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Count Duckula

Count Duckula is a British children’s animated comedy-drama horror television series created by British studio Cosgrove Hall as a spin-off from Danger Mouse, a series in which the Count Duckula character was a recurring villain. Count Duckula ran for three series from 6 September 1988 to 16 February 1993, and was produced by Thames Television for 58 episodes and Central Television for the final seven episodes. In all, 65 episodes were made, each about 22 minutes long.

The story is that Duckula (voiced by David Jason) has been a vampire for centuries. He can only be destroyed by exposure to sunlight or by a wooden stake thrust through his heart. Duckula has died numerous deaths, but he always returns through a mystic ritual, performed once each century, “when the moon is in the eighth house of Aquarius”. The opening credits depict Igor’s incantation.

Several episodes explore the theme that each resurrection creates a new incarnation with little to no memory of its past life. Thus, every incarnation is free to develop its own personality and pursue its own personal interests. The vampire is able to pose as a “dreadful dynasty, the counts of Duckula”. The preceding generations included knights, sorcerers, scientists, artists, Egyptologists and even professional gamblers, all of whom are also secretly “vicious vampire ducks”.

However, as the title sequence puts it, “the latest reincarnation did not run according to plan”. The successful conclusion of the ritual requires blood (a send-up of the Hammer Dracula films), the source of sustenance for any vampire, but Nanny accidentally substitutes tomato ketchup. Consequently, the newest version is not a blood-sucking vampire, but a vegetarian one. He is more interested in juicy carrots than hunting for victims. Igor is appalled. Even worse, his “new” master is obsessed with pursuing wealth and fame as an entertainer.

The stories often centre around Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability to teleport around the world. Another regularly occurring theme is the repeated attempt by Igor to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. Some episodes feature Duckula’s nemesis Doctor Von Goosewing (based on Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the nemesis of Dracula), a vampire hunter who blindly refuses to believe the current incarnation of Duckula is harmless. There is also an array of bizarre, often supernatural foes, from zombies to mechanical werewolves. Another feature of the show is a cuckoo clock whose bat-like Russian-accented characters come out and make jokes about the current situation (or corny jokes in general). The clock is also a vital part of the castle’s travelling mechanism, and even has the ability to turn back time.

A series of annuals and monthly comics further detailing the adventures of Count Duckula and associated characters were released throughout the time that the series originally aired and for a short time afterwards.

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