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The Mythological elements in Mighty Ducks: the animated series

Many people view cartoons as a type of entertainment for young children. Children may watch the show and then pretend to be their favorite character. Or children may want the toys that the show so often advertises. Many parents view cartoons as a way to promote toys or entertain their kids. Few people would suspect a "children's show" would have mythological motifs. Actually mythology extends from stories of ancient times such as the Greeks and Romans, to paintings, modern literature, television shows and even cartoons. Sometimes the creators of these works do not even realize that they put in mythological motifs. Such is the case of the Disney cartoon Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series. While people of all ages watch it, it appears that the show's largest audience is middle schoolers; however, it is also enjoyed by those who are younger and even those in high school, college and beyond. But what is the appeal of this show: the animation, the storyline, the lovable characters? Whatever the reason, there are the hidden mythological motifs that many viewers are not even aware of. Who would suspect a "children's show" could have mythological elements that have been passed down through time? After studying mythology and becoming aware of the mythological elements and motifs one can clearly see that Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series includes these themes. Perhaps by understanding these ancient motifs one can better appreciate the cartoon. In Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series there are several motifs dating back at least to Greek and Roman times. These motifs are those of the hero's quest, the hero's refusal of the summons, the confrontations with and defeat of their inner monsters, the femme fatal, and of course the ultimate nemesis.

The first element in any mythological hero quest is the call to duty. As Moses was called to fulfill his duty by the burning bush, our duck heroes were also called to action. In this show the duck's planet, Puckworld, was overtaken by evil Saurians in a situation similar to earth's World War II in which the ducks were captured and forced to work for the Saurians. Here we have a problem that the hero must fix. To start the quest, one of the minor heroes named Canard, who is also an old friend of Wildwing, is to assemble a group of ducks to destroy the master tower from which the Saurians control Puckworld. Canard decides that his old friend Wildwing would be the perfect addition to his team. When Canard finds Wildwing he is in line with his younger brother, Nosedive, heading for what is assumed to be a labor camp. When Canard grabs Wildwing he is willing to join the team but only on the condition that his younger brother is allowed to join as well. This refusal to leave his brother behind shows Wildwing's loyalty to his family, which also could be considered a heroic characteristic. Canard reluctantly consents under the condition that Wildwing be responsible for Nosedive. The other ducks in Canard's resistance also get some type of call to duty; however, it is not shown as to how this happened in the episodes (but it does in the original script).

After joining the resistance, the newest recruits to the team are informed that their ultimate nemesis is Dragaunus, the last of the Saurian overlords. Their mission is to break into the Saurian's master tower, from which Dragaunus controls his forces, and destroy it. This mission is part of the hero's quest found in many heroic myths. On this ‘quest' to destroy the master tower they are faced with several obstacles, a hero's quest is never easy. First, the ducks have to break into the locked master tower. From there Tanya and Mallory set the explosives which Mallory has some trouble with (she doesn't get along with machines). Meanwhile the others go to find Dragaunus. Wildwing is supposed to go ahead and act as bait for Dragaunus, but he gets separated from the others due to a Saurian trap. Canard, Duke, and Grin are forced to engage three of Dragaunus's henchmen (Chameleon, Wraith and Seige). This is where the heroes fight the first of their many battles against their enemies. Wildwing on the other hand, who received his call to duty, was left to face the ultimate nemesis alone. The idea of fighting the ultimate nemesis is one frequently placed in myths and the nemesis is often defeated, but this is not the case here. Dragaunus uses his ability to cloak to capture Wildwing. This ability to cloak in ancient mythology would probably be considered magical or god-like, but today in the age of science and technology we accept it on a scientific basis and it seems less god-like. But to attribute this ability to a god does not seem far off, since Dragaunus seems to never be destroyed. Even in the final episode titled "Final Face Off" Dragaunus merely crashed in the ocean, but was not killed. This could be tied into the fact that gods usually are immortal.

It is often a trait of a hero to rescue those in need of help. In the "First Face Off" Dragaunus captures Wildwing and is in the process of sending him to his death. Much like any mythical hero Duke comes in and swings down to Wildwing's rescue saving him just moments before he is zapped into oblivion. Again after arriving to Anaheim, Duke notices some humans in trouble and convinces the rest of the team to help because if they didn't fight evil wherever they found it then they will be no better than Dragaunus. Throughout the entire series the ducks main goal is to defeat Dragaunus and save Earth from his schemes to take over the world. After this main goal is completed, the ducks can return to their home planet, Puckworld. During their stay on Earth they not only defeat their ultimate nemesis, Dragaunus, but also several other beings who come along to cause trouble, such as Baron Von Lichtenstamp, Lucretia DeCoy, Asteroth, Falcone, Dr. Pretorius, Stanley Strazinski, Phineas P. Viper, B.R.A.W.N., "Big" Daddy O'Cool, Commander Xenon and Emperor Zyloid, and Dr. Droid.

The theme of the dying god or hero is also incorporated into this show. When the ducks follow the Saurians into the dimensional gateway the Saurians release an electromagnetic worm which takes hold of the ducks ship. The only way to get rid of the worm and make it safely through limbo is to jettison something for the worm to grasp instead of the Aerowing. The only problem is that everything in the Aerowing is bolted down. Canard, seeing how Wildwing instinctively takes charge, decides that Wildwing would be the better leader and sacrifices himself. When Canard exits the Aerowing his best friend, Wildwing, tries to save him without success. Canard sacrifices himself for the good of the team. Often in mythology a god or hero dies in order to save someone else. In this case it is uncertain whether or not Canard dies (though many fans assume he survives somehow), the ducks assume he is dead. This is not only a dying god motif but also the act of a hero who selflessly sacrifices himself for the good of others.

The theme of the reluctant hero also appears in this show. In the episode "Take me to your leader," Wildwing doubts his ability to lead the team. During his stay on Earth he still had yet to conquer Dragonus, and after putting his friends in danger due to his supposed poor leadership he feels he is no longer fit to lead the team. He turns over his mask, his symbol of leadership, and leaves his teammates. He then realizes that just because he is not fit to lead doesn't mean he can't still be a member of the team. But before he has the chance to rejoin his friends he is captured and forced to repair an alien spaceship which they thought he shot down. During his captivity he realizes Dragunus shot down the alien ship and he must take action to stop Dragunus' plan. He finds a way to trick his captors and gain their help. During this time he discovers that he is leadership material. This also involves the motif of defeating one's inner monsters. In Wildwing's case his inner monster was doubt. He doubted his abilities to lead his team and lacked the self confidence to do so. By freeing himself from captivity he proved to himself that he wasn't as bad a leader as he previously thought.

Another familiar mythological motif is that of the femme fatale. In the femme fatale motif a temptress threatens the hero's mission. Such is the case of Lucretia DeCoy. In the episode "A Traitor Among Us" Lucretia is sent by Dragunus to steal a Proteus chip from the ducks. Lucretia, as her name implies, basically serves as a decoy by distracting the male ducks with her good looks in order to complete her mission. When she arrives at the Pond, Duke and Nosedive are taken in by her beauty and end up spending the entire episode making fools of themselves over the female duck. This is obviously her intent because she seems to encourage them. However, not all the ducks are taken in by her looks, and Wildwing manages to frame her as a double crosser in Dragunus' eyes, thus defeating the temptress.

Numerology may also play a role in this show as it does in some myths. If one takes note of some of the duck's jersey numbers in hockey, they may prove significant. Wildwing's number is 00. After the episodes "First Face Off" and "Take Me To Your Leader" one can see that Wildwing does not always feel he is a capable leader. The double zero on his jersey could represent the doubt he has as a leader--almost as if he feels he's a zero. The number 13 on Duke's jersey could be significant in that the number 13 is unlucky. It appears from the chip in Duke's beak and his eye patch that he's had some bad or unlucky experiences. Grin's jersey number 01 probably doesn't mean anything, but in the episode "Power Play" Grin implies that he was once a bully. Being a bully one would tend to think of themselves as number one or the best. Who would argue otherwise with someone of Grin's size?

Within this show there is another myth. This one is known to the Puckworlders as the legend of Drake DuCaine. According to Nosedive, Drake DuCaine invented a mask that could see through invisible shields to find the Saurians during the time of the Saurian Empire. It was said that the mask was hidden away someplace but Wildwing dismissed it as only a legend. Later when Canard comes to recruit Wildwing for the resistance, he brings with him a goalie mask, the mask of Drake DuCaine, proving that it was not merely a legend for the Puckworlders. This mask also represents leadership of the small resistance group. Whoever wore the mask was in charge. When Canard passed the mask onto Wildwing just as he sacrificed himself to the worm in the dimensional gateway, he was passing on leadership of the team. In the episode "Take Me To Your Leader," when Wildwing leaves the team as leader the duck in charge always wore the mask. The mask also appears to give its owner some leadership abilities. When Wildwing puts on the mask, his voice deepens as if to emphasize that he is in charge, it also gives him confidence. People often hide their true selves beneath a mask, whether that mask be physical as in Wildwing's case or metaphorical as in most the cases. This mask allows its wearer to deal with situations better because they may use the mask to hide their fear, pain, or doubt. Gods in myths also usually have some type of weapon associated with them. Perhaps this mask can be equated with a god-like weapon since it enhances its owner's vision.

So it can be seen that while Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series appears to be only a kids show, it has underlying mythological elements dating back to ancient times. Perhaps if people realized this they would not dismiss cartoons as childish without giving them a chance.

 

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