Thursday, June 29, 2017

DuckTales 30th Anniversary!

D23 is the biggest Disney fan event of the year and eagerly awaited by fans around the world. For this year’s 2017 event,  I did a tribute illustration to a series that I had a key role in bringing to the small (and big) screen, DuckTales. You can click on this link to read behind the scenes of the original series and see a little of the concept art I created for it along with stories of its creation and fabulous and very talented crew I was fortunate to work with.

This summer when D23 erupts, Disney Television Animation will be unveiling a new version of DuckTales while at the same time celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the beloved series that is credited with being the very cornerstone of the Disney Afternoon. Has it really been that long? Well, in one word, yes! WOO HOO!

All in a day's work for me back in the 80s
Marc Buhaj, Senior Vice President Programming at Disney XD had made the announcement a couple of years ago that a new series based on the late 1980s hit show would be coming to TV in 2017. Well here we are finally and the newest version is set to travel on more amazing adventures. It will include the same beloved characters from our old series including Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Launchpad, Donald Duck, Gyro Gearloose, Magica DeSpell, Ma Beagle and her boys and all the rest of the Disney denizens of Duckburg.

Boy do I wish we had the digital tools back in the day when we cranked out the old series. In those days it was strictly the "3 P's ", paper, pencil and paint! Oh the things we could have done with a Cintiq during the limited time we were allowed for the shows! Oh well, those bells and whistles can now be appreciated with the latest incarnation that will be exploding across small screens this summer. I can only wish the new crew the best and hope they achieve as much success and appreciation among the fans with their reboot as we were able to enjoy with the original series. Both crews, old and new were and are incredibly talented!

One of my old concept pieces for the original series
For the original series, there were definite changes in the character design along with the look of the backgrounds. I didn’t use Carl Bark’s look of the McDuck Mansion which was simply laid out as more rectangular, and decided to design a sprawling country manor home with helio-port, swimming pool and so on. I naturally incorporated the dollar sign motif into everything I could think of while design those areas to celebrate McDuck's love of money. I was very apprehensive when I ran these designs by Carl to get his feedback. To my relief he laughed and though they were great. He said, “I wish I had thought of that!”  Of course he was being humble as he was the man who had created the entire realm of Duckburg, it’s citizens their exciting adventures and I was just giving my take on some revisions for some key locations.

The new crew of DuckTales
Nevertheless I know I actually blushed with that compliment as it was from the master himself. There would not have been a DuckTales series or a reboot if not for Carl and his comics creation.
For the record, (I know there is discussion among DuckTales fans about it) Carl actually really enjoyed the first season of the animated series. I can share that viewpoint because that is what he told me. All of our artistic endeavors went through the talented hands of Brad Landreth, great friend and head Art Director of the series.

Frank Angones and Matt Youngberg share the Co-Producers hats along with shepherding storylines to make sure the new DuckTales does its lineage proud. From what I’ve seen, it does exactly that!While the old characters from the original show were constructed in the traditional rounded shapes, the new versions are made up of more straights and sharper edges which is a very interesting departure and will definitely be a fresh take. Tim Moen is one of the key artists heading up character design on the show and is part of the extremely talented crew. When the studio invited me over to see the early design look for the new version, it was still being fleshed out within a fairly slightly grayed color scheme.

My 30th Anniversary piece sold out the 1st Day!
Since then, the palette was pushed slightly more into a realm of saturation by its brilliant art director Sean Jimenez and I think it really helped breathe more life into the cool settings. The backgrounds are simplified in their design compared to the original series and use a linear floating line over underlying swatches of subdued hues with crisp dynamic shapes. Together with the spunky character styling this is certainly a fresh new look for the old series and I applaud them for trying something so bold and dynamic.

For my tribute piece, I wanted the old original cast that I had worked on headed up by their fearless leader Uncle Scrooge to be rounding an old winding stairwell and coming face to face, er… make that beak to beak, with their mirror images of the new reboot of the series.You can see a small closeup snippet of my new painting on the left showcasing a few of the original members who have just come across something  that has taken their breath away and stopped them cold in their tracks. That something is of course their duck dopplegangers. The new painting was unveiled this summer at D23 to coincide with the new series. I had hoped the old fans as well as the new fans would enjoy my painting as the tribute it is meant to be to the old and the new and was happily surprised.The original painting, all of the giclee framed prints and the entire run of deluxe prints sold out the very first day they were offered at D23! WOO HOO!!


  1. Mike: Admittedly we have very limited samples to compare from, but it does seem that in design, the new show is looking a more simplistic, flatter background style, perhaps not as detail rich, so your eye is drawn more to the characters and the action? It's not necessarily better, or worse, just different. The style of DuckTales in 1987 was similar to the other, earlier WDTA series, and was a signature style for those shows until, arguably, Aladdin and beyond, when The Disney Afternoon was transitioning off syndication.

    Curious what your thoughts are as to what you see as the influences into this style. Nothing happens in a complete vacuum, so what other artistry positively influenced the next generation?

    Sadly, life prevents me from making it to Anaheim this year, so I hope after its premiere we'll get to see an image of your painting here.

  2. Hello Donald,

    Yes I agree with your assessment as to the new over all design. As to what exactly has influenced the new generation, you should speak to those artists themselves as I would not want to second guess where they might have gotten any ideas from. I did notice some elements from my old concepts leaking into the new show. They took my design of Scrooge's home as a Manor house for instance and then built on that as compared to the more rectangular version with columns from the original comics. The crew on the new DuckTales is superb and I expect we will be seeing lots of sharp entertaining episodes coming our way.

    1. Mike:

      We've now had the premiere ("Woo-oo!" indeed - it was spectacular). Anyone with an eagle eye caught in the first thirty seconds the use of dots for shading, a subtle call-out to the print comic source material - and throughout, at times, it almost had the feel of layers, like an old plane camera effect.

      That said, the new team managed to both be clean, minimal of line and detail (the exterior of Atlantis, Glomgold's ship (which somehow transformed into a submarine...still shaking my head over that plot hole) and yet drop in enough Easter eggs to keep the fan community drooling for weeks.

      You should have fun Saturday at the D23 event. I hope the DuckTales crew will occasional ask the "seasoned" vet for input, especially now that they established that the entire DA universe is connected and thus fair game for their show.

  3. Hi Mike!

    We were at D23 and loved all the Ducktales events! My boyfriend is a HUGE fan! We stood in line to get one of your amazing prints, but sadly for us you had just sold out (amazing for you!) We did get to speak with you, so that was wonderful! He was so sad about the print, I am hoping to find one to surprise him for Christmas. I recall your manager stating that you may be printing more and selling them. Do you know when that will happen and where?

    Thank you for being a part of Duckburg! We love the artwork and are thoroughly enjoying the reboot as well! Woo-hoo!

    Thank you!

  4. Thank you Allie for your lovely comments, I deeply appreciate it. I hope you were able to locate a print for your boyfriend. I know they have been running quite a few of them off as they keep sending batches to my home for me to sign, lol.

    My very best wishes to you both and hope to see you two again someday soon.