“DuckTales” executive producer Matt Youngberg was recently told a story that he said was life changing.
When the accomplished showrunner and his co-producer, Francisco Angones, decided to bring the famed Disney show back to TV, they knew they wanted to not only introduce Della Duck but build out her epic backstory.
Della is not only mom to Huey, Dewey and Louie, but she’s an empowering presence for young girls, and she also just happens to be an amputee.
After working with the Amputee Coalition to make sure they got the character right, one of the men they worked with most had a special experience with his grandchildren.
“He was watching ‘DuckTales’ and his grandkids came in one morning,” Youngberg told “GMA. “It was an episode with Della Duck and she takes her limb off to shove into the gears of this robot and save her family, and his grandkids turned to him and said, ‘That’s just like you, grandpa.'”
Youngberg said the proud amputee just started crying.
“He doesn’t get to share something like that with his grandkids very often,” Youngberg added. “To hear that was meaningful.”
‘What Ever Happened to Della Duck?’
Since Della appeared back in 2017, when “DuckTales” first hit the air again, fans have asked themselves whatever happened to Huey, Dewey and Louie’s mom.
“It’s always been one of the mysteries in plain sight — Donald has these three nephews but whatever happened to their mom?” said Angones.
Fans knew that she had appeared in limited capacity in the comics dating all the back to the 1930s, and that she was Donald’s sister, but she really never had much of a backstory.
Well, until Youngberg and Angones.
“Even in the comics her role is pretty limited,” Angones said. “We saw this as a great opportunity for us to take something everyone knows but put a spin on it, make it new and interesting for the modern audience.”
For Youngberg, the goal was to make the ducks feel like a real family. Della left the boys on an adventure before they were even born — before they hatched — and crashed-landed on the moon. Her family, including Donald, all thought she died 10 years prior to 2017’s premiere.
But she survived, though she suffered a disability after an accident, where she was forced to amputate her own leg. She’s an empowering figure to say the least, bold and brave, but the three boys don’t immediately take to their mom when she returns after more than a decade.
“We really wanted to present a mom figure and female action hero that was like a lot of the moms we knew,” Angones said. “The moms of our kids.”
The producing duo added that most moms on kids shows are seen from the reassuring perspective, but this was a way to show it’s really hard to be a mom, but a rewarding job nonetheless.
For this reason, they incorporated all the challenges and needs to adapt to any situation that all moms know so well. Again, they wanted her to be fearless and real, but loving and really three-dimensional.
“But also making her this cool, interesting fun character,” Angones said. “We didn’t want her to be this saintly figure from beyond.”
Youngberg added that you see the boys’ personalities in her, where they often get into mischief because they are so fearless. It’s this common characteristic that also eventually lets the boys embrace her and realize Della really is their mom.
“They are natural extensions of her,” he said. “Her spirit is very much alive in her sons.”
‘Nothing Can Stop Della Duck’
While Della is an inspiration to her famous children, she’s also one to millions of children with disabilities.
When coming up with her backstory, it was important for the “Duck Tales” showrunners that the injury doesn’t define her, but that she defines it. They also wanted to be accurate and sensitive, which is why they worked extensively with the Amputee Coalition.
“We try very hard, even though it’s a world of ducks, to be an accurate representation of the world around us,” Youngberg said. “The natural choice was, let’s do it the right way.”
“We’re talking about Della as an adaptive individual, she’s gonna beat every odd, she’s gonna take charge of her decisions,” Angones added. “She made the choice to amputate her leg [on the moon] and it proved, nothing would stop her.”
What they really wanted to avoid was, “Oh Della is the amputee hero.”
“No, she’s a person who has a prosthetic and she’s dealing with her limb loss but she’s dealing with a lot of other things,” Angones explained.
Recently, Youngberg was invited to host an animation workshop at the summer camp that the coalition puts on for children with disabilities and counselors. During that workshop, they also screened an episode that starred Della.
“It was life changing for me actually, they personified Della Duck and her can-do attitude,” Youngberg said of the kids he met. “Multiple times I heard them say, ‘It’s great to be able to see someone like me on screen.'”
He added that what he kept hearing over and over again was, “like me.”
ABC News is part of parent company Disney.
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