going to try to protect these boys as much as humanly possible; he’s going to become this kind of helicopter parent. And so the boys cause trouble because they’re just acting out from his restrictive parenting style.”
“We’re approaching [Donald] as a single father,” Youngberg said later in the interview.
“We call him the Louis C.K. of Duckburg,” Angones added.
They still want to keep the show focused on wild adventures — but to also make sure that it’s about deep characters.
“The core of our version of the show is this relatable family dynamic. It’s part of why we distinguished Huey, Dewey and Louie a little bit further then they had been before; why we incorporated Webby as part of the kids,” Angones said. “We never say it’s ‘the boys’ or ‘the nephews’ as a group because today family means different things to different people. It’s not always a mom and a dad, a couple kids ... What is it like to be a triplet? What is it like to be the friend who’s so close that she might as well be family?”
“And these uncles, these crazy uncles, these father figures,” Youngberg interjected. “There’s a lot to mine for the show. We want to present a family to the new generation of kids, a family that they’ll understand and see themselves in.”
Angones echoed this sentiment at the Ducktales D23 panel, saying “We wanted to represent a world that kids see around them every day.” To illustrate his point, he brought up the character of Gizmoduck, or Fenton Crackshell, Duckburg’s local superhero.
Angones is Cuban, and said that he grew up with only the original version of DC Comics’ Vibe as an example of a Latino superhero: A character who was a gang member and whose powers derived from his breakdancing. He told the D23 crowed that he wanted to make Fenton into a Latino superhero for his own daughters. He petitioned Lin-Manuel Miranda to play the fast-talking, endlessly sincere character, and to his surprise and excitement, Miranda turned out to be a huge Ducktales fan — apparently he can and will sing the Moon Theme from the Ducktales game at the drop of a hat — and gladly committed to fitting the show into his schedule.
Angones and Youngberg are well aware that Ducktales means a lot of things to a lot of people — globally and across generations and media, thanks to the cartoon, the original Carl Barks comics strips, and the immensely popular video game. “Ducktales is a public trust,” Angones said at the show’s panel. “We didn’t create Donald or Scrooge, they belong to everybody.”
Their goal is to pay tribute to all those different Ducktales in their new version.
The series premiere event, an hour-long movie, will air Aug. 12, with the rest of the series starting on Sept. 23 on Disney XD, video on demand, and through the network’s app simultaneously.