The Mighty Ducks: Film & Story Structure
Looking at key story elements from the 1992 film 'The Mighty Ducks'
The Mighty Ducks is the first film of the three film Mighty Ducks series. It was released in 1992 and written by Steven Brill and directed by Stephen Herek.
If you grew up in the 1990s, like myself, there’s a good chance this film was one of your favorites. It’s a classic Hero’s Tale and the story was developed from the standard Disney mold (in fact, its main criticism was that it didn’t break the mold enough).
Though the storyline may be predictable, it contains all the elements of a tried-and-true feel-good movie. Let’s take a look at how the story was built.
A young Gordon Bombay misses a penalty shot and loses the Pee-Wee hockey championship for his team.
This scene sets the tone for the film. It explains why the main character, Gordon, is so obsessed with winning as an adult and also provides a contrast to what you might expect the ending to contain.
An adult Gordon is sentenced to community service after receiving a DUI. He’s required to coach a local Pee-Wee hockey team.
Act One Plot Point
The climax of the first act is when Gordon finds out his first game is against his former Pee-Wee hockey coach.
This plot point flips Gordon’s motivation. Initially, he was unenthused. Now, he’s motivated to teach his players and win so he can redeem himself against his hyper-competitive former coach. He wants to show him that he’s not a “loser” (this is also clearly a motivating factor in his daily life). The dramatic need is introduced here: Gordon’s need to beat his old coach and his old team, the Hawks.
Now that Gordon is fully committed to coaching, we move into the second act, where we will find the obstacles that stand in his way.
At the midpoint of the film, Gordon introduces the team’s new name and jerseys. This symbolizes the team’s unity, which is carried forward through the second half of the film.
Act Two Plot Point
The team agrees to forgive Gordon, after it was revealed that he used to play for the Hawks, and vote to continue playing for the championship.
Now the third act is set up.
They win the championship and Gordon starts playing hockey again.
The Reluctant Hero
The story is really about Gordon’s journey to recapture his passion for hockey. Over the course of the film, he transforms from a reluctant participant into the hero. This change is driven by his interactions with his young team and also by his rediscovery of his passion for the game of hockey.
Thanks for reading.
The Story Department is where I write about the story structure of films. I focus on identifying key story elements so we can break films down and see how they work.
“Hollywood… Not a place on the map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream, wonder, and imagine.” -Michael Eisner at the dedication of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This idea serves as my catalyst for writing about film and story structure.
Hollywood, as a creative state of mind.
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