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Disney's first step into daily syndicated was a success

The half-hour TV series is among the few areas of animation where The Walt Disney Company was not a leader. In fact, it was not untill the 1980's that the studio entered the field, with Gummi Bears on NBC and The Wuzzles on CBS, both broadcast weekly. Its first real hit that area (and its first five-a-day-a-week cartoon) was DuckTales, which started in 1987, based on the old Carl Banks Uncle Scrooge comic books of the 1940's-1960's.

The series first aired on September 11, 1987. Disney broadcasted 65 episodes over a 13-week period. The first five (one week's worth), opened with Donald Duck enlisting in the Navy, leaving his three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie with his Uncle Scrooge. At first Scrooge wasn't happy with his nephews, untill they managed to prove their worth by preventing the Beagle Boys from robbing Scrooge. The series followed the first five episodes with 60 episodes including treasure hunts, thief-foilings, and general humourous adventuring strongly reminescent of Barks's work. DuckTales was such a hit, thatb series two, a further 35 new episodes were produced in 1990. DuckTales had reached a 100 episodes, a first for disney and saws a feature length film released to the cinemas in 1990 titled, Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Disn intoey invested a far greater amount of money into the TV series than had previously been spent on animated shows of the time. This was considered a risky move, because animated TV series were generally considered low-budget, throwaway investments for the most of the history of TV cartoons up through the 1980's. Many critics say that Disney's own animation studio has lost most of its luster during the period from Walt Disney's passing through the 1980s. However, the studio took a number of risks that paid off handsomely, and DuckTales was one of those risks what won big. The studio gambled on the idea that a larger investment into quality animation could be made back through syndication - a concept that worked well with live-action TV reruns, but which had only been used with inexpensive cartoon series that either recycled theatrical shorts from decades past or only featured limited, low-budget animation.

The show took most of the regular characters from the comic book's cast, Scrooge himself; nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie; waky inventor Gyro Gearloose; Scrooge's old flame, Glittering Goldie, even Gladstone Gander; as well as the major villains, Magican deSpell, Flintheart Glomgold and the Beagle Boys. The biggest liberties taken with the cast were to write Donald out and to add an inept pilot, Launchpad McQuack. Launchpad was created for this series but went on to act as Darkwing Duck's sidekick, as well as to appear in an occasional comic book story of his own. Other cast members created for the show's first season were Scrooge's housekeeper, Mrs. Beakley; her niece, Webbigail; and Doofus, a member of the nephews' Scout-like organization, The Junior Woodchucks.

In the second series, two new characters joined the cast, Bubba Duck, a caveduck, accidently brought back from an early age to Duckburg, and Fenton Crackshell, an idiot. Through an improbable series of misfortunes, Fenton became a superhero, Gizoduck, but unfortunatly, didn't become any smarter. He made several guest apperances on Darkwing Duck's show. The show was so successfull that it spawned two spin-off series, Darkwing Duck (mentioned above) and Quack Park, which featured Donald Duck and his slightly now older nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. After DuckTales, the new series for 1989 was, Chip 'n' Dale's Rescuen Rangers, which was paired with DuckTales in an hour-long syndication show through the 1989-1990 television season. In the 1990-1991 season, Disney expanded the idea yet further, to create The Disney Afternoon, a two-hour long syndicated block of half-hour cartoons. DuckTales was one of the early flagship cartoons in the series. DuckTales inspired competing studios such as Warner Bros. to make their own investments in animation with Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.

After the second series and the feature length film, Disney released a series of comic books through to 1991, first by Gladstone Comics and then by Disney itself. The series also spawned two video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and two video games on the Ninento GameBoy, and a PC-CDROM game, DuckTales: Quest for Gold, which can be downloaded from certain online PC gamer sites.

Today, DuckTales can often be seen in reruns on Toon Disney and from time-to-time on the Disney Channel, an of course the feature film is available, and has been released in certain European countries including Holland, Sweden and Germany, The U.K are getting DuckTales: The Movie in july whilst the U.S are still awaiting a release date, allow rumor are, early 2005 it a strong possibility. Although purists will aways prefer the oringinal comic book version, it is the series that most people think of when they hear the name of Uncle Scrooge.


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