Tuesday, November 26, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 65, "Till Nephews Do Us Part"... and a look ahead

"Part"ing the first season is such sweet sorrow...

"Till Nephews Do Us Part" was intended to be a blockbuster and delivers the goods, though it would be a stretch worthy of Mr. Armstrong himself to call it a masterpiece.  Most of the ep's weaknesses lie in the area of characterization -- and, no, I'm not referring to Scrooge's "mushin' out" as he falls under the spell of that wily woman on the make, Millionaira Vanderbucks.  HD&L are noticeably more naive and bratty than was their normal first-season wont (though, as Greg has pointed out, this may have been a harbinger of the way the boys would occasionally be written during subsequent seasons).  Mrs. Beakley and Duckworth, meanwhile, don't have the excuse of naivete to fall back on in their cluelessness regarding Milly's sinister plans for the household.  Ken Koonce and David Weimers' script, while nowhere near as inept as some of their lesser efforts, doesn't contain a fraction of the imagination and laugh-out-loud humor seen in the likes of "Double-O-Duck," opting instead for "money-related terms of endearment" (GeoX) and characters misunderstanding words and expressions (and if you don't recognize which ones I'm referring to ASAP, then you truly must BE a sap).  Still, the plot is reasonably good, we get a nice mixture of "domestic" and "adventurous" material (though the latter has a distinct touch of the farcical), and, of course, there's the now-legendary wedding scene with all of those character cameos.  I've no idea whether "Till Nephews" was in production at the time that the decision was made to extend the series' life with additional new episodes, but the mere existence of this scene, with its air of "wrapping things up," suggests that it was not.

The idea of a conniving woman zeroing in on Scrooge's fortune is anything but a new one.  Glittering Goldie herself was the original (and literal) "gold-digger" in "Back to the Klondike," "drugg[ing] and roll[ing]" miner McDuck and swiping his Goose Egg Nugget.  However, Barks' Goldie doesn't fit the mold of a "gold-digger" in the modern sense, in that she would have been perfectly content to have cut and run with that one treasure had fate (and a peeved Scrooge) not intervened.  She acted more like a pure opportunist than someone who was in it for the long haul.  The DT version of "Klondike" represents the other side of the coin, as it were, suggesting that Scrooge and Goldie might have enjoyed a happy life together in Duckburg had Dangerous Dan not queered the relationship between them.  After reconciling with Scrooge, both versions of Goldie receive unexpected opportunities to reunite with him -- with the offer being rather more obvious in the DT version of "Klondike" than in Barks' less sentimental original -- but the hard-hearted "greediest gal in the Klondike" has long since become content with her backwoods life and consciously sets aside any further designs on Scrooge or his money.  (In the DT version, at least, she does compensate for this by apparently tying some fairly substantial apron strings around her man.  More on that later.)


If Goldie is a character whose "gold-digging" tendencies have atrophied over time, then Romano Scarpa's Brigitta MacBridge is one who never had specific designs on Scrooge's money to begin with, but who nonetheless manages to come across as a "gold-digger."  That's "dig" as in "keep burrowing and burrowing like El Capitan at the end of 'Too Much of a Gold Thing', determined to win Scrooge over."  It is this maniacal persistence that drives Brigitta-bashers crazy.  Disney's original "annoying business lady" (apologies to Rebecca Cunningham) is something of an acquired taste for us American Disney comics fans.  For my own part, I find her an enjoyable addition to the Duck cast and wouldn't have minded seeing her in a DT episode or two.  (I even have a voice actress picked out for her -- Tress MacNeille, doing a "friendlier-sounding" version of her sneering Lady Bane-esque voice for Milly.)  Brigitta's apparently sincere affection for Scrooge makes her easy to like.

Millionaira Vanderbucks seems at first glance like a typical, overbearing, MacNeille-voiced female villain.  In fact, she's considerably more subtle than that.  Consider that when Scrooge goes to the Web Corporation building to inquire about purchasing the Malaysian land that harbors the "lost relics," Milly does not give clue one that she knows who he is!  For the "wealthiest woman in the world" not to recognize Scrooge on sight seems most improbable.  Scrooge has more of an excuse for not initially recognizing Milly, given that he seems to hold a low opinion of the very idea of a distaff tycoon.  (Who knows, maybe Brigitta DOES exist in the DT "universe.")  It's never made clear when, exactly, Milly hatched her devious plot to ensnare Scrooge in the coils of "matrimoney."  Assuming that she had no prior idea that Scrooge would be coming to buy her land, the whole notion must have popped into her head during this initial conversation, before she suggests that the two of them talk about the deal over dinner.  I don't know about you, but any villain who shows the ability to think on her webs as quickly as that has got MY respect from the off.

The ensuing dinner at McDuck Mansion (BTW, did they even have time to EAT dinner?  We cut directly from a conversation over empty plates to Scrooge escorting Milly to the door) sets all the character dynamics for the rest of the episode in motion.  Scrooge is smitten with Milly; the Nephews and Webby are suspicious, with fairy-tale-conscious Webby even evoking Snow White's Wicked Queen as a comparison; Milly is appalled by the mere existence of the "ghastly" children (I imagine that Scrooge keeps media references to their presence in his household to an absolute minimum for safety's sake); and Mrs. Beakley and Duckworth seem oblivious to the poisonous atmosphere.  Note that when Scrooge returned home after his initial confab with Milly, he was "tetched," but not so much so that he didn't think "business first" when giving instructions to HD&L.  It's only after the second parting, after Milly presumably has had time to plan her "charm offensive" more thoroughly, that Scrooge acts in a hopelessly punch-drunk manner.

Milly: "I'm thinking of expanding..."
Me: "I think a certain amount of contraction is in order."
Needless to say, I think that Koonce and Wiemers went a teentsy bit overboard with the financially-themed pet names; even a money-hungry "gold-digger" would probably have been sickened by at least a few of them.  Scrooge and Milly's "cash-ship" is actually at its best when K&W pull back on the pecuniary throttle and try to underplay things.  The scenes in the "lovers' park" are cute and charming...
Note the "$" signs encircling the lovers' heads.
 
... (though what guard allows an armored car to be driven with its doors open?  Must be one of Scrooge's), while the "proposal/merger" scene itself has so many good lines ("It's rare that a woman compounds my interest daily," "I can't wait to take you home to meet my accountant") that the pet names are only a minor annoyance.  Ignore the surrounding context, and some of these scenes and lines might even have worked for a Scrooge/Brigitta romance.  Of course, tip things slightly the other way and you've got a Duck-version of Beverly Hills Teens.

Of course, Milly's intentions throughout all this are decidedly dishonorable, even though some of them don't seem to make sense.  Plans to send Webby to a "finishing school" would be rather pointless if Mrs. Beakley were to be given the pink slip at the same time -- and speaking of jettisoning the servants, wouldn't Scrooge and Milly need reliable servants anyway?  Does Milly expect that Scrooge would simply accept her kicking out Mrs. B. and Duckworth and (presumably) importing that butler-ish guy ("Bottoms"?  "Bubbums"?) who's following her around at the end of Act 2 and later helping her suit up before the wedding?  Milly's loud proclamation of her plans outside HD&L's door (whether she recognizes it as being such or not) suggests that, even as her scheme seem to be proceeding according to plan, she may not have the mental discipline required to keep it together and may end up, well, cutting her OWN throat.

Act Two starts with the low point of the episode, Mrs. Beakley's casual dismissal of HD&L and Webby's warnings -- until the nanny realizes that she, herself, is to be a casualty of the "New Wench Order."  GeoX calls this "a mean and not-too-believable interpretation of her character," and I have to agree.  The Mrs. B. I know would have ignited the second she heard about Milly's plans to send Webby to "finishing school."  Thankfully, Mrs. B. makes a quick recovery, and soon, the plot to scare Milly off by putting her through the wringer on the relics-seeking trip to Malaysia is well and truly under-web.  The sequence of "rotten pranks" begins with a swipe from the Disney movie The Parent Trap (1961).  Just as Hayley Mills and... um, Hayley Mills tried to spook their divorced father's gold-digger sweetheart by pouring honey on her feet to attract bears, so HD&L use the honey spray (where would you buy that, I wonder?) to send "a whole bunch of bees" in the direction of Milly's corpus.  Amazingly, the scene doesn't end as you might expect, with Milly swelling up like a balloon due to dozens of bee stings; instead, she merely endures a water-ducking.

The bee ploy could have been employed on anyone; the next scheme relies completely upon Milly's total ignorance of life in the outdoors.  That's the only possible reason why a smart cookie like Milly would believe that one can keep away "Malaysian Thistlesmashers" (or, as Tress pronounces it at one point, "Thishlesmashers") by burdening oneself with an expedition's worth of luggage.

Greg confessed a sneaking admiration for Milly's ability to stand up to all the abuse she takes during these scenes.  I suppose so, though her persistence, like El Capitan's, may have more to do with sheer greed (which by now must be shading to obsession) than anything else.  I will, however, give her full marks for surviving that terrible fall down the cliff after she's been scared by the Bush Duck.  Scrooge provides a cute contrast to what is actually a fairly tense scene by coming out of the cave with the "lost relish," tearing away any lingering sense of seriousness about the nature of the Ducks' "adventure" and revealing it as a mere excuse for gaggery.

Even before their "rotten pranks" had come to fruition, of course, HD&L had been acting in a more childish manner than we have become accustomed to.  The opening scene in which they scare Mrs. Beakley by riding the dumbwaiter could have come from any randomly selected 30s or 40s cartoon short...

... and Duckworth's helpful definition of "trespassing" reveals that they've recently raided a neighbor's apple orchard.  (Applejack would not be amused.)  The classic "we hate girls" reaction to Scrooge's infatuation with Milly is not out of line with their previous characterization, but one can't say the same about Dewey's comment, "I haven't seen Unca Scrooge so loony since he told us about his old girlfriend Goldie!"  Given that the boys have actually met Goldie and witnessed (if not entirely appreciated) the two characters' feelings for each other, Dewey's sentiment strikes me as being decidedly uncharitable.  Presumably, the idea of inviting Goldie to Scrooge and Milly's wedding was primarily motivated by Webby, who responds to Dewey's remark by suggesting that the kids remind Scrooge of how much he loves his old flame.

Of course, Webby isn't on hand to tamp down the Nephews' natural inclinations when they finally confess that they don't want Scrooge to marry Milly.  This follows the waterfall-plunge scene, which might have been made more interesting by improved staging and animation (we only see Scrooge and Milly's tumble in longshot) but does deliver Launchpad's one priceless contribution to the ep: "That darn eject button is always gettin' in the way!"  Given that LP is present in the main story strictly for utilitarian reasons -- to get the party to Malaysia -- and that Koonce and Weimers didn't even see fit to let him crash the 'copter, this was a welcome reminder of LP at his laugh-out-loud best.  Also, the "ASAP" gag worked better with Launchpad than it did with Duckworth, which isn't much of a surprise.

And so we reach the wedding... and the famed boatload of cameos therein.  Some kind soul created a panoramic image of the scene outside the bank, for which I am eternally grateful.  Click on it, and it should enlarge.  Oddly enough, this wouldn't be the only time that Walt Disney TV Animation tried something like this.  101 Dalmatians: The Series wrapped up its 65-episode manifest with the three-part adventure "Dalmatian Vacation" (1998), which climaxed with Roger and Anita Dearly reprising their wedding vows.  (Actually, they're technically getting married for the first time, since their original wedding was overseen by a con artist.)  Whereas the McDuck-Vanderbucks wedding was presumably planned very carefully, with formal invitations being sent out to all of the invitees (except the villains, of course), the one-shot characters who returned for the wedding in "Dalmatian Vacation" were quite literally rounded up on the spur of the moment, with no explanation given as to how they got to the site so quickly -- or at all.  Then again, 101D tended to be sloppy that way.

Of course, DuckTales' use of recurring background characters (the members of the Explorers' Club, the "pignitaries," Vacation van Honk, etc.), which seemed so ground-breaking at the time, has long since been one-upped by the immense casts of shows as diverse as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  But, as I have said before on several occasions, DT deserves credit for "getting there first."


Greg seemed to think that a segment of the viewership -- namely, Christians -- might have been put off by the "money-grubbing version of a wedding" that we got here.  Well, I didn't find it offensive in the least, just as I had no problem with "god-ruler" Princess Celestia marrying Prince Shining Armor and Princess Cadance in MLP:FIM's "A Canterlot Wedding."  As Greg himself pointed out, context is everything in this situation.  There is such a thing as a "civil ceremony," after all, and being married at a vault door by a banker reading from a ledger is merely an "extreme" version of same.  Say what you will about the overall quality of K&W's writing here, they took the idea of a "money-themed wedding" and exploited it for all that it was worth (which was probably a few obsquatumatillions).

Donald displaying "ring wrath"?
At the "vaultar," Milly finally cracks under the strain and reveals her true motivation for marrying Scrooge.  I will give her credit for holding out a bit longer than the evil Queen Chrysalis in "A Canterlot Wedding."  Disguised as Princess Cadance, Chryssie literally sings about the impending culmination of her scheme as she is marching down the aisle.  They say that marriage ceremonies are stressful, but they don't know the half of it...

... And speaking of halves, Scrooge's would-be better one literally blasts her way onto the scene (shouldn't she have suffocated while waiting inside that cake?) to begin a sequence that, quite frankly, should be much more iconic than it is.  It's amazing enough that DuckTales got away with depicting Goldie attempting to blow Scrooge away with a shotgun, but to explicitly state that Goldie did it because she believed Scrooge to be cheating on her takes the whole thing "one step beyond."  Granted, it wouldn't have made much sense for the Barks Goldie to have done this, seeing as how Scrooge and Goldie parted peaceably, and with no apparent plans to resume the relationship, at the end of the comics version of "Back to the Klondike."  But for the DT Goldie, who presumably cohabited with Scrooge at White Agony Creek before Dangerous Dan broke them up, the idea of Scrooge "two-timing" her would probably have caused a much stronger -- and much more intensely physical -- reaction.  Had we been privy to Scrooge and Goldie's entire "bear-back" conversation at the end of the DT "Klondike," we would probably have heard Scrooge, who had just admitted that Goldie had "stolen [his] heart," make some kind of pledge to be eternally true to his backwoods gal.  If that were the case, then Goldie's violent reaction here wouldn't have "tarnishe[d] the Goldie mystique" (as GeoX would have it), but, in a DuckTales context, would actually have burnished it.  Again, context matters.

We shouldn't forget poor Milly, literally left at (or, more accurately, leaving herself at) the "vaultar," where she's "comforted" by Glomgold.  Flinty does not actually propose to Milly here -- he merely makes a cutting reference about Scrooge -- but that's enough for Milly to start a new campaign.  Presumably, Flinty's aghast reaction to Milly's attentions was due to his overhearing her "confession" at the "vaultar"; had Milly set her sights on him from the beginning, he presumably would have fallen for her the way Scrooge did.  Or perhaps, being a meaner, more cynical sort, he would have seen through a fellow villain's ruse more quickly? 

And that's a season.  I still think that DuckTales' first 65 hold up extremely well, though I've been pickier about errors both large and small in these reviews.  The show's range and ability to tell different kinds of stories -- in an era, let's recall, when many of its competitors were "telling stories" as an excuse to advertise toy lines -- continues to impress.  The animation, while it doesn't look quite as dazzling as it did back in the day, still features plenty of high points.  Most important of all, despite some moments of annoyingly inconsistent characterization -- many of which I put down to the sheer number of people who wrote for the series -- DT accomplished the signature feat of making the audience truly care about the characters, which was a tougher task than you might think, especially when it came to the main character.  Harry McCracken put it best in an article in ANIMATO! years ago: Scrooge McDuck is a character that no focus group or marketing executive could ever have come up with.  Even the "decaffeinated" Scrooge of DT was one of the more improbable heroes in TV animation history.  

So... the greatest animated series ever made?  No, I can't in all honesty claim that now.  But a great series that had as profound an impact on me as any cultural construct has ever had?  You bet.


.

.

.


I've given a fair amount of thought to how I will cover the Bubba Duck and Gizmoduck era of DT.  Through experience, I've learned that it takes much more time for me to make appropriate screengrabs than to actually write the notes that form the bases for these commentaries... and, as of right now, I don't have that many screengrabs of the second and third seasons.  For that reason, I've decided to take a short hiatus while I focus my attention on getting images from the 35 remaining eps of the series.  I plan to spend December doing that, at the same time as I'm getting ready for Spring classes.  By the beginning of the New Year, I should be ready to move forward again, and "retro prep" should take less time.  So, you can expect "Time is Money" to roll your way (Roll?  Wheels?  Cave duck?  Get it??) early in January.  Will I be able to finish this feature by the end of 2014?  I think so, if luck and my health hold out and I don't bump into any more ceilings in the meantime.

.

.

.

"DuckBlurbs"
(Greg) We begin this one with the STOCK FOOTAGE OF DOOM we zoom in and cut to the nephews room as Louie stops the alarm clock on the dresser drawer with his hand (NOT THOSE ONES!) and the nephews all wake up in color coordinated striped pj's. They then change their clothes as their shirts are underneath their PJ's. How about that?!
Yes, how about it, indeed.  I can see where that might come in handy in a pinch... though I certainly hope that HD&L take showers before going out in public.

(Greg) Duckworth goes to the front door and opens it to reveal Mrs. Vanderbucks in a classy red dress with some gold metal trim and black gloves with black heels. Very classy for a sneaky heel there.

And the effect is enhanced by that... highly interesting "from the bottom up" shot.  Though I have to say that the wad of red lipstick at the end of Milly's beak rather weakens the effect for me.  Once again: Lipstick on female Ducks, no matter how sexy, is weird-looking.

(Greg) Vanderbucks decides to sell the land after all and then they walk out as the nephews give the thumbs up and feel that Vanderbucks isn't so bad after all. 

And thus begins an intriguing intra-episode meme: The joint "thumbs up" shot.  It stands out precisely because we rarely saw the characters indulging in such choreographed activity before.  Not even HD&L have gone in for it that often, and they, of course, did the famous shtick of completing sentences as a group in the shorts and in many of Barks' early stories.  With all the thumbs on display here, you'd think that the characters were rating movies or something.  (Would that mean that the kids' "throat-slashing" joint at the end of Act One was meant to signify "Cut!"?)


(Greg) ... We cut back to inside the hallway as the nephews and Webby are pacing around sulking because Scrooge hasn't played with them or read to them in weeks. There is a picture of Goldie with her blunderbuss on the right side of the wall. 

It's the same picture that we saw in Scrooge's bedroom in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. McDuck."  Wonder why Scrooge relocated it to a public area.  BTW, I was glad to see Koonce and Wiemers avoid the "whirlwind courtship" cliche and admit that it took a while for Milly to really get her hooks into Scrooge.


(Greg)  After the commercial break; we go to the hallway as the nephews and Webby look around and see that the coast is clear. They then practice the fine art of not being seen as their clothes are on a stick and they make it down the stairs and they have a meeting of minds with Mrs. Beakly. And it wasn't at the dumb waiter. Mrs. Beakly wants answers to this sneaking and Webby basically states that they are running away. Now if I was going to make a case here; I would not call Millie mean. Besides; I would have said: “We overheard Millie talking about you and she wants to fire you.”. That would have more credi[bility]. 

Webby is the one who refers to Milly as "mean," which I can easily see her doing.  The bigger issue is that HD&L couldn't have warned Mrs. B. that Milly wants to fire her, because they apparently don't know what a "pink slip" means.

(Greg) So we see a lot of people going into the [bank]... Everyone is there including Gladstone Gander, John D. Rockefeather, Magica DeSpell (!!!!) (we see her sign the marriage book in the scene to the left pan) along with Flintheart Glomgold, Feathers Galore (!!!), Carl Sargander, Ma Beagle, Burger Beagle, Bouncer Beagle and Big Time Beagle among them that I can clearly see outside. 

Actually, the Beagle lineup changed in midstream.  In the panorama shot, Ma, Big Time, Burger, and Bankjob can be seen heading for the bank.  However, when the disguised Beagles rob the bank, Ma, Big Time, Burger, and... hmm, is that Bouncer?  I suppose it is... are the ones doing the deed.  I guess that Bankjob and Bouncer switched off when the Beagles ran home to plan their caper.  Speaking of changes, June Foray's Ma Beagle voice is noticeably different here than it is at any other point of the series.

(Greg) I remember hating this episode back in the day as I [was] with the nephews on the whole thing and I had no sympathy for Scrooge. Today; my views are different and I think this is one of the best episodes I have seen. I call it a case of a really good heel in Millie being a trooper through the whole thing until the nephews pushed their pranks one too far (which I thought was pointless since there was enough idiots in the scene to do Millie in by themselves without the nephews resorting to low tricks). I ended up having a little sympathy for Millie and Scrooge and not so much for the nephews, Mrs. Beakly or Webby. 

I think you were subconsciously picking up on the Nephews' increased "brattiness quotient."  While Milly certainly deserved some rough treatment, the boys did pour it on and evoke at least a small amount of sympathy for her.  Koonce and Wiemers may have reflected that by allowing Milly to close the ep on an up note (for her), chasing Glomgold with renewed vigor.

Next:  I'll be back in early January with Episode 66, "Time is Money, Part One: Marking Time." 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Of Hoops and Hooves

Stevenson's men basketball team came through the Hoopsville Classic in far better shape than I could have anticipated.  Nicky and I were in the stands on Friday as the Mustangs recorded their first-ever win over a Top 20 team, beating #18 Middlebury 80-69.  And, folks, it wasn't that close, as SU missed half of its 28 free throws.  Unfortunately, I was in the bathroom when a Mustang alley-oop dunk in the first half brought the house down. 

Nicky can be seen just to the left of the arm of Middlebury #43, in the top row.  I'm to her right.

 The dunk I missed.

In Saturday's game, the Mustangs lost 70-69 to Birmingham Southern on a buzzer-beater.  I'll gladly take the split.  For the second straight year, SU has brought in a strong group of transfers and several good freshmen, and their athleticism, especially on defense, is immediately apparent.  If the Mustangs can maintain this level of play and become more consistent at the line, then this could be the school's strongest team since the 2004-05 and 2005-06 squads that played in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

.

.

.

At present, I'm not certain how in-depth I'm going to get with reviews of the new fourth-season episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  I'm well aware that (1) a number of my regular readers do not follow the show and (2) those who do might not appreciate the spoilers.  Plus, working on the DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE and doing the book and comics reviews still take precedence for me.  So you'll forgive me if my comments on the new MLP:FIM eps here seem a little... well, gauzily generic.  If you want to see more of my thoughts, go to Equestria Daily and look for kimba_1962, then click on the "Intense Debate profile" link.  If you have specific suggestions regarding how I should handle things here, they'd be very much appreciated.

** MILD SPOILERS **

"Princess Twilight Sparkle, Parts 1 and 2" does a fine job of both getting newcomers to the series up to speed and launching what would appear to be a new, continuing story arc.  The major question leading up to the season 4 premiere -- how would Twilight's accession to the status of an alicorn princess affect the relationship between her and the rest of the Mane 6 -- was met and answered head-on: It will take some adjustment on the part of both Twilight and her friends, but the underlying "friendship dynamic" of the series will be unaffected.  Indeed, the climax of the storyline suggests that the girls will have to rely upon friendship more than magic in order to solve the task laid out for them.

The series' animation quality has taken a definite uptick, which is reflected in "PTS"' action scenes, most of which are flashbacks retelling the stories of how Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon was banished to the Moon and how Luna and Princess Celestia previously defeated Discord.  Speaking of the chaotic one, he's back in "full farce," and I'm glad to report that his "reform" is being handled in the manner that I had hoped.  Namely, he's "helpful," but only on his terms.

The episodes get a little talky at times and the humor is somewhat lacking -- only Discord raised any chuckles from me -- but all those concerns over the show "jumping the shark" appear to have been wildly inaccurate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 64, "Ducky Horror Picture Show"

If the decision on "Ducky Horror Picture Show" were any more split, it would put the 7-10 exacta to shame.  You can't get much more daylight between opinions than that glimpsed between Greg's "What an awesome episode this was" and GeoX's "Seriously, f*** this episode."  So where do I sit in this capacious chasm?  Closer to GeoX than to Greg, but my negative opinion isn't as extreme as GeoX's.  The episode tries to make a point about judging others based on appearance and image but doesn't do a particularly adept job of it, and most of the monster-related verbal humor really is simple-minded enough to fairly qualify as "stupid."  Still, there are a few bright spots, even though you have to shine a powerful searchlight into a cobweb-festooned crypt in order to see some of them.

Seeing as how Scrooge sets the main plot in motion by taking a chance on renovating a decrepit pierside building into a convention center, it seems somewhat strange that he would then spend most of the rest of the ep in the atypical role of fall-guy and victim.  At the core of his sense of victimization is the fear of suffering "the first business failure of his entire life," which is, of course, an absurd notion.  Even when you discount those highly compromised situations in which Scrooge sustained losses after losing his "lucky" Old #1 Dime, you still have to take into account such Carl Barks stories as "The Queen of the Wild Dog Pack" (which opens with Scrooge raging over some of his business interests leaking red ink) AND such DuckTales episodes as "Ducks of the West" (Scrooge literally losing everything in the cowboy contest with J. R. Mooing) and "Once Upon a Dime" (Young Scrooge being swindled out of his Klondike swag by the "Oklahoma timberland" salesman).  The neglect of "Ducks of the West" is particularly irritating because (1) Scrooge notoriously evinced virtually no reaction whatsoever to losing his fortune in "West," yet cries like a river here, and (2) Richard Merwin, who wrote "West," co-wrote "Ducky Horror" (with Tedd Anasti and Patsy Cameron) and should therefore have recognized the contradiction.  Geo's condemnation of Merwin as "a hack of the first order" seems rather harsh, given that Merwin did pen at least one unquestioned DT classic, but there's definitely something "hack-ish" about Merwin's blithe dismissal of his earlier effort for the sake of plot convenience.

As was the case in numerous previous Merwin-scripted episodes, the Scrooge of "Ducky Horror" is first and foremost concerned with making money -- even more so than "usual," I should say.  Nowhere is this more evident -- and more problematic -- than in his decision to use his Mansion as a "hotel" to squeeze some extra dough out of the conventioneers.  Even if the visitors hadn't been "incredibly destructive" monsters, this would have represented an out-of-character business move by Scrooge.  He could just as easily have arranged to put the visitors up at a local hotel and split the proceeds with the hotel management.  (That's assuming that there would have been any proceeds after the monsters had finished trashing the place in the manner of Kimba's animal friends ruining the human hotel in "A Friend in Deed."  Of course, Scrooge didn't know about the nature of his guests until it was much too late.)  From the start of the TV series, Scrooge has generally used his Mansion as a domestic refuge from the outside world.  For departing from past practice here, Scrooge kind of got what he deserved... namely, a whopping repair bill.

The episode's "monster-rights" subtheme (the monsters protesting the movie marathon at the Scroogerama Dome because of its "unfair" portrayal of their kind) is not only kind of pointless but leads the ep into a somewhat disturbing ethical cul-de-sac.  Even if the monsters succeeded in shutting down every monster-movie promotion in the world, they would have no more "rights" than before.  Indeed, Mr. Wolf's complaint that the monsters "don't get a dime out of" the profits from monster movies undercuts whatever righteousness the "monster-rights" protest can be said to have had.  (It also unintentionally predicts the sordid future of certain human "civil-rights movements" I could name.)

Shouldn't the "scary" portrayals of monsters on those signs be a little... well, scarier?

What makes the "monster-rights" notion fizzle into incoherence is what happens after the monsters discover (with a little prodding from Scrooge) that "kids love monsters," presumably because they like to be frightened once in a while.  The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Luna Eclipsed" used this conceit to help the forbidding, socially awkward Princess Luna become accepted by the citizens of Ponyville by reprising her role as the evil Nightmare Moon to help the town celebrate Nightmare Night (read: Halloween).  The monsters in "Ducky Horror" do something reasonably similar, teaming up with Scrooge to stage a "monster show" for the denizens of Duckburg, but then cap off the performance with... a song-and-dance routine based on "Let Me Entertain You."  GeoX's comparison of this bit to a minstrel show may be more accurate than he intended.  Having just presumably displayed the full range of their "scare-abilities," albeit in an audience-friendly form, the monsters opt to make their last bow a goofy, semi-comedic one.  Since we don't actually get to see any of what came before (apart from Mrs. Beakley's brief turn as Fay Wray in the paw of "Ping Pong"), we are left with the impression that the monsters, for all their bluster about wanting to be accepted as members of the community, are actually perfectly content to present themselves as a different set of caricatures, "playing the fool" for profit.  The fact that these monsters are, in fact, more like out-of-control children than real miscreations muddies the waters even further.

From the moment the monsters first appear on screen, getting ready for their convention, moss-covered monster jokes and puns flow thick and fast.  That's "thick" as in not displaying all that much intelligence.  Ironically enough, the best gags turn out to be non-verbal in nature: the Quackenstein monster going for a morning jog and knocking down a wall like it weren't no "thang," a cackling Quackimodo heaving water balloons off the roof of McDuck Mansion, Count Drakecula having the devil of a time dealing with a recalcitrant cape (he should have taken some lessons from Darkwing Duck on that score), and, most memorable of all, the "Creature from the Blue Lagoon" celebrating his invitation by yanking a party hat and horn out from behind his proverbial "Toon back" and blowing up a storm of bubbles.  Yes, even most of these bits are pretty cheesy, but they don't trigger audience groans the way most of the verbal jokes do.

Scrooge and Duckworth do their best to maintain a decent level of humor by engaging in yet another amusing set of verbal thrusts and counterthrusts of the same type that enlivened "Down and Out in Duckburg" and "Nothing to Fear."  Merwin, Anasti, and Cameron pooled their talents to write the latter, so perhaps their use of the same type of byplay here could be considered an extension of previous practice.  Duckworth, showing a peculiar amount of skepticism regarding Scrooge's ability to turn a profit under the least promising of conditions -- he was along for the Hindentanic's comeback flight, after all -- makes with the dry wisecracks when he first glimpses Scrooge's "colossal blunder," er, the future convention center.

Later, at the Mansion, Duckworth responds to Scrooge's proclamation that the residents are going to "help [him] make money" by providing hotel service with a dubious, "How touching, sir." Throughout the episode, Duckworth seems to anticipate bad things happening to Scrooge, which I suppose would make sense for a dogsbody (heh) who has spent as much time with Scrooge as Duckworth presumably has.  At least he resists the temptation to gloat when he informs his master that Scrooge's insurance "doesn't cover monster damage."

There's one other thing that troubles me about "Ducky Horror," but it's not a problem with this episode per se so much as the combined effect of several recent eps, including this one.  Where the heck is Webby hiding?  She hasn't had a major role in an episode since "Scroogerello" (I don't count "Duck to the Future" because Future Webby got most of the attention in that one).  In "The Uncrashable Hindentanic," "Nothing to Fear," and "The Status Seekers," most, if not all, of the inhabitants of the Mansion played key roles, but Webby was nowhere to be found.  The Webby who stowed away in "Cold Duck" and "Dinosaur Ducks" rather than miss out on the fun of an adventure would NOT have taken these omissions lying down.  Say it ain't so, DuckTales crew: Were you actually considering phasing Webby out of the show at some point, just as you ditched Doofus during "Super DuckTales"?  Almost certainly not, but you certainly seemed to be giving that impression during "Ducky Horror," yet another ep in which Webby was mysteriously left on the sidelines while Scrooge, HD&L, Duckworth, and Mrs. Beakley got screen time.  And the dissing of Miss Vanderquack didn't end there.  After appearing in "Till Nephews Do Us Part," Webby played a minimal role in both of the serials introducing Bubba Duck and Gizmoduck, and she would have to wait until "The Good Muddahs" for another really meaty role.  That seems a long time for a "major new character" to wait to be used.  Of course, all things considered, Launchpad fared little better during the second and third seasons.

I guess that well-behaved women really DON'T make history.

And so, after 16 months, we're on the brink of finishing season one.  I'll have some news next time on how I plan to attack the Bubba Duck/Gizmoduck era.

.

.

.

"DuckBlurbs"

(GeoX) Okay, I'll admit I kind of liked the sad-sack, Steve-Buscemi-esque human (duck) form of the werewolf. But that's all.

I agree that Mr. Wolf was by far the most interesting (or should I say, "innnn-teresting"?) of the monsters.  He even gets to star in the ep's scariest moments: frightening the hair color out of the phone-booth bully, swiping Scrooge off the pier, and directlythreatening Scrooge during the "monster-rights" protest.  Of course, he's anything but a conventional werewolf; he pays no attention to what time of day/night it is and seems to be able to transform between human/duck and wolf form at will.  But I'll take what I can get.

(GeoX) "Ping Pong:" he's like King Kong, but he has a giant ping-pong paddle. See? This is what happens when you let six-year-olds write Ducktales episodes. 

Well, someone at Toon Disney thought P.P. was scary:

(Greg) And so we pan to outside the Scroogerama Dome AFTER HAPPY HOUR (after dark) and we know this because it's written in golden letters and has a neon sign picture of Scrooge McDuck's face. Oh; and it also has a top hat for a roof; just to put it over the top. I see Scrooge's ego is not in check in this episode which may or may not be a good thing for the episode quality. 

Since the available interior evidence (during the opening scenes with HD&L) shows that the theater is obviously NOT a dome, I suspect that the use of "Dome" here was meant to be a pun on the bodily part typically covered by a hat like Scrooge's.


(Greg) And so we logically go to the house of Quackenstein as Quackenstein is sitting in his chair reading the newspaper. So the scary monster has been reduced to being Fred Flintstone as Mrs. Quackenstein... talks to her hubby about going shopping in Duckb[u]rg. And unlike Mr. Quackenstein; Mrs looks like a regular duck in a white dress with boxing promoter Don King's hairdo.

Actually, Mrs. Q.'s "do" is a copy of Elsa Lanchester's coiffure in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which makes perfect sense.  So does Joan Gerber's use of her stilted "artificial voice" as the voice of the character.


(Greg) Scrooge laughs it off as he doesn't care as long as they carry a major credit card...and then he catches himself and asks how different. HAHA! I smell screw job in your future Mr. McD. And then Scrooge panics right on the bus honking as we cut to the edge of the docks and see a pink bus (!!!) as Drakecula (with the horn honker), The Creature from the Blue Lagoon, The Mummy, THE BLOB~ (with cameras in tow) and Quackimodo with purple water balloons.

We also hear one of the monsters shout "Wokka wokka!" to complete the homage to The Muppet Movie (1979).  It's also amusing to note that the bus has the skeleton of a greyhound painted on its side.  If only a FEW of the verbal jokes had been this clever!

(Greg) [The police chief] orders the crowd to break up and go home as Scrooge arrives and grabs on the police chief's clothes wanting the Army and the Air Force called. That's a no-no Scroogie. The police chief peels him off and blows him off for the stunt. He then threatens jail time if he doesn't remove the gorilla within 24 hours (balloon or robot of course) as he walks out and orders the crowd to move along as there is nothing to see here. 

The Chief O'Hara clone from "Robot Robbers" gets a lot more to do here, coming across as much more of an authority figure.  I do wish that this stronger version of the character had been carried over to the second and third seasons.


Next:  Episode 65, "Till Nephews Do Us Part"... and a look ahead to the future of DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE.