The rare family movie that opens with its lead character guzzling beer from behind the wheel of a moving car, The Mighty Ducks is Disney’s beloved story about an underdog Pee-Wee hockey team (seemingly set in an alternate reality where hockey parents aren’t exclusively pressure-dispensing rage-machines). But as much as we may cherish this franchise, The Mighty Ducks and its follow-ups faced some major bumps in the ice over the years, such as how …
1. One Of the Ducks Was Fired For Being A Jerk
Assembling a small army of children and equipping them with long wooden sticks and shoes with sharp metal blades attached sounds like a goddamn nightmare – and it very nearly was. According to producer Jordan Kerner, the production had to replace the actor who was originally cast as Adam Banks, the star player from the eeevil Hawks who’s forced to join the Mighty Ducks due to a technicality.
Why? Well, apparently the original kid was just a huge jackass. Kerner stated that the nameless child actor was “a bit of a bully” as evidenced by an “incident” during the actors’ training camp. The ordeal was also recounted by Jack White (the film’s technical adviser, not the rock star who dresses like a haunted doll) who described how the child actor, who clearly had an “anger problem,” purposefully drilled the puck at the chest of one of their trainers, former Olympian Eric Strobel. The other instructor, incidentally, was actor Richard Dean Anderson – yeah, friggin’ MacGyver helped train the Mighty Ducks, presumably teaching them how to score a hat trick with only a paperclip and a half-eaten burrito.
The producers warned the young ruffian that, if he tried anything similar again, he could just head straight to his hotel because: “The production will already have your return plane tickets there.” Four days later, he allegedly cross-checked his fictional teammate, actress Marguerite Moreau, which “led to his immediate dismissal from the role.” The banks character then went to one of the other kids who had a smaller part, thanks to his impressive acting skills and his ability to not be a giant ass to everybody for no reason.
2. Gordon Bombay’s Big Romantic Moment Was Wildly Unpleasant
Let’s talk for a moment about Gordon Bombay, the hot shot lawyer who gets arrested for a DUI, and punished by being forced to coach a local kids’ hockey team – because what better way to discipline criminals than by having them hang around with a bunch of children while being supervised by absolutely no one? It’s not too long before Bombay starts dating Casey (played by Heidi Kling) the mom of one of his players: Charlie (played by a teeny weeny Joshua Jackson). Which frankly seems like a violation of the Pee-Wee hockey coach code of ethics.
On their first date, Casey specifically spells out her concerns about how them getting together could potentially emotionally traumatize Charlie if the relationship doesn’t work out. But then they just make out anyway, because … well, you try staring into 1992 Emilio Estevez’s blue eyes and not falling under his spell.
Seemingly validating all of those concerns, Coach Bombay takes off at the end of The Mighty Ducks to try out for the minor leagues, and doesn’t share so much as a handshake with Casey for the rest of the series.
As for the filming of the date, that too had an unpleasant ending. Apparently, Minneapolis is a pretty damn cold place in the wintertime; even Jackson, an honest-to-goodness Canadian observed that: “Humans should not live in this s**t.” During the kiss, in a temperature of “55 degrees below zero,” the moisture from their mouths froze and “their lips stuck together.” The pair was eventually freed when the make-up department applied warm water on their lips.
3. The Screenwriter Eventually Sued Disney
Arguably completely misunderstanding their story about a scrappy band of underprivileged kids who take on a team of wealthy elites, Disney turned “The Mighty Ducks” into a multi-million dollar professional sports team. Just a year after the movie came out, Disney founded The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, an NHL franchise conveniently close to Disneyland. Which also meant that the movie Ducks got new jerseys in the sequels to match their real-life pro counterparts, because synergy.
If that wasn’t enough of a Duck-based marketing bonanza, in 1996 we got a Saturday Morning cartoon series all about the NHL mascot, Wildwing Flashblade, and his team of hockey-playing mutant duck pals who routinely battle reptilian alien monsters between games (all of which makes Gritty’s life seem extra-depressing by comparison).
But the idea for The Mighty Ducks began, not with some cold-hearted studio executive, but with screenwriter Steven Brill, who was an unemployed 26-year-old when he hammered out the spec script in a small apartment while “hunched over his computer in his underwear” guzzling coffee, and naming his protagonist after two nearby gin bottles. Brill sold the script to Disney, and much of the story’s “dark humor” and “adult romance” was eventually scrapped.
Brill went on to write the two sequels as well, but in 1995 he sued Disney and the NHL team claiming that he was “entitled to 5% of all gross revenues of ‘Mighty Ducks’ merchandise and 5% of gross revenues of the Mighty Ducks hockey team” as per the rules of the Writers Guild of America. And you totally can see his argument; if there was, say, a lucrative NBA team called “The New Jersey Paul Blart: Mall Cops” one would think that Kevin James and his collaborators would be entitled to some of the profits. A judge rejected Disney’s attempts to dismiss the case, and it was ultimately settled, seemingly to Brill’s satisfaction.