Matt Youngberg, executive producer on Disney’s new DuckTales series, and Francisco Angones, co-producer and story editor, talk to TV Kids about the reboot, which is gearing up to debut three decades after the original show premiered.
From 1987 to 1990, viewers of Disney’s original DuckTales were whisked away on globetrotting adventures with money-loving business tycoon Scrooge McDuck and his troublemaking grandnephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. The comic book-based show won a Daytime Emmy Award and went on to spawn a feature film and spin-off series.
In early 2015, nostalgic fans heard the good news about the Mouse House’s plans to revive DuckTales as a reimagined comedy adventure for Disney XD featuring the voices of David Tennant, Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan and Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others. The new Disney Television Animation production is executive produced by Matt Youngberg (Ben 10: Omniverse), with Francisco Angones (Wander Over Yonder) serving as co-producer and story editor.
“One of the things that Matt and I talked about a lot was, should it be a continuation or should it be a complete reboot,” says Angones. “We liked the idea that Scrooge had been this legendary thing, that [his nephew] Donald Duck had been a part of that and he had been adventuring for a long time, and then for reasons unknown, it just kind of stopped…. Having Huey, Dewey and Louie not even know that he’s their uncle at the start of the series allowed a great access point for new viewers being brought into this world of adventure.”
“What we wanted to do when we came into it was to treat it as something that nobody had seen before,” adds Youngberg. “It’s definitely something that we want the audience of the original DuckTales to tune in to and love and enjoy, but it’s also something that we want young, new viewers—who have never seen DuckTales or know very little about it—to be able to come in to and have fresh eyes and engage with this version.”
Signing on for the new DuckTales tasked Youngberg and Angones with taking a 30-year-old property and making it relatable for today’s tech-savvy children. One of the ways they accomplished this was through the subtle incorporation of modern technology, such as a smartphone used by Donald Duck. “It was really important for us to not let those kinds of things overwhelm the storytelling,” says Youngberg. “We wanted to make sure that it was set in a contemporary world but that we weren’t just relying on contemporary things to be what interests [new viewers]. What we wanted to bring to kids today was a contemporary voice in storytelling and a lot of that comes down to how we present the characters.”
The most important theme in the reboot’s first season is “family is the greatest adventure of all,” according to Angones. “You never know what your kids are capable of and kids never really know that their parents had this bigger outside life [before them]. It’s about exploring that and getting to know each other as a family.”
The new DuckTales will be introduced with an hour-long TV movie titled Woo-oo! on Saturday, August 12, followed by the series premiere on September 23. Both will launch on Disney XD and Disney Channel in 162 countries and in 34 languages. Confident that it will be a success, Disney has already renewed the show for a second season. There are also a variety of nonlinear extensions meant to complement the reboot, including the DuckTales: All Ducked Out avatar creator.
Since the series is slated for a worldwide broadcast, Youngberg and Angones did their best to ensure that it will appeal to youngsters living all across the globe. “We really wanted to present a world that reflected the [environment] kids are growing up in, in terms of diverse cultures and viewpoints,” says Angones. “If we go to Egypt, we’re going to try to cast Egyptian actors; if we go to Brazil, we’re going to try to cast Brazilian actors—that kind of thing.”
He continues: “One of our big exciting moments was when we were able to cast Lin-Manuel Miranda as Gizmoduck. In the original series, FentonCrackshell, Gizmoduck’s alter ego, was this funny, fast-talking, in-over-his-head white guy. And we said, Well, we can definitely diversify this…. Lin’s voice and tone fit so well with Fenton that we reconfigured it and allowed it to be our new Latino character.”
As avid fans of the original, Angones and Youngberg have poured their hearts and souls into the reimagined DuckTales. “We love what we’re doing,” says Youngberg. “We have the utmost respect for the show that was created…and we want to make sure that this is the best version that we can possibly make.”