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Darkwing Duck is an up-and-coming superhero who wants to be famous but is stuck busting regular criminals in the bustling metropolis of St. Canard. Annoyed that he isn't getting enough attention from the press, Darkwing longs to fight a super-villain. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when he stumbles onto a fiendish plot by criminal mastermind Taurus Bulba to steal a top-secret weapon from the military: an anti-gravity beam cannon called the Ramrod.
Darkwing fails to stop Taurus Bulba's three henchmen, the hard-headed Hammerhead Hannigan and the clumsy Hoof and Mouth, from stealing the Ramrod, despite "help" from his biggest (and only) fan, accident-prone pilot Launchpad McQuack. Furious at having lost Bulba's henchmen, Darkwing turns down the hopeful Launchpad's request to be the hero's sidekick.
Meanwhile, Bulba discovers that although he has the Ramrod, he lacks the arming code. An earlier botched attempt to steal the weapon resulted in the accidental death of its inventor, Professor Waddlemeyer, before Bulba could learn the code. He sends Hammerhead, Hoof, and Mouth to kidnap the Professor's granddaughter, Gosalyn, from the St. Canard Orphanage, on the gamble that she knows the arming code. Darkwing, having discovered what Bulba's henchmen stole, races to the rescue and snatches Gosalyn out of the henchmen's grasp.
After a car chase, Darkwing returns to the safety of his hideout with Gosalyn, promising to protect her until Taurus Bulba is brought to justice. As he and the child bond, he discovers, inadvertently, that the arming code for the Ramrod is hidden in the lyrics of a lullaby taught to Gosalyn by her grandfather. But can he keep her safe from Bulba, who even now is hatching a plot to capture them both by exploiting Darkwing's desire to be a famous crimefighter?
- Christine Cavanaugh - Gosalyn Mallard
- Jim Cummings - Darkwing Duck
- Tim Curry - Taurus Bulba
- Eddie Deezen - Mouth
- Laurie Faso - Warden Waddlesworth, Hammerhead Hannigan
- Terry McGovern - Launchpad MacQuack
- Hal Rayle - Additional Voices
- Marcia Wallace - Clovis, Mrs. Cavanaugh
- Darkwing Duck: Darkly Dawns the Duck (uncut version)
- Darkwing Duck: Darkly Dawns the Duck / The Birth of Negaduck! (uncut version)
- Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 (edited version)
- During the opening chase scene, Darkwing hangs from the the thugs' motorcycles by his legs while crawling on his hands. This is similar to the chase scene from The Aristocats where Edgar Balthazar is being pursued by Napoleon and Lafayette.
- As Taurus Bullba takes off in his ship, Clovis' eye shadow changes from blue to brown a few times.
- While hovering above the train car in Launchpad's plane, Launchpad's window is visible through Darkwing's head as he ponders his next move.
- When Darkwing changes into his bed clothes, he is still wearing his mask, but when the camera does a close up as he approaches his bed, his Darkwing mask is suddenly gone.
- The newspaper carrying the story about Darkwing supposedly robbing the train shows a photo of him fighting Hoof and Mouth, but the conductor only started taking pictures after Darkwing had knocked them out already.
- The two soldiers whose uniforms Hoof and Mouth swipe are shown to be armed with rifles. Yet, after stealing the uniforms, the two henchmen are armed with machine guns.
- When Gosalyn first shows DW the picture of her and her grandfather, the buttons on the console are mostly dark gray with a yellow one. When DW looks at it later, they're different colors.
- The episode was adapted into a 4-issue mini-series by Disney Comics. The same adaptation was reprinted in the 4th issue of Disney's Colossal Comics Collection, and later in Boom! Studios's Darkwing Duck Classics trade paperback.
- The name of the orphanage worker, Mrs. Cavanaugh, was a reference to Christine Cavanaugh, Gosalyn's voice actress.
A number of scenes were cut from the pilot film when it was edited to become two regular episodes of the TV series. These scenes were subsequently restored when it was released uncut on VHS and Laserdisc in 1993, but they were unfortunately not restored for the Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 DVD set, which contains the edited version. These scenes include:
- An opening chase sequence showing Darkwing capturing a gang of fleeing criminals. The shot of Darkwing ramping his motorcycle sidecar, the Ratcatcher, up and into the bed of a pickup truck, catapulting the criminals inside into some trashcans, is featured prominently in the show's opening sequence despite being absent from the later televised versions.
- While following Taurus Bulba's pet condor Tantalus on the Ratcatcher, Darkwing almost has a head-on collision with a large truck and is yelled at by the driver.
- A longer version of the scene where Hoof and Mouth are twirling their rifles around before Darkwing jumps them.
- A scene showing Taurus Bulba wheeling a cart of dirty clothes to the prison laundromat, establishing that Hammerhead, Hoof, and Mouth are hiding inside it.
- Following the car chase, Mouth has a panic attack and begins screaming, "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!" until Hammerhead hits him.
- A longer scene of Taurus Bulba ranting about Darkwing's ego, with him imitating Darkwing's mannerisms and poses: "His posing, his flamboyance, the mask and cape! Ha, ha! That hat! It all indicates an ego the size of a small planet!"
- Darkwing asking Gosalyn if he should frame his memo pad.
- While in his jail cell, the scene where Darkwing tries to get the biker pig to punch him is much longer.
- A brief scene where Taurus Bulba comments that the design of the Thunderquack, Launchpad's fan-made jet, is ugly.
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