Duckula: The Complete First Season
Sound: B- Extras: B- Program: B+
Count Duckula was one of those shows that
when it was new and on the air you couldn't escape if you were a kid. You'd turn on Nickelodeon and Duckula would
be there, all smiles holding a stalk of broccoli in his feathered hand. You might have had toys or games or other
Duckula paraphernalia. But what was
guaranteed is that you'd be in front of the television to watch it.
At least, that's how it was for me and my brother in the
mid-80s. There were many animated shows
to watch, most of which aired on Saturday mornings, like the Teen Wolf
animated series, but Duckula was a show that seemed to be
omnipresent. And that suited us just
fine; we loved watching the globetrotting exploits of the vegetarian vampire
duck count. Especially cool were the
opening credits that showed Duckula being brought back to life via a blood
transfusion, except, thanks to Duckula's dimwitted maid Nanny, ketchup was used
instead of blood. The credits were
equally scary and hilarious -- for a five and six year old -- and that balance
translated to the show, creating a program that kept us coming back for more.
For anyone out there who hasn't seen -- or even heard --
of the show, shame on you. But here's a
primer anyway: Count Duckula is part of a lineage of ruthless, tyrannical
vampires who is killed by having a stake driven through his heart. Thanks to an ancient ritual that can only be
performed once a century, though, Duckula was resurrected. Thanks to the ketchup transfusion, he lost
his bite as a vampire and gained a love for vegetables, much to the
consternation of his butler, Igor, who, along with Nanny, lives with Duckula in
As animated entertainment goes, Count Duckula is
almost unmatched by other contemporary animated programs in terms of
originality and quality animation. The
only show that is in its league is Danger Mouse. And that, not coincidentally, was produced
by the same company, the British Cosgrove Hall. And like Danger Mouse, which (reviewed elsewhere on this
site) was a smashing success on both sides of the pond, Count Duckula
found an audience and kept it throughout its run.
However, time has a knack of making you forget about
things that were once as important as being able to breathe. If it weren't for this DVD release of the
first season of Duckula, the show might have languished away in the back
of my memory. Luckily, the DVD market
is such that shows like Duckula, which might now be considered a
cult-ish program, are brought to market and allowed to live once again. The
double-edge of that sword, though, is that that same market doesn't always
allow for top-quality products to reach that market.
This is the fate that has befallen Duckula. On one hand, it's great to have the show
available on home video for not only the Children of the Eighties to relive but
also for new generations to discover.
The flipside of that, though, is that while the three-disc set of the
first season of the show is complete, it's lacking in terms of extras and
There are five special features found on disc three -- one
is a featurette on how to draw Duckula, another is a 10-minute long interview
with co-creator Brian Cosgrove, followed by a 4-munute long interview with
Senior Producer/Artist John Doyle, the fourth is a photo gallery, and the last
is a restoration demonstration. While
this is a decent collection of extras for a show that seems to have slipped
into pop culture obscurity, it would have been nice to have something about
some of the other artists that worked on the show or even a little documentary
about the cultural impact of Duckula or even Cosgrove Hall generally.
The restoration demonstration, though, is an interesting
one because it points to some of the flaws in the transfer. Usually, when you see such a demonstration,
the restoration job is like night and day.
Unrestored footage looks awful, restored footage looks brilliant. But in this case, there's little difference
between the two. Certainly you can see
that dust and dirt had been removed from the negative, but either the prints
were fairly decent to begin with or someone was lax in their task because the
difference between the unrestored and restored Duckula is hardly a
difference at all. The 1.33 X 1 image
is not as vibrant as those Danger Mouse prints, but it is pretty good.
That said, though, Duckula looks fairly good for a
nearly 20 year-old animated-by-hand children's program, without using age as an
excuse for flaws in a filmed show. It's
not perfect, but it's not a mess either.
There's a certain feeling to the video quality, though, a cloudiness or
murkiness, which adds to that nostalgic feel of watching the show now. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad
thing, but it certainly makes for an interesting watching experience.
On the audio side, Duckula will sound great on a
two-speaker television, but if you try blasting it through large speakers and a
home theater system, you'll likely be disappointed by the results from the
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Like with the
video, this problem could be good or bad depending on your standpoint. But for those looking for a nostalgia trip,
the audio track on this set certainly provides it.
Count Duckula might not have enjoyed the kind
of success a show like Danger Mouse did, but for anyone who remembers
the show it’s hard to argue about Duckula's merits. It's funny, creepy, and entertaining while
still being wholesome yet off-kilter. Duckula
is a case of they don't make them like this anymore -- luckily, we now have it
on DVD to watch over and over again to remind us of that fact.
- Dante A.