Wednesday, July 17, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 45, "Luck O' The Ducks"

I can actually recall the specific circumstances under which I first watched "Luck O' The Ducks."  It was Thanksgiving Day of 1987, and I was sitting in the basement of the old (well, it certainly is now...) Barat family manse in Wilmington, having just ingested a huge (though modest compared to the feasts served up at Bud's Silver Run) holiday meal.  I must have overdid it, for I wrote the parenthetical comment "Burpin' turkey all through it!" while taking my handwritten episode notes.  I was less than impressed with the episode, and the state of my digestive tract didn't exactly ameliorate my state of mind.  Both GeoX and Greg were able to reach their decidedly negative conclusions about the quality of this "Emerald Isle" romp without any such physical stimuli, though GeoX did mention something about vomiting.  I don't think "Luck" is quite that bad, but there's more than enough lameness here to cause even the stoutest of stomachs to quiver a bit.

I regard this episode as one of DuckTales' great lost opportunities.  Carl Barks never sent the Ducks to Ireland for an adventure, and not many European creators seem to have tried to do so, either (here is one exception, which might have turned up in a Gemstone pocket book at some point had the titles lasted longer).  There is obvious potential in an Irish Duck story that incorporates Irish legends, myths, and, of course, treasure, in fun and believable ways.  Think of what Don Rosa was able to mine out of the Finnish Kalevala.  Given a completely open playing field to work with, writer Michael O'Mahony lets the ball (either rugby or "football," take your pick) bounce out of bounds, packing the episode with "Oirish" stereotypes galore.  In truth, the shifty leprechaun Fardoragh (Frank Welker) and pint-sized King Brian (Billy Barty) are the least problematic of these elements.  You might argue that "real" leprechauns are more like the sadistic, violent pixie seen in this movie and its sequels than they are the cuddly-cute Fardoragh, but at least O'Mahony was paying some attention here, in the sense that "Fardoragh" is a real Gaelic word meaning "black."  Likewise, King Brian might be considered a tribute to the legendary Irish king Brian Boru.  Welker and Barty both give very energetic performances and make these characters enjoyable in spite of their childish aspects.  The "headless horseman" and Banshee aren't all that bad, either, though, as Greg pointed out, one could hardly expect a chest of drawers to keep a ghost out of a room, even in the DuckTales world.

Alas, O'Mahony can't control himself when it comes to jackhammering home the "Hey, gang, WE'RE IN IRELAND!!!" message, subjecting Launchpad to one of his most humiliating roles in the series in the process.  The green plane and lepra-costume are silly enough...

... but the clumsily staged Irish jig sequence is acutely embarrassing...

... and I think I'll let this last image pass without comment, for LP's sake.

I suppose that this business would have been more palatable had LP previously displayed a habit of dressing up to fit the setting he was in (much as the original plans for Dale in Rescue Rangers cast him as a "master of disguise" who liked to wear crazy "themed" hats).  Instead, it simply comes OUT OF NOWHERE and adds to the distinct feeling that this is an episode that is purposely "written down" to juvenile mentalities.  The contrast to what a "Quest for Kalevala"-like approach to the subject matter might have given us is heartbreaking.

Launchpad is fortunate in one respect in this ep: he gets some things to do, even though they are pretty idiotic.  The Nephews don't even get that much.  Honestly, for all HD&L contribute to the episode, they might as well have been left behind while Scrooge, LP, Webby, and Fardoragh flew to the "Emerald Isle."  They whiz away their one moment of "responsibility" by falling asleep while on guard duty; otherwise, they're just hanging around... or lying around with a somewhat unexpected bedfellow:

I believe that this is the only time in the series when Scrooge and the boys are in the same bed.  Please alert me to any other cases.

The portrayal of Scrooge here, of course, is straight out of the "Occupy Duckburg" playbook.  Of course, greed is part of Scrooge's character and always has been.  Rarely, however, has it been presented with such a comprehensive lack of subtlety.  We get the infamous dollar-sign eye-flash not once, not twice, but THREE times, just to make sure we completely understand that Scrooge is, ya know, greedy.  I wonder whether there is some sort of correlation between the number of D.S.E.F.'s in a $CROOGE story and the story's rating on inDucks.  If there were one, then I imagine that the correlation would be negative. 

The portrayal of Scrooge has the additional negative effect of displacing what should have been the climax of the story, the moment at which Scrooge realizes the error of his grasping ways.  As Scrooge exults over reaching "his" Golden Caverns, Fardoragh laments the impending loss of the leprechauns' "heritage" -- a point of view that the "real" Scrooge certainly should be able to appreciate, given the importance that he attaches to the story of how he amassed his fortune.  Had Scrooge's greed grown "naturally" over the course of the story, as opposed to being telegraphed right at the start, then this scene could have made for a really powerful turning point.  Instead, O'Mahony is obliged to wind up the "Webby's friendship with Fardoragh" subplot, depicting Webby as unreasonably gullible in the process, and therefore makes Scrooge's reformation a lot more contrived than it needed to be.  The viewer winds up feeling rather like Scrooge after he has been "saved from having a terrible day."

I'd peg Webby's performance here at a notch or two below the one seen in "Back Out in the Outback" insofar as the "cuteness factor" goes.  It's a shame that she didn't carry some of her reticence about befriending Australian animals in the latter ep into her initial encounter with Fardoragh.  Instead, she's literally defending him before she even knows anything about him (apart from the fact that he's threatened to "do an Irish jig" on the Ducks' faces if they come any closer).  Once he starts calling her "Princess," the (non-Irish) jig is up, and she snaps into the "Fardoragh is my friend!" mindset that she'll maintain for the remainder of the episode.  At times, you almost have to agree with the kvetching Scrooge that Webby is a bit foolish to be accepting Fardoragh at face value in such an unquestioning way.

The relationship between Webby and Fardoragh does provide us with one moment that I can honestly describe as heartwarming, during the scene in the bedroom that I will forever remember as "the curlers sequence."  Webby's solicitous behavior towards Fardoragh, and Fardoragh's grateful responses, are very well played by Welker and Russi Taylor.  In an episode noteworthy for its ham-handedness, I appreciated the lighter touch on display here.  For sure, I got more emotional sustenance out of these moments than I did from the over-the-top scene in which Webby gives her "wonderful" friend a four-leaf clover and Fardoragh promptly breaks down and bawls. 

So what else did O'Mahony get right here?  Well, his dialogue, in all honesty, isn't half bad.  Sure, you have to dock him some points for Launchpad's "Crasharoonie!", but a good deal of the byplay is enjoyable, considering that it is being used in the service of a simplistic plot.  The pace of the ep, especially in the early stages, is sprightly; we jump from the Money Bin to the streets of Duckburg to the construction site, and the dialogue complements the slapstick-flavored doings reasonably well.  The scenes in the Golden Caverns are nicely atmospheric... and I, for one, thought that the use of the giant potato as a booby trap was a hoot.  The rest of the ep is so cut-and-dried that an absurd gag such as this was all the more welcome.

Despite its handful of good points, "Luck O' The Ducks" is among the less inspired of DuckTales episodes, exuding a palpable "assembly line" scent.  Rescue Rangers' "The Last Leprechaun" and Gummi Bears' "Gummis Just Want to Have Fun" weren't much better, so there's at least a possibility that a "leprechaun curse" may be involved.





(Greg) Scrooge and the nephews dive in and in a scene that contradicts the logic they were shooting for; the nephews dive in as if the gold was water like Scrooge's. I thought we proved in GoldenSuns episode #5 that the nephews cannot do that spot? 

Perhaps Scrooge finally gave in and initiated the youngsters into the arcane mystery that is money-diving.  Against this, of course, you have to weigh his refusal to teach Launchpad the same trick in "Duck in the Iron Mask."  Perhaps Scrooge reasoned, "I dinna know whether you can crash a bin full of money, but I'm not aboot to take the chance!"

(Greg) Ducktales was [Billy Barty]'s only DTVA credit and in fact the only other Disney credit was The Rescuers Down Under movie. 

Barty also appeared in the Gummi Bears episode "A Recipe for Trouble."  That one wasn't any great shakes, either.

(Greg)  We then get another sky shot of the snake [pit] and then we go to floor shot as we see the babyfaces sitting on the edge. Okay; WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SUPPOSED TO ACCOMPLISH HERE?! Now if the idea was to have the snakes use their tongue to tickle their feet; then this spot would work except that the snake are about 12-15 feet below the babyfaces. And LP shoes are still on. How in the world is this supposed to be torture for their crimes? Just sitting there and watching the snakes hiss? I'm supposed to take this seriously? 

Yeah, teasing torture without delivering, even in a humorous sense, is pretty questionable -- but not as bad as...

(Greg) Brian goes to the window as [Fardoragh] tries to escape; but Brian grabs his ankle and throws him down onto the floor and demands answers from the infamous liar. That makes Brian the most over character in the episode; bad plot thread be damned. [Fardoragh] bounces off Brian's belly and admits that he had to because they were going to tar and feather him with their own feathers...  Brian decides then not to feed them to the snakes (WHAT?! That is lame to the extreme!) and instead they will have a party thrown in their honor. Oh god; this episode just made less sense now. 

This switch really was clumsy, with no justification being given for Brian's change of heart at all.  I don't see how the story editors could have allowed O'Mahony to get away with this.

(Greg)  Okay; so we cut to the well as Scrooge is wearing various jewelry on himself as he and [Fardoragh] are climbing up the well...  And of course he's tired as hell and somehow he throws everything down into the hole below. D'OH! This guy needs Wii Fit STAT!

The funny thing here is that Scrooge claims that he's "not as strong before [he] became a multi-zulti-zillionaire" while he's climbing up a dark shaft with no equipment or other assistance whatsoever.  Heck, he's even able to save Fardoragh with relatively little trouble when the latter loses his grip and falls.  Methinks Scrooge is selling himself short here.  Perhaps his burgeoning greed has given him enhanced powers not normally granted to multi-zulti-zillionaires.

Next: Episode 46, "The Golden Fleecing."


Joe Torcivia said...


You write: “Rescue Rangers' "The Last Leprechaun" and Gummi Bears' "Gummis Just Want to Have Fun" weren't much better, so there's at least a possibility that a "leprechaun curse" may be involved.”

Sorry, but if you consider such great leprechaun cartoons as Chuck Jones’ magnificent change-of-pace Porky Pig short “Wearing of the Grin”, Huckleberry Hound’s “Huck of the Irish” (on assignment for a picture news magazine to get a photo of a leprechaun – with a great ending gag!), and Johnny Bravo’s outrageous “Blarney Buddies” (Kiss the Blarney Stone / Barney Stone!), with Frank Gorshin as the leprechaun, I’d say there’s no such thing as a "leprechaun curse"!

…Maybe it’s just Disney!

Chris Barat said...


I was specifically thinking that the DISNEY AFTERNOON versions of the "lepisode" might be under the curse. I make no claims or promises about any other animated entities!


Pan Miluś said...

I like the joke when Scrooge jumps into his money bin and jumps out in a swiming costume (thre is idenctical thing in the first episode but other way around)

kenisu said...

I guess this is one of those moments where I let nostalgia get the better of me and decide a sub-par episode really isn't all that bad. I have very fond memories of being five years old in 1987, having seen this episode and then going out into the backyard and imagining a bunch of tiny little trees to tie invisible handkerchiefs to. :)

But hey, you forgot to mention one of the dumber things about "Luck o' the Ducks": the musical confusion between Scotland and Ireland. The moment the ducks come in for a landing on the Emerald Isle, we hear the bagpipe theme from "Curse of Castle McDuck", and the Scottish music doesn't end there.

I remember coming across a post from someone somewhere about how Ron Jones had once mentioned this to them in an email. He had said he wasn't too fond of how his library score was handled throughout the series, and cited this episode in particular, for its lack of cultural knowledge in the music department.

Comicbookrehab said...

It could be that each time a story with Leprechauns was featured, they appear to have used "Darby O'Gill" as reference and were bound to stay close to it. The examples Joe cited were not bound to any speciffic mythology. There's an episode of FANTASTIC MAX with Don Knotts playing "Blarney Fife" and I remember that was also a fun episode.

Chris Barat said...


Your comment reminds me of the episode of HOUSE in which Dr. House responds to an Australian character who objects to being called "British": "You've got the Queen on your money; you're British!"

The ep's use of Scottish music in an Irish setting is fairly irritating, but in all honesty, the ep has much worse things to answer for!


Chris Barat said...


"I like the joke when Scrooge jumps into his money bin and jumps out in a swiming costume"

Cue the Nephew's comment from "Too Much of a Gold Thing": "How does he DO that?" Now that Scrooge has apparently taught the kids how to dive into the money without injury, perhaps he can teach them the quick-change trick as well. :-)


Pan Miluś said...

I rewatch the episod just now. Overall a weak one but...

I like the image of boys waiting for the ghosts with one of them holding a beasball bat ;)

I love the Banshee desing a lot... but the way HD&L stop here was just way to silly for this show.

Tiny horses where a cute idea ;)

I like part with Scrooge climbing up sequence while droping all the gold...

I actually found it to be one of better uses of Webby on the show and I actually like her here... Even wit her constant annoying "Come and join my tea party" lines. I hate when they gave a character a extreme political views in a kids show...

BTW -> Those thing Webby did with her hair beafore she went to sleep (I don't know the english term for it... THOSE things : ) Isn't she way to young to do that?

BTW 2 -> So... Now the gigant rock marks the place where the gold is hidden and Scrooge can return any time with hundret of workers to dig up the gold? Ok, he "learn his leason" but I have a filing next episode/week he will be just as wealth hungry...

P.S.3 -> I like upcoming "The Golden Fleecing" a lot...
Well, Ok, the HD&L woodchuck fog trick was way to sill for this show and It's to bad it didn't had the creepenes the oryginal Barks story had (I just love the ruins among the fog and the Larkies lair in the oryginal BTW) but damn it! It has VonDrake and I love that guy a lot! (BTW -> I still thinks that VonSwine character in "Yuppy Ducks" and "The Attack 50 foot Webby" was ment to be him)

Gregory Weagle said...

Speaking of Leprechaun episodes; I have reviewed all three and I thought Gummis Just Want To Have Fun was good; if because Nogum wasn't the focus of the episode and it was mostly Grammi just wanting to have fun with a friend; which at least had a sense of sympathy for her.

As for the "torture scene": Even if the original plan was to have them being eaten by snakes; the staging was awful. They just couldn't use a pulley system and have them dangled into the pit? That would allow them to pay off the torture and be threatening. It would have been better than Polly Wants A Treasure actually. But of course; it's not because the writer had zero idea what he was doing (and as I mentioned in the review of the Volume 2 DVD set; the continuity on the ropes are completely shot too).

As embarrassing as the shot with Launchpad riding backwards on the tiny horse; I did laugh at it. So it did exactly what the writer wanted in this case.

Oh and the animators need to know the difference between a giant potato and a large glob that looks like frozen cookie dough. Cannot forget that either.

Chris Barat said...


"Those thing Webby did with her hair beafore she went to sleep (I don't know the english term for it... Isn't she way to young to do that?"

They're called hair curlers, and you're right, they're typically used by middle-aged and older women, not by young kids. I also think it would be physically impossible for Webby's feathers to "roll up" in the manner indicated so that the curlers would stay on her head.


Chris Barat said...


"Speaking of Leprechaun episodes; I have reviewed all three and I thought Gummis Just Want To Have Fun was good; if because Nogum wasn't the focus of the episode and it was mostly Grammi just wanting to have fun with a friend; which at least had a sense of sympathy for her."

It just seemed so CONTRIVED to me, both the basic setup and the triviality of the "adventure" that Grammi and Nogum had. I wonder whether it would have worked better had Grammi met Nogum for the first time at the start of the episode and their friendship and activities had been a subplot in a more ambitious story line.