The Mighty Ducks original film stars returning for an episode of Disney+ revival
Quack! Quack! Quack!
Almost 30 years later, Ducks (still) fly together.
EW has learned exclusively that most of the stars of the original Mighty Ducks movies are returning for an episode of the upcoming Disney+ revival series. The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers will feature the massive reunion in episode 6, featuring characters from all three films including Elden Henson as Fulton, Matt Doherty as Averman, Vinny La Russo as Adam Banks, Marguerite Moreau as Connie, Garret Henson as Guy, and Justin Wong as Kenny Wu.
"It starts with a fun encounter Coach Bombay [Emilio Estevez] has with Fulton — they have an interesting run-in on the street reminiscent of ways they used to meet each other back in the early days," creator Steven Brill tells EW. "This chance meeting between Bombay and Fulton leads to a bigger story." In a case of life imitating art, Henson first heard about the idea for this reunion when he ran into Brill on the streets of New York while filming Daredevil, and he immediately said yes. "There is a Spirit of the Ducks gala where they're honoring the current coach and the history of the Ducks and that's what brings us all back together," Henson says.
Estevez reveals that Fulton invites Bombay to a smaller, more casual Ducks reunion at a pizza parlor where "we discover that Bombay hasn't been invited to the gala because he doesn't represent the best of what the Ducks stand for now; they've become this ultra-competitive, sort of new bad guys." The scene where Bombay reunites with his old players is "great," Estevez adds, "but Bombay doesn't tell the gang that he wasn't invited to the gala, and it gets a little dark. He splits from the gang because of a miscommunication. So the beginning of the sequence is super positive and super exciting, but subsequently, it goes off the rails."
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers picks up 25 years after D3: The Mighty Ducks, and Bombay is a lot different now from what the old Ducks (and viewers) remember him as. "Either the Ducks fell short or he fell short of expectations of where they'd be at this point in their lives," Estevez says. "The show is not without the Disney magic that has to exist so I think ultimately it will be satisfying. But it leans into reality a little bit more than one would expect, which excited me. That's really like life; something that looks like a curveball that you couldn't hit ends up being something that's a gift later on."
Ultimately Bombay is "re-inspired" after reuniting with the original Ducks. "He is reminded of the values that he instilled in them when they were young that led them to go on to lead productive lives, and that these were lessons they'd never forgotten, and maybe he did," Estevez says. "Maybe he wasn't feeling like he was as valuable to their lives as he was, and he rediscovers that."
As for how the original Ducks turned out, Henson says, "Fulton will always be a Bash Brother at heart. It was incredible to revisit that. It really hit me when we had the wardrobe fitting and they broke out the bandanas and the boots and the camouflage. It was so surreal and awesome."
And Brill gives updates on the rest of the roster. "Connie is a Democratic state senator in Minnesota, sort of an Amy Klobuchar type," he says. "Guy is her husband — they've remained together for all these years. They have three kids and a great relationship. Kenny Wu made a lot of money in a tech startup in California and now he actually sings in a cover band. I can't tell you what Averman does because that's part of the big story line, but let's just say Averman is Averman. Adam Banks is still teased mercilessly for being a cake eater even though he hasn't had cake in 25 years because he's been on a really good diet. He's actually a public defender now and he does what Bombay used to do, funny enough. Dwayne Robertson the cowboy is still a cowboy; he has a ranch in Texas. Julie 'The Cat' Gaffney is a chef in New England. And Dean Portman teaches meditation in Sedona, Arizona."
There are some former Ducks missing from this reunion, however, most notably Joshua Jackson's Charlie. "We don't know where Charlie is, unfortunately," Brill explains, adding that "he's going to come back somewhere but him and Gordon aren't necessarily talking right now, they're in a down period." According to Brill, Jackson "was too busy, just working, and the pandemic hit so it wasn't really possible with his schedule. But I hope Josh makes a reappearance in the future, for sure."
Kenan Thompson, who played Russ "Knuckle Puck" Tyler in the second and third films in the franchise, also didn't return for this episode. "Kenan is on Saturday Night Live, and I feel like Russ Tyler would be on Saturday Night Live too because Russ is Kenan all the way through," Brill says, before adding with a laugh, "That's not to say that Josh Jackson has been having an affair with someone else for years or whatever because he was on a show called The Affair!"
Estevez is holding out hope for more reunions in the future. "If there is a season 2 and 3, we are holding the door open for any and all of the Ducks from the original films to return," he says.
As for when the former Ducks who do return learn their beloved team has become the villains they always played against, Brill warns they'll be as shocked as viewers. "They can't believe that the Ducks have become cake eaters," Brill says. "They're disappointed and dismayed. They realize it happened when Gordon Bombay left the team, so they don't blame Bombay for it. But they haven't been on top of it and discover it in this episode."
"All of them feel that it's really not what being a Duck stood for," Henson says. But it couldn't have been any more opposite when all the actors reunited on set. "It was pure joy. It felt like a mini family reunion. We all immediately fell back into the same sort of roles and dynamics that we had as little kids."
Estevez was thrown for a loop when he realized that he was younger when he filmed the first movie than all the returning Ducks are now. "It was fascinating to reconnect with these adults who the last time I saw were 12, 13, 14 years old," he says. "When we did the first film, they all looked at me as somebody who was so much older and more seasoned, but I just turned 31 on the first one and these kids are now in their early 40s. When we did the first film especially, I felt like I was a kid too."
When asked if the former Ducks bring back the Flying V or a "Quack!" chant, Brill only teased, "Stuff like that could very well happen. That would be nice if we could see that. I'd love to see that!"
He laughs, then adds, "There's so many easter eggs to lay into this entire series and I love it. It's so fun that we can drop asides and make allusions and talk about things people will remember from the three movies before, and I'm always aware of that. Like what happened to the Panthers hockey team? They had the measles in Ducks 1 and they couldn't play and that's why the Ducks advanced and won. I always wondered if they got over that and if they were back as a team."
Something that did happen during the reunion episode — at least on set — was the reappearance of Fulton's legendary slap shot, Henson admits with a laugh. "I almost killed a poor focus puller," he says. "We were shooting a bit where we're all skating around and doing a little scrimmage and Steve yelled at me, 'Take a shot!' And it looked really good! But it was way off of where I was aiming and I almost hit someone on the crew. I averted disaster by a very small amount. I wasn't being irresponsible — I was just in character."
"I kept thinking that like, Elden is still a 12-year-old in my head and he can't hurt anyone," Brill explains with a laugh. "And he had the puck and I go, 'Take a shot! Everyone duck!' He took a shot and hit it square, and all of a sudden, I just said, 'Oh no, it's coming right towards us!' I instantly regretted the decision to say, 'Take a shot.'"
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers premieres Friday, March 26 on Disney+.
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