DuckTales and several Doctor Who fans staked out the 1000-person capacity room at the San Diego Convention Center for hours beforehand to attend the panel dedicated to Disney XD’s relaunch of DuckTales. The panelists were met with an enthusiastic roar from the crowd: executive producer, Matt Youngberg; co-producer and story editor, Francisco Angones; the voice of Scrooge McDuck and former 10th Doctor, David Tennant; the voice of Launchpad McQuack and Saturday Night Live alum, Beck Bennett; the voice of Mrs. Beakley, Toks Olagundoye; the voice of Webby Vanderquack, Kate Micucci; the voice of Dewey, Ben Schwartz; and the voice of Huey, Danny Pudi. The loudest roar went to David Tennant due to the crossover fans he had in the audience.
Earlier this year, Youngberg and Angones said they approached the DuckTales reboot on the premise that the show is about a family of adventurers, but the audience really didn’t get to know the family that much. Both were massive fans of the original show back in the 90’s when they were kids, and they had the chance now to capture the feeling they had as fans for their kids through the new show. They both related to Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby back in the day, but now, with kids of their own, they relate more to Donald Duck. The core of the new show is exploring the family dynamic, especially given the legacy the Disney Duck family has had in the comics and beyond over the years. In fact, at the beginning of the show, Huey, Dewey, and Louie don’t know they’re related to the great adventurer Scrooge McDuck, which was the perfect angle to introduce the new audience to the huge Duck family legacy.
Another key to the new show is that Huey, Dewey, and Louie now have a birth order, with Huey being the oldest, Dewey in the middle, and Louie the youngest. Although it has never been mentioned in any of their previous incarnations, giving the triplets a birth order would help dictate each nephew’s distinct personality, which also has never been explored before. Looking at their own families for traits associated with the oldest, middle, and youngest children helped shape each nephew. For instance, being the oldest meant being the responsible one, being in the middle meant wanting to stand out from your other siblings, and being the youngest meant being able to slide under the radar and get away with more things. These are just some of the characteristics Youngberg and Angones wanted to infuse into Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
Whether any of the trio’s characteristics actually mimic the relationship between the actors playing the trio is debatable, according to Danny Pudi who plays Huey. Pudi did admit there is a similar bit of rivalry between him and Ben Schwartz as between their characters Huey and Dewey, and this is at least partially because the two had worked together before both in the recording studio together and on Parks and Recreation. Both have yet to record with Bobby Moynihan, who voices Louie, since Moynihan records his sessions in New York where he lives, while the others record in Los Angeles. Pudi also said he’s like Huey in that he likes lists, wearing baseball caps high on his head, and planning family vacations. Schwartz sees Dewey as someone who jumps into adventure and goes bananas to stand out, which is not something he would do himself. Schwartz said having both Dewey and Huey constantly and impulsively jumping into things makes the dynamic between him and Pudi really fun, while Louie just wants to sit and watch TV all day instead. Supposedly, that makes everyone like Louie a bit, especially the audience at Comic-Con. Schwartz likened it to Sex in the City where everybody can relate to one character in the show.
As for Scrooge McDuck himself, David Tennant said he never gets the full picture of who Scrooge really is, but he is learning bit by bit as each episode reveals a little bit more about him and his vast past. When Tennant asked about Scrooge’s age, all Angones could say is that it’s higher than anyone expects it to be. There are just so many adventures and skeletons in Scrooge’s closet that Tennant likened him as a rolling enigma (much like himself, which he jokingly added). When asked if Tennant did any money-related research for the role, Tennant answered no, but that he did live with a bunch of mallards for a fortnight.
Like many people on the panel, Beck Bennett is also a huge fan of the original DuckTales, quipping that his new job would supposedly ‘spaz’ out his younger self. Bennett said Launchpad’s lovability is because he’s a sharp dresser and very smart. Jokes aside, Bennett said Launchpad is full of heart who loves Scrooge and the entire Duck clan, and where his attempts to help messes everything up which he considers to be a job well done. Bennett added that being so fully confident enjoying what he’s doing despite his mistakes makes Launchpad a lovable guy.
In this version of DuckTales, Mrs. Beakley isn’t just a kindly old housekeeper, but Scrooge’s bodyguard as well. Toks Olagundoye, Mrs. Beakley’s voice, said she basically gets into character through the script and direction. Olagundoye also said she’s quite Beakley-esque in the booth in that she’s rather stoic when giving her lines, even when action is involved. Meanwhile, Mrs. Beakley’s granddaughter, Webby, turns the nephew trio into a quartet, giving her a much bigger role than the original DuckTales. In fact, in this version, Webby is a Scrooge McDuck superfan with a set of survival skills who has never left the house before becoming part of the Duck clan. Kate Micucci, the voice of Webby, said she was already really excited when she got cast and feels that Webby is a true adventurer at heart who is just as excited as she is just to be part of it all.
When asked what the phrase “new generation” means for the show, Youngberg said it means their kids and the kids of the people who watched the original version who want to share their love of the show; hopefully, they too will share this version with their kids as well. Angones said the message is that they wanted to make a version of the show that they would be proud to show to their kids because they love the original version of the show and hope the audience will love their version as well. Angones added that everyone has a version of the characters in their heads whether it’s from the original TV show, the videogames, or the Carl Barks comics, and they just want to share their love of those characters with the new generation. Angones likened it to passing on a family legacy to the next generation. Angones added that he hopes kids will get into the show through Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby while their parents can get into the show via Scrooge and Donald, and he jokingly added that the pilots can get into the show via Launchpad and buttkicking housekeepers can watch while defending the house from danger. Angones added that it was a dream come true to be working on a show so beloved by so many people and try to bring that to a new audience.
Playing a little game of “what if you were teamed with the character you voice on an adventure,” Pudi said he and Huey would be a huge success. Pudi would bring his fanny pack while Huey would bring his Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, and they both would do very well on The Amazing Race. On the other hand, Schwartz said that he and Dewey together would be disastrous, and it would be like someone who wants to run after disaster followed by a Jewish Muppet puppeteered by someone who didn’t know how to puppeteer anything. Schwartz jokingly added that Dewey would be very frustrated to be chained down by someone who says he’s lactose intolerant. Micucci thought she and Webby would be a great success even though Webby, with her type A personality, would be leading the way while Micucci would be happily following from behind trying to keep up. Olagundoye also thought she and Mrs. Beakley would be a success except Mrs. Beakley would actually know what she is doing while she would just be pretending. Bennett said he and Launchpad would be a HUGE success, and it would probably be over before it started but still could be called a success. Tennant said he doesn’t have quite the skill set of Scrooge who seems to know how to do quite about anything required, but he says he would be more than happy to fly in Scrooge’s wake. Tennant thought they would be two Scottish Presbyterian puritanical pub friends who would come together quite well in a qualified success.
Before showing a short clip from the pilot, Youngberg gave a quick shoutout and thank you to the crew of the show in the audience for being part of the collaboration that is DuckTales. Angones gave a special thank you to Tad Stones, the creator of Darkwing Duck, VERY suspiciously present behind the curtain offstage, who was in attendance ‘in support’ of the new show. A little more on this later. Youngberg also thanked art director Sean Jimenez whose designs helped bring together the writers’ visions as well as drawing many stupid things for them.
Before the next ‘supposed’ clip, Angones said his favorite thing about Comic-Con was that he could share things with the audience which he knows won’t show up online later since the Con is for the fans who showed up, and wait in endless lines, just to attend. The exclusive clip was supposedly on Angones’ computer desktop, but instead of video files in the folder, there was a slideshow of still images which showed various character model sheets including those of Fenton Crackshell and his alter ego Gizomoduck, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose and his little lightbulb assistant, and some Beagle Boys most of which had been released before by Entertainment Weekly. Then came the slide that brought the decibel level of the room to an explosion: DARKWING DUCK. It didn’t stop at just Darkwing. Darkwing’s cycle and his cadre of villains also flew by in a blink, all to the roar of the room at which point Angones thanked everyone for attending his last Comic-Con appearance and asked everyone to take out their cellphones and break them in half. Tad Stones’ suspicious presence in the room behind the curtain had finally come to light! This little crossover could explain Stones’ little comment to Heat Vision in The Hollywood Reporter about Darkwing being in an alternate universe. Although there was once a comic book crossover between DuckTales and Darkwing Duck called “Dangerous Currencies,” there has never been an animated crossover until now. According to James Silvani, the Disney comics artist who draws the Darkwing Duck comics and the previously mentioned crossover and was also with Tad Stones behind the curtain at the panel, this crossover had been months in the making, since at least September 2016 when Silvani made a very teasing post on Instagram. I suspect Silvani had an input in the character designs for the new Darkwing as well as the villains. As to Stones’ early comment about Darkwing being in an alternate universe, Silvani said supposedly this new DuckTales series is set in a third universe apart from the original DuckTales and Darkwing Duck series where they now exist in the same universe as one another. I guess we’ll find out more when Darkwing finally makes his appearance in DuckTales. After all those stills, an actual exclusive clip from episode 9, “The Living Mummies of Toth Ra,” was finally shown, as promised earlier.
Next came Q&A, most of which went to Tennant from his Doctor Who fans. The first question was for Tennant about what he liked most about playing Scrooge McDuck. Tennant answered that what he liked the most was that he gets to be Scrooge McDuck, especially considering what an iconic character Scrooge is. As a kid growing up in Scotland, the original series came on a bit too late for him age wise, ‘timey-wimey’ as he put it. He said it was very exciting to be at the center of something people are so psyched about as well, which also carries a bit of a responsibility too. This also could also be said of his other famous role.
The next question was also for Tennant about what it was like to be part of 2 franchises with such worldwide acclaim. Tennant said he felt like an omnipotent, all-powerful god. He added he also felt quite ‘jamming’ which is Scottish for lucky. Jokes aside, Tennant said he has felt quite honored and humbled to be in the center of something people are enthusiastic about. Next was another question for Tennant who was asked to do one of Scrooge’s Scottish freakouts, but Tennant said he needed a script for it, so he asked Angones who was sitting next to him, to write him one. Angones took a few minutes, while more questions were asked, to actually write an on-the-spot freakout for Tennant to read as Scrooge. The line that Angones finally wrote for Tennant to say was, “You mephistophelian magician! Get your hands off my family, or I’ll give you a proper wallopping! Curse my kilts ya bunch of gallumping gobstoppers!” As a follow-up, Angones was asked to write a line for Dewey for an episode concerning War and Peace. Schwartz, as Dewey said, “It was the best of times. It was was the worst of, ugh, this book is the worst of times!”
For all the panelists, but mostly the writers, the question was posed of how do they account for the diverse fan base in the process of creating the show, ranging from the new generation, old fans, parents, and cartoon lovers in general? Youngberg answered they definitely take this into account, especially since he and Angones are huge fans of the original series, so everything on the show pays homage to the original, referentially and reverentially. There will be tons of Easter eggs that will refer to either things from the original series, the comic books, videogames, or things from the overall DuckTales lore. Of course, the new series will have their own spin on things, but all will be respectful of the original sources.
Will there be new characters? Youngberg answered yes, there will be new characters as well as some familiar old characters. Since the new series is made for a modern audience, they wanted to make sure there are new characters which will address this. One of the new villains, as seen already from Entertainment Weekly, is Mark Beaks, a tech billionaire, who cares more about buzz than bucks and is also the one person both Scrooge and classic Scrooge rival, Flintheart Glomgold, hate more than they hate each other, according to Angones.
Another question for Tennant was whether or not Tennant got into character by surrounding himself with vast quantities of gold coins. Tennant jokingly answered that because of Disney’s heightened pay structure, he is always surrounded by gold coins and that it was actually very hard to get away from them. According to Tennant, the recording booths are pretty restrictive, space wise, so he lines his underwear with gold coins instead. Would Tennant put a little Doctor Who into Scrooge with some of the 10th Doctor’s characteristic phrases like timey-wimey? Of course, Tennant answered it wasn’t his place to do, especially in abuse of other people’s copyrights, so he passed the question to the writers. Angones said legally, he probably couldn’t, but under the table, whatever he can get away with, he might try.
Will there be a release of DuckTales fishing equipment like with the original show? Angones admitted he had that fishing rod as well and demanded it should be the first piece of merchandise released. No T-shirts or plush but just a fishing rod!
Favorite DuckTales line from the anything anywhere so far that the cast can say? Schwartz’s fans asked if his might be one from his character, Jean Ralphio, of Parks and Recreation in which he replied, “The wooooorse!” Bennett said his was, “Hey, Mr. McD.”
Tennant’s favorite event from an episode of the new series? After asking if he was allowed to say anything, Tennant had a little whispering conversation with Angones before saying his favorite episode takes place back in time.
Are there any other pop-culture references, like the Scrooge short involving a time machine, in the rest of the series? Angones said his favorite pop-culture reference is the word aeroplanes from the theme song. All the writers are forbidden to use the word AIRplanes in the script which Angones said he always changes to AEROplanes. Youngberg noted that the whole show is basically a pop-culture reference in of itself. Angones says the crew all pulls from the same set of references, so there are a few genre or style homages, but all are kept within the DuckTales realm. There are plenty of Disney Easter eggs throughout though.
What was the process for Schwartz and Pudi in developing their characters, Huey and Dewey, in an already established genre? Schwartz noted that he went back and looked at the original series and saw that Huey wore no pants, so he wore no pants for a year! Jokes aside though, Schwartz said Youngberg and Angones wanted to distinguish the nephews not just by their clothing color but by their personalities as well, so supposedly, the same characters could be plopped down in any other storyline and still be recognized as being that character. Pudi said Youngberg and Angones helped them get into character a lot by first playing around with their voices and making them sound younger. Pudi added it also helped that he would be recording with Schwartz, so they could play off of each other’s lines. Pudi said all he had to do was think back to when he was drinking Mountain Dews, reading Encyclopedia Britannica, eating Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies, and getting into fights with his brother and sister to find Huey.
What made the writers decide to put more comedy in this version vs. the original? Angones noted there’s tons of action in the new series and that he felt the original had a lot of comedy as well. In fact, Angones said what drew both he and Youngberg to DuckTales was because it was an adventure comedy with family stores in syndicated cartoons at the time, so they treated the show more like a family sitcom with a family who just happen to be some of the greatest adventurers of all time. However, they also wanted to make sure that the Ducks were a real relatable family, and they’ve been very thankful to the cast for being able to bring such wonderful believability to their performances. Youngberg added that the comedy, as well as the action and adventure, should come naturally from the characters themselves by just being who they are and how they interact with one another.
How did the voice cast react to being cast in their roles? Schwartz said he did a little high pitched scream, like Pudi’s scream earlier, and he was super excited especially since he is a fan of the original series and that this panel and series is one he could share with his kids for the first time. Pudi also said he was really excited getting the role as Huey, and that it was a role he really wanted badly. Pudi said it would mean the world to him voicing a show which a nerdy kid, like he was, could watch and connect to it like he had. Micucci said she quietly screamed in her house and danced around for a minute when she found out she got the part of Webby. Like Schwartz, Micucci is a fan of the original series and really wanted to be a part of the show now and was totally stoked to do so. Olagundoye said she never watched the original series while she was growing up in Britain, but in a way, Doctor Who was her DuckTales, at which point she thanked Tennant for being her Doctor, like so many of the fans in the audience already did so before asking their questions. Olagundoye didn’t realize what a big deal the series was until her first recording day when the director asked her to record her lines off of Tennant’s reading at which point she said she freaked out a lot inside. Olagundoye said she had always been happy to be a part of the show, but now, she’s thrilled people are enthusiastic about it all. Bennett said usually, his agent tells him the good news if he’s been cast in a role or not, but since he worked with Bobby Moynihan on Saturday Night Live, one day Moynihan just came into his office and told him he had been cast in DuckTales and he thought Bennett was cast in it as well since they had loved his audition. Supposedly, Moynihan was told he would be working with Bennett as well on the show. Bennett said he wasn’t sure how to react, so he called his agent and asked if had been cast in DuckTales or not, and his agent said he was just about to call him and asked who had told him about his casting. So it was confusing and amazing for Bennett when he found out the news. Tennant said he was thrilled to be part of something so iconic that meant so much to other people and that it was like he was handed a present. Tennant said it was a show that influenced an entire generation and being part of the group that would take it to the next generation is exciting and scary at the same time. Tennant said you want something like this to keep its meaningfulness while growing and going forward that hopefully will mean the same to the next incarnation of the series 30 years from now. It’s both exciting, but you do feel the responsibility of its legacy. Tennant joked that he will still be able to reprise the role 30 years from now too.
When asked if they were planning an adaptation of Don Rosa’s iconic The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck series, Angones said they try not to adapt any stories straight from their source, but they do take all the stories that exist and incorporate them into the background of the show. Angones did note that The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck was mandatory reading for all the writers on the show.
The last question was for Tennant on his preferred acting method: theater, TV, or audio? Tennant answered as most actors would by saying he liked being out of the house and working. He liked that people would employ him and do a variety of things. Mostly, he likes working.
And that concluded the panel, woohoo! August can’t come soon enough!