Updating the DuckTales theme was going to be a herculean task. To say the original 1987 series theme song is beloved would be an understatement. It’s a genuine piece of pop culture. It has been referenced and parodied across all genres and it’s probably still stuck in your head even if you haven’t seen DuckTales since you were a kid.
When the reboot series was announced the first question on many fans mind was, “What about the theme?” The original theme was used in the promo video announcing the new DuckTales cast but there was still no word on whether it would be included in the new series.
Back in June the new opening theme was released to the public and it was a smash hit. None of the lyrics were changed from the original and the visuals are nothing short of breathtaking. It’s a high-energy ride that follows Scrooge attempting to retrieve a ten-cent coin (perhaps his legendary Number One Dime?). He’s also got Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Donald, Launchpad, and Mrs. Beakley in tow for the adventure chased by many members of the classic DuckTales rogues gallery.
Throughout the opening we see the characters in an assortment of adventures, ranging from raiding treasure, unraveling a mummy, and even riding a rhino across the savannah! It demonstrates the globe trotting aspect of the DuckTales franchise and gives us a peak into possible adventures for our heroes to come.
The whole thing has a comic book style to it, with the characters jumping in and out of comic pages and many scene transitions using comic panel lines. This wasn’t how the opening theme was originally going to look.
Speaking at San Diego Comic-Con, executive producer Matt Youngberg says they had originally storyboarded out a completely different sequence set to the original DuckTales theme from the classic series. However, once Emmy winning producer Michael “Smidi” Smith composed the current version of the theme with vocals by Felicia Barton things changed.
“It maintained all the elements we loved from the original,” says Youngberg, “but just refreshed it and made it new for a new audience. When we listened to it we were like, ‘we gotta start over again.’”
They tossed out the original storyboard and listened to the drive of the new song and that’s when they thought up the idea a new idea for the visual look of the opening.
“We hit on this idea of a comic book come to life because so much of what we’re doing with the visuals of the series is trying to bring back not just DuckTales but bring in Carl Barks comics and other Ducks comics.”
The DuckTales team certainly managed to do that. The opening theme visuals contain several shots (thanks to Steven Lowtwait for pointing many of these out) that are direct homage’s to the work of Carl Barks, considered by many to be the definitive Disney’s Ducks artist. For those not in the know, Disney’s Ducks have a long history with the comic book format dating back to around seventy years ago.
Barks worked on various Ducks comic series across three decades and around five hundred stories. He introduced or developed many of the classic elements that later found a home in the original DuckTales series. Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie all benefited from Barks hand and without him we wouldn’t have Duckburg, Gyro Gearloose, Gladstone Gander, Magica de Spell, Flintheart Glomgold, the Beagle Boys, and, of course, Scrooge McDuck. Barks also produced a series of painting of the Duck characters.
Youngberg says these homages were done to, “give the audience the feeling that this is more than just an old cartoon series. It’s something with this rich legacy that spans decades. We wanted to make sure everyone could feel that even if they don’t know anything about Carl Barks. Throwing his paintings into it and animating them was an opportunity for people to go, ‘that’s a really cool visual’. Whenever they do learn about Carl Barks they’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that from DuckTales!’ and then want to dig more into his work.”
One shot especially stands out to Francisco Angones, co-producer and story editor on the new DuckTales,
“It’s based on a Carl Barks painting with the family finding all this treasure. It’s a Carl Barks painting, our designs of the Ducks, with the updated theme song, and then a scorpion from DuckTales: The Movie comes out in the background.”
Angones says that shot sums up the show. “We’re pulling from all these different things and putting it into this version of DuckTales that has a little something for everyone no matter where you know these characters from.”
The new DuckTales begins with an hour long episode that will air all day Saturday, August 12, on Disney XD. The series will then debut with two new episode Saturday, September 23.
Everyday Shamus Kelley is out there making DuckTales, woo oo! Follow him on Twitter!
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