Friday, January 17, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 68, "Time is Money, Part Three: Bubba Trubba"

The "Trubba" meets the road...and, boy, does it leave an unsightly mark!

That "supernova effect" emanating from the returning Millennium Shortcut is strictly a coincidence. "Bubba Trubba" is anything but earth-shattering and marks the point at which "Time is Money" loses its narrative momentum.  Sure, it does have a legitimate "cliffhanger" ending that Bob Langhans would certainly appreciate (though the events leading up to this stinger are problematic in and of themselves, as we shall see)...

... but, while we're waiting for Scrooge to collapse (a crash that some may actually welcome given the rancid way in which Scrooge has acted throughout the ep!), we are obliged to slog through a loosely connected series of "Bubba makes trubba" shenanigans that resemble nothing so much as a vest-pocket animated version of Floyd Gottfredson's 1940 MICKEY MOUSE continuity, "An Education for Thursday."

"Education" isn't generally considered to be one of Gottfredson's better narratives, but at least he was sufficiently cognizant of the little aborigine's limited appeal to make sure that three months' worth of gaggery ended with Thursday returning home.  DuckTales fans, of course, would not be rid of Bubba quite so easily.

For an episode that basically amounts to a series of riffs on the basic theme that Bubba, in Scrooge's exasperated words, "does'nae understand!" how to conduct himself in modern-day Duckburg, "Trubba" wastes little time in getting down to... well, "business" would hardly be the appropriate word.  Literally seconds after the Shortcut has crashed through Gyro's roof and Gyro has done his fall-back take upon seeing Bubba and Tootsie, Bubba has begun to explore (and completely misinterpret) the world around him.  This climaxes with Bubba's mousetrapping of Scrooge, who has apparently forgotten any concern for Bubba's well-being that may have manifested itself during "The Duck Who Would Be King" and has settled into the semi-frantic, increasingly paranoid mindset that will hold him in a gorilla grip until the ep's final moments.

Hey! You put Gyro's Helper down this instant, Bubba... oh.
Gyro doesn't tick off the audience as thoroughly as does Scrooge in this episode, but he doesn't exactly cover himself in glory, either.  Gyro goofs right out of the gates with his comment "I told you... toy with time and you're asking for trouble!", which stinks on ice for several reasons.  In "Marking Time," Gyro didn't seem to have any problem sending those little alarm-clock probes back in time, altering ancient civilization in the process.  More to the point, during that ep, HE NEVER ACTUALLY TOLD Scrooge and company that time travel was dangerous.  Having claimed to have given a warning that he didn't actually give, Gyro then turns the gaffe on its head at the end of Act One and hits Scrooge with the "history is like a jigsaw puzzle" metaphor at exactly the wrong time. Greg makes the salient points about this setup:

Gyro explains that by keeping Bubba here; there is a huge hole in the puzzle and then the hole got bigger. And apparently; if history were as big as Duckb[u]rg; the hole could be [Scrooge's] Money Bin. Scrooge is paranoid now as I am so not buying this since if there was such a thing; we would have really seen the effects in the negative for Scrooge. Everything has been positive for Scrooge; minus Bubba and Tootsie annoying him, but that is minor. Scrooge grunts and blows off Gyro's nonsense. I agree; you would think that we would have clearly seen a negative effect by now.  Scrooge shows Gyro some dollar bills and the wind howls and blows them away as Gyro claims that it is starting already. That is lame; it was JUST a gust of wind and Scrooge was foolish enough to show dollar bills in an open roof. I am not buying this...

Having Gyro provide a motive push of sorts for Scrooge's descent into near-madness was, IMHO, a major mistake.  I think that it would have been much better had Scrooge come to his own conclusion that Bubba's presence endangers his fortune.  Such incidents as "the stock market dropping 50 points" and Bubba causing thousands of dollars' worth of damage in various venues could have been kept, but Scrooge's reactions to them could have been depicted as arising from fears in his own mind.  This would have been a more daring characterization, in that Scrooge would have come across as being even less likable than he does in the actual ep, but would have made for a really interesting psychological dynamic and would have made the scene with Scrooge's conscience seem much less gimmicky and much more meaningful.  The use of Gyro, ironically enough, takes Scrooge at least partially off the hook for some questionable behavior.  

Scrooge, of course, provides one of the scourges for his own back by deciding to spread news of his "victory" over Glomgold, and Bubba's arrival in Duckburg, to the world.  If I were in Scrooge's spats, I don't know but what I might want to keep Bubba's presence as secret as I possibly could. Flinty, after all, gets the idea of kidnapping Bubba, brainwashing him, and sending him back in time to destroy the markers only after having seen Bubba on TV.  Plus, Glomgold and the Beagle Boys probably aren't the only individuals who might want to capture Bubba and Tootsie for their own nefarious purposes.

The Duckburg legal system has already revealed itself to be full of flaws -- and we haven't even gotten to "The Bride Wore Stripes" yet -- so it's not surprising that it whizzes the matter of Scrooge vs. Glomgold down its proverbial pants leg.  The fact that Webra Walters describes Scrooge's markers as being a million years old should have made it clear that Scrooge messed with the terms of the initial contract, so why is his claim to the diamonds ruled to be valid?  Is Glomgold's reputation THAT bad?  (Actually, the equivalent of "the Feds" in the Ducks' world may share some of the responsibility, since "the Supreme Court" is credited, or debited, with the handing down of the final decision.  That could be the Supreme Court of Duckburg, of course -- a city with its own space agency and intelligence agency could probably swing a high court with ease -- but, for the sake of argument, I'll assume that "the Supreme Court" means pretty much the same thing in Duck-land that it does in our own world.)

Glomgold adds to the mucking-up of the ep's midsection by hatching what is, quite frankly, a completely cockamamie scheme to use Bubba as his "rogue agent" in the past.  Consider that the decision on the markers is already known to everyone in Duckburg.  If the cave were found to lack markers at some point in the future, then wouldn't it be logical for everyone to think that Glomgold did something on his own to alter the past?  Visions of GeoX's nightmare scenario of Glomgold and Scrooge screwing with one another's plans ad infinitum come quickly to mind.  What GeoX didn't mention is that, in order for Flinty's scheme to work, Flinty would literally have to alter the minds of EVERYONE who had heard about the decision.  Good luck with that.

From the above, it should be clear that "Trubba" is pretty seriously compromised even before we reach all the repetitive "Bubba causes massive city-wide trubba" junk that dominates the last half of the episode.  We enter the "spin cycle" with this justifiably notorious sequence:

Comments are unnecessary here, but I'm going to indulge in some anyway:

1.  I believe that this is the first time that the series actually depicted HD&L going to school.  During season one, they'd referred to homework assignments ("Armstrong," "Nothing to Fear," "The Golden Fleecing") and been questioned about their academic performances ("Raiders of the Lost Harp"), but I can't recall a previous schoolroom sighting.  More such scenes were to follow during season two, which would be fine, except that the main excuses for such visits typically centered around Bubba.  I don't know about you, but for the Nephews to be sent to school simply to serve as foils for a caveduck kind of sticks in my craw.

2.  So who were those kids doing the singing?  They didn't receive any credit whatsoever.  I know that Greg has frequently complained about DuckTales not making use of child actors to voice child characters.  You would hope that the one time DT did employ kids, the show would give them due recognition, but no such luck.

3.  HD&L's "one-room schoolhouse," on its infrequent appearances, occasionally takes on the trappings of an architectural TARDIS.  By this, I mean that, though it seems rather small from the outside, it is always large enough on the inside to accommodate whatever school paraphernalia are needed for a story -- lockers, lunchrooms, and, in this case, high ceilings that allow for the formation of human pyramids.

The entire "Rose Society" sequence was excised from the two-hour version of "Time is Money," and the fact that its absence isn't noticeable indicates just how superfluous a good deal of "Trubba" is.  In fact, Mrs. Beakley's attempt to educate Bubba in the social graces is probably the best of the three lengthy gag sequences.  Mrs. B.'s willingness to defend Bubba from the accusations of the raving Scrooge is legitimately admirable, giving some real bite to her ultimate humiliation, and Bubba, natural chaos-causer though he might be, does make a good effort to fit in at the party.  His panicked trampling of the banquet table might be excused on the grounds that he was preoccupied with the thought that Tootsie was in trouble.  By contrast, when Thursday invades a glitzy soiree, he acts like a savage from the get-go.

Launchpad gets the last crack at minding Bubba and Tootsie, but, being Launchpad, makes a fatal mistake by bringing the duo to the dinosaur exhibit.  One can hardly blame their extreme reaction in this case.

Throughout all of this, of course, the Beagle Boys are trying -- and failing, as in the modern definition of "FAIL!!" -- to kidnap Bubba and/or Tootsie.  Here is a place where GeoX's excoriation of the DT Beagles seems at least somewhat appropriate.  Very rarely have they appeared as utterly, uncompromisingly inept as they do in these scenes.  In the past, even at their bunglingest, they typically posed at least some sort of threat.  Here, between the physical pratfalls and the embarrassing disguises, they seem about as threatening as a hangnail.  Even their climactic, Bubba-aided climb into the Money Bin has a distinctly bogus feel: Bubba had pulled the hose out of the wall while trying to "tame" it, so how on Earth did the Beagles manage to climb up the hose when it was not anchored on top?  Sure, Bubba may have held onto it for them, but we never actually saw him do that.  Then, too, Bubba blindly tossed the hose down the side of the Bin without any knowledge that the Beagles were there to begin with.  The staging in this entire sequence left one whole honkin' pantload to be desired.

The business with Scrooge's elvish conscience (who has a somewhat lower voice here than it would in "Ducks on the Lam") has its childish aspects, to be sure. It makes Scrooge's examination of his conduct a bit less serious than it probably needed to be.  It must be said, however, that the scene got one big thing right: It obliged Scrooge to remonstrate "with himself" without any other character getting in the way.  It's just too bad that scenarist Len Uhley couldn't have duplicated this approach "on the other end" and dispensed with Gyro as the trigger for Scrooge's paranoia.

Of all the individual parts of the DuckTales multi-episode epics, "Bubba Trubba" is unquestionably the least substantial.  The number of logical lapses in such a content-free ep is troubling, as well.  Unfortunately, the balance of "Time is Money" will not make up the deficit -- in fact, it will increase it before all is said and done.




 Bumper #3: "Turtle"
"I made me fortune by being tougher than the toughies and faster than the... slowies!"





(GeoX) "I absolutely positively cannot be bribed!" "Even with a new scarf?" "You've got yourself a deal!" This would be funnier--or at least make some sort of sense--if it had ever been established that Launchpad was some sorta scarf fanatic. Otherwise, it just looks like a writer going, "crap--I need for there to be something Launchpad is really fixated on in order for my tired joke to work! Um…he has a SCARF! I can say he's obsessed with SCARFS! I am SUCH a genius!" 

To be fair, Tootsie did chew up Launchpad's scarf earlier in the episode, so LP would probably jump at the chance to get a new one.  (Which reminds me -- Tootsie's voracious appetite was referenced at several points during "Trubba," but I don't recall it being referred to in such a major way again.  I guess it got sent down the same "memory hole" that claimed Scrooge's obsession with "teamwork" in "Back Out in the Outback" and Louie's desire to be a door-to-door salesman in "Much Ado About Scrooge," among other things.)

(GeoX) Newscaster screaming and ducking when Glomgold hurls a vase at the TV--pretty funny. 

Funny, and decidedly weird -- far more so than Scrooge's relatively modest "fourth-wall-busting" in "The Uncrashable Hindentanic."

(GeoX) I know this isn't something anyone wants to be reminded of, but seriously: naked Scrooge moving to cover his nonexistent genitalia. Jeez, writers, what did we ever do to YOU that you hate us so? 

He should just be thankful that that vacuum wasn't a Dyson.

(GeoX) Is that vulture teacher the same one who appeared in "evil" form in "Nothing to Fear?" She's certainly much jollier this time around. 

Indeed.  Like Princess Luna in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Mrs. Quackenbush seems to change her personality every time we see her.

(Greg) We begin this one in the skies as the Shortcut magically reappears again as it spirals around and then loses it's propeller barely ten seconds in and goes into a tailspin (BWHAHAHAHAHAHA!). Scrooge has got to realize that safe and sound means nothing in the DTVA world. Everyone screams as I shudder in fear because they have decided to start in earnest. We cut down to Gyro's house...

... which is where, exactly?  When the Shortcut fails, it appears to be hovering over downtown Duckburg...

... yet, when the craft actually plummets to Earth, it seems to be falling into a semi-rural area:

I'm more inclined to think of Gyro's place as being somewhere in the outskirts of Duckburg (the better to protect the downtown area in case of an "inventing emergency," you understand), but these scenes definitely muddle the issue.
(Greg) Bubba grabs a pink phone and goes moo.

This would have been problematic had Bubba, as "The Great One," not been involved with giving a cow back to a Toupayian farmer in "The Duck Who Would Be King."

(Greg) Bubba hugs Mrs. Beakly and he lifts her about two feet off the floor.

And he would do the same to the Nephews at the end of "Ducks on the Lam."  Thursday, too, was known to hug folks unexpectedly:

(Greg) The nephews tell Bubba to come in and Bubba comes in reluc[tan]tly with his new suit and he looks like he is going to a rock concert. Funny how Bubba is fully dressed with shoes on ; but the nephews have only a shirt and baseball caps on. That is just peachy folks. Bubba comes in with his red boom box (a gift from episode 1) as Tootsie enters wearing the SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT and a blue sash on. 

I don't recall Bubba bringing any carry-on luggage with him when he stowed away, so how did he get the boom box back?  Perhaps each Nephew owns his own boom box, and one of the other two boys stepped up when the first box was left behind.  Somehow, I have a hard time imagining Scrooge splurging on three boom boxes when one would probably do...

(Greg) So we logically head to a large mansion as a dozen rich folks (including one duck in a weird red hat and gown with the purple FEATHER OF SLIGHT SUFFERING) talking to another rich snob. There are balloons; a hose statue for a fountain and if you look closely; you can see a version of Mrs. Quackenbush in the background.

Other familiar figures in the background include the Mayor of Duckburg, Gloria Snootley ("The Status Seekers"), Lord Battmounten and several of his confreres from The Explorers' Club, Robin Lurch ("Down and Out in Duckburg"), Lady De Lardo, Webra Walters, and Sir Guy Standforth (I guess he escaped "Snowy"'s clutches at some point).

(Greg) And then Bubba follows and ALL HELL IS BREAKING LOOSE as the [Rose Society] pump tent is destroyed (Huh? Logic break #3 for the episode right there)...

There's nothing logically wrong with this at all.  You can clearly see that several of the panicking guests knocked down several of the support poles, causing the tent to fall.

(Greg) Let's face it; Scrooge HATES Bubba and some fans believe that the feeling is understandable and even justified.

That's reasoning in retrospect, I think.  When I first watched "Time is Money," I thought that Scrooge was being ridiculously unfair to Bubba.




A final comment: Recall my contention that "The Duck Who Would Be King" might just as well have been a stand-alone episode and contributed absolutely nothing to the balance of "Time is Money."  The recap that leads off "Bubba Trubba" lends support to my argument, as it ONLY includes footage from "Marking Time," climaxing with Bubba hitching a ride with the Ducks.  Sic transit gloria mundi, eh, "Great One"?

Next: Episode 69, "Time is Money, Part Four: Ducks on the Lam."


Jason said...

Re: Flintheart not having his own time machine. Flintheart was planning to brainwash Bubba, then send him back to Scrooge. “So, when Scrooge sends him back in time, he’ll destroy those blasted markers!” he crows.

Something I didn’t mention in the earlier eps, that the satellite dish, featured in season 1, is now missing from the roof of Gyro’s barn. The better to allow Launchpad to “crash” through it, I guess.

The "Rose Society" scene, as well as the sequence of Bubba “giving back” all the stuff Mung Ho took from the people Toupay, were the two biggest cuts from the “Time is Money” telemovie. From here, the remaining two episodes won’t have as many drastic cuts as compaed to TIM.

Chris Barat said...


Thanks for pointing out that note about Glomgold's plans. I made the appropriate correction in my review.

The satellite dish may have been removed because Gyro "fried" it during "Time Teasers" and it could not be fixed. Was there a post-"Time Teasers" episode in which it appeared?


Comicbookrehab said...

Tome machines, Tardis, scarves...that's 3 Doctor Who references! :)