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Darkwing Duck on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 NEW!

Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 DVD Review

Buy the Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 DVD from Amazon.com Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 (1991)
Show & DVD Details

Regular Producers: Russ Mooney, Tad Stones, Alan Zaslove

Regular Directors: Bob Shellhorn, Mike Svayko, Bob Treat, Mircea Mantta

Regular Writers: Tad Stones, John Behnke, Rob Humphrey, Jim Peterson, Doug Langdale, Dev Ross / Regular Story Editors: Kevin Crosby Hopps, Duane Capizzi, Tad Stones, Tom Minton

Voice Cast: Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Negaduck, Herb Muddlefoot, Professor Moliarty), Terence McGovern (Launchpad McQuack), Christine Cavanaugh (Gosalyn Waddlemeyer-Mallard), Katie Leigh (Honker Muddlefoot), Dan Castellanata (Megavolt), Tino Insana (Dr. Reginald Bushroot), Michael Bell (Quackerjack), Rob Paulsen (Steelbeak), Susan Tolsky (Binky Muddlefoot), Danny Mann (J. Gander Hooter), Marcia Wallace (Clovis, Mrs. Cavanaugh), Mitzi McCall (Ammonia Pine), Michael Gough (Jambalaya Jake), Joey Camen (Stegmutt), Jack Angel (Liquidator), S. Scott Bullock (Tom Lockjaw), Tim Curry (Taurus Bulba), Hamilton Camp (Gizmoduck), Kath Soucie (Morgana McCawber)

Running Time: 613 Minutes (27 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Stereo (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
DVD Release Date: August 29, 2006
Original Airdates: September 8, 1991 - October 11, 1991
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Cardboard box with three clear slim keepcases

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

By Aaron Wallace

"Darkwing Duck" premiered in 1991 as part of the Disney Afternoon programming block. That was four years after the syndicated debut of "DuckTales" had earned
the studio a reputation for entertaining and successful animated television series. The medium having proven itself viable, Disney saw fit to provide their newest cartoon show with even greater exposure. "Darkwing Duck" became television's first series to simultaneously premiere new episodes in syndication and on a major network when it was added to ABC's Saturday morning lineup at the start of the very same season. It went on to become one of the studio's more memorable and enduring television franchises.

"Darkwing Duck" borrows heavily from "DuckTales," setting itself in an adjacent town, St. Canard, and calling upon one of its stars, Launchpad McQuack, as a main character. The show's premise, however, more closely resembles another uber-popular staple of the Disney Afternoon: "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers." Like those chipmunk crusaders, Darkwing Duck is a crime-fighter by profession. Unlike them and all the cartoon stars Disney had featured since "DuckTales," however, Darkwing had not previously appeared anywhere in the Disney canon. Donning a cape and mask to conceal his true identity (the unassuming but temperamental Drake Mallard), he joins the ranks of Superman, Spider-man, and the superhero by whom he is most heavily influenced, Batman. With Launchpad at his side and his adopted daughter, Gosalyn, in his corner, Darkwing bravely defies St. Canard's most imposing villains, which most notably include the duck-turned-plant Dr. Bushroot, the electrically charged Megavolt, the dastardly comical Quackerjack, the metal-mouthed rooster Steelbeak, the soggy dog Liquidator, the compulsively clean Ammonia Pine, the bullying bull Taurus Bulba, the Cajun-crazed Jambalaya Jake, and Darkwing's own inverse identity, NegaDuck.

The show never takes itself very seriously. In fact, a certain silliness and reserved self-referentiality are essential to its charm. Darkwing himself serves as the primary source of humor, often suffering as a result of his arrogance or rash behavior. Self-appointed and seldom acknowledged, he may well be superherodom's least graceful representative but his abilities as a crime-fighter overshadow his own personal flaws. Despite its light-heartedness, the world of "Darkwing Duck" is nearly as well-realized as that of the Dark Knight that inspires it. The episodes are not quite serialized but the events of one are not forgotten in the next and story arcs aren't abandoned. The people, places, and mechanics of the series are consistent. While the details of the "Darkwing" world aren't at all daunting in the way that some series can be, they are plentiful and interesting enough to make the show accessible to fans of comic lore.

"Darkwing Duck" has one of TV animation's catchiest theme songs. It may look like Darkwing's slacking off while on duty, but he's actually following a lead.

A large cast of characters accompany the title star. Launchpad is a little more one-dimensional here than in "DuckTales" but is entertaining nonetheless and provides the straight edge to Darkwing's zaniness.
Gosalyn is a spirited youth, full of spunk and often a driving force in the individual storylines. As his daughter, she gives Darkwing opportunity to show a more personal side and her frequent flirtations with danger add emotion to peril. Never one to sit back and observe, Gosalyn is as in the middle of the action as her father and thus makes the adventure all the more accessible to younger viewers while remaining an entertaining enough personality to amuse adults. The villains are very much in the mold of classic comic baddies and are therefore easily appreciated by anyone familiar with and fond of the genre. Even the minor characters are cleverly developed and often memorable. Outstanding voice acting brings each personality, both major and minor, to life.

Detail and characters aside, the stories stand on their own merits as inventive and entertaining. Within each half-hour installment, a unique and semi-plausible adventure unfolds with the protagonist facing challenges and ultimately prevailing. Like most Saturday morning cartoons, the series is action-based and as it so often does, that comes at the cost of narrative. While surely diverting and satisfying, the stories are far from complex as much of the runtime is devoted to fighting or visual gags. That requires less thought but more focused attention that a typical sitcom or drama would. As a result, watching too many episodes at once (as was required of me in conducting this review) does wear thin. That's not so much a criticism of "Darkwing Duck" specifically as it is of the form as a whole. When screened more sparingly, "Darkwing Duck" is a winning production for just about every audience.

After a long wait, "DuckTales" and "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" made their DVD debuts last fall. It was only a matter of time before their televised successors made their way to home video in boxed sets as well. While Disney has for the time being overlooked "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," both "TaleSpin" and "Darkwing Duck" have finally received Volume 1 releases. "Darkwing"'s packaging boasts the inclusion of the "pilot & first 25 episodes." The accuracy of that claim depends partially on how you organize the episodes but something's a little off either way. The 27 episodes are presented in the order of their original airdate, though the episodes that debuted on ABC rather than the Disney Afternoon (of which there were 26) have been entirely overlooked in that process. Presumably, these will be tacked onto the final release of the series (likely Volume 3 or 4), though it makes little sense to not file them in amongst the Disney Afternoon episodes if airdate is going to be the organization of choice. Of course, there are those who like to view the ABC episodes as a separate season and will appreciate the weekday broadcasts being kept together.

Feeling refreshed, Darkwing and Launchpad speed off to the rescue. Anyone else feeling a Batman vibe? Whether he's in Duckburg or St.Canard, Launchpad is America's favorite fowl pilot.

Further complicating the issue is the two-part pilot episode, "Darkly Dawns the Duck." It originally aired on September 8, 1991 as part of television special that also included a kick-off for the most recent incarnation of "The Mickey Mouse Club." According to Bill Cotter's The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History, it also included a "Darkwing" dance video. This pilot was then divided into two stand-alone episodes and re-broadcast much later in the series' run. It is this latter two-episode format that appears on the DVD. That's entirely acceptable (though the original debut special would have been far more interesting and a nice inclusion), but for collectors, the use of the original airdate for the much later re-broadcast version is problematic. Additionally, it should be noted that even if the original version of the pilot had been included instead, one of the ABC episodes ("That Sinking Feeling") actually aired one day before the pilot special, so it would have come first. Confused yet? The waters are even murkier ahead.

In truth, the production order -- which varies wildly from the broadcast order -- would have been preferable. As it is, characters appear on this Volume 1 set without having been properly introduced and references to past episodes don't quite make sense. That solution would not have been quite perfect either, though. The two pilot episodes' production numbers are so low on the list that they wouldn't have even made it onto this Volume 1 set. After the multi-part pilots for "DuckTales" and "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" were left off their respective Volume 1 sets, Disney likely wanted to ensure the pilot's inclusion on the remaining introductory releases of their shows. After all, people expect to launch their series with a pilot even if the pilot isn't always strictly first.

No matter how it was done -- broadcast order or production order -- fudging things just a little to put the pilot episodes at the beginning is at best appropriate and at worst acceptable. That much has been done here and it's to the casual viewer's benefit. Disney would have gotten higher praise for including the ABC episodes in amongst the syndicated shows for the broadcast order, and even higher praise for going with the production order, but there's at least some method to the madness of its presentation here and so the issue isn't worth spending any more time on than these past four paragraphs have already done.

A star () indicates ten standout episodes from this Volume 1 collection.

Darkwing experiences the highs and lows of fatherhood. Dr. Bushroot finds that plant life isn't all it's cracked up to be. J. Gander Hooter is the director of S.H.U.S.H and among Disney's finest small, round, and easily flustered characters.

DISC 1

1. "Darkly Dawns the Duck - Part 1" (22:43) (Originally aired September 8, 1991; re-aired individually on October 17, 1991)
In the first half of the aforementioned pilot episode, Darkwing Duck tries to establish a name for himself in the crime fighting world. When a young girl named Gosalyn is targeted by the evil Taurus Bulba, Darkwing seizes the opportunity to challenge a notorious villain.

2. "Darkly Dawns the Duck - Part 2" (22:45) (Originally aired September 8, 1991; re-aired individually on October 18, 1991)
The pilot continues as Darkwing learns more about Taurus Bulba's goal and does his best to protect Gosalyn from it as he forms his super-hero mantra with the aid of pilot Launchpad McQuack.

3. "Beauty and the Beet" (22:40) (Originally aired September 9, 1991)
The story of the maniacal Dr. Reginald Bushroot's conversion from well-intentioned scientist to crazed villain is told.

4. "Getting Antsy" (22:49) (Originally aired September 10, 1991)
Darkwing and Launchpad try to crack a case of robbery but can't uncover the perps. The problem is, they soon learn, that they aren't thinking small enough.

5. "Night of the Living Spud" (22:47) (Originally aired September 11, 1991)
Always looking for love, Dr. Bushroot attempts to create himself a bride but ends up with a menacing potato monster instead.

Darkwing can't see where he's headed when Megavolt blinds him in "Duck Blind." Darkwing and Launchpad take a stroll through the wild west in "Comic Book Capers." Steelbeak is a villain cut from the Goodfellas/Godfather mold and emerges as one of the show's best because of it.

6. "Apes of Wrath" (22:39) (Originally aired September 12, 1991)
Darkwing's search for a missing scientist leads him to an unlikely discovery in a world ruled by gorillas.

7. "Dirty Money" (22:39) (Originally aired September 13, 1991)
Money isn't worth much without its ink and that's the very problem that's gripping St. Canard. It's up to Darkwing to determine which arch-nemesis is behind the disappearing ink and why.

8. "Duck Blind" (22:41) (Originally aired September 16, 1991)
Megavolt thinks he has conquered Darkwing once and for all when he successfully blinds him, but he isn't prepared for the hero's improvisational skills.

9. "Comic Book Capers" (22:44) (Originally aired September 17, 1991)
Darkwing is delighted that his adventures will be the subject of a new comic book but insists on writing the first installment himself. His friends and family all have different ideas about how the story should go, however, and as they add them in, the comic comes to life. The episode is a clever reference to the introduction of the real-life "Darkwing Duck" comic at the time.

Darkwing and Gosalyn travel back in time to the hero's past in "Paraducks." Despite the better judgment of Launchpad, Gosalyn, and Honker, Drake is eager to believe that money really can grow on trees. It's Launchpad versus the fridge in "A Revolution in Home Appliances."

DISC 2

10. "Water Way to Go" (22:54) (Originally aired September 18, 1991)
Steelbeak has gained control of the weather and is wreaking havoc in the desert, where Darkwing is sent on a secret S.H.U.S.H. mission.

11. "Paraducks" (22:44) (Originally aired September 19, 1991)
Gosalyn accompanies Darkwing on an accidental trip to the past, where they meet a much younger and more cowardly Drake Mallard.

12. "Easy Come, Easy Grows" (22:41) (Originally aired September 20, 1991)
When Bushroot figures out how to grow money on trees, everyone thinks they're rich. As Darkwing learns, though, even when it seems easy, crime never pays.

13. "A Revolution in Home Appliances" (22:45) (Originally aired September 23, 1991)
Megavolt's latest plot has everyday home appliances coming to life and terrorizing the city.

Launchpad gets Jambalaya jumped! Gosalyn faces Steelbeak's helmeted henchmen. Sure, she's a crazed criminal, but she makes for one heck of a personal trainer.

14. "Trading Faces" (22:41) (Originally aired September 24, 1991)
It's a freaky Friday in St. Canard when Darkwing and Gosalyn switch bodies
(Launchpad and Honker do too!). It couldn't come at a worse time, either, as Steelbeak is up to no good.

15. "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlatan" (22:50) (Originally aired September 25, 1991)
Darkwing has been given the starring role in a new film but the director has something a little more deadly than fame and fortune in mind for the hero.

16. "Can't Bayou Love" (22:41) (Originally aired September 26, 1991)
Jambalaya Jake makes his Volume 1 debut when he and his assistant decide to go on a duck hunt.

17. "Bearskin Thug" (22:52) (Originally aired September 27, 1991)
The Mallard family just can't catch a break... their camping trip is interrupted by Steelbeak's plan to convert trees into missiles.

18. "You Sweat Your Life" (22:36) (Originally aired September 30, 1991)
Doing a little undercover work, Darkwing (this time disguised as Drake!) joins a health club and finds the crime-fighting looks easy in comparison.

Megavolt only appears in a handful of the Volume 1 episodes, but he remains one of the series' most memorable villains. Ammonia Pine only shows up twice in this set, but she at least tied for my favorite villain.

Continue to Page 2 >>

Buy Darkwing Duck: Volume One on DVD / Buy Darkwing Duck: Volume 2 on DVD


Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts



Darkwing Duck on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 NEW!

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Reviewed August 30, 2006.