Mighty Ducks Review
Back in the 90s Disney was trying to make some big franchises, some were successful, others not so much. Mighty Ducks from 1996, “based” from the popular live action films and the hockey team, was very much in the latter category.
Taking the name from the popular children’s movie at the time about kids playing hockey. The Disneyfication came from making them into actual ducks that play hockey. They’re from another dimension on a planet called Puckworld, with anthropomorphic ducks whose culture is based entirely around hockey. It’s a weird enough concept to work. Then their ancient enemy, the Saurians, an evil reptile race, return from their dimensional prison and conquer Puckworld. Our main characters are rebels who, along with the lead Saurian ship, get sent through a dimensional portal to Earth. They land in Anaheim in American, where the leads form a hockey team and join the NHL.
That’s about it for general plot. They both want to get home, sometimes, but are stuck there and the Saurians either want to take over the world or get enough fuel for their ship so they can leave. It changes from episode to episode. And sometimes the Ducks fight random supervillains as well. Things like motivations and continuity change from episode to episode depending on what the plot wants. Not because of the comedy aspects but things like the bad guys trying to make a floating air platform to take over the world, despite the previous episode being about then hating the planet and just wanted to get back to their own dimension. There’s also an episode where they needed to bring a Duck from Puckworld to Earth, so they open a dimensional portal. Which begs the question of if can do that then why not use it and leave their ship and the Ducks behind.
There’s one word that easily sums up this show, generic. It’s not good, it’s not that terrible either, just a generic 90s action/comedy show. It seems like someone imported an 80s cartoon into a 90s framework. I think the main problem is the unbalanced mess of them trying to be an action/comedy show, doing standard straight action and then rather lame 4th wall jokes in-between. It’s like one side of the writers table wanted to do action, the other comedy, and both sides never really compromising or finding a middle ground. With both sides never producing anything that stood out, just lame action with unimaginative jokes.
The characters are equally as generic and their entire character can be summed up in a few words. There’s the noble/unsure of himself leader, the solider girl, the wacky/Michelangelo one, the rogue/thief, the Zen strongman, and the nerdy/tech girl. They don’t really grow, develop, or gain any real depth throughout the course of the show. The villains are also equally generic, there’s the angry leader, the brute, the old wizard, and the shapeshifting comic relief. Though I will say the shapeshifter, imaginatively called Chameleon, is funny at times since they have him as a reference generator for old comedians, movie quotes, and other such things. Which is better than using him as the bog standard visual gag generator comedy shapeshifters get put into.
The voice acting however was definitely better than the show deserved. There was Ian Ziering, Jennifer Hale, Brad Garrett, and of course Jeff Bennett, to name a few. All did stand out performances. Then there were the villains, Tim Curry, Clancy Brown, Frank Welker, and the late Tony Jay. That’s pretty much an all-star cartoon villain line-up. Other guest villains included Jim Cummings, Matt Frewer, W. Morgan Sheppard, and Charlie Adler. It’s annoying to have all these great voice actors together yet the show doesn’t deserve any of them. They breathe at least some life into these lifeless husks of characters.
The animation is another surprise since it’s actually not too bad. It hasn’t aged too badly and that’s saying something for mid-90s animation. It’s not spectacular either but given the time having decent animation that still looks good is a rare thing. Though they did have a tendency to reuse animation, especially when launching their ship or “battle van”. Which can be hilarious for continuity gaffs since those are taken from the first episode, so the leader doesn’t have the “leadership mask” on, which he never takes off in later episodes. It looks really out of place to see his actual face in the middle of an episode, which we never get to see any other time, really. The designs aren’t too bad either. The characters, armour, weapons, and vehicles, all look decent and for a toy merchandise show. Also all of the Duck’s weapons/vehicles are duck/hockey based. So guns that fire pucks like Judge Dredd’s lawgiver, or vans/bikes/ships that have a giant duckbill on the front. Given that limitation they don’t look too bad. Also the villains are quite well designed and could look quite menacing, if the show let them, and each have their own unique look to them.
Though the show’s intro is quite dire. The theme tune’s alright, catchy but not cheesy or stupid sounding, but the opening itself is probably one of the worst I’ve seen. It’s all computer “enhanced” animation that just looks awful and misrepresents the shows actual animation. Then there’s the character showcase which has all their names on screen, as per usual, but it goes by so fast there’s literally no time to read any of them. A show opening is meant to be “this is what you’re about to watch” and this one makes the show look ten times more terrible than it actually is.
Overall the series is forgettable and generic. Animation and voice work is fine, but that can’t save a show. The series would’ve been better emphasising the comedy more as that was the stronger part of it and the episodes that were more comedy based tended to work better. The best episode I’d watched was “Puck Fiction” doing many gangster spoofs, most notably Pulp Fiction where they answer at the beginning what’s in the briefcase. But that episode suffers at the end due to the lame villain plot shoved in because they needed an action ending.
The show’s neither ‘so bad it’s good’ or good enough to watch beyond nostalgia. Skip it unless you like wasted potential.