Take a look at the trailer for the new Disney+ reboot series The Might Ducks: Game Changers (starts streaming March 26). Recognize anybody?
Sure, that’s Emilio Estevez, back 25 years after the third “Mighty Ducks” movie as former coach Gordon Bombay. And, yes, Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls is front and centre this time as a hockey mom hoping to help organize a new team of misfits. Hey, her 12-year-old son Evan (Brady Noon) has to have somewhere to play.
Look again: that collie-haired on-ice coach in the first few trailer scenes is none other than Dylan Playfair, one of the rough and tumble hockey dudes from Letterkenny. I asked executive producer Steven Brill — taking part along with Graham, Estevez and other producers in Wednesday’s Disney+ TCA zoom conference with reporters — if he was a Letterkenny fan and if he was bringing Playfair in to teach these mild-mannered kids how to fight.
Brill laughed. “Are you a Canadian reporter?” he correctly guessed.
Turns out Brill, who created this series (and wrote and acted on three previous “Mighty Ducks” Disney movies), loves the Crave comedy series.
“I became an early superfan of Letterkenny and started obnoxiously preaching the gospel of my favorite show,” he told critics. “And Dylan was someone I called while I was up in Vancouver and took out to dinner and tried to figure out a way to get him in the show. And it worked out that he got to have a really good, important part, so it made me very happy and he’s a great kid.”
Great hockey player, too. Dylan had a pretty good Junior A career before injuries slowed him down a notch. His dad, Jim, was an NHL coach and player and his uncle, Larry, was a lanky, rugged NHL defenceman for a dozen years with the Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings.
Clearly visable, by the way, was a hockey sweater and a stick right behind Brill in his zoom call to critics.
Fellow executive producer Michael Spiller talked about the challenges of shooting an action hockey series, with several on-ice scenes, through a pandemic.
“This series for sure would have been complex and difficult in a perfect scenario, under normal circumstances,” he began. “With COVID, it was even more so.”
Complicating things were ruled limiting child stars to just so many hours a day before the cameras. On the days the child actors, many in the 12-year-old range, were on set, photo doubles were used. “We had hockey doubles and stunt doubles for all,” said Spiller. “They all have to be dressed. They’ve got to be housed. They’ve got to be separated. A lot of them have their own guardians. So it’s sort of an exponential growth in terms of the complexity factor.”
Spiller says it all worked out in the end. “I’m very, very proud of it. We all made safety a priority, so ‑‑ and we had fun.”
Shot in Vancouver, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers starts streaming March 26 on Disney+.