The Many Revisions of DuckTales: How Disney Altered Capcom’s NES Game

DuckTales NES

Capcom and Disney had worked together one time before the DuckTales NES game — Capcom published Mickey Mousecapade, which was developed by Hudson Soft. However, with DuckTales, Capcom ended up with full development duties.

I can’t say exactly what the process was like between Disney and Capcom, but I’ve gathered some scraps of information that paint a little bit of the picture. The way I understand it, Disney handed over some reference materials, then Capcom put together a prototype version of the game, which they showed to Disney. Disney requested some changes, so the game was altered a bit, and then the classic we all know and love was ultimately released.

DuckTales Concept Art

One of the people involved in the back-and-forth process was Darlene Waddington, who was credited as a producer on the DuckTales game.

In November of 2002, a blogger who went by the name Skrybe got in touch with Waddington to ask her a few questions about her time with Disney. Not only did she respond to Skrybe’s questions, but she also started answering user questions in a now-defunct web board ( While it’s hard to find any trace of the original web board, a post on the Emulator World website collected some of the more interesting scraps. Emulator World has also disappeared, but the Wayback Archive has archived this post, so some of Waddington’s explanations still survive.

So I’ll list some of the key things that changed between the prototype and the U.S. release of the game, and I’ll give explanations when I can find them.

Hamburgers were changed to ice cream cones

DuckTales Ice Cream Cone

First up, the ice cream cones. In the prototype version of the game, hamburgers were a healing item. This was later changed to ice cream. According to Waddington:

I can’t remember why the burgers were subbed for the cones. As I recall, it was just some oddball reason… maybe it was something like the cone sprites took up less memory or maybe some Disney exec wanted something more vegetarian… whatever the case was, it probably didn’t actually make any sense!

Other sources claim the change was made because ice cream is supposedly Scrooge’s favorite food. I’ve been reading duck comics for decades, as well as watching the DuckTales cartoons, and I have no idea where this piece of information comes from.

One possible explanation: There’s an episode of the cartoon (called “A Whale of a Bad Time”) where Scrooge has a fit because a boat filled with ice cream was eaten by a sea monster. As it turns out, the “ice cream” in that scenario was code for “money.” Scrooge has a tantrum, inconsolably shouting “A sea monster ate my ice cream!” over and over again.

Perhaps someone at Disney remembered that specific tantrum but had forgotten the context for it, misremembering it as Scrooge freaking out over his favorite food. Of course, this is shot in the dark guess, so don’t give it any credible weight. I’m just firing blindly here, trying to match my memories of the cartoon with this insistence on ice cream being Scrooge’s favorite food.

However it happened, this is something that would persist in the video game world. In the Kingdom Hearts games, Scrooge is on a quest to find the recipe for his beloved sea-salt ice cream, which was a childhood favorite. This is referenced in the 2017 DuckTales cartoon, when Ms. Beakley serves Scrooge and the nephews sea-salt ice cream on top of slices of apple pie.

The NES game might very well be the origin of how ice cream officially became canonized as Scrooge’s favorite food.

Crosses were removed from coffins

In the original version of the game, there were crosses on the coffins in the Transylvania stage. The crosses were removed to be replaced with the letters “R.I.P.”

DuckTales Coffin Comparison

The above image (which comes courtesy a translated article on shows this change. Waddington explains:

…the crosses on the coffins had to go. Not just a Nintendo issue. I don’t think any publisher would let that go back then. Don’t know about now. Seems a little silly to me, but apparently this is the world we live in.

However, I can provide some additional context here. Nintendo of America, at least in the 1980s and 1990s, had this weird thing about not including religious symbols of any kind in their video games. So the crosses here would have been a Nintendo of America quibble, not a Disney one.

I should also point out that Nintendo removed crosses from EarthBound for an entirely different reason, but I won’t get into that here. (I did write a whole article on crosses in EarthBound, however, so check that out if you want to learn more.)

Text related to the Terra-Firmie King was changed, then removed

DuckTales NES

Waddington makes the below statement:

I wish I could remember what was with those alternate Ducktales segments… I don’t even remember the Terra Fermies part — it may have been something Capcom either cut before I came on, or it was something they toyed with and cut on their own.

In the Emulation World post, the text is accompanied by the following image.

Terra Firmies Code

It’s what appears to be code, and, removing the hashtags, it says: “A. No. B. It’s the key to the UFO. Here’s a gift for you, oh, King of the Terra Fermies.”

If you remember the DuckTales game, you’re probably familiar with the Terra-Firmie King, who is the boss of the African Mines stage (and also a character I had a lot to say about). In a comprehensive list of changes (on the website The Cutting Room Floor), we can see that the Terra-Firmies line was actually already revised before the version in the Emulator World image.

Terra-Firme King Dialogue

Why did this line end up getting removed? I believe Waddington’s statement about the “Terra-Firmies” was referring to this removal, but she doesn’t seem to have an answer to why it was cut. Perhaps, after the first round of revision, someone realized that Terra-Firmie is the adjective form and Terra-Firmian is the noun form, so they deleted the text to hide the fact that they’d messed up instead of going back and fixing it a second time.

When explaining some of the game’s spelling errors, Waddington said:

“As I recall, sprucing up text was always a big hassle. Capcom didn’t want to devote any precious resources to text, so you had to be extremely brief. It was also hard to convince them to bother with fixing puncuation (sic) because it was neither here nor there to them. That’s actually an eternal struggle with virtually any software development because most programmers don’t give a whit about spelling or punctuation, and they don’t want to bother fixing it. When you’re dealing with something like a Christmas release, you often have to grin and bear it and live with certain bugs. I think that’s what happened with ‘Huey, Louie, and Louie.’ Some things on the ‘to do’ list wouldn’t get done for God knows what reason, so you had to strategically insist on certain key bug fixes near the end rather than getting them all fixed. At least that’s how it was back then.”

So deleting text instead of going back and altering it — especially after it had already gone through a full round of editing — seems like a plausible explanation. Of course, I can’t say for certain. This is just a guess.

There’s another possibility, however. In DuckTales Remastered, there’s a story scene where Scrooge makes a deal with the Terra-Firmians, promising to help them remove their “garbage rocks” (which are actually diamonds) so he can keep them for himself. It’s possible that there was supposed to be a similar scene in the prototype where Scrooge was going to exchange something for the diamond after the boss fight (perhaps the UFO key?) Then again, I’ve never seen anything like this mentioned in lists of changes between versions, so if that were a possible scene, it would have been cut before the prototype version.

As you can see, this cut remains something of a mystery.

The endings were changed

DuckTales has a bad ending if you manage to complete the game with $0. However, it’s quite difficult to earn (it actually requires you to acquire a very specific sum of money, then spend that money via a cheat). Despite the fact that very few people would ever see this ending, the bad ending’s newspaper text was changed.

DuckTales Bad Ending Comparison

(The image above comes from The Cutting Room Floor.)

Waddington explains:

I do remember having the option of Scrooge losing all his money. Can’t remember for sure why it was cut, but I *think* it somehow seemed too un-Scrooge-like… too much of a loser scenario for Scrooge to go bust. Again, this wasn’t my decision — just something someone else had decided…

I should point out that there are three possible endings — each with its own newspaper clipping — and all three newspapers were changed. Waddington only talked about why the bad one was changed, though (or, she only talks about this in the snippets of her conversation that remain — it’s possible she detailed all three endings but the other explanations were lost when shut down).

However, Waddington also mentions another piece of the ending:

I believe we made the ending quite easy because it seemed just too cruel to have the player acquire all the treasures and then leave him frustrated at the end with the switcheroo. I’m not sure why that “surprise” ending was needed to begin with, but it was already there when I came on.

I remember really laughing at that original ending message from Scrooge. I was the one to dispense of that.

I believe what she was referring to was the infamous “Dream and Friends” line.

DuckTales Ending

Which was changed to this:

DuckTales Ending

(Both of those images also come from The Cutting Room Floor.)

The aliens on the moon were changed

One of the changes not mentioned by Waddington (at least, not in the surviving text) is that one of the alien types on the Moon stage had been completely redesigned.

DuckTales Alien Comparison

You’ll notice that in the image above (which also comes courtesy, the alien on the left looks much more like a Capcom creation, while the alien on the left has a slightly more Disney-fied look to it. If this change seems bewildering, perhaps it makes more sense when you compare it to the image below:

DuckTales - Overlord Bulovan

This is Overlord Bulovan from the DuckTales episode “Where No Duck Has Gone Before.” In that episode, Launchpad is sent into space and captured by aliens while believing the whole thing is happening at Duckburg Studios, a television studio.

While Overlord Bulovan is certainly not a major character in DuckTales canon (if memory serves, this was his only appearance in the show’s original run), I can see how Disney would want to replace a Capcom-created creature with something from an actual episode of the cartoon. It is a nice little visual reference, even though the colors have been swapped.

I do have to admit, though, that Capcom’s creature looks pretty cool too.

Here’s a nice little side note for Capcom fans: Keiji Inafune, who is best known for his work on the Mega Man series, was credited as character designer on DuckTales. This means it’s quite possible that he was responsible for the original alien design.

Other changes

There were more changes, which are mostly text, music, and the game’s starting screen. The full list of changes is at The Cutting Room Floor, and you should check that out if you’re interested in seeing all of them.

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