Count Duckula

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Count Duckula
Count duckula titles.jpg
Genre Animated series
Created by Cosgrove Hall
Directed by Carlos Alfonso
Chris Randall
Keith Schoble
Voices of Barry Clayton
Jimmy Hibbert
David Jason
Jack May
Brian Trueman
Ruby Wax
Narrated by Barry Clayton
Composer(s) Mike Harding
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 65 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) John Hambley
Producer(s) Brian Cosgrove
Mark Hall
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Cosgrove Hall (1988–1993)
Thames (1988–1991)
Central (1993)
Distributor FremantleMedia
Broadcast
Original channel ITV Network (CITV)
Italia 1 (Italy)
Nickelodeon (USA)
YTV (Canada)
Picture format 4:3
Original run UK:
6 September 1988 (1988-09-06) – 16 February 1993 (1993-02-16)  –
USA:
6 February 1988 (1988-02-06) – 26 December 1993 (1993-12-26)
Chronology
Related shows Danger Mouse
Victor and Hugo

Count Duckula is a British children's animated comedy-drama horror television series created by British studio Cosgrove Hall as a spin-off from Danger Mouse, a series in which the Count Duckula character was a recurring villain. Count Duckula premiered for three series from 6 September 1988 to 16 February 1993, and was produced by Thames Television for 58 episodes and Central Television for the final seven episodes. In all, 65 episodes were made, each about 22 minutes long. All 65 episodes have been released on DVD in the U.K., while only the first series has been released in North America.

The show is a loose parody of the story of Count Dracula. Set in Transylvania (a region in Romania), Duckula lives in a spooky castle known as Castle Duckula alongside his butler Igor and his large nanny (who is always referred to as "Nanny" and perpetually wears an arm sling). Almost all of the characters in the show are anthropomorphised birds.

Plot[edit]

The story (shown in the title sequence of each episode) is that Duckula has been a vampire for centuries. He can only be destroyed by exposure to sunlight or by a wooden stake thrust through his heart. Duckula has died numerous deaths, but he always returns through a mystic ritual, performed once each century, "when the moon is in the eighth house of Aquarius". The opening credits depict Igor's incantation.

Several episodes explore the theme that each resurrection creates a new incarnation with little to no memory of its past life. Thus, every incarnation is free to develop its own personality and pursue its own personal interests. The vampire is able to pose as a "dreadful dynasty, the counts of Duckula". The preceding generations included knights, sorcerers, scientists, artists, Egyptologists and even professional gamblers, all of whom are also secretly "vicious vampire ducks".

However, as the title sequence puts it, "the latest reincarnation did not run according to plan". The successful conclusion of the ritual requires blood (a send-up of the Hammer Dracula films), the source of sustenance for any vampire, but Nanny accidentally substitutes tomato ketchup. Consequently, the newest version is not a blood-sucking vampire, but a vegetarian one. He is more interested in juicy carrots than hunting for victims. Igor is appalled. Even worse, his "new" master is obsessed with pursuing wealth and fame as an entertainer.

The stories often centre around Duckula's adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle's ability to teleport around the world. Another regularly occurring theme is the repeated attempt by Igor to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. Some episodes feature Duckula's nemesis Doctor Von Goosewing (based on Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the nemesis of Dracula), a vampire hunter who blindly refuses to believe the current incarnation of Duckula is harmless. There is also an array of bizarre, often supernatural foes, from zombies to mechanical werewolves. Another feature of the show is a cuckoo clock whose bat-like Russian-accented characters come out and make jokes about the current situation (or corny jokes in general). The clock is also a vital part of the castle's travelling mechanism, and even has the ability to turn back time.

A series of annuals and monthly comics further detailing the adventures of Count Duckula and associated characters were released throughout the time that the series originally aired and for a short time afterwards.

Voice cast[edit]

Characters[edit]

Protagonists[edit]

Count Duckula[edit]

Duckula (full title: Count Duckula the 17th–as stated in the episode "The Count and the Pauper"), is a short green duck with black parted hair and the traditional vampire evening wear, complete with cape. He has no fangs, although his more old-fashioned relatives do (two of which are an uncle named Vlad, and an auntie named Lucrecia). His favourite food, as a vegetarian, is broccoli sandwiches. He occasionally has been seen wearing pyjamas with a Danger Mouse logo, a reference to the character's origin.

Count Duckula himself is a deliberate send-up of many traditional vampire traits. As his name suggests, he is an anthropomorphic duck. Besides his vegetarianism and aspirations of fame, he is very squeamish and often cowardly. The Duckula family motto is Per ardua ad sanguina, which means "work hard for blood".

He has a very modern outlook, and often despairs over the traditional vampire image he is expected to embody. He hates living in a dark, gloomy castle, and finds the behaviour of his servants to be depressing. Although he retains some vampiric powers and qualities (such as teleportation and an image invisible to mirrors), he also possesses a lesser power, seen only once, which is the ability to create a lightning flash when angry. Duckula's most frequently-used power is teleportation, which consists of him launching upwards into a small storm cloud and reappearing in a flash of lightning elsewhere (as opposed to his predecessor on Danger Mouse, who appeared in a vertical explosion of flames).

He often goes outside in the daytime without suffering any ill effects, but this is likely because of his not being a full traditional vampire. In the episode "Doctor Goosewing and Mr. Duck," Count Duckula briefly turns into a "proper" vampire, desiring blood from the villagers outside the castle, but he turns away from the door when he discovers that the sun is still out.

Although he is often egotistical and selfish, Duckula is good natured, often trying to help people, although he usually succeeds only in making them hate him. He is prone to short-lived obsessions, often forming the plots for episodes, such as attempting to become a blues musician in New Orleans, prospecting for gold, or becoming a cowboy or performer.

The character differs considerably from his predecessor on the Danger Mouse series. In fact, the only similarities, other than the name, is they are both vampire ducks with ambitions in show business with little actual talent. The previous version was an evil villain, willing to blackmail and force his way into stardom (as opposed to the current Count, who merely tries to get in the legitimate way) and was fixated on being a TV star, rather than settle for fame in some other branch of entertainment. He has far greater magical powers and makes much more use of them. He has a thick accent consisting of lisping, stuttering and occasional squawks. Most notably, he was not a vegetarian in the Danger Mouse version. In his very first appearance, he threatened to drink Danger Mouse's blood, only to be chased away by the sun. The Danger Mouse Duckula was destroyed and fell to ashes, resurrected during the 8th astronomical house of Aquarius.

Count Duckula speaks with an American accent, despite being voiced by a British actor.

Igor[edit]

Igor, the Count's butler, is a traditional horror servant based on the stock character Igor, and adds a decidedly dark streak to some of the show's humour. He greatly dislikes his master's behaviour, and often encourages him to act in a far more ghastly manner. Although he will generally obey Duckula's specific orders (thwarting Duckula's attempt to stop the first Duckula becoming a vampire only because he was not explicitly ordered not to), he remains convinced that, if he could only talk Duckula into biting, maiming, torturing and otherwise brutalising people, he would return to the "good old days" of the previous counts who behaved more like evil vampires.

Igor hates words such as "bless you," "nice," "good," and "lovely". Such words make him cringe, since he prefers the darker and more sinister side of life. In the episode "Hardluck Hotel," Igor goes on holiday to a rundown and dismal hotel, where he sits in complete darkness, enjoying the sounds of the damp creeping up the walls.

He is a hunched, balding vulture with a deep, slow voice. He has 13 siblings (announced in the episode "Town Hall Terrors"). His age is uncertain. However, in the episode "Arctic Circles," he states that he has served for "seven-and-a-half centuries". If this is approximate of the 17 incarnations of Duckula, his age is probably 800+ years old, and he may have started his service to the Duckula family around the time of Count Duckula the 1st, or shortly afterwards. The episode "The Rest is History" almost exactly ascertains this, which is further confirmed by the episode "One Stormy Night," in which a stone statue of Count Duckula the 4th is animated during a thunderstorm and does not seem to recognise Igor, yet presumes he is a servant. As Count Duckula can only be brought back to life "once a century," and Igor has performed this task many times during his service, he likely has had a very long lifespan.

Nanny[edit]

Nanny, as her name suggests, is Duckula's nanny, as well as housekeeper. She is an extremely large (in the episode "Alps-A-Daisy," it's revealed she's seven feet tall) and clumsy hen, possessing incredible strength and inevitably messing up whatever task she is set to do. She has a blind spot regarding doors, and often crashes through a door without opening it first, or (more commonly) walks right through the wall, especially a few feet off from the door's position. Not surprisingly, she is the one who mistakes ketchup for blood in Duckula's current resurrection.

She is supremely unintelligent, and completely unreliable. She is devoted to her "Ducky-boos," as she calls Duckula, and has a deep maternal affection for him, although her clumsiness often inadvertently causes him harm. A recurring gag is her inability to understand what people around her are talking about. She often mixes up words and takes insult at conversations not directed at her. She is very ditzy and motherly, sometimes hugging Duckula so tightly she nearly suffocates him. In "Dr Goosewing and Mr Duck" when she accidentally drinks the carpet stain removal liquid created by Goosewing she becomes extremely intelligent.

Like Igor, her age is uncertain, although she has apparently been with the Duckula family for several incarnations. In the episode "Igor's Busy Day," Igor recalls Duckula's great-grandfather, who used to allow stranded travellers to stay the night. Nanny concurs that she remembers those days, possibly indicating she also has a very long lifespan. Her right arm is perpetually in a sling, (though it is revealed in a newspaper comic that she, in fact, is only wearing the sling to cover up a tattoo). The sling itself seems to have unlimited carrying capacity, as she is able to produce any number of items from it, in the style of Harpo Marx's recurring magic satchel joke.

Castle Duckula[edit]

Count Duckula's home is an archetypal Transylvanian castle with all the trimmings: dungeon, torture chamber, library of macabre texts, laboratory, and more. The castle is also home to an often referred-to, but never seen, werewolf named Towser, which Duckula does not believe exists (he often refers to it as "the werewolf we don't have"). Igor always tries to hide Towser's existence from Duckula, though the reason for this is unknown. This could be a reference to a cartoon dog of the early 1980s of the same name.

The castle can teleport to any place on earth (and beyond), but returns automatically at dawn, "Eastern Transylvanian Standard Time," as mentioned by Igor in the show (although he refers to it as "Eastern Standard Transylvanian Time" in the episode "Private Beak"). The teleportation is activated when Duckula enters an upright coffin while he states where he wants it to take him (often, he will have to come up with a rhyme to activate it properly).

The controls to this device are inside an old-fashioned cuckoo clock that hangs on the wall. Inside the clock, live two mechanical bats, Dmitri and Sviatoslav, who punctuate each episode by coming out and delivering stale jokes to each other. These jokes are so bad that they actually drive a character, who had been given the clock, insane. The characters' thick Slavic accents, and Sviatoslav's frequent failure to understand the punchlines, do not help matters. The main character does not mention anything about them until the episode "The Rest is History," where he states that their jokes are getting worse. However, when he travels through time and the cuckoos start to talk backwards, Duckula says that they are more amusing that way.

The castle itself may be at least partly sentient, and may also have a degree of self-awareness. The other characters make references to this, though this may be due to their superstition.

Antagonists[edit]

Dr. Von Goosewing[edit]

Dr. Von Goosewing is a mad scientist and vampire hunter, a spoof of Abraham Van Helsing. He is a goose that speaks in a German accent. Von Goosewing wears an outfit not unlike that of Sherlock Holmes, with a pair of spats. He often flies a dirigible with "VG" on it.

He pursues Count Duckula relentlessly, never able to comprehend that Duckula is actually completely harmless. When he's not inventing some new machine with which to hunt vampires, he relies on an old fashioned blunderbuss, which is loaded with a wooden stake (although, curiously, it will sometimes actually fire laser beams).

He is a terrible scientist, often getting maimed by his own crackpot inventions. He is supremely unobservant, and often bumps into Duckula and converses with him for several minutes without realising to whom he is speaking.

Von Goosewing appears to have an assistant named Heinrich (who never appears on screen, yet some evidence of his existence appears, such as an uneaten sandwich in the episode "The Incredible Shrinking Duck"). Von Goosewing often calls for Heinrich, and often blames his failures on him. In fact, "Heinrich" seems to be just a figment of Von Goosewing's imagination, an imaginary friend. However, the comic book version of the characters by Marvel reveal that Heinrich is actually his former assistant who is always complaining about his paltry wages. Von Goosewing mentions that Heinrich threatened to resign, but is still with him. Apparently, Heinrich quit, but his former employer failed to realise it.

The Marvel comic books based on the show also add a supporting character: his niece Vanna, on whom Duckula has a crush. This affection is reciprocated and the two have a romance during the comic's run, much to Von Goosewing's chagrin. Goosewing pursues Duckula with greater fervour as he seeks to "protect" his niece from him.

The Crow brothers[edit]

The Crow brothers are four criminally-inclined crows named Ruffles, Burt, Junior, and the masked brother (according to a comic in a Count Duckula annual). They typically scale the walls of Castle Duckula with the aid of climbing equipment. They are always seen hanging off one another with the use of bungee cords to climb the walls of whatever building they plan to scale. Their goal is to get at the treasure inside the castle, but they'll rarely make it to the top.

The crows always wear masks. Ruffles wears a balaclava, Burt wears a longer balaclava, Junior wears a Peruvian chullo that seems to extend to his eyes, and the fourth crow brother wears a sock that entirely covers his face. The four brothers are led by the tallest crow, Ruffles, who often has plans that do not work.

Duckula is always oblivious to the crows' criminal intentions, and often enlists them in endeavours to become an entertainer. At one point, they break into Castle Duckula while a play is being put on, and the Count needs fairies, toadstools and dwarves. The crows' masculinity hilariously comes into play, as they discuss their coming debut, "A woodelf, maybe. A mushroom, possibly. But I ain't going to be no bloomin' fairy!"

The egg[edit]

The egg is a supervillain egg with a grudge against anyone who is alive, because he was never able to hatch from his egg. Along with him in his insidious schemes and plans, is a parrot with a Chinese stereotypical complexion known as Oddbeak (a play on the James Bond villain Oddjob), who is very careful not to use words with the prefix "egg," as he knows they will offend his master due to his unhatched state. He cannot say "exactly, master" or "how exciting!" because the "ex-" sounds too much like the "e word".

Gaston and Pierre[edit]

Gaston and Pierre are a pair of French criminals and occasional villains. Although they are both undeniably incompetent, the arrogant Gaston is ostensibly the "brains" of the outfit. Gaston is a tall, thin, black stork, while Pierre is a short, stubby parakeet who sounds similar to Bluebottle from The Goon Show. The characters were adapted into non-bird form for yet another Cosgrove-Hall animated series, Victor and Hugo.

The Phantom of the Opera and Cruel[edit]

A duo of characters who, at one point, seek revenge on Count Duckula for foiling their plans, the phantom is a tall, thin bird wearing the same mask as the original title character of The Phantom of the Opera musical, and dressed in dandified clothes (complete with a cape), while Cruel (a parody of Peter Lorre) is a short, misshapen bird who acts as the Phantom's manservant.

Morris the strongman and Charlie the clown[edit]

A pair of baleful circus performers who hold a grudge against Duckula, Morris the strongman and Charlie the clown are both bumbling, though Charlie is slightly less so, and Morris is the brawn of their misdeeds.

Pirate penguins[edit]

A ruthless crew of piratical penguins originally hired by Count Duckula, this crew of seafarers turn on Count Duckula when his antics crash their ship. All of the penguins are typical pirate stereotypes, one of which is known as Mr. Mate and shouts that he will "bite their heads off!"

Neutral characters[edit]

Narrator[edit]

The narrator (Barry Clayton) opens and closes every episode, in a voice which parodies Vincent Price's iconic voiceovers. Episodes usually began with him describing Castle Duckula and its gloomy atmosphere, and close with him saying a phrase popularised in the 1950s and 1960s by American TV horror host John Zacherle, "Goodnight out there ... WHATever you are!" Variants of this line are also used to close certain programmes.[1]

Relatives[edit]

Duckula has numerous vampiric relatives all over the world, who are more classic vampires than Duckula, possessing fangs, red eyes and evil personalities. Only a small number, such as Don Diego, show any affinity or friendship toward the benign Count Duckula.

They come from many different countries, such as Spain and Scotland, and their costumes represent their native cultures. The relatives include Don Diego, a Spanish vampire duck who makes his fun and games by burning down villages, and Rory McDuckula, a Scottish vampire duck who later makes himself an enemy of Duckula.[2]

The most interesting exploration of relatives is in the episode "The Rest is History," where the current Count Duckula travels back in time using his castle clock to the year 1199 and meets the very first Count Duckula. The original Duckula was apparently a normal Count until his butler Igorth (possibly a relative of the current Igor) replaces a friendly pet bat with a vicious vampire bat, thus triggering the beginning of the vampire line. This makes Duckula's assertion that he is the 17th count a slight hiccup in the series as it is more likely he would be the 8th, if reincarnation can only occur once per century–unless there is some other means of regeneration other than the ritual detailed in the opening of each episode, or depending upon how the previous counts "died". This could possibly be forgiven, as the only time he mentions being the 17th count is in the episode "The Count and the Pauper," which was written by a guest writer.

The peasants[edit]

The town situated below Castle Duckula is home to many peasants who live in constant fear of the count, despite his harmless current incarnation. A recurring joke in the series and associated books is that "the peasants are revolting" (a pun that works because the word "revolting" can mean "rebelling" or "foul"). Their local pub is called "The Teeth and Jugular," a reference to vampires' practice of biting into blood vessels in their victims' necks. The regulars are often seen singing a variation of the traditional song "One Man Went to Mow a Meadow!" replacing the words "mow a meadow" with "kill a vampire".

Episode list[edit]

Airing history[edit]

  • Canada Canada
    • YTV
    • Canal Famille (now known as VRAK.TV) (the French-Canadian version was named Mordicus)
  • France France
  • Iceland Iceland
    • Stöð 2 (1992–2004) (Icelandic dub-over, under the title Brakúla greifi)
  • Indonesia Indonesia
  • Iran Iran
  • Mexico Mexico
    • Televisa still aired the show up to January 2006 on Canal 5. The success of the animated series in Mexico is partly attributed to its translation and voicework in Spanish, which was the very first to be done in a loose style, translating not only languages but cultural references and humour as well, uncommon in movies or television shows until Count Duckula, or Conde Pátula as it is known in Spanish.
  • Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
    • Channel 3
  • Spain Spain
    • TVE 1 (1991, only seasons 1 and 2)
    • Antena 3 Televisión (1992, the Seasons 1 and 2 were emitted by the same TVE's Spanish dubbing, but the Seasons 3 and 4 were doubled by Antena 3 Televisión because they did not manage to be emitted in TVE 1. Duckula, Igor and Nanny possess the same names as in the original version. The title in Spain is El Conde Duckula, and the main theme song also is the same that the original version in English.)

Spinoffs[edit]

  • In a move mirroring Duckula's adaptation from Danger Mouse, the characters of Gaston and Pierre were reinvented and given a spinoff series as the now-human Victor and Hugo.[3]
  • Count Duckula appeared in North American comics under Star Comics (an imprint of Marvel Comics), as well as in the U.K. (first issue released in 1988).

DVD releases[edit]

Despite being mostly available in the U.K., the Count Duckula disks from Fremantle Media are in Region 0, PAL format. The first season was released on Region 1 DVD on 4 October 2005. Seasons 2 and 3 have, as of 2014, not been released in North America.

Complete set[edit]

Title Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Count Duckula: The Complete Collection
Not yet released in region 1
27 October 2008
1 May 2013

Individual series[edit]

Series Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Series 1
4 October 2005
(as "The complete first season")
17 July 2006
(as "The complete first series")
11 October 2007
(as "From Duck Til Dawn",
containing the first 18 episodes only)
Series 2
Not yet released in region 1
26 March 2007
(as "The complete second series")
Not yet released in region 4
Series 3
Not yet released in region 1
3 September 2007
(as "The complete third series")
Not yet released in region 4

Individual episodes[edit]

Title Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Count Duckula: Vampire Vacation
Not yet released in region 1
14 October 2002
Not yet released in region 4
Count Duckula: The Vampire Strikes Back!
Not yet released in region 1
11 August 2008
Not yet released in region 4

VHS releases[edit]

During the show's original run, Count Duckula episodes were released on numerous VHS titles from Thames Video collection, often in a different sequence than that when televised. Amongst the releases were:

  • Count Duckula: The Vampire Strikes Back! (TV8038) – Released: 9 February 1989

Episodes: "The Vampire Strikes Back!", "Hardluck Hotel," "Dear Diary"

  • Count Duckula: Special Bumper Edition – Released: 6 December 1989

Consisted of several episodes from Series 2, but in a different sequence than that when first televised.
Episodes contained: "Ghostly Gold," "Prime-time Duck," "The Incredible Shrinking Duck," "Ducknapped!", "Bloodsucking Bats of the Lower Amazon"

  • Count Duckula: A Fright at the Opera (TV8045) – Released: 28 February 1990

Episodes contained: "A Fright at the Opera," "Hunchbudgie of Notre Dame," "Dr. Goosewing and Mr Duck"

  • Count Duckula: The Great Ducktective (TV8102) – Released: 1990

Episodes contained: "The Great Ducktective," "Private Beak," "Whodunnit?"

  • Count Duckula: O.O. duck (TV8105) – Released: 19 September 1990

Episodes contained: "O.O. Duck," "A Mountie Always Gets His Duck!", "Manhattan Duck"

  • Count Duckula: Astro Duck – Released: 31 December 1990

Episodes contained: "Astro Duck," "The Rest is History!", "Around the World in a Total Daze!", "The Zombie Awakes!"

  • Count Duckula: Bombay Duck – Released: 31 December 1990, and 8 February 1991

Episodes contained: "Bombay Duck," "Mississippi Duck," "Mystery Cruise"

Interestingly, this VHS title appeared in 1990 but, at the time, the episodes contained were somewhat exclusive to video (the first was not televised until 1991, neither was the latter until 1993).

Count Duckula episodes were also released on special VHS compilations with episodes of other series. In 1989, the episode "Down under Duckula" was released on Thames' VHS title More Children's Summer Stories, with episodes from Danger Mouse and The Wind in the Willows. In 2001, in the twilight years of VHS, the episodes "The Ghost of Castle McDuckula" and "Venice a Duck, Not a Duck!" were featured on two cult kids' collection tapes, with episodes of Rainbow, Chorlton & the Wheelies, Button Moon and Jamie & the Magic Torch.

Computer games[edit]

Alternative Software released a computer game based on Count Duckula called "No Sax Please, We're Egyptian!". In the game, Igor, Nanny and Count Duckula have decided to search the tomb of the great Pharaoh Upanatem (a pun on "up and at 'em") to find the mystical saxophone. What they do not know is that they have brought along some unwanted guests in the form of the Crow brothers.

The game was a basic jump and run platform-type game. At the start, the castle was transported to an ancient pyramid. Then, players had a set amount of time to go through the castle, evading the various baddies inside the castle, to retrieve the mystic sax before the Count's castle automatically returns to Transylvania, leaving the player stranded in Egypt.

The title of the game was a parody on the title of a British comedy play No Sex Please, We're British!.

The game was available for various 8-bit computers such as the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, & Amstrad CPC, and was also released as a "Kid's Pack" with other TV shows that Alternative Software turned into games, including "Postman Pat," "Sooty and Sweep," "Count Duckula," "Popeye 2," "The Wombles," and "Superted". Alternative Software was one of the few software companies of the 1980s that still survives today as an independent software producer.

There was also a Count Duckula 2 sequel in 1992, which was poorly received.

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]