Sunday, February 22, 2015
Disney's Roboduck Invades NBC And The Disney Afternoon
When Disney's syndicated animated series DuckTales debuted on TV in 1987, it was a huge hit. The 65 initial episodes were so well received that an additional 30 were ordered up with some new characters. The first new character to show up was cave duck Bubba (voiced by Frank Welker). The next new character was Roboduck. Wait, who?!? Yes, the character that would be known as Gizmo-Duck (voiced by Hamilton Camp) was originally called Roboduck.
Roboduck, Bubbaduck and an alien "Spaceduck" were pitched by Disney TV's Tad Stones as new character ideas for DuckTales. Apparently, they were not part of some master plan or vision for the show. The alien duck character did not make it to the series, but the other new characters were chosen simply based on drawings and a description.
The 1988 issue of Cartoon Quarterly Magazine (created by Gladstone Publishing) gave an early peek at the new characters. I can still remember discovering this magazine at a grocery store when I was a kid.
This first (and only?) issue of Cartoon Quarterly has an article called Bear and Duck Tales---Disney Animation Comes to TV by John Cawley. It is interesting to see the early designs for Bubba and Roboduck.
Bubba seemed to quickly become a background character in the series.
The character of Fenton Crackshell, and his alter ego Gizmo-Duck, would have a much bigger impact. Super DuckTales aired on NBC during Easter of 1989, introducing the new superhero to the series. Gizmo-Duck pretty much became the focus of most of the new stories on the syndicated TV show. Some of them are pretty wild, including my favorite episode, Metal Attraction, which includes a parody of Disneyland and a robotic maid who is madly in love with Gizmo-Duck.
Gizmo-Duck appeared in comic books and video games, and in episodes of Disney's 1991 series Darkwing Duck along with fellow transplanted DuckTales cast member Launchpad McQuack. The Gizmo-Duck character also was included in a DuckTales Kellogg's cereal figurine promotion for The Disney Afternoon.
Curiously, Bubba and Gizmo were not in 1990's theatrical DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. The movie added a new "kid" Genie character (voiced by Rip Taylor) who seemed to be added to the cast at the end of the film (sort of a Bubba 2.0), though he never appeared in the TV series. The movie's thief character, Dijon (voiced by Richard Libertini) appeared in the last episodes of the DuckTales TV series.
Frank Welker (Bubba) is a voice over legend, appearing in countless TV shows and movies over the years (if there's an animal in a movie, chances are good that Frank Welker provided its voice).
The late Hamilton Camp (Fenton/Gizmo-Duck) was a prolific musician and actor, and appeared on-camera in movies and in TV shows like Three's Company and WKRP in Cincinnati.
I wanted to note here that I don't think there is a single official way to write "Gizmo-Duck". I have seen "Gizmoduck" and "Gizmo Duck" and "Gizmo-Duck" and "GizmoDuck".