The Mighty Ducks and The Bored Apes

Anthony McGuire
6 min readMar 19, 2022


Bringing Digital IP Into The Real World — from Disney to Yuga Labs

On October 2, 1992, the Disney film The Mighty Ducks was released in cinemas. This heartwarming story of an underdog youth ice hockey team became a cult classic.

Emilio Estevez played the character of Gordon Bombay, a Minneapolis defense attorney who coached a team of earnest misfits to a hockey championship. The film became a solid part of 1990s American pop culture, with references like the ‘ducks fly together’ catchphrase, the ‘quack, quack’ chant and the ‘flying V’ hockey formation. Two sequels (D2 and D3) were released in 1994 and 1996, with the overall film trilogy grossing around $120 Million in global box office sales.

The Mighty Ducks franchise spawned an animated series, a live-action TV series, an extensive line of merchandise, a video game, an attraction at Disney theme parks, and an NHL team.

Yes — the National Hockey League created an official NHL team based on a 1992 Disney film. In 1993, The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim was founded as an NHL expansion team by The Walt Disney Company, which paid the league $50 Million to create the franchise.

Looking back on this decision, it was a bold move by one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies. A movie franchise literally became a sports team. This was largely the idea of Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time and a massive hockey fan.

From a business perspective, there were a lot of benefits for Disney. Disneyland was also in Anaheim, making the city a convenient location to share both a hockey team and a theme park. This created new opportunities for cross-promotion with other Disney products, the creation of a new revenue line, and Disney could sell tons of new Mighty Ducks merchandise.

With Disney’s marketing budget and media expertise, the Mighty Ducks thrived in the early 90s. The team’s very first game featured a 15-minute opening ceremony filled with hit Disney songs. In the team’s first season, the Ducks accounted for 80% of total NHL merchandise sales. While the team didn’t dominate the league, they did manage to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003.

Over time, the team became less of a priority for Disney and both the company and the NHL experienced their own problems that caused the Mighty Ducks to decline. The team was eventually sold in 2005 and renamed as the Anaheim Ducks. While the Mighty Ducks became a liability for Disney towards the end of the company’s ownership period, we can still look back on this grand experiment as a major lesson for how to approach the Venn diagram of sports, media, and entertainment.

Last week, Yuga Labs — the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs — announced that they are acquiring the CryptoPunks and Meebits NFT collections from Larva Labs. This creates a new mega-company(?) that owns arguably the three biggest and most influential NFT collections in the world.

The official announcement regarding the acquisition came with a few key messages:

  • …Yuga has acquired the IP of the CryptoPunks and Meebits NFT collections from Larva Labs. This means that we now own the brands, copyright in the art, and other IP rights for both collections, along with 423 CryptoPunks and 1711 Meebits.
  • “CryptoPunks and Meebits have their own unique communities, and we’re excited to see what they do with IP rights. Our vision has always been to build a community-owned brand that extends far beyond NFTs…”
  • This deal came about in a very organic way from conversations between our partner Guy Oseary and the Larva Labs founders.

Yuga Labs has always allowed Bored Ape owners to utilize and commercialize the underlying IP of the NFTs they own. This has led to several self-organized Bored Ape experiments across fashion, consumer goods, and merchandise. Now CryptoPunks and Meebits owners have the same opportunity.

It’s a bold move. And it’s worth mentioning Guy Oseary — famously known as the manager of Madonna and U2, and co-founder of Sound Ventures with Ashton Kutcher. Yuga Labs has signed a recent deal to be represented by Guy Oseary as he helps the team navigate all the ways Yuga Labs can bring their IP to the world of media and entertainment.

I don’t know what’s going through the heads of the folks at Yuga Labs, but I expect them to be thinking creatively about all the different ways to commercialize the IP of these NFT franchises.

Here’s a suggestion — why not create a professional sports team based on NFTs? Just like Disney did with The Mighty Ducks?

For the majority of people around the world, especially those not in Web3, the Mighty Ducks is a stronger brand than CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and Meebits. But these three NFT collections have significantly more room for growth.

And considering the cultural relevance of the broader Web3 movement, you could easily argue that these NFT collections will eventually be hundreds of times more important to the world than the Mighty Ducks film franchise.

For someone like Guy Oseary or the Yuga Labs founders, it would be a fantastic idea to create a new sports team based on one of their NFT franchises like the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

When we look into the future of NFTs, we can already expect NFTs as playable video game characters and virtual avatars, but we can also predict CryptoPunks t-shirts and Bored Ape Yacht Club beer brands. The ‘metaverse’ encompasses both digital and physical worlds. One of the ‘physical worlds’ with the most eyeballs and cultural significance is the sports world.

So why not bring NFTs into the world of professional sports?

Disney spent $50 Million creating an NHL team based around the Mighty Ducks. While the price of a sports team is higher today, Yuga Labs could easily create a DAO or consortium of crypto heavyweights to fund a professional sports team. There is already massive interest in the intersection of crypto and sports, as we have seen through billions of dollars in sponsorship spend and billions of dollars in value generated by Sports NFT startups.

At the same time, the total value of three NFT collections (Bored Apes, CryptoPunks, Meebits) is already in the billions of US dollars. Creating a DAO based on the owners of just these three NFT collections could likely raise tens of millions of dollars, or more.

And even if Yuga Labs decides not to launch a sports team, they are actively encouraging NFT owners to commercialize these NFT franchises. That’s the beauty of Web3. A group of Bored Ape owners in Thailand could come together independently and spin up a team for their national soccer league. People are allowed to create products and works using the IP of these NFTs without needing to ask the permission of some centralized entity.

Here’s another benefit of an NFT-based professional sports team. The ‘marketing organization’ of these NFTs is essentially a decentralized global group of tens of thousands of NFT owners and adjacent fans. These people are natural brand ambassadors and advocates who have an authentic enthusiasm for these NFT communities. No amount of paid Facebook ads can compete with that.

In some ways, the economics and brand advantages of a decentralized, Yuga Labs-spinoff professional sports team make even more sense then a Walt Disney sponsored sports team.

Some day soon, I predict we’ll see professional sports teams based on NFTs like CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and more. The Venn diagram of entertainment, media, and sports is coming together in a sublime marriage, with NFTs at the center of it all.

Let’s look out for the next professional sports team called The Bored Apes…

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Anthony McGuire

Tech, Entertainment, Media, Emerging Markets. Ex-Facebook and Singularity University.