‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’: How Disney+ Handles the Ducks Not Being Hockey Underdogs Anymore

The series, which premieres on Disney+ next month, brings back Emilio Estevez alongside Lauren Graham and a completely different world of youth sports.
Mighty Ducks Game Changers Emilio Estevez

It’s been a quarter century since a live-action Mighty Ducks project featured the star of the original film series. But now, with Disney+ finding new ways to repurpose stories for a new audience, the upcoming “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” will find Emilio Estevez returning as Gordon Bombay.

The series has Estevez play Gordon as a curmudgeonly ice rink owner who has left hockey behind, seemingly for good. The Mighty Ducks themselves have gone through a transformation of their own, going from plucky misfits to a youth sports powerhouse. The arrival of a preteen hockey player and his mom Alex (Lauren Graham) nudge Gordon back to taking a new group of mismatched kids and teaching them about the game. Disney+ announced a March 26 premiere date for the series.

“We did like the idea of subverting expectations and having the Ducks become this powerhouse team and creating a new underdog,” co-showrunner Josh Goldsmith said during Wednesday’s panel at the Television Critics Association’s virtual Winter 2021 Press Tour. “The underdogs are those kids in the world who are told that if you can’t be a nationally ranked champion by age 12, then give it up. Don’t bother playing.”

Estevez has spent most of the past few decades behind the camera. Coming back to a previous role after time away in the director’s chair was also a challenge because he wasn’t coming back to the same Gordon. “He’s eating leftover birthday cakes from kids parties and leftover pizza. He’s completely disengaged from the world, which is very unlike the Bombay that we saw the last time we saw him in ‘D3.’ For me, it was it was a shift,” Estevez said.  “If you look at the franchise, my character was always very engaged with the kids and being the coach that we all wish we’d had. For me, it was it was an adjustment to to play a guy that was hiding out. But I think it works, and I think that we get a full arc for this character throughout the course of the 10 episodes.”

Showrunners Cathy Yuspa and Goldsmith drew on some of their personal experiences seeing how youth sports has become a highly specialized industry all its own, one that the Mighty Ducks of “Game Changers” have fully embodied.

“We’ve just had so many experiences with parents out there who just put so much pressure on their kids. That’s what we felt like was the heart of the show: Can’t kids play sports for fun anymore?” Yuspa said. “One of the things that really excited us about the project is the idea that kids who grew up watching the Ducks now have kids of their own and that it can be a family experience.”

Steve Brill, who worked on the screenplays for all three of the original ’90s films, returns as a director for “Game Changers.” Even with these changes in the main character and the team that gives the show its title, Brill argued that Estevez won’t be the only character from the film trilogy who factors into this new 10-episode season.

“We’re very excited to keep definitely reinventing from square one the storyline and create a new mythology. But we’re not ignoring the past or the people in the past. So we, we’ve always been trying through the whole series to bring people literally, emotionally, and suggestively back into the story,” Brill said.

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