In 1987 I was all of five years old. I don’t remember the first time I watched DuckTales… In fact, I don’t remember childhood without DuckTales. As far back as I can remember watching television, I remember DuckTales being part of my choice shows. The series aired daily during the week, the characters’ images were on everything, and we even played DuckTales on the playground.
It would be much, much later in life before I came to appreciate what shows like the original DuckTales meant to my childhood. It was when I had my own kids, and I started collecting my favorite shows on DVD to share with them that the nostalgia came flooding in. A few years later we came across the news that DuckTales would be rebooted for a new audience on Disney’s cable channel Disney XD. Our family sat down and watched the series premiere together, and we were hooked from the very first scene. We laughed, we “awed”, and we cheered as the ducks came together for their first adventure. The DuckTales series that premiered in 2017 was something special. It was a show that our family followed like none other. Every time the series returned from hiatus was like a new premiere. Every time an episode aired on Saturday morning was like Christmas morning (I’m not kidding, we seriously got up early on Saturday mornings to watch the show). When I tell people that my family loves DuckTales, they don’t understand what I mean.
When DuckTales ended, so did a chapter of our family. There have been very few series (television, streaming, or movies) that has come close to what we experienced with DuckTales. To this day you can still hear someone in our home say “I miss this show.” My oldest daughter has binge watched the series four times recently. Each time beginning the series premiere immediately after the series finale. The show still brings a smile to our faces every week, but you still miss that new content.
That was a lot, but I wanted to make sure you understood that when I say that I am excited for something new from DuckTales you know that I mean it. “The Art of DuckTales” is obviously a labor of love by Ken Plume and his team. The book is scheduled to be released on November 8th, 2022. I have ordered the deluxe edition, but it will not arrive until the… (looks at most recent email from Amazon) 15th. Thankfully, our friends at Dark Horse were gracious enough to provide a digital copy for a review. To be clear, this is a review of the contents within “The Art of DuckTales.” The deluxe edition will eventually arrive and we will provide another review for that edition.
Throughout DuckTales 2017’s initial run we scoured the internet for any piece of preproduction artwork, we meticulously looked over Matt Youngberg (executive producer of DuckTales) and Frank Angones’s (co-executive producer of DuckTales) tweets, and we searched YouTube for anyone willing to cover the series. We would regularly discuss what it would mean to have an art book for DuckTales, and this month we finally get one. The art book is exactly what you might expect. It is filled with preproduction artwork and commentary by the creative team on the show including the art director Sean Jimenz and producer Suzanna Olson. The preproduction section of the book may include every piece of preproduction artwork that I have seen online. It includes details on how the show came to be, the underlying themes that drove the production of the show, the development of the show’s style, and the evolution of the character designs. Additionally, the book contains information about the formation of the creative team that brought us updated versions of these characters and stories.
One of my favorite sections of the book focuses on the designs of the main cast. You will get some insight into the evolution of the characters and how the show’s unique aesthetic came to be. The character designs for the show always appealed to me, and I enjoyed learning how to draw the characters. Some of the details that you pick up on while trying to use the designs are given more meaning in this book.
DuckTales 2017 has many unique qualities to the designs of the show’s characters. This art book also focuses on the incredible backgrounds and locations found in the series. I have many of the background images saved on the computer that I use for DuckTalks and they often can be found on my screen saver. If you followed the show online you may have realized there is a paper texture used in the backgrounds throughout the entire series. Details like this are expounded upon with greater detail than we have experienced prior to the book. There are also details on how the series was “shot” and how perspective, shape and line weight played roles in creating the show’s style.
If you followed our podcast and website, you may know that I personally became a fan of Carl Barks and Don Rosa’s work with the ducks after learning about their influences on DuckTales 2017. Carl Barks passed away more than a decade before this series was being planned, but the creative team realized the importance of his influence. They attempted to merge a little of Barks’s own story elements with their own, and while DuckTales 2017 does not attempt to reimagine his work it is clear to me they were influenced by the work of “The Good Duck Artist”.
While watching DuckTales 2017 I was also reading many of Barks and Rosa’s stories. There were many instances throughout the series where I made a connection between something in the show, and something in one of their classic stories. Even more fun was when I started picking up on things that I didn’t know before my re-watches of the series. I know some of the Barks and Rosa fans that we interacted with online did not appreciate the show like we did, but I always felt the show tried to elevate it’s references to these great creators in inventive ways.
Following the preproduction section of the book you will find that “The Art of DuckTales” utilizes over 100 pages to detail every episode of the series. There are many production details provided by the creative teams that worked on the episodes, and of course artwork including backgrounds, character designs, and the stories behind the challenges that may have risen from the ambitions of the creative writers.
These details were the initial influence behind the creation of this book. Ken Plume has shared online that it was after enjoying a twitter thread by Frank Angones that he had the idea to compile the stories behind the episodes into a book for all fans of the show to experience. When you are reading the accounts of the creative team you realize just how much work Ken has put into this book. He, and his team, really have provided something special for the fan’s of a series that was truly something special.
Diving into these 100 or so pages you will better understand the pressure the creative team placed on themselves as they understood their show was not just another animated series, but the next chapter of a legacy property that would outlive the show’s time on Disney XD (and Disney Channel… and then Disney XD again…).
Not only does the interviews provide fans with insight into the creators’ desire to be respectful of what came before, but we gain insight into themes and storylines seeded throughout the series. You learn that some of the show’s major plot twists were planned form the very beginning, and there were clues all along. For a series about a family of adventurers it is very fitting that we can go back and search for these clues and enjoy what they were doing while none of us were paying attention to their long game. Although I do want to inject that I did point out that the buzzards where F.O.W.L.’s High Command when we first discussed the series’s premiere on our podcast. I never once thought Webby was the daughter of Scrooge, but I knew Bradford was F.O.W.L.
The content of this book is 110% worth every dime to fans of DuckTales. It is great to hear from this team of talented individuals who provided a series with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. I am thankful to Ken and all of those individuals who contributed to publication of this book. The series may never be released on physical media (I hope I am wrong there), but this book will stand in that gap. I personally cannot wait for the release of the deluxe edition. Not only will my family have this book to enjoy, but there is still additional DuckTales content to be savored. I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who considers themselves a fan of DuckTales 2017. I also want to thank Dark Horse Comics for supporting this project, and allowing us the opportunity to read it despite our preorders shipping dates falling behind the book’s release.
You can find this publication at your local bookstores or you could ask your local comic book store to order you a copy. If you don’t have those options you could always support DuckTalks by following these Amazon affiliate links:
The Art of DuckTales (Deluxe Edition) at Amazon.com
The Art of DuckTales at Amazon.com
All purchases made from following the affiliate link supports DuckTalks at no additional cost to you.