April 6, 1991 – The Animated Series Darkwing Duck Premieres on the Disney Channel
“I am the terror that flaps in the night!”
On April 6, 1991, the original animated series Darkwing Duck premiered on the Disney Channel, after a sneak peek on March 31. The first episode, “Darkly Dawns the Duck,” was an hour-long special that also served as the series pilot. The series itself was a spin-off from the DuckTales series, and the first original series to be a genre parody. The show proved to be highly popular, and began syndication on September 7, 1991. Overall, the series had three seasons with 91 episodes. It was created by Tad Stones, and starred Jim Cummings as Darkwing Duck/Drake Mallard, Terry McGovern as Launchpad McQuack, and Christine Cavanaugh as Gosalyn Waddlemeyer.
“Darkly Dawns the Duck” begins in the city of St. Canard, where Darkwing is dropping off some criminals at the police station. He hopes to receive media attention for his good deeds, but no one knows anything about him. He arrives back at his hideout the next morning and decides to cook his breakfast before he goes to sleep. His routine of getting his breakfast also acts as a workout, which he handles with ease, save for the milk. He declares that “there’s not a street punk in this city that isn’t afraid of Darkwing Duck,” before he heads off to sleep, although he wishes he could get a shot at a real big-time criminal. As he laments, big-time criminal Taurus Bulba is chastising his henchmen for questioning his plan. It is soon revealed that Bulba is actually in prison, but has a fancy lair setup that disappears with the press of a button when the warden stops by.
Darkwing spends the next night at the top of his lair, scouring the city for any wrongdoing, when he sees a condor flying by with a trunk. Thinking this is suspicious, he quickly gets on his motorcycle and follows the condor. Bulba’s henchmen are quickly at work catching a nearby train that has something guarded by military guards. As they prepare to take off with the weapon, Darkwing arrives on the scene. He recognizes the henchmen as belonging to Bulba, and gets excited that this could be his chance to hit the big time. He appears in front of them in a cloud of smoke and knocks the guards unconscious, but stops for a photo op. The carriage containing the weapon flies off, with Darkwing attached, and he is disconnected from the carriage by the condor. Darkwing falls into a nearby barn, and is quickly attacked by Launchpad McQuack, who mistakes Darkwing as a thief. When he does recognize Darkwing, he admits that he’s the hero’s greatest fan, which pleases Darkwing immensely. Launchpad then helps Darkwing chase after the carriage in one of Launchpad’s planes, but the condor is there once again to drop Darkwing to his death.
As Darkwing plummets, Launchpad quickly takes the plane over to catch him. Both are pursued by the condor, and as Launchpad tries to take some evasive measures, the plane crashes, leaving the enemy to get away. When Launchpad asks what happens next, Darkwing angrily proclaims that he works alone, and never wants to see Launchpad ever again. The next day in the prison, Bulba finds the weapon available for him, but is unable to use it as he doesn’t know the arming code. The creator, Professor Waddlemeyer, died in an “accident” the year prior, so Bulba orders his henchmen to get his granddaughter from the St. Canard Orphanage. Bulba’s main henchman, Hammerhead, goes to the orphanage claiming to be a friend of the family, and takes Waddlemeyer’s granddaughter Gosalyn for a walk. She vents to him about how she isn’t a problem child, but no one wants to adopt her, but one day she’ll meet someone who understands her. Hammerhead is touched by Gosalyn’s story, but then attempts to kidnap her. She is then is taken by Darkwing as he drives by on his motorcycle, although she at first doesn’t believe he’s a hero. As they speed around town, joined by Launchpad, Darkwing tries to take Gosalyn to the safety of the police station, only to find that the police are firing at him. Gosalyn grabs a newspaper and finds an article accusing Darkwing of stealing a train. As they drive off a pier into the ocean, Launchpad loses Darkwing and Gosalyn, but the two are safely in Darkwing’s lair.
Gosalyn is amazed at Darkwing’s hideout, and asks if she can stay with him. He refuses, but she threatens to tell people where his hideout is. Bulba finds out the bad news from Hammerhead, and plans on drawing Darkwing out to get the girl. Bulba then makes his escape from the prison in a flying ship, and decides that it’s finally time to meet Darkwing Duck. Meanwhile, in his hideout, Darkwing deals with Gosalyn, as she starts messing with things she shouldn’t be. She sets off his breakfast training session, and is able to handle it better than Darkwing. She lectures him on safety, but he just thinks he’s adorable. She then asks if he’ll ever take off his mask, but he refuses. He lets her sleep in his bed, and explains to her why Bulba wants her, but she just gets upset when recalling her grandfather. When Darkwing remarks on how much spirit she has, she lights up and gives him a kiss on the cheek, as that’s what her grandfather used to say about her. She then asks Darkwing to sing her a lullaby, and she teaches him the lullabye her grandfather used to sing her. He continues the song, lulling her to sleep. Later, he realizes that the lyrics to Gosalyn’s lullaby is the arming code, although she doesn’t realize it herself.
A light shines through the window, alerting Darkwing. The light is actually signaling morse code, with the message: “Taurus Bulba, the criminal genius, recognizing the error of his ways, is offering to surrender himself, but only to Darkwing Duck.” Darkwing quickly recognizes the code, and Gosalyn wakes up at his excitement. Gosalyn is suspicious of the message, and starts mocking Darkwing. Angered, he says that once he captures Bulba, Gosalyn will go back to the orphanage, greatly upsetting her. He heads out of his hideout, unaware that Bulba’s condor was watching to find where Darkwing’s hideout is, and Bulba sends his men to go get Gosalyn. Darkwing meets up with Bulba, and Bulba starts mocking him, asking why he should surrender to Darkwing. The police are D to the scene and capture Darkwing, while he panics that Bulba is going to get Gosalyn. When the henchmen arrive to take Gosalyn, she defends herself with Darkwing’s breakfast training set, but she is soon captured by Bulba’s condor.
Darkwing is sitting in jail, lamenting his fate, and worried about Gosalyn. When he feels he has nothing left, Launchpad breaks into the prison by accident and helps him escape, although he admits he was coming by to bail Darkwing out. The two make their way to Bulba’s hideout in Launchpad’s secret weapon: the Thunderquack, a flying machine that looks like Darkwing. Darkwing, appreciative, calls Launchpad his sidekick. They reach the airship and narrowly dodge the Bulba’s attack. They create a hole in the ship, and Darkwing breaks in, looking for Gosalyn. It looks like Darkwing is outnumbered, and the two are taken hostage. Bulba threatens to kill Gosalyn unless Darkwing tells him the code. Darkwing enters the code from the lullaby, and the machine is armed. Bulba uses the machine to steal gold bars from the federal gold depository, and decides to kill Gosalyn, but Launchpad is able to save the girl. Darkwing then destroys the machine, and Bulba’s airship is sent crashing into the ocean. Bulba attempts to kill Darkwing, and the machine explodes, with Gosalyn and Launchpad watching in terror.
Back at the orphanage, Gosalyn sits in her room, depressed, not wanting to meet any prospective parents. When she hears the voice of a Drake Mallard, she recognizes it immediately and runs out to find him in the main office. She tackles him with a hug, and he tells her that he now needs a secret identity, as he has an adopted daughter to take care of, with Launchpad to help him out. Launchpad, true to form, accidentally reverses the car into the wall of the orphanage.