You’re probably wondering why there is a new episode 41 up. I’m not a perfectionist but I just wasn’t happy with what I had up before and it didn’t do the show justice. I looked over what I had put together, reworked it, and added some new content. Enjoy.
Director: Tad Stones, Alan Zaslove
Stars: Jim Cummings, Terence McGovern, Christine Cavanaugh
Hello my name is Tracey James and Welcome to off my shelf, a podcast about movies that are well off my shelf. Where we go through my DVDs and talk about the movies in my collection. In this episode Erika was supposed to return to talk about Darkwing Duck but I have yet to figure out how to remotely record an episode in a way that actually sounds good. If you have any notes or ideas let me know.
Anyways, like I said I am talking about Darkwing Duck this week, a Disney cartoon about a daring detective duck that adores articulating in alliteration. That took a lot of effort to say. I didn’t realize how much alliteration there was in this show until I had to watch the episodes back to back. I found it very interesting.
I personally enjoy when people play with language. For example puns. A pun is a play on words that produces a humorous effect by using a word that suggests two or more meanings, or by exploiting similar sounding words that have different meanings. People who know me know that I love a good pun. Actually that’s not true, I love a bad pun too. Friends know they can get me laughing with bad puns especially the daddiest of dad jokes. Like why did the pony not sing at her recital? Because she was a little horse.
But I also thoroughly enjoy some good alliteration; the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Every once in a while I articulate alliteratively amongst acquaintances. You would have noticed this if you listened to the christmas episodes or the halloween episode I give the group an alliterative…lets call it title. The thing is that you have to have a vast vocabulary and your brain has to work like a thesaurus to do it right. Because you don’t want to lose meaning but you also want to be understood. It seems simple but can take effort and that is what I enjoy most about it.
Darkwing also spouts dialogue like a 1950s gumshoe, right out detective novels, pulp magazines, and film noir. That is how you get him saying lines like
“A desperate criminal is at large, and terror runs through the streets like a pair of cheap stockings!”
Its thoroughly enjoyable.
But the dialogue isn’t the only way the show plays with language. There are the names of characters, organizations, as well as locations that are punny, witty, and entertaining.
We can start with Darkwing Duck himself. His alter ego is Drake Mallard. It literally means “Male Duck”. Then there is Gosalyn Mallard. Her first name is a play on gosling which is what you call a young goose. So she is young goose duck. They live in a city called St Canard. Canard is French for Duck. There are also the names of other characters Like Dr. Reginald Bushroot and Dr. Rhoda Dendron who are botanists. Taurus Bulba who is a bull. Vladimir Grizzlikof who is a grizzly bear secret agent. Then there is the super-secret intelligence organization SHUSH and their nemesis FOWL, the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny.
Then you have the names of the actual episodes like Apes of Wrath, Paraducks, Trading Faces, and Days of blunder just to name a few. All references that most kids would never get.
The show was released in 1991, right when how cartoons were being made was changing. A lot of the mid and late 80s cartoons were about pushing toys. As in there was a toy and a show was built around it and used to sell to kids. This was done with many shows including Care Bears, He-Man/She-ra, Glow Worms, Transformers, GI Joe, excetera. Because it wasn’t focused on just the kids wanting toys, it had a bit of room to play with.
This show was an original property created by Tad Stones for disney that emphasized action instead of adventure and was their first show that was a genre parody, taking notes from classic superheros. You can see this in his costume, weaponry, and general schick. He is dressed like the Shadow, Uses a gas gun like the SandMan, and practices his vigilante justice at night like the Batman.
We all know Batman, with his dark brooding behaviour as he puts fear into criminals in the depth of the night, but The Shadow and the Sandman have both fallen into relative obscurity. . The Sandman, not to be confused with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, was a DC Golden Age superhero in the 1930s. He wore a fedora and a gas mask and used a gas gun to sedate criminals. The Shadow is also from the 1930s but he was published in a series of pulp novels and had a popular radio drama. He wore a large brimmed hat and a cape over a suit. Sound familiar? He may also sound a little more familiar because of the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin. For some reason at that time a few studios thought it was a good idea to dust off obscure heroes pulled from serials and make big budget movies out of them including 1996’s The Phantom starring Billy Zane, 1989’s Brenda Starr starring Broke Shields and Timothy Dalton and 1990’s Dick Tracy starring Warren Beatty, Madonna, and Al Pacino. That last one wasn’t that obscure and was pretty good actually. It even garnered 7 oscar nominations and won 3 of them including Art Direction, Make-up, and Original song for “Sooner or later” which was sung by Madonna in a husky seductive lounge singer voice. Despite being too young at the time to watch it, I remember having a Dick Tracy shirt as a kid. Why not? It had my name on it.
The episodes in the show played out just as pulpy and ridiculous as those from the old serials but it was a lot sillier than I remembered. Much more slapsticky. I remembered it having humour but more along the lines of the 1994 Spiderman Cartoon. It still aged pretty well but as an adult I found the story telling falling a bit flat but I think kids would totally still enjoy it.
I mean not everything aged well. There were comments made in the show that made my ears perk up like
“There’s No profit in Nutrition” and “Without paper money the economy will tank”.
Boy were they wrong when they said that
Societal focus has definitely changed since that time and comments like that make it brutally obvious. I mean the nutrition industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that doesn’t just cover consumables like food, juices and waters, but also fitness which includes gyms, sports facilities, programs, and accoutrement to go along with it like gear, accessories, and clothing. I mean huge, established companies completely changed their focus and marketing to get in on this trend. Look at fast food for example where they have added salads to menus and changed terminologies so they seem less of what they are. They have added terms like cafe and bake shop and bistro to their name. There is also the proliferation of gyms. They are big business and are scattered through big cities and small towns alike allowing easy access to a workout or at least a feigned attempt at completing a resolution. All this has a ripple effect that pours into other industries like medicine, fabrication, and construction.
Now when it comes to money, something like 90% of the world’s money is currently digital, so I don’t think a lack of paper money would tank the economy, not anymore at least. I mean, it would definitely have adverse effects if something like 5 trillion dollars just disappears but they could just print more. Isn’t that how they got out of the great depression essentially? Plus, physical money has been slowly disappearing for a while now. More and more people choose to pay for purchases with cards or their phones, or they make online purchases. Soon it will all be digital, it will be attached to our identity and we will walk around with this one thing that has everything about us on it. Wait…I am describing a smart phone…
Back to Darkwing Duck. Another reason I loved rewatching the show was listening to the voices. There are some amazing and prolific voice actors used in the show. Just look at who voiced Darkwing Duck, Jim Cummings. He has been doing voice work since the mid-80s and has racked up over 550 credits since then. He has been part of everything that would trigger nostalgic euphoria in in a Gen X-er including Transformers, The Real GhostBusters, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, TaleSpin, Tiny Toon Adventures, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Winnie the Pooh, and so much more.
He has actually been the voice of Winnie the Pooh since 1988 and the 4th person to take on the task of vocalizing the iconic character. The character was first brought to life on television in 1960 as a marionette articulated and voiced by Franz Fazakas. Who in himself is well known in the world of puppets as he designed, articulated, and did special effects with the Jim Henson Company on Labyrinth (1986), The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Dark Crystal (1982) as well as the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock. Then Pooh was voiced by Sterling Holloway from (1966–1977), Hal Smith from (1981–1986), and then finally Jim Cummings. Cummings has also been the voice of Tigger, my favourite character in the hundred acre woods even though the utterly depressed Eyore comes in a close second.
While looking all this up I also found out he did the voice of shredder on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now you might say, that’s not right, shredder was voiced by Uncle Phil. You would be right. Shredder was voiced by James Avery, a fact I have known for a while but I remember my mind being blown when I found out. But the cartoon, which was on air for 10 seasons, actually used 6 people to voice the character. Avery was the main voice for the first 7 seasons, William E. Martin for seasons eight and ten, then they used alternates to fill in the gaps which were Dorian Harewood, Pat Fraley, Townsend Coleman, and Jim Cummings. My mind has been blown again!
Jim Cummings was also brought back to voice DW in the new DuckTales show that premiered in 2017.
I just have to say, I know I have talked about being sick of people remaking and rebooting things but Ducktales did it so well I cannot complain about it. I thoroughly enjoy watching this updated version and there are a number of reasons why.
The theme song! It is practically the same just modernized a bit like what they did with 2012 TMNT
They did not forget the source material.
The updated aspects of the show does not neglect or conflict with the original source material
The show is just generally well written. It is hilarious! Seriously.
And the voice actors they picked are superb! David Tennant, Ben Schwartz, Danny Pudi, and Bobby Moynihan. I love that I can now hear the difference between Huey, Duey, And Louy but still don’t ask me which one is which.
Before I continue, I don’t know if this is a spoiler or not so I am going to let you know I am going to talk about a pretty specific detail in the new show. So if you aren’t caught up I am letting you know you might want to skip ahead a bit.
Ok so in the new show they did like a Gray Ghost episode. In this new ducktales world, Darkwing duck was just a tv show and they go to him for some help and he is all like I am just an actor, I can’t do anything, and then he turns it around and is like I can do stuff let me help. I found that a really interesting way to bring him into the show but also wondered why it was done that way. I always believed that Darkwing Duck and Ducktales were in the same world, just different cities because they were in an anthropomorphic world, they shared characters, and the visual styles of the shows were similar. So he could have just been a superhero visiting Duckburg from St Canard. But it turns out that Tad Stones, the creator, did not believe this. And that may be why they introduced him into the show in that fashion. To keep their worlds separate but known to each other.
End of spoiler
Sadly they did not bring back the original Launchpad McQuack into the new show. Terence McGovern voiced everything Launchpad was a part of in the 90s including tv shows, specials, movies, and even a video game. Not sure why he wasn’t brought back for the new show but they did use him in another video game that was released in 2013. He has been working in the industry since the 70s but has mainly been doing voice work since the late 80s. But he has been in front of the camera many times. He even had a small role in one of my favourite guilty pleasure films, Innerspace. Its just so much campy fun. From 1987, the movie stars Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. It kind of takes the premise of Fantastic Voyage, also an amazing sci-fi classic, where they shrink people and inject them into a body and then they go bananas with it. I haven’t watched that movie in FOREVER! I should change that quickly.
Then there is Christine Cavanaugh who voiced Goslyn. I found several mind blowing things out about her.
I am gonna start with the sad thing, She died in 2014 of undisclosed causes?! What? She was only 51. That made me really sad.
Then I started going through her filmography. She was the voice of both Dexter from Dexter’s Lab and Chuckie from Rugrats! I mean I watched Dexters Lab excessively. One thing I will always remember from that show is “Omelet du fromage” also dial M for monkey was so great. But I also watched a decent amount of Rugrats so i am not sure why i didn’t put that together before. She also voices Babe in Babe. Confession I have never watched that movie but for some reason the line “That’ll do pig. That’ll do.” has been well known to me for a very long time.
This next tidbit wasn’t a surprise to me and gives me an excuse to talk about one of my favourite shows, the X-Files. She was in one of the best episodes, Small Potatoes. And this is not just my opinion but many people’s opinions. It is on all the lists. Anyways, If you don’t remember It is the one with the guy who had his tail removed as a kid who can change form and impregnated several women and tried to seduce scully. She played Amanda Nelligan, a woman who had watched Star Wars 368 times as it was her favourite movie and she started humming the theme. Which circles back to Dexter’s lab as his password to get into his lab is “Star Wars” but all he can say is “omelet du fromage”. Another tidbit is that the episode was written by Vince Gilligan who is now most known as the creator of Breaking Bad.
There are so many other voice actors. In the pilot episode alone there was Tim Curry and Marcia Wallace. Tim Curry voiced the first bad guy introduced in the series, Taurus Bulba, who was only in 3 episodes. We all know him from his amazing ability as a character actor. From rocky horror picture show, to Clue, to legend, to It and so much more. But he has done a lot of voice work as well. He has done voices in Tailspin, Batman the animated series, Gargoyles, Freakazoid, Duckman and a bunch more. One thing that blew my mind was that he did voice work on Wing Commander 3. The game that was ruined by the horrible movie that starred Freddie Prinze Jr. but was the first movie to have the perfected technique that people now call “bullet time”. Yeah, no, it wasn’t the matrix. It was just used way better in the Matrix. I mean both movies were released the same year, even the same month, but just a couple weeks before. Anyways, another person who did voice work in Wing Commander is Mark Hamil. He voiced Christopher Blair aka Maverick. And now we are back to star wars.
Marcia Wallace, do you know who that is? It’s Mrs. Krabappel! She is in the pilot for like 2 mins and as soon as she spoke I was like Mrs Krabappel! Her voice is so distinctive. I knew it instantly. After the 2-parter pilot she only comes back for 2 more episodes.
There was also another Simpson’s alum, Dan Castellaneta, Who is the voice of Homer and a bunch of other characters including Krusty, Groundskeeper Willie, Itchy, and sideshow mel. In Darkwing duck he voiced the regular villain Megavolt showing up in 21 episodes of the show. Actually that was the villian that showed up the most in the series. I didn’t know this but it really isn’t that much of a surprise but he also was the voice of the Robot Devil on the other Matt Groening show Futurama. He also did a few voices in the Rugrats franchise so he would have worked with Christine Cavanaugh.
Frank Welker, who I talked about in the last episode was also a decent part of the show as he shows up in 18 episodes as a variety of characters.
There is also Michael Bell, who voiced Quackerjack. Like Jim Cummings his filmography is filled with everything nostalgic. He has been acting since the 50s and was doing voice work since the late 70s, amassing a filmography of over 350 credits. He did voice work in Captain Planet, GI Goe, Gargoyles, Smurfs, and so much more.
He is also my Star trek connection! I mean him being on Gargoyles is practically a star trek connection as a bunch of Star Trek main cast did voices on the show including Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Kate Mulgrew and Nichelle Nichols. But Frank Welker and Jim Cumming both did voices on gargoyles as well. What makes Bell a proper connection is that he was actually in episodes of star trek. He was in “Encounter at far point” the first episode of TNG. He was also in 2 episodes of DS9 “The homecoming” and “The Marqui: Part 2” from season 2. And then he did voices in a couple video games. They weren’t all the same character.
While scrolling through the list of voice actors I found another connection that I didn’t realize was there because it was not part of the boxset that I have. Rene Auberjonois aka Odo did a voice in one of the later episodes of the show.
Rob Paulsen was also part of the show voicing the agent of FOWL, Steel beak. When I first heard him I was like. I know that voice but I couldn’t quite place it so when I looked him up it made so much sense. He’s the voice of Yakko Warner – you know, from Animaniacs. As soon as I read that I was like, YES that is what it is. And Yakko’s World popped right into my head.
United states, canada, mexico, panama, haiti, jamaica, peuro, republic dominican, cuba, caribbean, greenland, elsalvador too.
That was totally from memory.
Side note, well I guess this would be a side note to the side note. I had to look up some stats about the song.
The song was written by Randy Rogel who wrote for Animaniacs and Batman the animated series
The song first aired in 1993 and though covering most of the countries of the world it missed over 50 of them
Despite missing a bunch of countries it references several countries more than once by mentioning regions, territories, and cities.
There are 3 countries mentioned incorrectly. Trinidad and Tobago is just mentioned as Tobago (As a Trini I noticed), Papua New Guinea is just called New Guinea which is an island grouping that is partially part of Indonesia. Gambia and Bahamas should technically be The Gambia and The Bahamas.
A bunch of new countries have been created since this song’s release and there was an update to the song in 2017 that tried to rectify that but there are still many places missing from the song.
There was a ton more stuff which is fascinating but you can check out the Animaniacs Wiki for the rest.
But scrolling through all of Paulsens 515 credits on IMDB I was like what?! He didn’t just voice Yakko but also Pinky as well as several other voices. He was also a part of GI Joe, Jem, Transformers, Chip-N-Dale rescue rangers, Spiderman, The Tick (He was Arther!), Dexter’s Lab, Johnny Bravo, Power Puff Girls, Phineas and Ferb, Rick and Morty, and the list goes on and on.
It blows my mind how many shows some of these people are in. But I guess that is a testament of how good they are at their job. I mean, I love H Jon Benjamin and Seth Green and Kristen Schaal, but they sound pretty much the same in everything they do. So you hear them and are like that’s this person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the work that they do In Bob’s Burgers, and Archer, and Family Guy, And TMNT, and Gravity Falls and so much more but their distinct voices are easily picked out. Where as some of the people listed above I would never have guessed as their ability to manipulate their voices is mindblowing.
Also can I just mention how I totally enjoy the theme song. This was during the time when they put serious effort into theme songs which is a practice that waned for a while but I have noticed is something that is coming back. Theme songs didn’t just open the show they also gave a background to the characters and set up what you were going to watch. They got you excited, pumped. This is one of the reasons why I will always say that the ThunderCats theme is the best cartoon theme song. It is so hype.
Thundercats are on the move
thundercats are loose
Feel the magic
Hear the roar
Thundercats are loose
It is closely followed by the 1960s Spiderman theme song but the Darkwing theme is totally in the top 10.
Before people get all up in arms yelling, What about batman! And The simpsons! Those themes are amazing!! That is true, I totally agree with you but I am looking at lyrical content coupled with the music. But if we are including just music Batman would be first, followed by thundercats, the simpsons, then spiderman. And gravity falls would have to be in there somewhere oh and X-Men and TMNT. There are so many that are so good! I almost forgot Tailspin and Jem and Steven Universe, and Ducktales and the list goes on!
I wonder which one is gonna be stuck in your head for the rest of the day?
I remember waking up blurry eyed at 6am on a saturday morning, something I now consider tourure that would never wish on my worst enemy, clicking on and staying glued to the television until 10. It got you going and you lived off that show high for the rest of the day. Running around and going nuts. But this is an experience and concept that generations to come will never understand. The last official airing of “Saturday morning cartoons” ended in september of 2014. Most people probably didn’t notice, as how we consume shows and media in general has changed so much. But with the advent of channels dedicated to animation and kids programming as well as on-demand and streaming services it was deemed unprofitable or not worthwhile by most networks. If you wake up early on a saturday most channels run infomercials now. What a waste of airtime! But those were good times.
I guess I haven’t talked about the boxset or the actual episodes. I have the Darkwing Duck volume one boxset that, according to the packaging, was released in 2006. It covers the first 27 episodes of the series including the 2-parter pilot “Darkly Dawns the Duck” – the alliteration started early – and ends at “Smarter Than a Speeding Bullet” I was surprised that the show only had 91 episodes overall and was originally aired in 1991 and 1992. I could have sworn this show was easily on for 5 to 6 years with a lot more episodes. But I guess as a kid you aren’t really paying much attention to that kind of thing plus with reruns it may have been exactly that.
In the pilot we don’t actually get an origin story for Darkwing Duck. When we are introduced to him he is already a vigilante for justice stopping evil doers in St Canard. We catch up with him on his nightly rounds and you see the kind of antics he gets into. But it seems he is more interested in making a name for himself like Booster Gold than just for the good of the city like Daredevil.
But what you do get in this episode is DW picking up his sidekicks, Goslyn and Launchpad. I have to say, Launchpad’s involvement isn’t really that interesting. He is just a guy who thinks he will be a good sidekick and then keeps showing up and doing stuff until DW says fine, sure, you’re my sidekick. But Goslyn’s intro was something I did not remember. I always thought she was simply Drake Mallard’s daughter but it isn’t that simple. She is actually adopted by Mallard at the end of the 2 part pilot after they bond when he saves her. But it is immediately clear that her spunky attitude mixed with adorable charm will get them into some fun antics throughout the show. He also cancels the plans of the first noteworthy bad guy, Taurus Bulba. Up until that point he had been despatching the antics of penty thieves and lackies.
In the next episode you get one of the few villian stories that have an origin. You are introduced to Dr. Reginald Bushroot, a lovestruck botanist who wants to be more like plants by being able to absorb nutrients and energy from the sun and the air around him. He gets his wish when he tries a concoction he developed on himself turning him into a half duck/half plant that can control plants. He is like a much goofier version of poison Ivy. But he is mainly out to get revenge on his ex-employer, mean ex-co-workers, and to profess his love for the one person who was kind to him, fellow botanist Dr. Rhoda Dendron.
Most other villians already exist in the world and you just go on an action filled adventure as DW thwarts their diabolical and regularly illogical deeds. There is Lilliput Goony that is like an evil Antman, as he controls ants and can shrink things, and his plot is to just shrink buildings, steal from them, and make them part of his mini-golf course. When you meet SteelBeak, an agent of FOWL who is more of a Bond villain than a cartoon villain, he is trying to flood a desert to get access to a kingdom rich with oil called Oil Rabia. Real subtle. Megavolt, has the power of electrokinesis and is not quite right. His thing is he wants to free anything that is powered by electricity as he believes they have been enslaved by mankind or should I say duck kind? There is also QuackerJack. Like Batman’s Joker, he is a jester that has manic mood swings and likes to fight with toys. But unlike the joker this jester dresses in motley, is a lot less deadly, and has clear goals, To get money, get his toys back on the market, and squash the competition.
Though taking influence from many comic heros and villians all this was softened and adjusted for the impressionable minds of the young audience that would be watching it. There were no deep conspiracies, or sexual innuendo, or dark underbelly. Well there are always dark aspects of shows/movies like this because they are supposed to show triumph and perseverance and you have to have something to overcome to get that across. So there are sad aspects like the death of loved ones, bullies, insecurities, mental instability, and defeats but this is all buried in brightly coloured, flamboyantly animated, slapstick adventures that involve mutants, aliens, vampire potatoes, cocktail making gorillas, and even Evil Elvis impersonators.
To recap, Darkwing Duck has aged surprisingly well. Though some of the content is out of date and the antics silly, the show overall is still fun to watch with decent story lines and great voicework. I think little kids would get a kick out of being introduced to a show like this and parents would feel the calm of a nostalgic euphoria.
Well, I guess that’s it for this episode of off my shelf, again. Until next time you can follow along on twitter and instagram @omyshelf or you can send me emails at omyshelf@ gmail.com
Off my shelf will be back on May 4th when we will be talking about highschool shenanigans and teenage rebellion with Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont high.
Hope you’ll be here to listen.
Music: Loop of the Darkwing Duck Theme