This Cuban-American Producer Brought Lin-Manuel Miranda In As The First Brown Latino Duck In The New ‘DuckTales’
It’s clear from the moment I meet Francisco “Frank” Angones, the Emmy-nominated story editor and co-producer of the new Disney XD “DuckTales” series, that calling the man a fan of the series is an understatement. He has several cartoon memorabilia-lined shelves in his office, along with a cassette tape of the original “DuckTales” theme song. Angones is the real deal.
Frank Angones is the co-producer and story editor of the upcoming “DuckTales” reboot on Disney XD.
Perks of the job: getting your own “DuckTales” portrait.
A Cuban-American who grew up in Miami, Angones has a pristine childhood photo of himself dressed head to toe as the “DuckTales” spin-off character Darkwing Duck. Angones says he’s living a childhood dream: “I’m really lucky to be able to do the job that 10-year-old me would be doing backflips over.”
Angones and team have spared no detail, poring over everything in the reboot to make sure it’s new and fresh, but not unrecognizable, from the original.
I’m led through the Disney offices and to a production room where art from the show is proudly displayed. There’s a detailed map of Duckburg, which oddly reminds me of the “Game Of Thrones” map. There are detailed instructional drawings of the do’s and don’ts of illustrating duck bills, which Angones tells me is surprisingly hard to do because they have to remain stiff, yet malleable enough to allow the characters to speak.
The sheer preparation and thought that goes into making a show of this caliber and with this much at stake is fascinating — “DuckTales” has fans around the globe that grew up on the stuff and will be no doubt scrutinizing the rebooted series with a fine-toothed comb.
Several new faces were added to the original roster of “DuckTales” villains.
All these guys look like real bad guys, but it’s the quiet looking one at the end that’s really scary.
On our way to the writers’ room, Angones shows me several panels of what my untrained eye sees as just settings and backgrounds. But Angones breaks down how they’ve kept the 2D animation look, which many shows no longer use, while adding a comic book feel to it, like the original comic book series. He tells me that bringing the series back to life is this balancing act between paying homage to the old, while bringing it into the 21st century — about 25 years after its finale. Feeling old yet?
In the writers’ room, everyone scrambled quickly to remove secret characters from the walls so I wouldn’t write about them. But I saw them. Oh, did I see them.
I quickly got into the meat of what I wanted to ask about: Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera, the first Brown, Latino duck character in the series.
Crackshell-Cabrera and his family, his mom specifically, are as stubborn as goats (“Cabrera” means goat herder), which is why they chose it as the family name, Angones tells me.
An update to the original Fenton Crackshell, Crackshell-Cabrera is now Latino and Brown. He’s also the secret identity of Gizmoduck. Gizmoduck was the coolest of ’90s TV cartoon superheroes, combining “Inspector Gadget” style doohickies with Iron Man-like armor, a comedic duck version of RoboCop on wheels. He was badass, and he still is, but now, he’s even cooler because he’s being voiced by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“In the original version, [Fenton] was an accountant, he was fast-talking, he was very sincere, he had a million ideas all at once, not all of them worked out,” says Angones. “But he always meant well and he was always fundamentally heroic and wanted to prove his worth. And we said, ‘Well that’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.'”
If you’re looking for a Duckburg version of “Hamilton” or “In The Heights,” don’t get your hopes up, because Angones was doing his best to avoid tokenism, both of Latinos at large and of Miranda himself. “That was a pet peeve of mine in the ’90s, when you’d watch a cartoon and then suddenly there would be some kind of rap song,” he said, “Or like, ‘Do the Urkel,’ they were just trying to market on this.” The show is making sure they take representation seriously.
Angones: “I knew we were looking for more representation, because we’re not just in Duckberg, we’re a globe-trotting show, and one of the things we take pride in is every time we go somewhere, we go to a different country or area, we always try to cast people who are actually from that country. If we go to Egypt, we’re going to actually cast Egyptian actors. If we go to China, we’re actually going to cast Chinese actors instead of voice actors who are trying to approximate that. I think that brings a level of authenticity to the whole thing.”
This importance given by Angones to representation perhaps is deep in his blood. Toward the end of our interview, he tells me the story of his great-great grandfather, who wrote the Cuban national anthem, and performed it as an act of defiance to Spanish aristocrats, asking other Cubans to stand with him and fight.
With all of the additions, updates and changes, however, Angones acknowledges the most important aspect of the show since its inception: family.
Courtesy of Disney
Unlike the original, each of the kids is performed by a different actor, thus allowing them to each have their own very distinct personality and voice.
“We knew that we wanted it to be a family show first. A real, relatable, weird, blended family,” says Angones. “Where a family is not just a mom and a dad and two kids. It can be triplets living with an uncle and their great uncle, and the housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s daughter is part of the family and this circle of people that you adventure with. Family is the greatest adventure of all.”
I had to agree with Frank, family is the greatest adventure of all. Well said.
This is the one photo I was allowed to take in the writers’ room. Top secret stuff is just offscreen to the right.
Several main characters were also removed right before I snagged this photo. NSA-level secrecy.
Disney XD has already released a movie length episode entitled “Woo-oo!” You can see it and on Disney Channel starting this week. You can also check it out here:
“DuckTales” premieres with two new episodes Saturday, September 23rd on Disney XD, the same week as the original Emmy Award-winning series 30th anniversary. Check your local listings for channel and times.
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