The Junior Woodchucks in their natural habitat.


Original Medium: Comic books
Licensed from: Disney
First Appeared: 1951
Creator: Carl Barks
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When Huey, Dewey and Louie, Donald Duck's identical nephews, were introduced in 1937, their main use was as juvenile foils for their reluctant guardian, who …

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… wasn't all that grown up himself. But when cartoonist Carl Barks was handling them in comic books on a regular basis, he found a different use for them. When the story required it, they could function as competent surrogate adults — since Donald obviously wasn't about to. Nowhere was this aspect of their personalities more pronounced than when they acted as members of a Scout-like organization called The Junior Woodchucks.

The Woodchucks were first seen in Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #125 (Dell Comics, February, 1951), in a story about the boys' struggle to achieve the rank of Brigadier General. That was actually a relatively low rank in the Woodchucks — in the outfit's very next appearance (#132, September, 1951), they became ten-star generals. The ranks and titles only went up from there. Before long, extravagant offices such as K.I.N.G. (Knightly Intrepid Natatorial Guardian) and S.S.S.S.A.S.O.S.S. (Supremely Sagacious Spoor Sniffer and Saver of Stranded Souls) became a Junior Woodchucks hallmark; and merit badges were given out by the quart.

The Woodchucks worked well as a source of conflict between Donald and his nephews, but they really shone as assistant adventurers when Donald's Uncle Scrooge went treasure hunting. It was in this capacity that they were first seen using their most famous accessory, The Junior Woodchucks' Guide Book, which occurred in Dell's Uncle Scrooge #5 (March, 1954). In many subsequent appearances, this fabulous tome proved to contain far more than the expected animal lore and camping tips — it was also useful for everything from advanced chemical analysis to translating ancient languages that have baffled generations of scholars. If there were limits to this font of inexhaustible knowledge, the readers never saw them.

The Junior Woodchucks got their own comic with a cover date of August, 1966, but it was published only sporadically at first. With the sixth issue (July, 1970), Barks, who had retired in 1966, was lured back to provide scripts, to be illustrated by other artists. These stories were frequently done as eco-fables, with the Woodchucks representing Nature and Uncle Scrooge as Heavy Industry. The last Barks script appeared in #25 (March, 1974), but the title lasted as long as Gold Key Comics, which had been handling the Disney license since 1962, remained in the comic book publishing business. The last issue was #81, dated July, 1984.

After 40 years in comics, Scrooge became a TV star, and that's how the Woodchucks got into animation. Huey, Dewey and Louie were regular characters in DuckTales, a half-hour show based on Barks's comic books of the 1950s, and frequently appeared as Woodchucks. The show ran from 1987-89, and still turns up occasionally in reruns. There, their identical voices were done by Russi Taylor (Strawberry Shortcake).

Like most of Barks's memorable creations — Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose etc. — The Junior Woodchucks were picked up by Disney comic book licensees all over the world. Even today, they can be seen wherever Disney comics are published.


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Text ©2003-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Walt Disney Co.