Having lifted characters and situations from their own features and comic books, as well as from the films of Steven Spielberg, Buena Vista Television's new series, "Darkwing Duck" (which previews on the Disney Channel at 8:30 this morning in anticipation of its debut this fall in syndication and on ABC's Saturday morning lineup) reveals the Disney television animators have found a new source to plunder: the classic Warner Bros. cartoons.
With his long bill, Lone Ranger mask, billowing cape and outsized slouch hat, Darkwing looks suspiciously like Daffy Duck in his swashbuckler outfit from Chuck Jones' "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (1950). The use of Warners-style takes--quick looks at the camera, flickering eyebrows, hammy mock-heroic poses--only emphasizes the similarities.
But Daffy was funny, and this inept crime fighter who describes himself as ". . . the terror that flaps in the night . . . the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares" isn't.
The supporting characters are also borrowed from other sources, and sorting out who came from where might make a good set of questions for a future edition of Trivial Pursuit. Launchpad McQuack, Darkwing's sidekick, is Uncle Scrooge's pilot on "Ducktails." Darkwing's adopted daughter, Gosalyn, looks like a cross between one of Donald Duck's nephews and the characters on "Tiny Toons."
It's a sad commentary on Disney, the pioneering studio that everyone copied for so many decades. However, the show's writers got one thing correct: If Darkwing Duck is pecking at your dreams, they're sure to be nightmares.