Let me take on a few of Eric's points:
(1) To be completely fair, Eric, some DuckTales merchandise DID manage to get into the stores. It even merited several TV commercials. Artful, however, the spots generally weren't, even when measured by the modest standards of the medium.
Quack-quack. Right. To make matters worse, the narrator seems to assume that the term "DuckTales" referred to the group of characters featured on the show. The following Australian McDonalds ad for DT figurines, featuring some Aussie guy whom I'm sure was bloody well-known back in the (g')day, is considerably classier, though I sure hope that I was hearing things when I heard him refer to "Huey, Chewie, and Louie."
Several items produced during the original run of the series -- the Panini sticker album, a number of the figurines, and particularly the well-received video games -- have achieved semi-legendary status. Unfortunately, there weren't enough of these to sustain the long-term interest of the "civilian" population as the 1990s wore on. It would have helped, I think, if the DT-based comic books had been regularly plugged during broadcasts of the show. But then, you can say exactly the same thing about all of the other series produced during the "Golden Age" of WDTVA. Next to the video division's ham-fisted, unimaginative handling of the DVD releases, the refusal to partake of what would seem to be a straightforward opportunity to exploit "synergy" is the most infuriatingly puzzling aspect of Disney's superintendence of this marvelous product.
(2) As for the troubling question of why DT has not sustained more of a legacy, over and above the "mere" lack of enough store-buyable baubles, I addressed this question at some length a couple of years ago in "Free DuckTales!", a piece I wrote as part of my RICHVILLE RUMINATIONS column in Mark Arnold's THE HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES!. I identified the following potential reasons:
- Duck fans were divided on the question of the series' viability from the very beginning, and so the show lacked the solid phalanx of fans that helped perpetuate interest in, say, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers.
- The comic books were of uneven, aesthetically confused quality, which made it easier for some to write off the DT concept as inferior.
- A number of the new characters had as many detractors as they had boosters -- and some had more of the former than the latter (see Duck, Bubba).
- The series lived a more or less "natural" lifespan of 100 episodes, and it was easy for Duck fans to go back to reading the "standard" comics after it was all over. Rescue Rangers and Tale Spin, by contrast, gained a second wind because they were taken out of production "before their time."
- The era of TV animation that DT ignited has ended, and we're living in a different aesthetic world today.
- Disney DVD's treatment of the DVD releases as throwaway product has helped to obscure the true historical and aesthetic significance of the series.
(3) If I were as comprehensive an authority on DT as Eric seems to think me to be, then I'd certainly know a lot more behind-the-scenes information about the series' production history. I do know that the show was officially put into development in 1985, as indicated in the copyright notice below: