DuckTales is Building a Whole New Disney Afternoon Universe

Denny Watkins
TV Streaming
TV Streaming Animation Disney

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When the DuckTales reboot (watch now on Disney+) premiered 2017, it was counting on an audience who fondly remembered the original DuckTales (watch now on Disney+) which had been a huge hit in afternoon syndication 30 years earlier. Over its first two seasons, however, the new DuckTales has continued reaching back to the other shows that made up the two-hour programming block called The Disney Afternoon; bringing the best of those series into one expansive universe.

It’s a significant change from the separate worlds of the original 1990s series; reflecting our modern expectations for characters to co-exist in a shared fictional setting.

Darkwing Duck (watch now on Disney+) was the only true spin-off from the original DuckTales. The series kicks off when Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge McDuck’s lovable but inept pilot, becomes Darkwing Duck’s sidekick. In Goof Troop,(watch now on Disney+) which premiered in 1992, the connection between the worlds of Goofy and Scrooge McDuck was never made explicit. The only hint of a connection is when the Beagle Boys, who were persistent antagonists on DuckTales, showed up in the Goof Troop episode “The Ungoofables.”

A promotional image from The Disney Afternoon

TaleSpin, (watch now on Disney+) on the other hand, never made any direct connections to DuckTales. Although both series shared a similar animation style along with anthropomorphic animals adapted from older Disney properties (1967’s The Jungle Book (watch now on Disney+) for TaleSpin and Carl Barks’ long-running Uncle Scrooge comics for DuckTales) they were never meant to share a mythology, or even the same time period. In fact, TaleSpin seems to be set in a version of the 1930s.

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers(watch now on Disney+) is set in a version of our own world. In this version of New York City,  the Rescue Rangers and other animals talk and understand each other. They are capable of making their own clever gadgets, but also co-exist with humans who are oblivious to their secret lives. Later Disney Afternoon shows like Bonkers(watch now on Disney+) used quite a few characters from older Disney properties. It was set in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-like world where cartoons live and work side-by-side with regular humans.

The new DuckTales, however, is taking the reboot as an opportunity to shape all these separate worlds from the Disney Afternoon into one world.

In the very first scene of the first episode, “Woo-oo!,” Donald Duck is about to leave his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie on his houseboat for a couple hours. That is, until he realizes the boys are about to steal the houseboat. He overhears Dewey blow the boys’ plan by shouting, “We’ll get to Cape Suzette and back before anybody realizes we’re gone!”

On TaleSpin, Cape Suzette was the home of Baloo, Kit, and Rebecca, a harbor city filled with skyscrapers and protected by massive cliff walls. Dewey seems to suggest that their version of Cape Suzette isn’t far from their home in Duckburg, or it’s also possible that Dewey has a terrible sense of geography and distance.

Cape Suzette is mentioned again in the final episode of the season, “The Shadow War!,” when Donald Duck announces that he’s going to move his family there. Donald even has a brochure where “Cape Suzette” is written in the same font as “TaleSpin” in the show’s opening titles, and it has a picture of Baloo’s plane, the Sea Duck.

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The Cape Suzette brochure in 'DuckTales'

A few moments later in the DuckTales premiere episode we are introduced to Scrooge McDuck. We hear one of his business executives droning on, “With business expanding in the Spoonerville and Saint Canard markets…” Spoonerville was the main setting of Goof Troop, and Saint Canard was the city where Darkwing Duck fights crime. At the time, these quick mentions seemed like one-off Easter eggs for parents who remember the Disney Afternoon from their own childhood, now watching with young children. Those quick mentions, however, turned out to be previews of bigger Disney Afternoon-inspired stories to come.

In the first season episode “Sky Pirates in the Sky!,” a treasure laden Sun Chaser is hijacked by Don Karnage, who had been a recurring villain on TaleSpin. In fact, Don Karnage is the first antagonist featured in TaleSpin’s two-hour origin movie (later aired as four separate episodes) “Plunder and Lightning.” In DuckTales, his singing and dancing pirate crew are still headquartered aboard the Iron Vulture, a sort of helicarrier that also originally appeared in TaleSpin. Don Karnage made a second appearance in the season 2 DuckTales episode, “Glomtales!,” when Flintheart Glomgold decides to unite all of Scrooge McDuck’s enemies to try to finally defeat him.

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The new Darkwing Duck in 'DuckTales'

Darkwing Duck has also become a significant presence in the new DuckTales. In the episode “Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!,” “Darkwing Duck” is re-introduced as an in-universe TV show beloved by Launchpad McQuack. In the second season episode “The Duck Knight Returns!,” Scrooge McDuck is producing a gritty reboot of the Darkwing Duck TV show, and Drake Mallard is the young actor hired to play the title character over the original actor, Jim Starling. After fighting Drake Mallard and attempting to burn down the movie studio out of jealousy, Jim Starling becomes a real villain in the red and yellow version of Darkwing Duck’s costume, Negaduck. (In the original Darkwing Duck, Negaduck was from an alternate universe called the Negaverse, seen in the episode “Life, the Negaverse, and Everything.”)

At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Disney announced that even more characters from the Disney Afternoon would soon join the growing DuckTales universe. They confirmed that Goofy, Chip and Dale will appear in the show’s third season. In fact, all the Rescue Rangers appear on a promotional poster for DuckTales released with the announcement.

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The Rescue Rangers in the 'DuckTales' poster from the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con

Gosalyn Mallard, who was Darkwing Duck’s adopted daughter in the original series, will be re-introduced in DuckTales. Grown-up versions of both Kit Cloudkicker, Baloo’s sidekick in TaleSpin, and Molly Cunningham will also find their way into DuckTales. It’ll be our chance to will finally see how Spoonerville and Cape Suzette fit into the DuckTales universe.

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Denny Watkins
Denny Watkins has written for Vice, Scientific American, Syfy Wire, Health, Details, Maxim, Men's Health, Women's Health, Wine Enthusiast, and Chicago Athlete. He is a nerd.