by pat howard

THE FRIDAY FIVE | Favorite “Disney Afternoon” series

In The Friday Five on July 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm

The early ’90s was a much different time for television. With cable and satellite still gaining a foothold, there weren’t nearly as many channels. Broadcast TV was insanely profitable, and in this time before demographics ruled the ratings, kids were an excellent target audience. This business model is how America ended up with nearly a decade of “The Disney Afternoon” block of animated series. Here are my five favorites (completely subjective; feel free to defend your own favorites in the comments).

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Far and away my favorite. Here you have two chipmunks, two mice, and a fly solving mysteries and MacGyvering crap out of common household products. This show likely had a heavy influence in my enjoyment of mysteries of all kinds to this day. Also, there was an awesome NES video game.

DuckTales

One of the richest and most monetized entries in the anthology, appropriate given its protagonist, the miserly Scrooge McDuck, forced to care for his three troublemaking great-nephews when their uncle joins the Navy. The series spawned a handful of made-for-TV films, participated in that asinine All-Stars to the Rescue special, launched two spinoffs, and even saw a theatrical release. It did not occur to me until much later how ridiculous the concept of swimming through pennies would be — like, how are you supposed to breathe and/or not be crushed?

Darkwing Duck

The first (and best) DuckTales spinoff, Darkwing Duck was your classic masked crusader caper. One needs a secret identity and loads of gadgets when one’s secret lair is inside a bridge, after all. The darker tone here marked a shift toward older kids and tweens, which would be further teased out in Gargoyles.

Gargoyles

I must have had something else going on by the time this one rolled out, because I remember having lots of trouble keeping up with it day-to-day. Serialized cartoons were unusual for The Disney Afternoon, and this one played almost like an animated soap at points. But it was ambitious, and didn’t talk down to its presumably young audience, who would eventually end up watching similarly themed stuff on The WB and SciFi.

TaleSpin

My final pick was this awesome nod to the past (early 20th century setting) and the future (corporate synergy is now the new world order, no?), adapting characters from Disney’s The Jungle Book and casting the voice of Sally Struthers to run a bush pilot operation (I feel like this is before she started shilling for the starving kids). The sociopolitical parallels were surely lost on children other than me, but kudos to the folks behind this show for trying to keep the adults interested too.

RUNNER UP | Goof Troop, in which Goofy and his son Max had ridiculous adventures with their next door neighbors and respective best friends, Pete and PJ. The feature film A Goofy Movie outshined the series; its sequel…was direct-to-video.

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