Saturday, January 25, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 69, "Time is Money, Part Four: Ducks on the Lam"


On a couple of occasions in the past -- here, here, and here, to be specific -- I've shown examples of DuckTales advertising art in which adaptations of actual scenes in the episodes in question were, shall we say, loose.  It should come as no surprise to those who read the (frequently inaccurate) episode synopses published in Gladstone's DUCKTALES comics that Disney made a similar gaffe when it produced the following piece of promotional art for "Ducks on the Lam."  If you want to play "what's wrong with this picture," be my guest.

Some may call this sloppy workmanship, or someone basing his or her work on an early version of a script draft.  For me, however, the shortcomings of this pic are all of a piece with the generally wretched quality of this penultimate chapter of the increasingly "flounderous" "Time is Money."  To be sure, Joe Torcivia and I didn't exactly shower this bauble with diamonds and rubies in our DUCKTALES INDEX.  However, of the three lackluster chapters that followed "Marking Time" and "The Duck Who Would Be King," we gave it the highest rating.  Looking back, the two major things that prompted us to do this were the lengthy dinosaur-limo-and-shopping-cart escape-and-chase sequence that dominates the end of Act Two and a good portion of Act Three, a set-piece that easily trumped any of the labored "Bubba does'nae understand!" shenanigans in "Bubba Trubba" insofar as holding audience interest was concerned...

... and a repentant Scrooge's apology to Bubba for projecting all of Scrooge's paranoia and frustration onto the caveduck's "shiny wee head."  The post-serial knowledge that Bubba is, in fact, fated to return to Duckburg and become a part of Scrooge's (animated) life does not detract at all from the legitimate emotion visible in this scene.  At the moment, Scrooge is convinced that his relationship with Bubba is about to end, and his main concern is seeing Bubba return to 1,000,000 BC safely, even if that means the permanent loss of Gyro's "Millennium Shortcut."  (It occurs to me that Scrooge should already know that Bubba's return is doomed to impermanence, because the Ducks didn't find the rusted remains of the "Shortcut" when they traveled to Bubba's time in "Marking Time."  Dealing with time travel is SUCH a bitch!)

Before we get to the good (or at least considerably-less-bad) stuff in this ep, however, we are obliged to slog through a morass of ludicrous logic, unfunny slapstick, retreading of routines from more accomplished episodes past, and mischaracterizations so dreadful as to defy belief.  My re-viewing of "Lam" would have led me to this conclusion EVEN BEFORE GeoX and his correspondent "Christopher" unearthed and boxed around a logic break that rivals the massive screwup at the end of "Ali Bubba's Cave."  Here's how "Christopher" described it:

I've never been clear on this point. Scrooge signs the contract to pay Glomgold $10 million more by a certain date, or he forfeits the deposit and the island. But... now apparently Scrooge owns the diamond cave thanks to his markers [and the court decision awarding ownership to Scrooge]. So... what's the point of paying Glomgold the $10 million? All Scrooge would get is the worthless tiny island to the west. Why does Scrooge still have to pay Glomgold the $10 million if Scrooge already owns the diamond cave island? Doesn't the contract only hold for the westernmost island? And can't Glomgold demand his money back for that island from the person he bought it from, since that person sold an island Scrooge claimed a million years ago?

 

Actually, my interpretation of the court decision has always been that, since the agreement between Scrooge and Flinty was concluded before the island was blown apart, Scrooge was awarded title to BOTH the portion of the island holding the diamond cave AND the worthless portion.  That is why Scrooge's "keeping" the western part of the island after the expiration of the deadline to pay Glomgold made no sense.  Following the logic of the court ruling, both pieces of the island should have reverted to Glomgold's control.  But GeoX and "Christopher" go this one better by pointing out that Scrooge, by carving his markers in the cave one million years before and having his markers validated by the court, owned the island all along, and that Glomgold did not have the authority to sell Scrooge the latter's own property.  In other words, the contract had no legal basis to begin with.  Somehow, Joe and I missed this error.

A goof of this magnitude would have been enough to drag "Lam"'s rating down all by itself, but a re-examination of the ep as a whole reveals that the jig (or should that be reel?) would have been up quickly enough even without such a mistake.  The dumbitude debuts immediately after the disappearance of the title card, as the Beagle Boys boot Scrooge, Bubba, and Tootsie out of the Money Bin without a soul to stop them.  Um, doesn't Scrooge have some employees working there?  (For example, the receptionist whose voice could be heard near the end of "Bubba Trubba"?)  Even given that Gizmoduck is not yet present to serve as a security guard, would the EXISTING security personnel, whoever they might be, just sit back and ALLOW the Beagles to take over?  Never mind, we have the obligatory Scrooge-Bubba breakup scene to shoot, complete with the old miser clenching and unclenching his fists as Bubba leaves, as if we were expected to believe that Scrooge, even in his present state, would be capable of punching a child.

Greg mistakenly claims that this wasn't the first time that the Beagle Boys took over the Money Bin, citing "A Drain on the Economy."  While the Beagles certainly got into the Bin in that episode, they didn't commandeer Scrooge's money as a result, since the cash had drained into the sewer system as a result of "Bertha"'s explosion.  In "The Money Vanishes," the reverse was true; the Beagles never entered the Bin, yet they were able to move Scrooge's money to their hideout.  Here, the Beagles are quite literally "in possession" of both Bin and boodle, and one can understand their playful glee as they celebrate the occasion.

What one CANNOT understand, of course, is the Beagles' thinking that they can take all of Scrooge's "moola" and "split."  Here, once again, GeoX's knocking of the DT Beagles seems appropriate.  Their inexplicable "instant mastery" of Scrooge's security system seems all the more improbable in light of this display of gargantuan stupidity.  Either the security system's instruction manual was right there for the consulting (hey, Gyro left one in one of his giant construction robots -- so it could happen!) , or "punching a bunch of buttons" really does seem to be a panacea in the world of Duckburg.

Since when did Scrooge build a retaining wall around his property?

The role-reversal rehash of the Beagle attack in "A Drain on the Economy" isn't all that bad in a literal sense.  For one thing, the gags are better, because they're slightly more realistic; none of the Army guys get smashed by a giant metal sphere, flattened by closing walls, or anything as crudely "Toony" as that.  There are also a few clever pop-culture riffs: DT takes its first, but certainly not its last, swipe at contemporary ratings rival Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by having "Commander Scrooge" resort to using (quickly-routed) Ninjas, and the exhausted Army's retreat from the bombed-out territory around the Bin reminds one of the classic "retreat scene" in Gone With the Wind (1939).  Still, the miasma of deja vu hangs thickly around all of these scenes.

Having failed to dislodge the Beagles from the Money Bin, Scrooge now commits one of his greatest character-based sins of the entire series: he becomes obsessed with getting the $10 million that he owes Glomgold from one of his other banks or businesses.  OK, credit teleplayists Len Uhley and Jymn Magon for not falling into the trap of equating the cash in Scrooge's Bin with the assets of his entire financial empire.  The problem is that Scrooge seems to FORGET ABOUT the fact that the Beagles are, in fact, still in possession of his Bin.  I hardly think that the "real" Scrooge would have shifted gears so cavalierly.  If Scrooge's fortune is the symbol of his life of hard work, then his Bin is the outward physical depiction of same.  It is Scrooge's version of a castle or a palace, of far greater psychological importance to him than even his Mansion.  The idea that he'd just blow off another party being in control of the place is, quite frankly, ludicrous, and a textbook example of lazy writing.

"Lazy" would appear to be too kind a word to use to describe the "disguise" that the Beagles use to plant the rumor that a Scrooge impostor is abroad.  It's hard to imagine a three-year-old being fooled by the portrait ruse, but apparently, all of Scrooge's bank employees have been conveniently lobotomized for the duration.  The one blessing in disguise here is the fact that, had Frank Nelson not died several years before "Time is Money" was produced, Walt Disney TV Animation might have convinced him, rather than the mysterious Don Hills (who performs here, in the later "Dough Ray Me," and nowhere else in any context), to voice the very Nelson-esque bank manager who finally gets the police to arrest the "one true" Scrooge.

While all this has been going on, Bubba and Tootsie, taking a cue from the guy in the Allstate commercials, have been laying down their own brand of "Mayhem," in the city park in this case.  Amazingly, the ep succeeds in partially botching one of these seemingly straightforward scenes.  The picnic table top that Bubba uses as a Frisbee to play "fetch" with Tootsie is clearly traveling at ground level when it passes the tank-topped muscleduck and his dog Dude (hey, that's what the man calls him)...

... but, when it slices through the statue of Duckburg's founder Cornelius Coot, its altitude is roughly eight to ten feet.  Bubba must have put some kind of spin (or, as the carousel-riding girl voiced by Russi Taylor would put it, "spee-yun") on that thing.  Evidently, one of the crimes for which Bubba is arrested and taken to jail is his brazen violation of some of the laws of physics.

So Scrooge and Bubba bond in jail, thanks to the prodding of Scrooge's conscience (who has a higher-pitched, somewhat more elf-like voice here than he did in "Bubba Trubba") and Bubba's gift of his "shinie" (which, contrary to what I wrote in my "Marking Time" review, was the coin he picked up off the street in "Trubba" and not the one Scrooge used to "bribe" him in "Marking Time."  My bad).  These scenes may lay on the sentiment a bit too thickly -- witness Scrooge's quivering beak after Bubba mournfully claims, "Scrooge hate Bubba" -- but they are pretty effective nonetheless.

Scrooge has become a "prisoner of conscience"!
In all honesty, the epic chase sequence has a rather shaky foundation.  The cops pursuing the escaping Scrooge, Bubba, and Tootsie I can understand, but Glomgold gets involved only because he happens to be passing by Uhley's Market (heh) in the dead of night just as the three fugitives are at the same location.  To give the devil his due, Flinty performs his role a lot better than the cops do.  It certainly helps that Glomgold's limo, not to mention Glomgold himself, appears to have otherworldly healing powers.  How else could Flinty have avoided massive injury when the light pole fell on him?  (And then, what about Flinty's chauffeur... you know, the man who is a front-seat witness to all of Glomgold's treachery but, thanks to the wonders of Duckburg jurisprudence, will never have to testify about it.)  Much like Scrooge did after the failed attack on the Money Bin, Glomgold appears to forget about his main objective in midstream, switching his attention from pursuing Scrooge to trying to "get" Bubba and Tootsie.

Better watch your back, pal...

The logic of the chase gets pretty wonky before the end; for example, Scrooge's cart comes up from behind Glomgold's limo after Scrooge was seen falling back from the crest of the hilltop ("Missed it by that much") at the end of Act Two.  There were also several instances in which the cart probably should have come to a stop (though, as you may recall, Scrooge's desk managed to stand the gaff before Scrooge plunged into the bay in "Raiders of the Lost Harp").  The escapees finally return to McDuck Mansion just in time for the sun to rise, Gyro to finish pushing the "Millennium Shortcut" all the way from his lab (huh??  Has that rascal been working out on the sly?), and Launchpad to bring the plane from the airfield that is literally within a stone's throw of the Mansion's front door.

I doubt that that hill will eliminate the need for some noise-abatement devices, Scrooge...
The absurdity of Scrooge's forgetting about his Bin being in hostile hands comes to a climax when Dewey points out that Bubba "lost [Scrooge] his fortune" (I guess Scrooge must have told the Nephews about being kicked out of the Bin at some point -- perhaps before the gang went on the abortive "money hunt" in Act Two) and Scrooge responds by cackling that Bubba "gave [him] his in return."  I don't blame HD&L for being puzzled by this exchange, but I might have expected them to do more than just shrug.  They might be wondering at this point whether Scrooge might actually be cracking up.

Goodbyes follow as Scrooge uses the "last bar of bombastium" (couldn't Gyro always cook up some more??) to send Bubba and Tootsie back to the past.  The sound of police sirens that can be heard in the background of these scenes is a welcome bit of intra-episode continuity.  Unfortunately, we are apparently expected to take Duckworth's "Shakespearean blow-off" of the puzzled cops as the final "period" on Scrooge's "sentence" as a wanted fugitive.  Somehow, I don't think that the matter would be dropped quite that easily.

In short, this is a mess.  The few quality moments on display are buried under mounds of sloppy storytelling, continuity errors, and a frankly incredible misreading of how Scrooge would react to a real occupation of his Money Bin.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but "Ali Bubba's Cave" is looking a whole lot better to me now... and that climactic chapter, as I have known for a long time, comes complete with its own legion of problematic aspects.  The ultimate dispensation of Bubba is not the least of them.


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Bumper 4: "Bridge"
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"DuckBlurbs" 

(GeoX) I'll admit, I AM charmed by the fact that the jail had a striped top hat available just for Scrooge. And, I suppose, even more impressed that they had a triceratops costume lying around, even if that doesn't excuse the dumbness of Tootsie being in jail in the first place.

I suppose that Tootsie's suit could have been a normal prisoner's suit, only in size XXXXXXL. 

(GeoX) Hey, a statue of Cornelius Coot! I don't believe the character's been mentioned in Ducktales previously, meaning that this is just for old-school fans, which is appreciated…though not enough so to forgive all the dumbness.

No, this is Coot's first appearance, and I'm sure that we have Jymn Magon to thank for it.  Since the image I showed above depicted the statue's destruction, it's only fair that I show it whole and unharmed here.  And it's the classic pose, to boot -- the same one that was used for the statue at the short-lived Duckburg attraction at Disney World.
"Statuesque Spendthrifts" (WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #138, March 1952)
(Greg) Big Time proclaims that they hit the jackpot as Bouncer decides to row his wooden boat. I didn't know Scrooge had a wooden rowboat.
Well, it is kinda-sorta canonical...
 Barks' cover to FOUR COLOR #386 (March 1952)
Don't worry, we'll be seeing more from this source soon enough...

(Greg) Scrooge then uses the binoculars (which matches the color of the car Flint was in. Bad luck in 7 years there Scrooge!) and he hopes that the Beagle Boys are not smart enough to operate the defense system.

How'd you miss the cross-topped church in the background there, Greg?  And this isn't a shot from a distance, it's right there in plain sight.  I think that you might have more "hopes" than you realize, Scrooge.
(Greg) The police officer drive away without further incident as we look up on the lamp pole and see Scrooge, Bubba and Tootsie on top. Man; Bubba's strength is incredible to lift Tootsie like that. Or it's another logic break. 

I don't know... considering that Bubba was able to lift Tootsie over his head and into the back of the "Shortcut" in midair in "Marking Time," this latest maneuver was probably a piece of cake for the caveduck.

Next: Episode 70, "Time is Money, Part Five: Ali Bubba's Cave."

9 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

I must admit that *I* (…and presumably “we”) was (were) SOOOO appalled at the outcome of “Ali Bubba’s Cave” (an episode that was doomed even by an epically lame title, much less the infamous illogic that followed) that *I* (…and presumably “we”) overlooked the total illogic right here before our eyes, leading up to the serial’s dubious diamond deluge denouement.

I do recall, as we were working on that portion of our DT Index, thinking that the whole business seemed muddled and unclear, and was probably the product of more Disney rewrite sessions then we’ll ever know. I merely failed to realize just HOW muddled it actually was during our own writing process. Were they in THAT MUCH of a hurry to get this thing on the air that they just threw it out with nary a proper measure of plot consideration?!

I wonder if even as great a continuity driven editor as DC Comics’ '90s-era Mike Carlin could have managed to straighten out this complete and total mess.

Joe.

Anonymous said...

I see the resemblance to Frank Nelson (best remembered in his role(s) irritating Jack Benny), but I believe the character is actually based on Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve of "The Great Gildersleeve" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rhzd3u8vsI.

The Great Gildersleeve was a popular radio show of the 40's and early 50's, four movies were also made. If I'm right it was an interesting choice by the writers.

Comicbookrehab said...

Well, Barks DID portray the Beagles as educated & industrious - they earned their doctorates in prison in "House of Haunts" :)

Jason said...

It struck me as odd that the mansion “money hunt” only coughs up two million. Scrooge really wouldn’t have more than that in his mansion? I figured he’d have more money than that stashed everywhere.

I don’t even remember Scrooge fretting about paying Glomgold in “Bubba Trubba.” If he still had that debt outstanding, why not just settle it right after getting home? He couldn’t just mail a check? Drive up to Flinty’s house with it, with his “good hat?” And what happened to Glomgold’s plot to destroy Scrooge’s markers?

I think Scrooge's bank employees must not have television or radio, as they obviously did not know that the Beagle Boys had the money bin under siege.

Maybe Scrooge believes that the Beagles are at least bottled up inside the building and can’t actually escape with his money, so he figures they could at least be waited out. That’s probably still a stretch to account for his behavior, though.

The funny thing is that the airfield sequence is cut from the Time is Money telefilm, so originally you wouldn’t know where Launchpad got the plane from.

I’m not sure the ninjas were meant to be a swipe at TMNT. Time is Money came out in November 1988, and TMNT had only reached around eleven eps by that time. At least in my market, TMNT was back then still a Sunday-only program. It wouldn’t be until the 1989-1990 season that TMNT got stripped weekdays in syndication and truly became a phenomenon. I think this was just meant to be a generic ninja gag.

I did love the sequence of the Beagles’ romp through Scrooge’s money, as well as the Beagles using the money bin’s defense systems. And the beginning of the prison break chase features some good background music.

Gregory Weagle said...

I probably missed the cross on the church in this episode because I saw the same thing in a Darkwing Duck episode Trading Faces long before this episode in the ranting order. Ironically; seeing a cross on a church steeple is nothing since they already allowed crosses as grave marker in the graveyard in Hotel Strangeduck which I ranted on later since I did the pilot first and it was on set #2 instead of set#1.

Now seeing a pentagram in a DTVA show; that had a lot more impact than a cross. DTVA shows today sometimes still use crosses as grave markers; but they are a lot more stylized to make them look less like a cross; but the shape is about the same.

Pan Miluś said...

I like the pat since I think it's the funnyest. I especialy like the idea of Scrooge trying to brake into his own money bin (Ninjas! Huh :D)


The whole noncencial leagal mambo-jumbo paradox about the island made my head hurt :(

Dan B said...

I always wondered what happened to Bubba's super strength. After he clubbed the heck out of a huge monster two episodes ago, three goofy BB should be no problem. Scrooge and Bubba shouldn't have been tossed from the Bin so easily. This always bugged me. I just tell myself that Scrooge was still unconscious after passing out. Scrooge should have had Bubba club the heck out of the BB.

Pan Miluś said...

BTW -> There is a church in Duckburg? So there is where Mrs. Beackley and Webby go every sunday. Another riddle solve...

Killer Moth said...

"I’m not sure the ninjas were meant to be a swipe at TMNT. Time is Money came out in November 1988, and TMNT had only reached around eleven eps by that time. At least in my market, TMNT was back then still a Sunday-only program. It wouldn’t be until the 1989-1990 season that TMNT got stripped weekdays in syndication and truly became a phenomenon. I think this was just meant to be a generic ninja gag."

I'm not sure where Jason's market was, but mine (Pittsburgh) also had TMNT Season 2 on Sundays, as I'm finally recalling. And I praise him for knowing all that, even though, I grew up during that time and forgot about the timeslot issue (well, I was 8). Either way, I'm more inclined to believe it to be a generic ninja gag.

However, if we're going to see it as a TMNT jab, it could also be a semi-jab on Fred Wolf, himself. Wolf, prior to TMNT, was DT's Supervising Producer in Season 1. And then TMNT's opening mini-series took off, and the rest is history.

Then again, Big Time did say "Cowabunga" in the episode, so anything is possible.

And Glomgold at least made this episode bearable with his dartboard of hate -- was he trying to shoot a harpoon gun at Scrooge's face -- and his various reactions to everything. Yes, the Time is Money serial isn't exactly the best the series had to offer, yet it served its purposes in showcasing Glomgold somewhat decently, which is a good enough reason for me to watch.

And I rather enjoyed this one for Tootsie, between her actually crying at Scrooge's berating her and Bubba, to re-affirming her friendship with Bubba during the park scene and, yes, her in prison pinstripes.

Anyway, de-lurking and to say I've been reading and enjoying Chris' blog for the past few years. And while I've been a fan of DT, Darkwing Duck and the like when they first aired and more recently, Chris' blog has revived my interest and has me appreciating the series more than I ever imagined. Because of which, I'm always grateful to read whatever he posts. Off to read or re-read the other DT retrospectives.