It's silly time in Duckburg... This is the kind of story that helped kill off the Whitman Disney comics. The plot, such as it is, is exceptionally slight and fairly absurd, reminiscent of the farcical Vic Lockman-scripted stories in the BEAGLE BOYS comics of the 60s and 70s. -- Chris B. and Joe Torcivia
It reminds me very strongly of those intensely mediocre Vic Lockman stories from the 70s, all incredibly contrived plotting and forced zaniness... -- GeoX
Greg seems to have had a higher opinion of this episode than any of us did, which is probably due to his relative lack of familiarity with the types of Duck stories that we were referencing here. One Lockman-scripted story in particular, 1984's "The Atom-Mover," is almost spookily similar to "Vanishes," dealing as it does with Scrooge's use of a matter-transporter to shift his money from place to place and the Beagles' subsequent use of the gizmo to rob Scrooge. That story was published by Western just as the Whitman comics line was gasping its last, and the level of inspiration that it displayed matched the depressing circumstances. "Vanishes" is better than "The Atom-Mover," in large part because some of its attempts at humor yield scattered laughs, but the loopier aspects of this episode -- clueless protagonists, cheesy disguises, pink clouds of gas that conveniently move from place to place for the sole purpose of setting up lame displacement sight gags -- are, quite frankly, unworthy of a series as ambitious and ground-breaking as DuckTales. The first series appearance of the Beagle Boys gives the ep a bit of historical cachet, to be sure, but, given the *cough* *cough* mixed reviews of the "personalized" DT Beagles, even this plaudit comes with a distinct caveat. I happen to have a higher opinion of the DT Beagles than does GeoX -- "It'd be impossible not to!," as one Nephew said once upon a time -- but I do take his criticisms seriously enough that I'll address them at length below.
David Schwartz may have been a bit more "Barks-literate" than GeoX gave him credit for being. Schwartz may have called Gyro's Helper "Little Bulb," but at least he made use of the light-bulb-headed character, who isn't mentioned in the write-up on Gyro in DuckTales writers' bible. Moreover, while Helper/LB doesn't get to do much, he does more "acting" here than in any of his other appearances. No, where Schwartz fails in capturing the "spirit of Barks" is in his characterization of Scrooge, who's depicted as exceptionally gullible and strangely passive. Would the "real" Scrooge really have been fooled so easily by the Beagles' transparently phony TV commercial warning of the danger of "Money Moths"? Wouldn't he have sufficient brain cells to realize that money-munching insects would pose no threat to paper money in bags and gold coins, which seem to make up the vast majority of riches in his Money Bin? Above all, would the "real" Scrooge have collapsed so dramatically after his money vanished, doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to get it back and completely relying on the Nephews to work their magic? Momentary despair, as in "Only a Poor Old Man," I can understand, but not this total fold-up.
Duck in the Iron Mask") clearly outshines his brothers here. He's the first to question the veracity of "salesman" Big Time Beagle, the first to figure out the evil nature of the "CashGuard" spray, and, of course, gets to play Clint Eastwood with Gyro's furniture-mover ray when the tables are turned on the Beagle Boys at the end. For good measure, Dewey then dopes out how to zap his brothers, Scrooge's fortune, and himself back to the Money Bin. A good day's work under any circs, wouldn't you agree?
Of course you would, with Dewey pointing that ray gun at you.
I've always felt that the first act of this episode moved at an ungodly slow pace, seemingly taking forever to get the "plot" in motion. Since this was the first episode to feature the Beagle Boys, perhaps the sludgy getaway was caused by the desire to give the Beagles a "proper," well-detailed introduction to the audience. Seeing as how the Beagles' personalities are crystal-clear within seconds of their initial appearance in Duckburg Jail, I fail to see why this was necessary. Add in the overly long chase sequences that take up most of the third act, and one must marvel at Schwartz' ability to mine 22 minutes' worth of screen time out of so little tangible content. The lack of "meat on the bones" quite naturally causes the viewer's attention to focus on the "newbies," namely, the retrofitted, newly-individualized, "modern-desigh-a-nized" Beagle Boys. Is that a good thing?
As it happens, there IS an animated featurette that drew inspiration from Barks' original conception of the Beagle Boys: Sport Goofy in Soccermania. This peculiar 1987 production, originally meant for theaters but ultimately "thrown away" as part of an NBC TV special, features the "clone" Beagles as the adversaries to Scrooge, HD&L, Sport Goofy, and their soccer team. Only these Beagles aren't "clones," not exactly. In the first "Beagle mass group shot" of the cartoon, one gruff-voiced Beagle immediately assumes the role of leader and holds it to the end:
Chick Hearn. Hearn drops names like McGruder, Switchblade, Shaw, Wheels, and The Weasel, among others. I checked a Web site of some of Hearn's pet sayings and nicknames and found nary a mention of any of these Beagle descriptives. Nor do any of the members of the production crew that worked on Soccermania appear to have been tributed here. Perhaps Chick was simply going with the flow and saying what popped into his head, but the mere fact that he did so makes him a pioneer in the field of Beagle-personalization.
And all of this occurred during the span of a single 20-minute cartoon. What do you think would have happened had these Beagles been given a full syndicated season's worth of work? I think it's highly likely that some degree of personalization would have seeped its way into the Beagle clan, if for no other reason than to provide opportunities for visual and verbal sight gags. The question now is, did DT use the right sorts of characterizations when it decided to "go all the way" and make the Beagles distinctly different in appearances, voices, and personalities? Here, I think that GeoX has a somewhat stronger case, though "I can't f***ing stand these Beagle Boys" seems unduly harsh.
As fate would have it, the four Beagle Boys who debut in "Vanishes" -- Big Time, Bouncer, Burger, and Baggy -- would become the de facto Beagle Boys after the first season, as such alternate figures as Bankjob, Babyface, and Bugle/Bebop sank out of sight. I think that this was a mistake, and not simply because the episodes in which the "B-Boy B-team" appeared had the annoying habit of being classics ("Hero for Hire," "Time Teasers"). Big Time and Bouncer, I would consider to be keepers; Big Time's cockiness and aggressiveness are fun to watch, and Bouncer (who apparently was a late creation, since he isn't mentioned in the writers' bible) is the closest of the quartet to a Barks Beagle Boy, though perhaps a little dimmer than the standard Barks Beagle. Baggy, however, gets more irritating the more often he appears. Arguably his two best lines of the series come in this very episode ("It's not easy bein' wanted when you're wanted!" and "That [mugshot] wasn't my best side!"); thereafter, it's "terminally moronic" gags out the wazoo. As for Burger... yes, he's got an amusing voice, he's reminiscent of the Barks Beagle who loved prunes, and he's as likable as any Beagle is ever likely to be, but, let's be honest here, using a bottomless appetite as the entire basis for a personality ultimately tends to cramp one's dramatic range. Bankjob, Babyface, and Bugle/Bebop (and, yes, damn it all, I'm even willing to throw Megabyte Beagle in there, mortarboard hat and all) had their own limitations, but giving the "Core Four" a few extra episodes off in favor of the "B-team" would certainly have bred less contempt, at least among certain segments of the audience.
Dinosaur Ducks," this second "original" DT episode is a BIG step backwards.
(GeoX) The Beagle Boys steal [the ray], in an intelligence-insulting sequence where they pretend to be doctors and discombobulate it out of Gyro (yes, Gyro's always kind of clueless, but are we really to believe he's that dumb?).
Is this Gyro's single worst moment of the series? It's certainly one of the finalists, and that's saying something when no fewer than three future episodes involve Gearloose-built robots going haywire for various reasons. At least Hal Smith's Gyro voice is pretty well pinned down by now. Speaking (as we were just a moment ago) of logical lapses, when did joggin' Gyro have time to change into his running outfit and join the Duckburg Marathon? Given how gullible he seemed while being bamboozled by the Beagle Boys, you expected him to literally follow the Beagles' orders and run a few hundred miles without changing his clothes.
And I would have given Scrooge a pass for this very reason... except that I was so pissed that Scrooge had thrown in the towel so completely.
(Greg) Man; the TaleSpin police are REASONABLE compared to the Ducktales ones. I mean; there is a FREAKING SHOVEL in the cake and somehow [Officer Parolski] DOESN'T NOTICE?!
According to the DT writer's bible, this brain-boggling notion of the Beagles getting badly disguised escape tools in baked goods was apparently meant to be a running gag throughout the series. No matter that it made the Duckburg police and penal system look dumber than dirt... The gag would appear several times in the future, but it appears to have been abandoned after a certain point. For one thing, the Beagles began to make their initial appearances in episodes while outside of jail.
(Greg) Big Time orders them to get the ray gun as the nephews stands their ground as Dewey cuts the lamest Clint Eastwood [promo] in history. You wish you were Flint [Shrubwood] Dewey. The Beagle Boys realize that they are screwed and they bail stage left as we get the SCOOBY DOO CHASE SEQUENCE THE MANHOOD EDITION~! A rare sight when the babyfaces are chasing the heel with a gun; even if it's not a killing gun. More so when it's kids.
A very good point! Would this scene have passed muster today?
Next: Episode 8, "Lost Crown of Genghis Khan."