|An early design sketch of mine for the pitch.|
"DuckTales" had been a wildly successful series for Walt Disney Television. It was inevitable that among the 100 episodes produced for the "DuckTales" series that somewhere among those stories would lurk a possible spinoff. "What do you mean spinoff?" you say? "Disney would consider spinoffs?" Well, like pretty much all the Hollywood studios, in one word- YES! Sometimes they turn out well, and other times you wonder why they even made a sequel (moolah). However this project was to turn into the kind of spinoff to be very proud of. "Double-O_Duck " and "The Masked Mallard" were a couple of "DuckTales episodes that were able to stay around in the minds of a few folks back at the studio. They originally aired on November 17th and 18th, 1989 respectively during the DuckTales run. The original concept had Launchpad McQuack not Drake Mallard, as the star of the show. "Double-O-Duck" was written by outstanding DuckTales regulars Ken Koonce and David Wiemers, and along with "The Masked Mallard", became very popular in the "DuckTales" universe. So popular that they would be at the top of a very short list of sequels to be placed into active development and ultimately become a new show a year after "DuckTales uttered its last quack.
|My bridge secret lair suggestion and its cable "road"|
|I just thought it might be fun|
This was now Friday morning and the presentation was Monday. Yeah... no kidding. I sat down with Tad and went over ideas for setups that would give the feeling of this show and hopefully help sell the pitch. We tossed all the setups that had been done to date by another crew and started with a fresh slate. The pieces done originally for the presentation made the show look like another extension of DuckTales. Tad wanted something more visually exciting and with a combination of "The Shadow", "James Bond", "Green Hornet", "The Scarlet Pimpernel", and the new Tim Burton film, "Batman" mixed into the artwork so I kept that direction in mind while sketching. I VERY quickly drew up over a dozen pieces in thumbnail size and showed these roughs to Tad. He liked most of them and gave suggestions to bring them closer to what he wanted and round filed a few of my less successful sketches.
I still couldn't stand the Double-O-Duck design but this was the character design we were expected to use and at this point we were behind the 8-ball time wise. After lunch I xeroxed my drawings up in size to about 8 inches across and did a rough color pass over each with pastels. I had one of the few balconies with a sliding door so that I could go outside and spray matte fixative on the pastels to keep them from smudging. Tad also had a balcony and each time he heard my door slide open, he closed his to avoid the evil odors of asphyxiation wafting over into his domicile. I didn't blame him. My goal was (and I met it ) to have all the setups roughed and in color before the end of the day and then go home over the weekend and complete them in a larger 11" x 17" size for the pitch presentation. That was one of many "lost weekends" serving the mouse factory. Lost weekends it seems are a part of most animation folk I've known and worked with. It seems no matter how long something has been in development talks, there is ALWAYS a last minute, "we needed it yesterday" pressure that comes up right before a presentation date.
|Storysketch I based on Tad's script|
|Very quickie setup, no time for reference or studies.|
On Monday, I brought the artwork for the pitch in and Tad and Gary were thrilled with it. My only guess was that they must have had a great weekend but who am I to argue. I had added a location atop a cable suspension bridge where Double-O could have a secret base of operations to look out over the city and bay of Saint Canard. I also had a "car lift" to use one of the few vehicle designs we salvaged from the earlier artwork. Tad had mentioned having him ride on a motorcycle so I thought it would be a dynamic shot if I had him ride it directly up the cable to his secret hide-a-way. Tad loved the idea and I included those setups in the pitch. Thank goodness my simple chunky motorcyle design along with the rather pedestrian old model car was later put on some artistic steroids for the series resulting in those very cool Darkwing vehicles he uses to track down the villains with. Tad wrote a very entertaining script for the verbal part of the presentation that would have made a great radio show all be itself without any artwork to back it up. The pitch went very well, especially when you realize we had originally planned to be presenting the new update "Bullwinkle" show instead of a last minute replacement named "Double-O-Duck".
One interesting side note was the when Jeffery Katzenberg saw the secret lair on and in the tower, he remarked that it reminded him of the "Great Mouse Detective" (Basil ) clock tower which he said might be a "good thing." Since I had developed both of these locations, I took it as a compliment. The truth was that I had zero time to develop the idea beyond my basic proposal and so relied on my own memories sans any reference and motivated by sheer desperation. The pitch included my color setups along with the character suggestions by Bob Kline who would go on to do spectacular Art development for "Talespin". In fact in my opinion it was his stunning designs along with some great pieces done by Carol Police that made the "Talespin" series such a visual treat, but that as they say, is another story. To say I wasn't very happy with my pitch artwork shown here is an understatement but you have to keep in mind that it was done in a couple days from beginning to end, or at least that's my only excuse. The bottom line is though, the series sold!
|tomboy baking her first cake|
|A dingy dank dark desolate artwork encrusted alley in St. Canard|
Two major changes were to come next. The first was renaming the show. As it turned out, "Double-O" was copyrighted by "007" creator Ian Fleming and owned outright by "007" movie producer Albert R. Broccoli. We had skated by unseen with one "DuckTales" episode but they were not going to allow a new series to do the same with a knock-off of their registered name. So we went from the overtly sounding James Bond spin "Double-O-Duck" to the overtly sounding "Batman" take, "Darkwing Duck". Still, it was an improvement. The main character got redesigned, thank goodness, through the talent of Toby Sheldon, one of those Disney artists who just can't make an unappealing character design, and gave him the dynamic look you saw on the series. The cheeks were an obvious adaptation of Roger Rabbit's head shape but it worked well in that it separated Darkwing from his famous cousins, Donald and Daffy. Tad included catch phrases (all the best super heroes had em') like, "I am the screeching fingernail on the chalkboard of justice!" and "I am the terror that flaps in the night, I am the batteries that are not included. I am Darkwing Duck!". Obviously some lines worked a little better than others.
Like most of the work I did for WDTVA, I moved onto the next set of concepts for new shows, commercials and specials and didn't work on the actual series. Tad and my "DuckTales" buddy Alan Zaslove supervised production of the show and with their expertise along with a solid talented crew, this series would become yet another notch in the Disney TV belt running from 1991 to 1995. "Darkwing Duck" was the first Disney Afternoon offering that was created as a parody of a specific genre. It was a marvelous send-up of superhero , pulp fiction presented within a canvas of film noir imagery. You would think that after cancellation, that would be it for our mighty mallard but only recently Disney revised the franchise by licensing an ongoing monthly comic book series entitled, "The Duck Knight Returns." I mean really, can a new series be far behind? Do I hear...
"LETS GET DANGEROUS!"
|A doodle I did of St Canard's waterfront based on Naw'lins|