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Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series recap: The First Face Off Part One

“Not only are these Ducks mighty, they’re really ducks!”

Ducks mascot Wild Wing shows off his I Voted sticker as he demonstrates how to vote during a media preview Wednesday, September 16, 2020 to showcase how the “Super Vote Center Site” will work at Orange County’s Honda Center.  Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Without Anaheim Ducks hockey to talk about and with the NHL trying to make ‘reverse retro’ a thing, I’m going to to give some 1990s cartoon Ducks hockey a try.

If you’ve got a Disney+ subscription, you’ll notice that the 1992 movie The Mighty Ducks — whence a certain franchise was born — and its two sequels are available to stream, but I’d instead like to focus on the horrifying and lesser-known 1996 cartoon Mighty Ducks, also available to stream. The series lasted for just one season of 26 episodes and tells the origin story of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, I think.

Here’s the show’s description on Disney+:

Puckworld is home to a race of hockey-loving humanoid ducks. When the sinister Dragaunus takes over the planet, a band of determined rebels, The Mighty Ducks, manage to chase him from the planet. During the fight, they are caught in a dimensional portal and end up stranded in Anaheim, CA. The Ducks form a hockey team and build a secret base under the Anaheim Pond so they can continue to fight Dragaunus and hopefully find a way home.

Sounds awful. I can’t wait.

Episode 1: The First Face Off, Part One

First of all, you have to watch the opening credits. Nothing I write will set the tone quite like this opening sequence does.

The first half of the pilot episode is our Clark Kent crash landing in Smallville moment — the Mighty Ducks are aliens that are also humanoid that are now playing hockey on Earth. “Not only are these Ducks mighty, they’re really ducks!” describes a hockey announcer early in the episode, in case the feathers and giant bills were confusing to anyone.

We’re first introduced to the Ducks playing hockey in Anaheim, featuring impossible plays (at on point, Grin checks the “entire Kohawks offense” into the boards) and plenty of time for very 90s zingers. I didn’t realize this was going to be a Wild Wing origin story, as he is the goaltender for the Mighty Ducks (and also his last name is Flashblade?). The Mighty Ducks also include two women on their team, Mallory and Tanya, and they compete with a roster of six, somehow.

The episode obviously brings up questions that are going to remain through out the series about what it means that large anthropomorphic ducks are being allowed to play professional hockey and fight crime on the side, but it also lays down an origin story that is equally as confusing.

The Mighty Ducks come from a world called Puckworld, and ice planet where everyone loves hockey. The mechanics of this society are not explained. Is hockey the only form of entertainment they have?

The only jobs we see anyone performing are when we’re later introduced to a bunch of people contracted by the military, including a professional jewel thief? Unfortunately, they animated Duke L’Orange so that as a child, I would be attracted to him:

The eyepatch! The streak in his feathers! He’s sexy and mysterious, and his former career as a “notorious” jewel thief raises so many questions, but his name also is part of a very concerning trend in this show. There are so many jokes about eating duck.

Duke L’Orange is a play on the French dish duck à l’orange. Early in the episode, a cop says, “I can remember when a duck was a meal, not a headline” in reference to the Mighty Ducks. The Saurians, a race of reptilian humanoids, at one point ask each other if they’ve eaten duck before and one responds “I hear it tastes like chicken.” Why is this entire universe obsessed with eating its main characters?

The “it tastes like chicken” comment comes back in a particularly haunting way when Wildwing tells Canard Thunderbeak that he’s half-chicken.

And oh, Canard! The end of the episode sees Canard and his sick Mighty Ducks tattoo sacrifice himself to save the rest of the Mighty Ducks as Lord Dragaunus (voiced by the indelible Tim Curry) pulls them through time and space to eventually land in Anaheim, which is where the episode ends. That’s pretty dark for a kid’s show, right?

Was the last team made up of actual frogs? This universe is bizarre.