Something really weird happened in the late eighties and then all throughout the nineties. It happened subtly on nearly every children’s broadcasting station. Disney, Warner Bros, Cartoon Network, and a slew of movies and commercials were all dominated by one animal: the duck.
Take a minute to think about how many cartoon ducks you have seen in your life. On Disney alone there were over 50 characters who had a beak. It is pretty bold to flood your network with ducks, and even more impressive that someone at Disney had to think of over 50 duck themed puns to name all the characters. Just take a look at these names and tell me some guy at Disney didn’t want to hang himself: Webby Vanderquack, Quackmore Duck, Gosalyn Mallard, Canard Thunderbeak?
A lot of this started with the travesty of a film that is Howard the Duck. The film version of the absurd Marvel comic came out in 1986, and since then, has graced bad movie nights across the country for years. I have a theory that some guy over at Disney was really into this movie. This dude saw it like 6 times in theaters, has some serious theories about the spectroscope, and probably still gets a hard on when he thinks about duck tits. This is the only theory I have as to why ducks ruled the nineties with an iron beak. Get it? Beak? Cause like, ducks have beaks? Puns are cool right?
DuckTales played a big part in the mallard domination over at Disney. Scrooge McDuck and his badass great-nephews Huey, Dewey,and Louie set the standard for what a great cartoon should be. It was Disney’s first syndicated cartoon, and it paved the way for a lot of the great shows that came out when I was growing up. If it wasn’t for DuckTales there would be no Rescue Rangers or Tailspin! Another important aspect of DuckTales was that it set up a separate universe within Disney. The writers and animators had more room for creativity because they had the DuckTales universe to work in. Because of the success of DuckTales, Disney made two spin-offs. Quack Pack was Disney’s failed attempt to reach teenagers. But the second spin-off may have been one of the greatest genre parodies of the decade, Darkwing Duck.
Fact: When there’s trouble you call D.W.
Darkwing Duck was the Green Hornet, Inspector Gadget, and Batman all rolled into one. This was the show you would wake up super early on a Saturday for. It had action, great characters, and tons of references that cartoon hungry kids would catch. I think Darkwing Duck may be responsible for my elitism when it comes to pop culture references. The seven year old version of me loved it when I picked up a Batman joke that only I caught. Darkwing Duck is the reason I enjoy Robot Chicken so much. The show borrowed a few favorites from DuckTales, most notably Launchpad. Launchpad was Disney’s Chewbacca- you never really knew what he was saying, but he was big and made funny noises so you loved him. Darkwing Duck was about as cool as Disney ever got. In a time before Lizzie McGuire and Hannah Montana were spewing preteen garbage all over the network, cartoon ducks used to run that shit.
When you also factor in movies like The Mighty Ducks and Babe (Ferdinand was clearly the star of that movie), and how awesome Golduck is, it is pretty clear how important ducks were for the last few decades. I don’t know why it happened, but its undeniable that the young culture of America really responded to duck humor without even realizing it. The last vestige of our love affair with aquatic birds is in the form of that annoying duck from the Aflac commercials. If you ask me, I would gladly trade the Jonas Brothers for another show about millionaire mallards or crime fighting water fowl.