In the past couple of weeks, a bit of DuckTales-mania has hit the internet in a way that could best be described as giddy-ing. It’s understandable. It’s not every day Disney gives the fans what they want—and it ’s not every day that the results of that are pretty amazing.
And it’s worth that level of nostalgia, because it’s reviving what perhaps was the most important cartoon of the ‘80s—both culturally and from an economic standpoint. For years, it was the most popular cartoon for kids on broadcast, and—in a relative rarity for its era—was the subject of a feature film.
“Until ‘DuckTales,’ programmers wondered whether children’s cartoons could survive on TV at all,” a 1990 AP article explained. “The medium was artistically bankrupt, a violent, sexist marketplace for 22-miinute commercials wrapped around ads for candy, toys, and breakfast cereals.”
It was the centerpiece of the last truly great era of syndicated cartoons on broadcast television—one that aired on weekdays, rather than Saturday mornings. Soon, networks like Fox were trying to make the case that they could do better than syndication; not long after that, the cable industry (including Disney) proved that they had advantage on all things animated by default.
And it also represented something of a holy grail for comics fans: It was a good animated form of a comic series that was steeped in legend and had nothing to do with superheroes.
Perhaps the most interesting tale about DuckTales involves the video game series that bears its name. The original game, produced by the able hands of Capcom, sold a solid 1.67 million copies, making it the most popular NES game ever produced by Capcom—topping, among other things, the entire Mega Man series.
But what might surprise gamers who have a pretty fond memory of the first game is that there was a sequel, and it was a major flop. The problem with DuckTales 2 wasn’t the quality, although some derided it as more of the same.
The real problem was timing. The game was released in 1993 at the very end of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s existence, after the release of the Super NES. And that ensured that the game wouldn’t have the notoriety of the original.
Well, it does have a different kind of notoriety. DuckTales 2 has gained a reputation among game collectors as one of the rarest games to find in physical form. It’s still findable, but it’ll cost you. Current auctions for the game are going for a solid $200 for the cartridge alone, and $350 for a version that still has the box.
Someone should tell Scrooge that there’s a fortune to be made.