Saturday Theme Songs: DuckTales

Ah, the DuckTales theme song. In the minds of our generation, it has easily outlasted the series it accompanied with its ultra-catchy “Whoo-oo” refrain. My memories of that series (which ran from 1987-90) are limited mostly to what’s in the opening sequence: Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie would go on adventures with his uncle, the fabulously wealthy Scrooge McDuck; they’d sometimes be aided by Launchpad McQuack or Donald himself; they’d occasionally solve mysteries or rewrite history. I remember watching the feature-length final episode, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, at Club Kid (a glorified daycare) very early in my life.

So: why is this an awesome opening? Because it succinctly and appealingly conveys the nature of the series. DuckTales, loosely based on Carl Barks’ duck-centric Disney comics, was pretty much an old-fashioned adventure serial about the McDuck clan and their various quests – whether geared toward protecting Scrooge’s present lucre, or obtaining more. The opening gets this across through a fast-paced best-of montage, demonstrating the sheer scope of these tales – which, mind you, are not “pony tails or cotton tails.” They’re duck tales, a fact that’s emphasized through most characters (and the town and world in which they live) having “duck” somewhere in their names.

It’s genuinely impressive how many kinds of adventures are on display here: we’ve got dragons, mummies, lava pits, sharks, aliens, tigers, robots, and more. DuckTales was at once all-inclusive and unfocused, skipping from one realm of magic and fantasy to another. Where most such children’s shows confined themselves by setting or genre, it grabbed freely from sci-fi, Arabian Nights, Tarzan, Kipling, Arthurian legend, etc. – basically plundering western literature for all available exoticism or dangerous Others, who became the “stranger[s] juts behind you.”

All this was (from what little I know), more or less, in keeping with Barks’ original comics, which engaged in innocent Tintin-style globetrotting while blending eras and technologies (like “race cars, lasers, aeroplanes”). And DuckTales‘ 100 episodes became a condensed, TV-friendly way to absorb Barks’ many decades of stories. The comics (and DuckTales by extension) are a sort of underexplored mini-domain under the Disney umbrella, jumping into very traditional, vaguely imperialist adventure stories; through this opening sequence, we get a little taste of this. And it’s a duck blur.

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