- “If it's got wings, I can crash it!”
- ―Launchpad McQuack[src]
Launchpad McQuack is a pilot introduced in Disney's 1987-90 television series DuckTales and later featured in its 1991-92 spin-off Darkwing Duck. He works for Scrooge McDuck as his pilot and later became Darkwing Duck's sidekick in the later show.
A lovable doofus, Launchpad McQuack may seem absent-minded, yet despite often making mistakes, he always gets his assigned task done competently in the end and as such, he is a valuable helper for Scrooge McDuck, despite often irritating Scrooge with his ignorance. He is a gentle giant, and also very charming and witty. Additionally, Launchpad remains calm and positive in extreme and intense scenarios, never panicking or losing his cool. In fact, the only thing that comes close to scaring Launchpad are Scrooge's temper tantrums. He gets on with Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby very well, and is fiercely protective of them. In fact, if the duckling quartet are endangered, he employs his finest piloting skills towards rescuing them. He is also very popular with the ladies.
Launchpad is an anthropomorphic drake, and is one of the tallest and bulkiest anthropomorphic animals to grace the Disneyverse, rivaling Pete. He dresses like a pilot, with a scarf, goggles, a helmet, baggy pants, boots designed for big, webbed feet, a belt, and leather jacket. Launchpad also has an imposing, athletic physique, with a narrow waist, deep rib-cage and generally thicker limbs than most other Disney characters, making him the muscle in Scrooge's and any other teams he is a part of.
Launchpad's first appearance was in Part 3 of the pilot movie "The Treasure of the Golden Suns," where he is hired by Gyro Gearloose and Scrooge McDuck to fly the latter to the Land of the Golden Suns in Gyro's newest helicopter, the Condor. Since then, he made recurring appearances in many episodes, mainly when Scrooge needed a pilot to fly him somewhere and could not look anywhere else, as Launchpad has worked for Scrooge's favorite price, which was next to nothing.
Launchpad is known to be best friends with a youngster named Doofus Drake, a roly-poly duckling who tags along with him on many adventures and has been considered by Launchpad to be his sidekick. Doofus looks up to Launchpad like a big brother and considers him a great pilot and a real hero.
According to the episode "Launchpad's First Crash", Launchpad built his first plane, the Sun Chaser, by himself, and he was hired by Scrooge McDuck as a youngster to fly to the Thick-of-It Rain Forest to help him locate the Lost City of Diamonds. At that point, Launchpad had a rate: 10 cents per mile, but he lowered it to a penny per mile to suit Scrooge. Since that adventure, Launchpad and Scrooge became an inseparable team.
Launchpad has had his chance to be a hero on many counts, such as in "Armstrong", when Scrooge and Gyro were held captive by Gyro's new robot Armstrong, who was seizing control of the world, one Armed Forces base at a time. Huey, Dewey, and Louie raced to Launchpad's place to get his help when they discovered that they needed backup to stop Armstrong. Launchpad offered to fly them in aboard his Joyrider, which, according to Launchpad, had "no fancy electronics" within, so Armstrong couldn't take control of it. After crashing atop Gyro's barn (which is what he did best), Launchpad tried to sneak in, but was hindered by Armstrong. A chase ensued and ended as Launchpad tried to escape to his plane, but was grabbed at the ankle by Armstrong. As he was pulled down, Launchpad grabbed the release lever for his Joyrider's water tank and that water cascaded on Armstrong and shorted him out.
During the episode "Top Duck", Launchpad revealed that his family was a group of stunt performers called The Flying McQuacks, but Launchpad always felt that he disappointed his family and, as such, he ran away to pursue his dream of being the best pilot in the world. When his family wrote him and said that they were coming to visit, Launchpad felt that he couldn't face them, especially his father Ripcord, because he believed that his father was the reason he had run away from home. Near the end, the Flying McQuacks helped Launchpad and Scrooge defeat the Beagle Boys and save the Money Bin. Ripcord (finally) told his son that he was proud of him (but Launchpad had never let him finish any of his sentences).
Launchpad's adventures have also revealed the story of his great-great-grandfather General Rhubarb McQuack, who fought in the Union who he heard was the war hero that won the Battle of Duckridge. After meeting the actual soldiers who participated in the war under the service of General Rhubarb, Launchpad, Doofus, and Huey, Dewey, and Louie decided to give the long-forgotten army (who went by the name of "McQuack's Marauders") a chance to fight the confederate again. During the reenactment, the nephews and Doofus rigged it so that the actual Marauders participated, taking on the businessman and his actors who played the Union soldiers, although they mostly fought with shock tactics and throwing pies. Even though Launchpad almost cost McQuack's Marauders their redemption, the tide turned in their favor when he had sent their battle vessel, known as the "Merryquack", rolling into battle and overwhelming the enemy. Afterwards, Doofus and the nephews are glad to see that Launchpad has redeemed his family's honor and the citizens of Duckridge are humbled to learn that UNION veterans are still alive, to which they vow never again to ridicule the war while allowing the veterans to rejoin society, so that they can retire in honor.
Launchpad serves a minor role as Scrooge's pilot to the ruins of Collie Baba (a parody of Ali Baba), where Scrooge is after the legendary thief's treasure.
When Launchpad met the legendary crimefighter, Darkwing Duck, he revealed that he was Darkwing's number-one fan and offered to be the crimefighter's sidekick. At the time, Darkwing declared that he was a loner as a superhero and didn't need any help. However, after Gosalyn had been kidnapped by Taurus Bulba—Darkwing's first real enemy—Launchpad revealed his newest plane, the Thunderquack, which they used to invade Bulba's airship and rescue Gosalyn. The Thunderquack served as Darkwing's personal plane after Darkwing dubbed Launchpad his true sidekick.
Since he became Darkwing's sidekick, Launchpad only served as Darkwing's pilot and almost nothing else. After much arguing, Darkwing was forced to switch roles with Launchpad for a day in the episode "Water Way to Go", after S.H.U.S.H. called Darkwing to investigate a plot by F.O.W.L. to flood the desert of Oil-rabia and steal its riches. The twosome eventually saved the Princess of the kingdom and foiled the evil plot, and Darkwing accepted being a sidekick as not bad (for a fleeting few moments).
In the episode "U.F. Foe", Launchpad revealed that he had a fear of flying as a young duckling, and he made friends with a female alien named Tia, who helped him overcome this fear. During a family vacation that ended up in the middle of nowhere, Tia had returned to declare her engagement to Launchpad, unknown to her that her vizier had planned to usurp her throne with a robotic duplicate of Launchpad. As part of the plan, Darkwing's brain was removed so that his body would become a literally mindless slave and lead Launchpad into certain doom. In the end, after exposing the coup, Launchpad and Darkwing had their memories erased of meeting Tia, and Tia decided to settle down with Launchpad's clone.
Launchpad made a few appearances in Disney's Raw Toonage shorts, including hosting one episode when he showed lessons in flying.
Launchpad returns in the animated reboot of the 1987-90 series, now voiced by Beck Bennett. He first appears in "Woo-oo!" as Scrooge's personal chauffeur, though he not-so-subtly dreams to serve as Scrooge's pilot. He is, nevertheless, still unintentionally reckless with his driving, let alone his flying. When Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby need to help Scrooge defeat a flying, golden dragon, Launchpad offers himself as a pilot and uses his plane, the Sun Chaser, to successfully rescue and assist Scrooge and the kids in defeating the dragon. He later served as the pilot for Scrooge's submarine on their journey to find the Jewel of Atlantis. During the journey, Launchpad's drowsiness allowed Dewey to alter Scrooge's map, believing shortening their course through a series of undersea dangers would be quicker. Later, while exploring the upside-down city of Atlantis, Dewey accidentally sets off a booby trap, causing venomous snakes to fall on Launchpad, poisoning him and leaving him delirious. At one point, when Webby calls Mrs. Beakley to lie about her whereabouts, Launchpad unintentionally weakens her lie by speaking Swedish on the phone. Subsequently, they run into Flintheart Glomgold and his minions, Gabby McStabberson and Hack and Slash Smashnikov, who attack them. Launchpad is able to avoid their attacks thanks to his poisoned state of being. Afterwards, he pilots everyone to safety after Glomgold shorts a pair of torpedoes at Atlantis.
Launchpad appeared in both of the DuckTales comic books published by Gladstone Publishing and Disney Comics, and again in the Darkwing Duck mini-series published by Disney Comics. However, the implosion of Disney Comics prevented the latter comic book series from having a longer lifespan. After that, DuckTales and Darkwing Duck stories featuring Launchpad were also printed in the magazine Disney Adventures, as well as new Darkwing stories in Marvel's Disney Afternoon comic book.
From 2007 to 2011, Gemstone Publishing and Boom! Studios printed several old DuckTales stories in the pages of Uncle Scrooge, many of which had previously never been published in the United States. In these translated-to-English printings of the stories, Launchpad occasionally mentioned his adventures with Darkwing Duck to Scrooge and the others, implying that at some point, he left St. Canard and returned to his job as a pilot in Duckburg. (Ironically, several of the stories to include such dialogue had originally been written before Darkwing Duck originally premiered.)
At the same time, Launchpad and Darkwing also appeared in Boom!'s new Darkwing Duck comic book. In the series, Drake has quit the superhero business for a cubicle job at the Quackwerks company, which produces robotic police enforcers, and he is no longer speaking to Launchpad, ever since an incident where he accidentally lead Negaduck to discover his identity. But they soon reunite and return to hero work when they find out that things aren't as they seem at Quackwerks and some of their old enemies start working together again. After defeating Taurus Bulba again, who was revealed to be behind Quackwerks all along in a scheme to control the city, Darkwing returns to the public spotlight again and Scrooge McDuck hands over control of Quackwerks to Launchpad. Later in the series, Launchpad ends up running for mayor of St. Canard against Darkwing and wins, but is ousted as mayor after somehow crashing the entire city. After months of repairing St. Canard, Launchpad then also steps down as the CEO of Quackwerks, naming the company's former head of security, Maury Thwackstein, as his replacement.
Launchpad also returned in Boom!'s short-lived DuckTales comic book where he made his usual crashing shenanigans and acted once again as Scrooge's pilot. Due to Launchpad appearing in both it and the Darkwing Duck comic, it is unclear when the first arc, "Rightful Owners", is supposed to take place in the chronology of the Darkwing comic (due to each of the Darkwing comic's arcs continuing from the previous one). But since the "Dangerous Currency" arc that closed both comics is considered non-canon (as it was never approved by Disney), it is likely that "Rightful Owners", and Launchpad's involvement in the story, is also non-canon.
Launchpad McQuack was a regularly meetable character in the Disney parks during the time when DuckTales and Darkwing Duck were originally airing. He is not as much of a regular at the parks anymore, but he can still be found on rare occasions. Currently, he's mainly found at Disneyland Paris, sometimes at the Disneyland Hotel and more often at the Hotel New York in addition to making occasional rare appearances at Epcot.
Launchpad starred in the The Disney Afternoon Live!: Plane Crazy stage show which ran at Disneyland as part of Disney Afternoon Avenue in 1991. In the stage show, he is recruited along with Chip 'n' Dale and Baloo to recover the X-22 spy jet when it is stolen by Don Karnage and Fat Cat. At one point in the show, Launchpad performs some cloud-surfing in an attempt to battle the two villains. (It should be noted, though, that while TaleSpin has been established to be set in the same fictional universe as DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, it actually takes place about fifty years before those two shows, so this crossover is likely non-canon.)
Launchpad made occasional appearances on the riverboat at the end of the Disneyland version of Fantasmic!
Launchpad appeared in the former Magic Kingdom show Mickey's Magical TV World where he closed the door of Scrooge's vault, because he thought that no one was home. When Darkwing Duck replaced the Gummi Bears, Launchpad came to help him with the box trick. Then after he, Scrooge, and C.J. sang the DuckTales theme song, he closed the vault door again when they got inside the vault. In 1992, when Goof Troop replaced DuckTales in The Disney Afternoon, he and Scrooge were cut, which made Darkwing and C.J. do the box trick without him. But he returned to the show in 1993 to help Darkwing again.