25 Things You Never Knew About the Mighty Ducks Trilogy
This spring marked the 20th anniversary of the release of D2: The Mighty Ducks; a sequel that turned a surprise hit about children's ice hockey team into a bona fide movie franchise.
The Mighty Ducks trilogy has established itself as a modern classic in the canon of sports flicks—and as a film that is about kids and hockey, it essentially stands alone.
With the exception of Emilio Estevez as coach Gordon Bombay, the young cast was made up mostly of unknowns, but the memorable, sometimes hilarious characters they played struck a cord with audiences.
So, this is the perfect time to dive into the Mighty Ducks trilogy and highlight surprising and awesome facts about the movies.
25. Did You Know?
In speaking to TIME, actor Matt Doherty, who played lovable Les Averman, revealed he had initially auditioned for the role of Fulton Reed.
He was one of the bigger kids, so it made sense. The producers decided to have him try Averman on for size, and the rest, as they say, is history.
24. Did You Know?
In the first film, coach Gordon Bombay takes all the kids to an actual NHL game between the Minnesota North Stars and Hartford Whalers.
Not saying there’s a correlation, but within years, both teams relocated. The Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 and the Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.
23. Did You Know?
The original version of The Mighty Ducks was a “much darker” film—not a Disney movie by any means. According to writer Steve Brill, “there weren’t murders or anything, but there was some adult romance.”
The DUI scene was always a part of the script, which Brill noted to TIME probably wouldn’t stand up today. The humor was initially muted and dark, but after it was picked up by Disney, they were told flatly, “It’s got to be funnier.”
22. Did You Know?
With the exception of some of the minor characters on opposing teams, almost every actor cast in a main role in the first two films totally lied about their skating abilities.
The director and producers obviously had some experience with actors lying before, because they set up hockey boot camps prior to the first film—and probably the second and third.
The character of Tammy Duncan in the original Mighty Ducks film was a talented figure skater, but the actress that played her, Jane Plank, could barely ice skate. Katie Wahlquist was kept busy as Plank’s skating stunt double who did most of her on-ice scenes.
21. Did You Know?
If you’ve ever thought that The Mighty Ducks is just a hockey version of The Bad News Bears, you’re right. Writer Steve Brill told TIME of his inspiration, “I had idolized The Bad News Bears my whole life. I thought that was a great movie, and I thought it would be really great to make a movie that could stand up and be another.”
Director Pete Berg noted that it was a natural fit, “Steve kind of reminded everyone of a young Walter Matthau from The Bad News Bears. He had that persona. And I think the combination of having a lot of free time, playing a lot of hockey, and Steve’s natural likeness to Walter Matthau … all gave birth to The Mighty Ducks.”
20. Did You Know?
The Ducks and the Hawks are the only teams in the entire film to have both their names and numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Their opponents only had numbers.
That's just a little lazy.
19. Did You Know?
The production crew of the first film made jokes about the final scene, when Gordon Bombay says goodbye to the team and boards a bus for his minor league tryout, noting that it would be a great setup for a sequel. It wasn’t written as a cliff-hanger or even with the consideration that there would be a sequel, and given how off the radar the movie was, nobody ever even expected it to be a possibly.
Disney honcho Michael Eisner was actually really interested in the possibility of sequel, because at the time he was looking to buy a hockey team and put it in southern California. The Mighty Ducks was a surprise success, but it didn’t exactly blow up the box office, bringing in $50 million.
Eisner was really excited about the idea of a cross promotion with a sequel, which played a big part in getting the project green-lighted.
18. Did You Know?
Writer Steve Brill was bummed about not getting to play Gordon Bombay in the movie, so the studio threw him a bone and gave him a bit part. Brill played the part of Frank Huddy, the beleaguered prospector whom Bombay routinely beats down in court—at least until he gets busted for DUI.
The part was shot during the first week of filming, and Brill arrived in Minnesota as part of the cast but then obviously stuck around through the rest of the shoot as a writer.
17. Did You Know?
Emilio Estevez, who refused to be involved with the excellent oral history piece in TIME, only plays a small supporting role in the third movie, and his shooting schedule was limited to just one week. Though everyone spoke fondly of him, there was a sense that by that point Estevez thought that he was above the film and didn’t like being defined by it.
According to IMDB, he used his entire salary for D3: The Mighty Ducks to finance his movie The War at Home, which came out in 1996. Though the movie was generally well-received by critics, it brought in less than $50,000 at the box office in limited release.
16, Did You Know?
According to IMDB, actor Scott Whyte, who plays Iceland captain Gunnar Stahl in D2, also played the character of Scott in D3.
He originally auditioned for the role of Dean Portman, which went to another actor.
15. Did You Know?
14. Did You Know?
According to director Pete Berg, the character of Hans, which was played by actor Joss Ackland, “was based upon this kind of surly old guy, Hans, who worked at the skate shop in Culver,” he told TIME.
Berg continued, “One day Brill and I were skating, and Brill hit the boards at a bad angle and broke his leg, and he was writhing around on the ice. … And Hans paused and looked at him and said, ‘Well, that’s your own personal problem.’ and walked away.”
13. Did You Know?
Iceland wasn’t chosen as the villain randomly in D2: The Mighty Ducks. According to writer Steve Brill, Russia was “too obvious,” and after the fall of the Soviet Union a few years earlier, they just didn’t seem as worthy a villain anymore. The eastern European thing felt “too dire or political.”
Brill told TIME, “I was like, ‘Iceland, oh my god. People don’t quite know much about it. It’s got that Nordic mystique. I can make them essentially these blond-haired, blue-eyed menacing villains with funny accents and a weird culture.’ It’s a complete fabrication but it worked. I loved it. Iceland was a great stock country.”
12. Did You Know?
The Iceland team was made up mostly of stunt skaters from Minnesota. Scott Whyte, who played Gunnar Stahl, was the only actor who actually played hockey before appearing in the movie. Ellingsen helped him perfect his Icelandic accent before his speaking part, so it’s fairly authentic.
11. Did You Know?
Although filming in Minnesota gave the movie a very authentic feel, the realities of shooting there in the winter didn’t really hit until they were in the midst of it.
Actor Joshua Jackson, who played Charlie Conway, told TIME that the weather in Minnesota made his hometown of Vancouver seem like a beach vacation and that he was very surprised to learn that almost the entire second floor of downtown Minneapolis is connected by human Habitrails.
Producer Jordan Kerner shared a story that was like an adult version of A Christmas Story: “We were in the midst of filming the scene when there’s a kiss between Emilio Estevez and Heidi Kling, who plays Josh’s mom, in 55 degrees below zero in St. Paul. And when they kissed, their lips stuck together. We had to get makeup to grab warm water and put droplets on their lips so they could actually separate.”
10. Did You Know?
Comedian Marc Maron had a bit part in D2: The Mighty Ducks, which was left on the cutting room floor. According to IMDB, Maron “filmed a cameo as an angry valet who the Ducks come across in Beverly Hills.”
9. Did You Know?
As you might expect, Shaun Weiss, who played Greg Goldberg the goalie, wasn’t a particularly adept skater. Particularly in the first film. Director Pete Berg was pleasantly diplomatic in discussing that issue with TIME, opting not to name names, but still dishing a little dirt.
Said Berg, “There were certain kids who wouldn’t be happy if I mentioned their names directly, who probably were never the best skaters in the world. So we would play off those things. And, you know, maybe one of them learned to play goalie pretty well, and he’s very funny. And he didn’t have to skate a lot, you know. He just had to be able to get into his crouch and be able to defend the goal.”
8. Did You Know?
Elden Henson (who previously went by Elden Ratliff), who played Fulton Reed, and Garette Henson, who played Guy Germaine, are actually brothers. For some reason, Elden had to dye his hair brown and change his name to Ratliff (professionally) in order to secure the part.
Speaking to TIME in June, he said, “I kind of didn’t really look the role, so Jordan and Steve Herek, the director, … dyed my hair, put wardrobe on me, even put like a fake little scar on my face and actually screen-tested me under the name Peter Quinn.”
7. Did You Know?
Many of the original Ducks were left out in the Minnesota cold for the sequel because the producers wanted characters with bigger, funnier personalities. The real surprise is that, according to Joshua Jackson’s interview with TIME, he was almost recast.
Said Jackson, “I do seem to remember that the second director was kind of keen to recast me, but I managed to survive him. It would have been weird to recast and keep that role played by somebody else. That would have been an odd thing to do.”
6. Did You Know?
In an interview with FSN in October of 2012, actor Emilio Estevez, who played coach Gordon Bombay, told Patrick O’Neal that he didn’t expect The Mighty Ducks movie(s) to be anywhere near as successful as they were. Noting that nobody really expected them to be, he called it “kind of a fluke.”
In the interview, he revealed that he had never skated before being cast in the movie and that he actually cast Joshua Jackson, who played Charlie Conway, in the movie Bobby based on his experience working with him on the films.
5. Did You Know?
Marguerite Moreau, who played Connie Moreau, really enjoyed being one of the only girls on set. She told TIME that in the first movie she enjoyed pushing the boys around a bit and tormenting them because she was so much bigger than them at the time.
By the time they filmed D2, the boys had caught up to her and she really enjoyed the male attention. Said Moreau, "I cannot confirm or deny that I may have kissed two or three or maybe even five of them. I was 15! It was a very exciting time for me. I mean it’s very flattering attention for a little while, you know?”
4. Did You Know?
Actor Vincent Larusso played the privileged and talented Adam Banks in the trilogy, but originally he was cast in a lesser role as one of the Hawks—alongside Larson and McGill. Larusso actually got promoted after the child actor who was cast in the part was fired for being an absolute nightmare.
According to producer Jordan Kerner, who spoke to TIME as part of an oral history feature in June, “[the original actor] was being a little bit of a bully to some of the other kids. … his mother thought of him as Marlon Brando or Brad Pitt or whatever.” The kid received a serious warning and continued to engage in the same type of behavior, so he was booted.
3. Did You Know?
Heat president Pat Riley was Carsten Norgaard’s inspiration for his character Wolf “The Dentist" Stansson in D2: The Mighty Ducks.
He spoke to TIME about it and said, “When I saw Pat Riley, his slickness, his style, his coolness, his swagger, that spoke to me. And he sort of became my base for the character.”
2. Did You Know?
The third film was set in high school, but producer Jordan Kerner had a much different vision for it. It’s a little too complicated to explain in its entirety, but basically they wanted the third movie to “go back to the Goodwill Games and [the Ducks] go back up the rankings, but it was going to be done in Europe.” Check out the piece in TIME for the complete synopsis.
Disney was insistent that it be a high school story, though, and of course they have the final say. In D3, the Ducks come into school as freshman and clash with the seniors, which according to Kerner was based largely on his “experience watching the UCLA freshman basketball team play the varsity who’d won the NCAA championship the year before.”
1. Did You Know?
Hold on to your hats, Mighty Ducks enthusiasts—it looks like there might be a fourth movie. Producer Jordan Kerner told TIME that there have been a number of discussions with Disney about bringing it back—maybe as a reboot—or have a couple of the original cast members anchor the cast as coaches in their 30s.
It’s hard to imagine Emilio Estevez making a cameo under any circumstances, but count actor Joshua Jackson, who played the always lovable Charlie Conway, among those who would love to see it happen.
Said Jackson, “I feel like a fourth film should happen, and if there was a space for any of the original kids that come back and have a role, I would be surprised that anybody didn’t want to do it.”
There is nothing currently in the works, but according to Kerner, the studio will be interested if they find just the right story to tell. He’s been pitched a few different stories already, but none have been quite right. But it looks like there’s a real possibility.
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