Western Animation: Count Duckula
"In the heart of Transylvania Count Duckula
In the Vampire Hall of Fame, yeah
There's not a vampire zanier than Duckula!
He won't bite beast or man,
Cause he's a vegetarian,
And things never run to plan for Duckula!
If you're looking for some fun
You can always count upon
The wild and wacky one they call Duckula!
(1988-1993) was a 65-Episode Cartoon
by Cosgrove Hall
, the creators of Danger Mouse
. Indeed, the title character originally appeared as a bad guy on Danger Mouse
, but on his own show he was a fairly amiable vegetarian with aspirations of fame and world travel. As the opening sequence of each episode explains, there was a slip-up in the performance of a resurrection ceremony where tomato ketchup was mistakenly used instead of blood, thus raising the title character as a vegetarian instead of the typical blood sucking evil count.
And so, with his butler Igor (not The Igor
, but instead a sarcastic hunchbacked vulture who wished his master would act more like a traditional vampire) and his maid Nanny (a hulking, dim but loveable hen with a bad habit of going through doorways without opening them first
) in tow, Count Duckula would travel the world, running afoul (excuse the pun) of all manner of folks, including Dr. Von Goosewing, a bumbling vampire hunter who refused to believe Duckula was anything but a threat.
This series provides examples of:
- Accent Adaptation: In the German dub of Count Duckula, the German accent of Dr. Von Goosewing is dubbed into modern Saxon dialect, which has always been the Butt Monkey of the German dialects. The pirate penguins talk in very strong low German from the regions where most major ports of Germany are located. In the Mexican Spanish dub, he does speak with a proper German accent.
- Affectionate Parody: Of Hammer Horror movies.
- Analogy Backfire: In "Mobile Home", Ruffles sets up a queue of accomplices from Castle Duckula to the nearest postbox, explaining that he will remove the stones from the castle, the next person will number them, the next will address them to Mr. and Mrs. Paintbrush (the Nouveau Riche American couple who "bought" Castle Duckula from Ruffles and his gang), the next will put a stamp on them, and so on "down the chain" to the postbox. Bert, Ruffles' second-in-command, is confused by his mention of a chain, so he clarifies, "like a bicycle chain". However, a bicycle chain goes in a circle, so the accomplices in the chain eventually pass the stones back to him, to his despair.
- Artifact of Doom: Igor sometimes tries to get Duckula to find these in the hope that they'll bring him back to "The Good Old Days". (The Mystic Saxophone from the first episode being a good example.) They never work though.
- Berserk Button: Do not mention the E-word in front of the Egg. Don't even say anything that sounds like the E-word!
- Black Sheep: The eponymous Count is a black and white sheep, showing no interest whatever in vampirism (which causes problems when he hosts the title event in "A Family Reunion!").
- Blatant Lies: The closing credits make Duckula out to be a traditional bloodsucking-type vampire, even though the opening theme explicitly states his vegetarianism.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "All in a Fog", Count Duckula says "Cab!" just as a cab appears, then turns to the camera and says, "If only real life was like this!"
- Came Back Wrong: Inverted - Count Duckula was an evil, murderous vampire who, after a botched resurrection ritual, came back right. Although from Igor's perspective the trope is played straight...
- Card-Carrying Villain: Igor is definitely evil, to the point where Von Goosewing's Carpet Cleaner and Spot Removal Solution (which turns people opposite to how they usually act) turns him temporarily into a Friend to All Living Things.
- Catch Phrase:
- The Narrator's closing remark "Good night out there...whatever you are!"
- Nanny responding to a knock at the door by shouting, "I'll get it!" Usually followed by Duckula saying "Igor, order another door," or "Close the wall behind you, Nanny."
- Nanny's archetypal cry of 'MY DUCKYBOOS' in reference to the eponymous vampire duck.
- Christmas Episode: "A Christmas Quacker", which, interestingly, aired on Christmas Eve 1990!
- Nanny regularly smashes through walls instead of using the door simply because she forgets the door is even there, and her idea of an appropriate way to kill a mouse, as described in "Mobile Home", is to throw the stove at it, causing the entire west wing of the castle to collapse. When Duckula asks why she didn't use a mousetrap, she says they're the wrong shape for throwing.
- Von Goosewing has plenty of space cadet moments. At the beginning of "The Vampire Strikes Back", when he has surrounded a tower of Castle Duckula with dynamite and is preparing to detonate it, he has an "I can't hear you through these earplugs" conversation with himself.
Goosewing: (chuckles) Okay, Goosewing, get ready! (appears from behind the rock he is using for cover, cotton wool in his ears) What was that? (faces right) I said "Get ready!" (faces left) Oh, speak up!... I SAID, "GET-" oh, this is no good, (removes cotton wool from his ears) I can't hear myself speaking!
- Comic Books Are Real: The Count's hero Tremendous Terence is a comic book star and cereal mascot but no-one shows any surprise when they meet him in person.
- Correlation Causation Gag: Near the beginning of "The Vampire Strikes Back", the main trio are in a tower of Castle Duckula when Nanny discovers a case of her homemade sarsaparilla. Duckula implores her not to open the bottle in her hand, reminding her of what happened the last time she did so. Meanwhile, Von Goosewing has placed a large quantity of dynamite at the bottom of the tower, and just as Nanny uncorks the bottle, he detonates the explosives, sending the tower flying into space like a rocket. Unaware that Von Goosewing was responsible for the original liftoff, Duckula tries unsuccessfully to get the tower airborne at the end of the episode by having Nanny open several dozen bottles of sarsaparilla.
- Credits Gag: Many episodes have these in the closing titles.
- Daywalking Vampire: The present-day Duckula is unharmed by daylight, in contrast to his traditional vampire incarnations which can be killed by sunlight. His relatives seem to be this as well.
- Deadpan Snarker: Igor. Duckula also has his moments.
- The Door Slams You: Igor accidentally smashes Duckula with the door in 'Hardluck Hotel'.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Not the case with the pirate penguins.
- Expository Theme Tune: The spoken introduction outlines the history of the Duckulas and the fact that the latest resurrection went awry when tomato ketchup was used in the rite instead of blood. The song that follows explains that a zanier vampire you will never find than the luckless vegetarian that is Duckula... Count Duckula.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom: In "Igor's Busy Day", Igor tries to use one of these to crush American tourists Scott and Laura. Unfortunately, he relies upon Nanny to trigger it. First, she misunderstands the command "Hit the beak" and hits Igor's beak instead of the beak of the statue which triggers the falling chandelier. Later, she realises her mistake and hits the beak of the statue... while Igor himself is under the chandelier.
- Finger Snap Lighter: Igor is capable of doing it.
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Though the title character is as friendly as they come, the previous Counts most certainly were not.
- Funny Foreigner: Used repeatedly in the traveling-the-world episodes, especially the Frenchmen...er, Frenchbirds, Gaston et Pierre.
- Furry Confusion:
- "The Count and the Pauper" featured non-anthropomorphic chickens.
- When Duckula found himself captive of a pair of Egyptian priests.
Our legends say that when the great god Ra has had his fill of Human Sacrifice
, Upshi shall rise from the dead. Count Duckula:
Well, more of less human, give or take a feather.
- Gentle Giant: Nanny. About as gentle as Lenny, anyway...
- The Ghost:
- Von Goosewing's assistant, Heinrich. The show actually seems to imply that Heinrich doesn't exist at all, and Goosewing is delusional. (The comic adaptation clears this up somewhat; he used to have an assistant named Heinrich, who was always threatening to quit. Apparently he did, and Goosewing didn't notice.) In Heinrich's first 'appearance' Goosewing believes he has made him invisible with his 'invisibilitising ray'. The fact that there is no-one there in the first place and the doctor is wearing thick goggles may partially explain his ongoing confusion.
- Towser, the castle's werewolf, WAS undeniably real (though Igor repeatedly denied his existence to a suspicious Duckula), but was never seen onscreen, apart from once where we see his eyes.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Exaggerated in "Igor's Busy Day". When clean-cut American tourists Scott and Laura's car breaks down near Duckula's castle, even "gosh darn" is too profane for Laura's ears.
Scott: Oh, gosh darn!...
Laura: Oh, Scott, I hate it when you curse like that.
Scott: Oh, gee, I'm, I'm sorry, honey. It's... it's just that this gosh darn-
Scott: Sorry, honey, this... this... blankety blank Eastern European jalopy's broken down!
- Greed: One of Duckula's flaws, but can you blame him?
- Hammerspace: Nanny's sling contains a seemingly endless array of items which may or may not be helpful to the situations in which she, Duckula, and Igor find themselves.
- Heroic BSOD: Duckula has a small one when he faces a group of sentient vegetables, and they start accusing him of hate crimes.
- Horror Host: The narrator has shades of this, finding the stories deliciously grim and macabre (even the ones that are too silly to be scary), and signing off by cackling, "Good night out there... whatever you are! (Evil Laugh)".
- The Hunter: Von Goosewing comes from a long line of vampire hunters, though he is much more clumsy and scatterbrained than they were.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- In the first episode, Ruffles the burglar scoffs at the idea of vampires, stating that they're just mentioned in the guide book to draw in tourists, but freaks out at the mention of a werewolf on the premises.
- In "Transylvanian Homesick Blues", Igor rebuffs Duckula's attempt to persuade him and Nanny to join him on a roller coaster ride, leading to a moment of hypocrisy from his master:
Dr. Time: (over public address system) Roll up, roll up! This way for the roller coaster ride of a lifetime! Roll up, roll up!
Duckula: Listen to that, a roller coaster ride! Hoo-whee, we must have a go on that, Igor!
Igor: I think I'd rather have my head removed from my body, sir.
Duckula: (tuts) That's the trouble with you, Igor. It's always self, self, self! Why don't you think of others for a change? Now if I say we go on the roller coaster, we go on the roller coaster!
- Idiot Ball:
- Why DID they keep the ketchup bottle right next to the blood in the resurrection room?
- How come Duckula did not recognise his servants' voices while providing room service in 'Hardluck Hotel'.
- Inspector Javert: Von Goosewing is convinced that Duckula is as evil as his ancestors, several of whom were pursued by Von Goosewing's own ancestors, and that he therefore must be destroyed. He either doesn't notice or simply ignores all evidence that Duckula is infinitely more interested in becoming famous than in drinking blood.
- Just a Stupid Accent:
- Von Goosewing speaks English with a German accent to remind the viewer that he is from that part of Europe (see Accent Adaptation for how this is handled in some of the foreign dubs). As with most uses of this trope, he frequently throws elementary German words into his speech; for example, he counts down to detonating the explosives surrounding a tower of Castle Duckula in "The Vampire Strikes Back" by saying, "Drei... zwei... eins... feuer!"note
- Gaston and Pierre not only affect comically over the top French accents and throw in the odd basic French word, but also use the rules of French grammar (such as transliterating "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" as "What is that that it is?" instead of simply "What is that?") to signify that they are speaking their native language.
- Knight Templar: Von Goosewing refuses to believe that the current Count Duckula is essentially harmless.
- Lame Pun Reaction:
- Igor greets most of Duckula's plays on words with stony silence or an annoyed grumble (though he does occasionally chuckle at them, especially if they are at Nanny's expense). For example, in "No Sax Please, We're Egyptian", he tells his master that they can tell they are in the Lower Chamber from the hieroglyphics; Duckula suggests they can tell when they are in the Upper Chamber from the loweroglyphics, to Igor's disgust.
- Some of Dmitri and Sviatoslav's jokes get this reaction, sometimes with a Collective Groan by the unseen audience for their routines. For example, when Duckula, Igor, and Nanny have been taken to Revolutionary France by Dr. Fazakerly Time in "Transylvanian Homesick Blues", we get this gem:
Sviatoslav: (slides forward from his door and sniffs the air)
What is that smell, Dmitri? Dmitri: (slides forward from his door)
It's the peasants, Sviatoslav. (Sviatoslav slides back into his door, and then out again)
They are revolting. (Collective Groan; Dmitri slides back into his door) Sviatoslav:
So is that joke, Dmitri. (slides back into his door) Dmitri: (sighs)
Oh, week after week, why do I bother?
- In "Duckula Down Under", Bill Platypus is gradually driven to tears when, while driving across the outback with Duckula's clock (given to him as a gift), he is subjected to a long series of bad Australia-themed jokes by Dmitri and Sviatoslav.
- Large Ham: The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Von Goosewing when in his excitable mode.
- Laugh Track: Dmitri and Sviatoslav's comedy routines are accompanied by a jaunty piano vamp and audience laughter.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
- Limited Wardrobe: The main and recurring cast members are always dressed in the same clothes. Notable in Nanny always wearing her arm in a medical sling for some reason. (One newspaper comic gives the reason: she's hiding an Embarrassing Tattoo.)
- Long Speech Tea Time: In "Igor's Busy Day", engaged American couple Scott and Laura have taken refuge from a storm in Castle Duckula, and have joined the Count for dinner. While Scott spends the entire meal reciting the digits of Pi, Laura talks at length about how she and Scott met and about her very large family. The thoroughly bored Duckula tries to keep himself occupied by balancing the contents of the fruit bowl on top of each other, firing a pea from his knife at the oblivious Scott, and scuplting a castle out of mashed potato before dozing off and falling face first into it. Meanwhile, Igor and Nanny have long since fallen asleep at the far end of the table.
- Long Title: A Series 2 episode featuring a four-way Monster Mash (with a visit from Goosewing thrown in for good measure) is titled, "The Return of the Curse of the Secret of the Mummy's Tomb Meets Frankenduckula's Monster and the Wolf-Man and the Intergal-actic Cabbage..."
- Missed Him by That Much: The episode where Duckula boards a cruise ship that seems to be utterly empty; no matter where he, Igor and Nanny go, there's absolutely no passengers or crew. Igor even compares it to the Mary Celeste. Of course, as we viewers can see, everyone else is there - they just keep going in entirely different directions to the Transylvanians. The episode ends with the three leaving the ship, looking back - and there is everyone waving them off. Or, if you're being uncharitable, having a party because Duckula and Co were gone. It's implied that they were so fed up that they faked the Mary Celeste thing to get them to leave.
- Monster Mash: One episode has Duckula and co. being chased by a mummy the Count inadvertently brought back to life, a Frankenstein's monster Expy accidentally resurrected by Igor, a werewolf who came to the castle to escape from the full moon but got exposed and transformed due to Nanny's interference, a space invader taking the form of a cabbage, and Goosewing. The episode is appropriately named "The Return of the Curse of the Secret of the Mummy's Tomb Meets Frankenduckula's Monster and the Wolf-Man and the Intergal-actic Cabbage...".
- Morally Ambiguous Ducktorate: Though the latest Count Duckula is too harmless to fall under this trope, his ancestors are all sterling examples of beady-eyed, bloodthirsty Feathered Fiends.
- Mouthful of Pi: In "Igor's Busy Day", engaged Americans Scott and Laura take shelter in Castle Duckula after their car breaks down. Scott, a mathematician, tells Duckula he has memorised Pi to 15,000 decimal places; Duckula unwisely asks about this, and Scott begins demonstrating, entering an almost trance-like state as he spends most of the rest of the episode reciting numbers. (When Scott, Laura, and their extended family return for a holiday in the final scene, Scott begins reciting the largest known prime number in similar fashion, causing Duckula to wail in despair.)
- Never Say "Die": Averted right off the bat in the pilot, when Duckula complains how Nanny could have killed him by smashing through the wall, and that her clumsiness with the tableware has already killed several of his servants.
- Nice Guy: Unlike his monstrous ancestors, Duckula is a really pleasant, if slightly neurotic and eccentric, duck.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Igor. This often clashes with his master's more idealistic personality.
- The Nth Doctor: Not with a replacement actor, but a few episodes revolved around the fact that Duckula's ancestors were actually him, and he just comes back slightly different every time he is resurrected. This latest incarnation is just particularly unique due to the ketchup mishap.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Chances are, younger viewers might not recognize such a trope in the information secretary in the "Town Hall Terrors" episode. She'll tell you that information for the Grants for Crumbling Castles Department is on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So don't come on Tuesday, lest you need to know trivial info such as Popes and funny fish.
- Only Sane Man: Between Duckula being highly excitable and naive, and Nanny being, well, Nanny, this role falls squarely on Igor's hunched shoulders. Though he is by far the most morbid of the main three, he also tends to have the most solid grasp on what is going on, though his advice is often ignored (such as when he tries, unsuccessfully, to stop Duckula from giving the castle clock to Bill Platypus in "Duckula Down Under" as doing so will disable the castle's teleportation system).
- Our Vampires Are Different: The Duckulas were all traditional vampires, but the present day one averts nearly every trope usually associated with vampires. He's fully vegetarian, can walk around in broad daylight with no problem and is immune to holy water.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: While we never see him onscreen, Towser apparently cannot convert people as he's attacked Igor and Goosewing and they've remained the same. "The Return of the Curse of the Secret of the Mummy's Tomb Meets Frankenduckula's Monster and the Wolf-Man and the Intergal-actic Cabbage..." featured a traditional wolf-man (or rather a wolf-bird) who transforms by the light of the full moon.
- Parody Names: Obviously Duckula for Dracula, and Dr Von Goosewing for Van Helsing.
- Poirot Speak: Gaston et Pierre speak as though applying French grammar to English:
Pierre: What is it that it is that you are referring to, mah Gaston?
- Really 700 Years Old: Igor and Nanny are shown to serve Duckula even in the past, exactly the same. In fact Igor at one point refers to being dismissed "after seven and a half centuries of faithful service".
- Rousing Speech: In the "Town Hall Terrors" episode, after stumbling onto a meeting about extending a railroad, Duckula gets caught up in the moment and invokes the trope, thus accidentally parlaying his grant for the crumbling Castle Duckula to having that railroad extend through the castle.
- Secret Underground Passage: In the comics, Von Goosewing makes one of these into Duckula's castle. Subverted in that Igor and Duckula are fully aware of the fact that he's doing this and occasionally entertain themselves by watching him dig his 'secret' tunnel.
- Shaggy Dog Story:
- One issue of the comic had Duckula's coffin go missing and Igor and Duckula running around trying to find who had stolen it. Ultimately finding themselves miles away from home without finding the coffin, they call Nanny at the castle and learn that she had removed it for cleaning.
- The episode "Hardluck Hotel" has Duckula going to stay at a hotel for the weekend away from his servants, only for them to join him at the very same place. Problem is he can't pay in drachma because the exchange rate is down. Therefore the poor count is forced to work at the place to pay for his stay, only to find his drachma weren't worthless... but he'd spent them all on a bag of jellybeans.
- Shout-Out: As with its parent series, Count Duckula was ripe with Parental Bonus in the form of references that would have gone over the heads of younger audience members. Just to give a few examples:
- The pharaoh who owned the Mystic Saxophone in "No Sax Please, We're Egyptian" is Zootensimun XVII, a reference to American jazz saxophonist John Haley "Zoot" Sims.
- When Duckula threatens to sing if Igor and Nanny don't join him on the roller coaster in "Transylvanian Homesick Blues" and they immediately race to the entrance to the ride, Duckula mutters that he's employing a couple of philistines. Igor says, "Phyllis Stein? Isn't that Gertrude's sister?", a reference to early 20th century American author Gertrude Stein.
- In "Mobile Home", Duckula asks Ruffles, posing as a builder assessing his castle for renovations, for a quote. Ruffles launches into the "Once more unto the breach" monologue from William Shakespeare's Henry V.
- In "The Lost Valley", Igor wonders why Duckula would rather see the film in the episode's title rather than "the Bela Lugosi film that is being screened at the Regal".
- The hotel manager in "Hardluck Hotel" is basically Basil Fawlty.
- Sign Off Catch Phrase: The narrator's "Goodnight out there... whatever you are!"
- Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Very, very friendly. In early episodes at least, Duckula was unaware that he was a vampire, or of what a vampire even is.
Duckula: Hold on, how can I be my own father?
- Spin-Off: The show was itself a spinoff of Danger Mouse, but also Gaston et Pierre were modified slightly and given their own series as Victor And Hugo. There was even a Duckula/Victor and Hugo crossover episode as well as a Danger Mouse/Victor & Hugo one.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: In "The Vampire Strikes Back", this is the in-universe reaction to Planet Cute, a planet that invokes every sickeningly sweet cute stereotype imaginable (Igor takes an instant dislike to it, Duckula soon follows suit, and Nanny thinks it's just lovely; Tremendous Terence, meanwhile, refuses to get too close to it). In a very literal sense, the "Cute Surprise" sold at the food stand has such a high sugar contentnote that one taste probably would induce diabetes.
- Teleporters and Transporters: The castle is capable of teleporting itself around the world, but must return to Transylvania by dawn Transylvanian time. Some episodes revolve around Duckula trying to con people into buying it and the castle then vanishing.
- There Was a Door and We Have the Keys: Nanny almost never bothers to open doors, either marching straight through them and splintering them into firewood, or going one better and marching straight through the wall.
Duckula: NOW look what you've done, Nanny!
Nanny: But duckie-boo, you said to come through the door...
Duckula: I give up, I just give up...
- Thieving Magpie: While technically crows, Ruffles and his gang fit the bill.
- Those Two Guys: Dmitri and Sviatoslav, the clockwork bats in the castle clock. A few times an episode, the scene cuts to the two of them emerging from their coffin-shaped doors to tell one or more terrible jokes inspired by the episode's plot.
- This Is a Work of Fiction: The cartoon disclaims any resemblance to persons "living, dead, or undead".
- Trademark Favorite Food: Broccoli sandwiches for the Count. Also, hot cocoa and choccy biccies.
- Überwald: The opening shots of each episode establish the setting as a darkly forested part of central Europe filled with nervous villagers and horrible creatures of the night.
- Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Von Goosewing is trying to kill a vegetarian vampire merely because he's a vampire.
- Though in Goosewing's defence he doesn't know Duckula poses no threat, believing his pleasant demeanor to be no more than a pose, and given that Duckula's previous incarnations were pretty much Hammer Horror villains and the only reason the current one isn't one is a flaw in the reincarnation ritual, it's pretty well justified as these things go.
- Another reason which is revealed in the comics is that his niece, Vanna, is in a romantic relationship with Duckula, making his hatred more personal.
- Vegetarian Vampire: Duh. One of the most blatantly literal uses of the trope. Duckula not only doesn't drink blood, he finds the idea repulsive. (Although he tries to avoid mentioning his vegetarianism to the intelligent vegetables in "Transylvanian Homesick Blues", who see eating vegetables as tantamount to vampirism or cannibalism.)
- Walk This Way: The social director on the title ship in "Mystery Cruise" invites Duckula, Igor, and Nanny to "walk this way" while swaying her hips from side to side. Duckula mutters to Igor, "If I could walk that way I'd probably have my hips on upside-down!"
- White Sheep: Duckula is the only member of his family not to go in for such things as drinking blood, torturing innocent victims, or taking in stranded travellers seeking shelter and ensuring they are never seen again. He'd much rather become a famous musician, actor, race driver... a famous anything, really, while his idea of an appropriate use for the bonecrusher in the castle torture chamber is pressing flowers.
- Who's on First?: Hoomite Yubi? Who, Ra? And Upshi rises! Who, Ra? And Upshi rises! Who, Ra? And Upshi rises! Early in the mornin'! Cosgrove Hall cartoons were pretty adept at these exchanges.
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough: Some jokes about Nanny along these lines.
- World of Funny Animals: Humans are implied to exist however.
- You Monster!: