Lace up your skates and practice your triple-deke: It's time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Mighty Ducks.
Released a quarter-century ago this week (on Oct. 2, 1992), the Disney film about an underdog team of misfit pee-wee hockey players was no one's idea of a hit movie. Yet the film was a solid hit that revitalized Emilio Estevez's career, launched the careers of several future stars (notably, Joshua Jackson), spawned a pair of sequels and an animated series, and even inspired the creation of a new pro hockey team.
The Mighty Ducks trilogy may have been a staple of many childhoods, but there are still some secrets behind the hockey masks.
1. Steve Brill wrote the screenplay on spec when he was an unemployed actor in the 1980s, he told Time in 2014. Brill was an avid ice skater who spent his days at the Culver City rink near his apartment. He was also a fan of both hockey and The Bad News Bears, which gave him the idea of writing a "Bears"-style sports-underdog movie with pucks instead of baseballs.
2. For the role of coach Gordon Bombay, Brill envisioned casting his roommate, fellow unemployed actor Peter Berg — who'd ultimately stake his own place in juvenile-sports-movie history by directing the big-screen adaptation of Friday Night Lights.
3. Disney bought Brill's screenplay, in part because then-CEO Michael Eisner's own kids were pee-wee hockey players. Also, when he was still at Paramount, Eisner had had a hand in shepherding Bears to the screen.
4. Like Bears, Brill's original script was full of off-color humor and grown-up romance. Most of that wasn't going to fly at Disney, and producer Jordan Kerner had Brill revise the screenplay to make it broader and more kid-friendly. Also, Disney wasn't going to cast no-name Berg in the lead adult role, choosing the much better known Emilio Estevez instead.
5. Future Dawson's Creek and The Affair star Joshua Jackson was not the first choice to play team captain Charlie Conway. The part initially went to Jake Gyllenhaal — then a movie newbie with only the role of Billy Crystal's little boy in City Slickers under his belt — only to have Gyllenhaal's parents nix his participation because it would have taken too much time away from school. Talking to Howard Stern in 2015, Gyllenhaal recalled them telling him, "'You'll hate us now, but you'll thank us later.' And I do."
6. During their auditions, many of the kid actors lied about their skating skills. Which was OK; Estevez couldn't skate either. The whole cast had to go through several weeks of skating boot camp once they arrived on location in Minnesota.
7. Mighty Ducks marked the big-screen debuts of future Empire co-star Jussie Smollett (Terry Hall) and Marguerite Moreau (Connie, above), future co-star of the Wet Hot American Summer franchise.
8. Kerner recalled that most of the kids behaved professionally, but one boy was something of a bully, with a stage mother who overestimated her son's talents. Finally, Kerner said, he had to fire the kid. Which is how Vincent Larusso, cast in a minor role, moved up into the key part of turncoat player Adam Banks.
9. The character of Hans, the irascible old-timer played by Joss Ackland, was inspired by a similar man, also named Hans, who worked at the Culver City rink. Berg recalled that one day, Brill injured himself on the ice. "Brill said, 'Hans, I think I broke my leg.' And Hans paused and looked at him and said, 'Well, that's your own personal problem' and walked away. I think that was a very formative moment for Brill when he wrote that character."
10. How cold was it in Minnesota? Temperatures supposedly dropped to 55 below, so cold that, when shooting the scene where Gordon kisses Charlie's mom, Estevez and co-star Heidi Kling found themselves frozen together at the lips. Recalled Kerner, "We had to get makeup to grab warm water and put droplets on their lips so they could actually separate,"
11. Ever notice that, among all the teams shown in the film, only the Ducks and their chief rivals, the Hawks, have both their names and their numbers on their jerseys? All the rest of the teams have just numbers.
12. Mighty Ducks cost a reported $10 million to make. It returned $50.8 million at the North American box office.
13. Between the first and second films of the trilogy, Eisner decided that a pro hockey team fit in with Disney's growing presence in Anaheim, site of the original Disneyland and a little-used sports arena. The night before he met with the rest of the NHL owners to discuss the expansion team, Eisner decided to name the pro franchise after the movie, "and not enough people disagreed with me."
14. Kerner says he and Brill have discussed with Disney the possibility of making a fourth Ducks, if they can come up with a workable story. Of the prospect of the Ducks returning to the ice, perhaps this time as coaches themselves, Jackson said in 2014: "I feel like a fourth film should happen, and if there was space for any of the original kids that come back and have a role, I would be surprised that anybody didn't want to do it."