Dec. 6 – Darkwing Duck in “It’s A Wonderful Leaf”

DARKWING DUCK – “IT’S A WONDERFUL LEAF”
Original Air Date: December 23, 1991

Bushroot is hellbent on ruining Xmas in St. Canard and only Darkwing Duck can stop him…

BACKSTORY 

The most fascinating thing about the origins of Darkwing Duck is that it started off without, well, Darkwing Duck himself. With shows like DuckTales, Chip n’ Dales’ Rescue Rangers and Talespin, The Disney Afternoon consistently dominated the animation ratings throughout 1990-91, so there was certainly a demand to expand the company’s televised horizons. If you’ve ever wondered why Duckburg’s Launchpad McQuack appearing in Darkwing Duck, it’s because it was originally conceived with him in the starring role!

Spy hard

According to legend, the executives simply liked the name of a 1987 DuckTales story arc parodying James Bond so much, they decided to move forward with an entire spin-off series with Launchpad starring as Double-O Duck. Eventually, his sidekick Drake Mallard was promoted to top banana, and it was then revealed that 007 creator Ian Fleming owned the rights to pretty much Double-O anything. Whoops…

Double O Duck

An internal competition for a new name altered “Double-O Duck” into “Darkwing Duck,” and the title change also lessened the focus on the spy motif, yielding an action comedy that more resembled Batman and pulpy characters from radio series like Green Hornet and The Shadow. Darkwing Duck premiered on The Disney Channel 1991, ran in syndication until 1997, was the first American animated program to air in the Soviet Union, then on Toon Disney until 2004. Coincidentally, the very last scheduled episode to air on the channel was none other than:

BREAKDOWN

Ho boy, was I a huge fan of Darkwing Duck! Hopefully, I’m not the only one among you who owned one of those VHS tapes – containing a paltry two episodes! – because it contained this amazing, colossal “Darkwing Rap” that hasn’t left my brain for two decades.

Darkwing Duck still holds up as a pretty good show, but I can sort of see why it’s all but left national consciousness. For me, it’s the colorful character designs that stand out more than the comedy, action, or any particular episode. So many bright purples, vibrant yellows, pinkety pinks – it really is a wonderful visual product of the 90’s.

Better watch out you bad boys

And I love, love, LOVE the look of each and every villain on the show. Assuming you read the “Backstory” portion above, you can even see how the series originally was geared toward being a direct parody of James Bond. Steelbeak, Tarus Bulba, and other members of F.O.W.L. are amazing villains, but the show is probably best remembered for the more Batman-inspired characters like Megavolt, Quackerjack, Liquidator and Negaduck (marking that down as next year’s Halloween costume!)

Just shopping dressed as pedophile – nothin’ to see here 

Dr. Reginalyd Bushroot takes center stage in “It’s a Wonderful Leaf,” and he’s a damn fine choice if you ask me. If anybody’s gonna ruin Christmas, it may as well be the least evil member of The Fearsome Five, sympathetically portrayed with a voice that sounds a helluva lot like John Candy.

“That talking duck is green! GET HIM”

Poor old Bushroot heads to a St. Canard mall on Christmas Eve only to be met with the material horrors of last minute Xmas shopping. People (or domesticated animals, if you prefer) are fighting so ferociously for gifts, it puts his very life in danger.

Perhaps revenge is in order?

Things only get worse when his disguise is revealed and he’s chased from the center of commerce, literally with torches and pitchforks like a Frankenstein-esque freak.

Partners

Meanwhile, mild-mannered Drake Mallard is setting up his tree with his sidekick, or possibly live-in lover, Launchpad McQuack. Okay, let’s not bother speculating on the ducks’ sexual proclivities, I’m far more concerned that Launchpad’s super hero persona and alter-ego are exactly the same! It’s not even inconspicuous! He’s the tallest duck in St. Canard and dressed like a 1940’s pilot! How could this not lead the nefarious back to Darkwing’s abode?! To make matters worse… he’s got a kid!

Greedy brats ruin Christmas too, ya know

Keen Gear! It’s Gosalyn, Darkwing’s adopted daughter, and she’s dying to dig in to her Christmas booty. But Darkwing is a man of wits! He’s the feathered equivalent of Bruce Wayne, so he rigs the Christmas tree with an AI-enhanced alert system to keep the girl’s grubby wings off of her presents until Christmas morn.

Christian iconography replaced with a security system

Meanwhile, Bushroot is abusing his gift of plant DNA to rouse a Christmas tree farm full of soon-to-be minions! It’s unclear as to what end, but transforming sacred Holiday icons to do one’s bidding perfectly falls into line with “ruining Christmas.”

Minions!

Bushroot heads back to the mall with his sentient squadron of timber and uses them for THE VILE PURPOSE OF… creating common misunderstandings? The trees resort to Bugs Bunny tactics of clandestinally swiping items from mall patrons. But with tensions this volatile, it turns simple folk against one another. And that’s just Plan A, people!

I’d kill for that Darkwing doll

Phase two involves Bushroot posing as Santa himself! Under the guise of Papa Kringle, Bushy informs kids that not only aren’t there enough toys to go around this year, he’ll also be recalling your existing gifts just to fill orders. The cad!

This Xmas you’re getting an ass kicking

Luckily, Drake Mallard is at the mall – inconspicuously! – with his freakishly tall sidekick in full antique aviator regalia. Noticing the nasty shennanigans afoot, he leaps into action!

Something’s amiss…

With a Santa costume gag first – lol! But then, oh yeah, it’s clobberin’ time… Or time to GET DANGEROUS. Ooo, LET’S!

Love that outfit

Bushroot sicks his piney henchmen on Darkwing, but let’s remember that this is a man prepared! Much like Batman, he’s got something in his arsenal to deal with any situation, and Dee Dubya’s highly-badass gas gun has just what the doctor ordered: Trimmings!

Some guns are magic, kids. Be sure to try ’em all!

The trees are distracted long enough by their new decorations for Darkwing finish the fight. Unfortunatley, Bushroot has instituted Phase Three of his plan, which has now been given the more evil goal of “Killing Christmas!”

“I love it!”

Bushroot has luckily secured a flatbed truck and begins activating townsfolks’ Christmas trees. Once brought to life, trees then bring Bushroot all of the sleeping townsfolks’ Christmas presents. Fortunately, Darkwing’s daughter-proof tree alarm proves even more fortuitous, and it goes off, thus alerting Honker and Gosalyn to the terrible, terrible situation.

Like the Pied Piper of dead trees

What then commences is a silly sequence of crude 90s animation I’d rather not try and describe since it doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense. I suppose I can show you some of it.

There, that should explain everything

Darkwing ends up getting his lips locked to a iced-over fire hydrant, which focuses Bushroots attacks on it, breaks it, detaches the thing, and allows Darkwing to divert the water flow with a snowshovel.

Foiled by the season

Frozen, bitch! Now you know why Liquidator doesn’t bother to appear.

Aw shucks

With the situation all wrapped up, Darkwing meets up with the rest of the gang who have been selflessly redistributing Christmas gifts. For absolutely no reason, Honker’s gifts are the only ones that don’t turn up. I suppose I shouldn’t say “for no reason” as it’s done as a halfassed attempt to shoehorn in a message about the importance of Christmas.

Tadaa

Darkwing enters the Muddlefoots household in plainclothes. Well, plainer clothes, and saves Christmas for Honker and his family. It turns out Gosayln, after spending the entiriety of the episode acting like a selfish brat, had the bright idea to give all of the Mallard’s presents to the Muddlefoots. D’awwww…

Chill! Santa’s got this

But Disney’s not done cramming in Holiday feel-goodery just yet! Lo, once they arrive back home they find that someone has mysteriously provided them with presents anyway. Oh, who could it have been…

 Bet you feel pretty stupid now!

 

C’mon, Disney’s more done with Christ than the Romans.

I’m counting a total of at least five Santas here. Four imposters, and one real deal. Suppose that’s worth a cookie apiece

Meh… I wouldn’t call Darkwing Duck forgettable, but this Christmas special certainly is. Which is sad, since it starts out with such promise – a sympathetic character driven by Christmas to ruin it. Most of the episode resorts to an antiquated silliness and rarely makes a whole lot of sense. The forced message at the end only makes it feel more half-assed, and you can see exactly what I mean just by looking at the same studio’s far better TaleSpin episode from just one year earlier.

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)

Darkwing Duck DVDs can be had for a song, sadly due to the first two sets being so unpopular the haven’t bothered to release the remaining episodes. However, I’d like to steer everyone with the faintest interest in the hero towards Boom Comics relatively new Darkwing Duck series. Set one year after the end of the TV series, where we find DW retired, forgotten, and working for a repressive corporation with the similarly out-of-commision villains he used to fight. It’s funny, gorgeous, and brimming with awesome references to the forgotten stars of the entire Disney Afternoon. Pick that shit up!

Yesterday’s Christmas Special
THE MUSIC OF EMMET OTTER’S JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS

2010’s Dec. 5 Christmas Special
SONIC’S CHRISTMAS BLAST 

2009’s Dec. 5 Christmas Special
RAGGEDY ANN’S THE GREAT SANTA CLAUS CAPER 

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