Nerd Rabbit Hole: A Guide To Disney's Duck Universe
I am not a huge Disney fan. Obviously there are loads of Disney things I like, because they own pretty much everything I love, with the exception of transforming robots.
(Pause, looks around for Transformers license news. Sees none. Moves on. For now.)
Disney lore proper has never been my thing, but a lot of my friends absolutely adore everything Mouse, from park history to Tail Spin. So, I figured I owed it to myself to get better educated on all things Disney, and needed to find a starting point. I always liked DuckTales, especially the fact that the song is now in your head just from reading the name, so I thought that might be a nice place to start. And when I discovered that DuckTales was, in fact, a part of an entire shared Duck Universe, how could I turn away?
It was time to go down the Duck Universe rabbit hole. Or the Duckaverse duck hole. Nope, that sounds gross. Duck Universe rabbit hole it is.
According to the Disney Wiki page, the Duck Universe has it’s roots in the late Carl Barks’ Donald and Scrooge McDuck comics, but includes everything from Donald related Little Golden Books, to the shows DuckTales and Darkwing Duck. Even several video games are considered canon. Duck canon. Suck it, Star Wars EU. There’s a lot of content to explore, so we’re going to try and hit it geographically.
The foundation of the DU is the city of Duckburg, where life, as I understand it, is like a hurricane. Duckburg is found in the fictional US state of Calisota. I’m assuming this is a mix of California and Minnesota, which makes me want to know more about Duck US geography. Their Civil War must of been super weird. Duckburg first showed up in an animated series in Quack Pack, but it was mostly full of people and only a few ducks, which probably made the people feel weird. There was also no Money Bin. At some point Disney probably caught on that no one cares about dumb cartoon humans, so once DuckTales came around, the people were gone.
I am going to pretend that this wasn’t an editorial retcon and at some point there was a really crazy revolution where the ducks took back their city. Someone please photoshop some Duck War propaganda posters in the comments.
Duckburg was actually in the Magic Kingdom park for a while, but eventually got dozed to be something lamer, which from what little I know about park history, seems to be a constant trend in the Happiest Place on Earth.
The major landmark of the city eventually became Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin, which I suppose is Duckburg’s Avengers Tower- one of those buildings that’s a big super villain magnet that most people probably wish someone would just raze so that life in the city could calm down a bit. The city has a bustling space exploration industry, as well as a scary mountain called Old Demon Tooth. Duckburg is the most plot efficient city Disney has ever created.
The city was a quiet port until Scrooge McDuck rolled in, and the city’s economy seems to tie almost completely to his wealth. It’s like if Donald Trump had his own city, but he was likable and a wizard was constantly trying to kill him.
Scrooge swam in his money for the first time in 1950, and there are a lot of fan arguments about the economics about how he has accumulated his wealth. Investments? Does he own businesses worldwide? I would happily buy pizza and beer and listen to these conversations. Please let me know when they happen.
While most shenanigans center around the Money Bin- aliens have stolen it and one time an earthquake knocked it over- there are actually two Bins in the Duckverse. The sister Bin is in Africa, and is owned by Flintheart Glomgold. He spends in pounds instead of dollars, and was introduced in the comics as a South African, but changed to a Scot in later cartoons due to US tensions with the South African government. Ugh, movies and TV shows always changing our comics.
Glomgold, pondering the ramifications of Duck based apartheid
As is appropriate with such a tech heavy city, Duckburg’s number one super hero is GizmoDuck, aka the guy I would switch channels on the show if he wasn’t in the episode. What can I say? I like a unicycle based tech hero. Gizmo is actually a weak little guy named Fenton, so he’s sort of a Steve Rogers/Tony Stark amalgam. Fenton is Scrooge’s accountant, so he’s also a third Maria Hill. I’m pretty sure she’s SHIELD’s accounting exec, anyway. It’s nice to at least pretend she does SOMETHING on that helicarrier.
“Did you even LOOK at the spreadsheets I worked on for you?”
And speaking of heroes, let’s move to the Gotham to Duckburg’s Metropolis.
The home of Darkwing Duck. Also the home of Sauron, I think. Why would you move somewhere that has such a creepy citadel vibe?
I never watched this cartoon, but I know enough that if I am ever in a Disney park, to never say anything near the smug looking guy in the faded Darkwing Duck shirt. He is waiting to correct you about your historical Indiana Jones ride trivia fact.
Darkwing Duck is basically Batman, who is a crime fighting detective, and his alter ego is Drake Mallard, who is also a crime fighting detective. Why does he need a secret identity? I’m going to assume that it’s because the only name cooler than DRAKE MALLARD is Darkwing friggin Duck.
The major landmark of Canard seems to be the Audubon Bay Bridge, which is a Golden Gate stand in that connects the city to Duckburg. It’s also where Darkwing’s lair is. Sometimes he gets there by sitting in a chair in his apartment that propels him there. Just like in Bioshock. There’s always a tower, always a duck.
Wait, is Christmas Carol canon? Because if there’s always a tower, always a duck, is Scrooge in Carol like the Zachary Comstock to present day Scrooge’s Booker Dewitt? Why is my nose bleeding? Everything is so cold.
So. That’s barely of scratching the surface of Disney’s DU. It’s hundreds of characters deep, having been developed over more than 50 years. We’re still in the shallow end of the pool. There’s also a whole thing with a dog race, a Soviet Union stand in called Brutopia that was honest to God referenced in an Australian parliament debate once, and I haven’t even touched the Junior Woodchucks.
That’s an unfortunate sounding sentence.
It seems to me that you can probably just watch DuckTales and Darkwing and be pretty satisfied with your DU experience. Surprising fact: Disney’s Mighty Ducks is not a part of the Duck Universe, which makes no sense. Anthropomorphic ducks? Check. Zany adventures? Check.
They may not count because it looks like there are human people in the show, a problem which we know the great state of Calisota took care of sometime in the late 80’s.
And we thought Arizona was screwed up.
Shouldn’t this have been the Guardians of the Galaxy to Darkwing’s Winter Soldier? I want to see Launchpad, Scrooge, Gizmo, Darkwing, and a hockey team unite to defeat Magica De Spell wielding the power of Scrooge’s First Dime. Oh, that’s a like an infinity stone that has a weird hold on Scrooge because it’s the first money he owns and sometimes people try to use it to destroy the world.
Like I said, scratching the surface.
Special thanks to Mike Funt for lending me his Duck knowledge! Mike hosts a weekly variety show at the California Institute of Abnormal Arts, and if you’re in LA you should absolutely go.
I’d like to fall down a nerd rabbit hole as a weekly thing, so let me know what weird geek thing you’d like me to explore next in the comments!