Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Although Disney's Ducktales was not the studio's first foray into made-for-TV animation, it was the first Disney cartoon effort to be locally syndicated, rather than sold to a national network. Debuting September 21, 1987 (after a special "preview" three days earlier), the half-hour series served as the linchpin for the studio's new "Disney Afternoon," a daily animation block consisting of anywhere between two and four programs, offered to fill the gaps in local kiddie-show schedules. That the series proved a phenomenal success was proof positive that, according to Disney Television Animation president Gary Krissel, a high quality series with incentive characters any storylines could almost single-handedly revitalize a floundering segment of the television business. Although Disney superstar Donald Duck made token appearances on the show, it was decided to feature several of the studio's "secondary" characters, led by Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. While the aforementioned characters had first appeared in the studio's theatrical features, the rest had made their debuts in Disney's comic book line, springing from the fertile imagination of legendary artist/writer Carl Barks. Heading the cast was Donald's fabulous wealthy uncle Scrooge McDuck, whose expeditions throughout the world motivated most of the storylines. Also on hand were such Barks creations as inventor Gyro Gearloose, handyman Gus Goose, the disgustingly lucky Gladstone Gander, feisty Grandma Duck, "saucy sorceress" Magica DeSpell, and that scurrilous outlaw trio the Beagle Boys (virtually the only non-fowl characters on the show!) Introduced for the first time on Ducktales were such characters as the ever-imperiled Webbigail Vanderquack and her grandmother Mrs. Beakley, who pulled extra duty as Huey, Dewey, and Louie's governess; Scrooge McDuck's unscrupulous business rival Flintheart Glomgold; dashing pilot-for-hire Launchpad McQuack; "superhero" Gizmo Duck, alias Fenton Crackshell; and another do-gooder-in-disguise, Drake Mallard, who was later spun off into his own series, Darkwing Duck. While Ducktales was comic in tone, it devoted much of its running time to fast-paced heroics and cliff-hanging adventures in the tradition of the Indiana Jones films; indeed, the series' opening credit titles bore a striking resemblance to the sort of lettering and graphics favored by Steven Spielberg. In all, 99 Ducktales episodes were produced, remaining in syndication for nearly a decade, and thereafter running on Disney's various cable outlets.