Sunday, April 6, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 76, "The Land of Trala [sic] La"

 
HOO, boy.  Despite my immense admiration for DuckTales' risk-taking adaptation of Carl Barks' justly-famed tale of the moneyless valley of Tralla La, I have long recognized that this was going to be one challenging RETROSPECTIVE to piece together.  "Back to the Klondike" was a dicey choice for the first DuckTales episode put under production, but I'd argue that the series took just as many chances for this "formal" opening of its second season, boldly essaying a story that featured a critical examination of human nature, Scrooge suffering what for all intents and purposes was a fit of insanity, and, in a gambit that even Disney itself seemed to come to regret (judging by the severe censorship that the episode suffered during its broadcasts on Toon Disney), Scrooge depending upon a drug to keep body and mind together.

Doug Hutchinson's version of Barks' story is at once a remarkably faithful transposition of a good number of Barks' scenarios and dialogue and a bold reinterpretation of several of the original's core ideas, with Fenton playing a much more significant supporting role than Donald ever did and Barks' ever-so-slightly anticlimactic ending being ditched in favor of a far more conventionally adventurous wrap-up that, it must be admitted, seemed to be a much better match for the spirit of the TV series.  Back in September 1989, I would have been hyped-up for the start of a new season of DuckTales eps under any circumstances, but I still remember conversing excitedly on the phone with Joe Torcivia that evening, still zizzed up over what I'd just seen.  It wasn't an "event" on the scale of the series' various multi-part epics or the theatrical feature, but it came just about as close as any single half-hour of DuckTales ever did to triggering that unmistakable, "Oh-Wow" sense of wonder.

Joe and I were sufficiently impressed with "The Land of Trala La" that we willingly grasped a critical nettle and stated "on the record" (both in the complete version of our DUCKTALES INDEX and in our introduction to the second volume of Gemstone's CARL BARKS' GREATEST DUCKTALES STORIES collection [2006]) that we greatly preferred DuckTales' version of the story to Barks', largely because of Fenton's contribution and the more exciting ending.  We have never gotten much backlash for this contention -- one simple reason may be that very few people ever actually bought the full version of the INDEX and thus were aware of this opinion's existence -- and so GeoX's and Greg's dissenting voices (Geo's mildly so, Greg's... well, not) were probably overdue.  I'll respond to the appearance of these alternative "takes" by judiciously backing away from a direct comparison of the comic-book story and the TV adventure.  It's far better to say, as Geo did, that the two versions of "Tralla La" work equally well in their own media milieus.  Barks' more laid-back approach is ideally suited to the four-color format, while Hutchinson's noisier and more colorful narrative punches many of the same points across but does so in a more directly visual, visceral manner.  That being said, I certainly won't shy away from illustrated, point-by-point comparisons of the ways in which the two versions of the story intersect and deviate from one another.

"Land" opens with "the spongers and the chiselers" besieging a stressed Scrooge in his Money Bin.  True to the spirit (and the somewhat wonky logic) of "Super DuckTales" -- in which Fenton graduated, literally overnight, from a brand-new hire to an employee who has sufficient clout to convince Scrooge's other employees to allow Scrooge's money to be dumped into Lake Dobegon -- the bustling "generic Clerkly types" who assist and/or inform Scrooge in Barks' story are basically reduced to Fenton himself.  Shouldn't Mrs. Featherby be serving as the gatekeeper here?  Or did she see the hordes of handout-seekers coming and decide to take that long-delayed vacation at just this moment?

Whereas the DT Scrooge stays penned inside the Bin until he is cornered by the handout-seekers and cracks up, Barks' pre-nutsoid Scrooge gets pummeled in multiple venues -- for example, when he leaves the Bin "to see the tax collector" and is accosted by various folks in the street.  I think that both versions are equally effective in getting across the notion that Scrooge is being pushed to the breaking point.  You get more of a sense of a "state of siege" watching Scrooge scrambling around the Money Bin like a rat in a trap, but Barks' rain of panel-to-panel demands on the fleeing miser makes up in sheer intensity for what it lacks in terms of continuous flow.  Hutchinson clearly paid attention to a number of the specific harassments that Barks' Scrooge was subjected to, throwing in the series' first (but certainly not its last) reference to the nation of Sowbuggia and including both Sevenchins Snootsbury and the operative from "The League to Ban [Abolish, for the layperson] Billionaires," though the former is actually seen on screen, whereas the latter is not.  What, was WDTVA afraid of depicting an anarchist?  Why didn't they just do what Barks did and dress the guy in a sweater and tie, leaving only the beard as a telltale marker of the character's radicalism?

After Scrooge turns into a squirrelly nutcase... (and, just to force the point, the DT version shows him actually chewing on a nut, as opposed to "merely" climbing and hiding inside a tree...)

... we get our medically-sanctioned reveal of the existence of the legendary Tralla La.  Greg objected to the idea that the doctor (who, judging by her peculiar accent, may be intended to be a parody of the briefly-famous Dr. Ruth Westheimer) would have known anything about the "never-before-seen" valley.  If he's prepared to do that, then he'd better be prepared to ding Barks as well; Scrooge's (male) doctor in the Barks story dispenses pretty much the same information.  The only real difference is that Barks' doc doesn't set Scrooge off all over again by presenting the bill.  Since both DT and Barks posit that no one from the outside world has ever seen or set foot in Tralla La, my best guess as to the source of the outside world's legends about the place is that some long-ago, atypically adventurous Tralla Lallian decided to explore the world beyond the valley, spreading tales in his wake.  Perhaps this was the mysterious "traveler" referenced by the local who is quizzed by Scrooge in the Barks story.

One aspect of the Barks story that definitely compares favorably to the TV adaptation is the use of the Nephews.  In both versions, the boys get "one shining moment" to strut something resembling their "stuff" and are basically along for the ride the rest of the way.  There's no question, however, that Barks' HD&L's deduction of the existence and general location of Tralla La based on relatively meager evidence...

... has it all over the DT Nephews' stiff-upper-beaked (which isn't all that difficult for Ducks, actually) determination to "go out like brave Junior Woodchucks!" when it appears as though the vengeful Tralla Lallians are about to drown them in the lake.  Don't get me wrong, I love the latter scene, which takes a legitimately scary moment (complete with the High Muckyduck warning HD&L of their impending deaths) and lightens things up just enough to allow the show to get away with it.  But the caged HD&L are reacting to their plight, rather than acting to produce a positive result for the Ducks.  There's really no comparison in terms of impact.

While it is a shame that the animated Nephews don't get the chance to duplicate their nifty bit of detective work, cutting out this material did provide one benefit.  In Barks, it takes half of the story' 22 pages for the Ducks to reach Tralla La.  In contrast, "Land" gets the gang "on site" before we reach the initial commercial break.  This seems fitting in light of the animated story's addition of plot elements to beef up the "adventurous" aspects of the narrative.

It's no surprise that Launchpad shows up to take Scrooge and HD&L in search of Tralla La.  The generic pilot of the Barks story may have been brave (not to mention competent), but this situation simply squawked for a McQuack appearance.  Far less logical, at least at first blush, is the discovery that Fenton (dragging along the Gizmosuit, no less) is also coming along for the ride.  Shouldn't he be staying in Duckburg and helping to keep the McDuck empire running while the boss is undergoing some R&D (rest and desciuridization)?  The substitution of Fenton for Donald turns out to be a net plus in my opinion, but it's strange that the episode script passes over the reason for Fenton's presence in such a casual manner. 

Fenton immediately starts paying comedic (and narrative) dividends when he accidentally pitches Scrooge into another fit with his request for hazard pay.  In so doing, he triggers another fit, this one by the nervous Nellies at Toon Disney.  Evidently thinking that it simply wouldn't do to show Scrooge actually consuming his nerve medicine on camera, the TD version of the ep snipped the scene out, cutting directly (and confusingly) to the shot of the Ducks flying over the Himalala Mountains.  No matter that Barks himself depicted not one but several versions of a jittery Scrooge demanding and downing his calming droughts.  Those mid-1990s kids, with their far greater degree of innocence (ahem) concerning the dangers of drugs, couldn't be given any reason to think that "open-container" consumption of medicine was kosher...

... at least, not until it couldn't possibly be helped.  The scene in which Scrooge drops the fateful bottle cap into Tralla La, thereby setting the stage for the conflict that dominates the remainder of the story, is kept in the Toon Disney edit.  We do hear a noticeable hiss as the bottle is opened.  Barks' medicine was also carbonated -- that's how the Tralla Lallians were able to locate the cowering Ducks in the caves after the caps hit the fan -- but perhaps the TD do-gooders were hoping that the viewers might mistake the medicine for a bottle of soda if this one scene passed by quickly enough.  As we'll see, the real objection to the medicine theme appears to have been, not the physical presence of the stuff, but the open, on-screen intimation that Scrooge NEEDED TO USE the medicine.  Note that TD had no objection to the earlier scene in which Scrooge can be heard drinking the meds off-screen after Launchpad mentions that he'll soon be owed overtime. 

The draftsmanship in "The Land of Trala La" isn't particularly adept -- Greg mentioned oversized hands and the like, and there are numerous other examples of uninspired drawing scattered throughout -- but the animation is generally fine.  Never is this better seen than in the scene in which the Ducks' plane spirals down into Tralla La.  The animated version can't match the best-known splash panel from Barks' story for sheer grandeur, nor does it include the dramatic sequence in which the parachuting Ducks are almost sucked into the whirlpool, but one can't help but be impressed by the sight of the twirling plane abruptly descending below the cloud cover and looping its way through the skies above the valley floor.  The close-ups on the descent of the bottle cap are also handled well, though I can't imagine a small bottle cap making quite as big a splash as this one does in the rice paddy; I think that the audience could be expected to have understood that the cap had landed somewhere without actually having to see it land.  (This could be considered a "visual dumbing-down" to match the animated script's substitutions of "ban" for "abolish" and "trick" for "ruse.")  The near-crash into the cliffside and the sight of Fenton and HD&L tumbling around the box-filled cargo hold (those jokes about "bringing your seatbacks to a full, upright position" aren't always amusing, Launchpad!  Why didn't you tell Fenton and the boys to sit in the extra seats in the back of the cockpit?!) could be considered overkill, but it's not as if DT hasn't exploited various "funny-fatalistic" air-danger scenarios to the hilt before this.

To the strains of "Toupay music" (um, stereotype much??), the Ducks are welcomed to Tralla La and learn of the genuine nature of the inhabitants' money-less lifestyle.  All are convinced, except, of course, for Fenton -- and here is the place where those who prefer the Barks version of the story seem to center the majority of their criticism.  I will admit that the idea of Fenton being obsessed with the fear that living in Tralla La will render his accountant's job meaningless -- a fear that motivates him to try to find out "the awful truth" about this putative paradise -- doesn't really hold up all that well under scrutiny.  Fenton didn't really have to have a reason for digging through whatever dirty laundry the Tralla Lallians might possess.  As a go-getting would-be "business Duck" who has longed to improve his station for time out of mind, it would be entirely natural for Fenton to have a tough time accepting the existence of a society in which competition and the drives for success and status are not as highly valued.  Given this mindset, it would have made sense for Fenton to have accidentally put the bug of "rarity" in the ears of the Tralla Lallians, simply by doing what comes naturally to him (and, equally as naturally, managing to mess things up in the process).  The end results would have been the same, and Fenton would have come across as a "mere" screw-up, rather than a character who had a motivation to tinker with the Tralla Lallians' version of the "Prime Directive."

"Forget the bottle cap -- I'll trade ya my vest for a new neck."
But, the pro-Barks critic might argue, even if Fenton had set off the cap craze by sheer accident, wouldn't the onus for the Tralla Lallians' "fall" still be placed on him, thereby undercutting the whole point of the Barks story, which was that "good old human nature" will ultimately "win" out and scramble the circuits of even an apparent Utopia?  No, at least not if you're paying attention.  The Tralla Lallians' decline starts, not when Fenton "corrupts" the farmer who found the "rare and precious" cap into trying to trade it for something, but when the farmer laughs off the notion that his friends will care about his possession of a rare object ("You do not know Tralla La!"), only to be brought up short by their eagerness to trade for it.  Fenton doesn't actually begin egging the farmer on to "hold out for 15 [sheep]!" until after the farmer's friends have already started bidding on the cap.  It would appear that, during the course of the development of the Tralla Lallians' "ideal" civilization, a certain amount of smugness has set in.  In other words, the Tralla Lallians appear to be ripe for a fall, and Fenton merely provides the nudge that sets the inevitable reckoning in motion.  

If you try to find the equivalent of the scene-before-last in the Toon Disney edit of the episode, you'll wind up "unlucky, unlucky, unlucky!".  The brief bit above in which the bird-farmer speaks the Barksian reaction line was trimmed.  This excision REALLY puzzles me.  Perhaps someone remembered the flap over the misinterpretation of Moorloon's accented "Work! Work! Work!" in "Sir Gyro de Gearloose" and feared that some keen-eared audience member would do the same with "You lucky, lucky, lucky!".  Or perhaps there was a politically correct objection to the "ungrammatical nature" of the line, with the farmer being perceived as having spoken pidgin English.  Myself, I always read the Barks line as "You lucky, lucky, lucky [stiff/dog/feller]!," as opposed to a line in which a verb was dropped.  Besides, there are several legitimate instances of dodgy diction in the episode -- verbal bits that Barks didn't use -- that were permitted to stand.  How could one justify keeping the disguised Fenton's "chingy-chongy" line "I was leading our inspiling histoly!" in the Hall of Records scene...

... or allowing the female record-keeper to say things like "Excuse-a-me!" and "I wants [sic] two caps, too!" but thinking that "You lucky, lucky, lucky!" was out of bounds.  No, I think that the "Sir Gyro" explanation is probably the correct one, as illogical as that may seem.

The Barks scene in which the newly-demanding Tralla Lallians assault Scrooge at the dock, convincing him to abandon his plan to get rid of the rest of his medicine, is pretty much preserved whole cloth (even down to specific lines of dialogue) at the end of the episode's Act One.  At least, it used to be before the censors started hacking at it.  The objection here seemed to be to the reference that Scrooge "no longer NEEDED his medicine" and, after the Tralla Lallians start fighting over the bottle cap that Scrooge has tossed into their midst, to HD&L's (Scrooge's, in Barks) comment that Scrooge may NEED to keep his medicine after all.  In the rush to excise these overt references to Scrooge's dependence on the medicine, the scene is rendered into hash.  First, we cut slapdashedly from Scrooge's line that he "feels so good" to Huey's "Great idea!" (which originally was a response to Scrooge's announced plan to deep-six the meds).  Then, thanks to the removal of HD&L's line, the edited Act One ends on the somewhat awkward note of a cut from the start of the fight to a long shot of same.  In the first case, something is obviously missing; in the second, it feels as if something is missing.  Not the most artful way to build suspense.

Act Two takes us through the final six pages of Barks' "Tralla La," concluding with the Ducks' trial.  In this case, of course, the trial is not the end of the story; it merely sets the dramatic stage for a completely new conclusion.  Happily, as if to apologize to the "old sourdoughs" for steering the "plot train" onto an unfamiliar track, this middle sequence sticks extremely close to the Barks original.  The one major change is the devious Sok Hop's ruining of the Ducks' plan to satisfy the demanding Tralla Lallians by giving them each one bottlecap.  Even this could be considered something of a Barksian touch, since all of the problems would have been solved had "good old human nature" not kicked in and goaded a Tralla Lallian into deciding on his own to cheat.

One also can't complain too much about the technically-non-canonical, but certainly spiritually canonical, callback to one of Barks' most famous lines when the High Muckyduck takes the "pseudo-money" swim in his heaped-up cap-fortune...

... especially not after one has just seen a splendid rendition of the scene in which the first planeload of one million bottlecaps is dropped into Tralla La.  The animation, the exultant background music, and the ecstatic voice performances do an even better job than even the "Duck Master" himself of getting the Tralla Lallians' unbridled joy across to us.

Unfortunately, thanks to Fenton's well-meaning suggestion that the Tralla Lallians be given a billion bottlecaps, the locals are soon "up to their pigtails" (another *cough* *ahem* somewhat ethnically questionable line there) in unwanted "litter."  Scrooge does not really zap Fenton for this mistake, apart from simply pointing out that Fenton was the one who suggested the specific number.  This seems fair, since, in the Barks story, Scrooge made a similar, enthusiasm-fueled error.

I don't think that it was really necessary for the Tralla Lallians to haul Scrooge, Fenton, and HD&L up on charges of "littering" in order to justify the trial scene.  In Barks' tale, after all, the Ducks were never formally charged with anything, apart from what I would assume would be considered a form of "criminal mischief."  Referencing "littering" here seems to be a covert way of sneaking in a politically correct message (the more so because this "high crime" carries with it the death penaltyCaptain Planet should have been so extreme).  But what the animated Tralla Lallians lack in terms of the chintziness of their charge, they certainly make up for in ruthlessness, holding HD&L hostage while Scrooge and Fenton leave the valley to stop the cap-rain.  I understand where GeoX is coming from when he complains about the Tralla Lallians becoming "murderous" here.  In truth, however, if Barks had REALLY wanted to hammer home the point about fallen human nature, then he would probably have toughened up HIS ending, as opposed to "merely" having the Tralla Lallians agree to let the Ducks go in exchange for the latter's promise to stop the planes.  At the very least, in order to show that his Tralla Lallians were not "dopes," Barks could have shown a valley-dweller accompanying the Ducks on their trip (not so far-fetched, given that some of the locals assisted Donald when he left Tralla La to order the planeloads of caps to be dropped) with the announced purpose of holding the Ducks to their promise.  It's not often that Barks can be accused of being less cynical than he ought to have been, but one can argue that such is the case here.

Well, at least he doesn't say, "Yippee! Me make hamburger!".
Act Three contains only a single piece of Barksian business, preserving the ending, which is shifted from the Ducks' post-trial pedestrian trek out of Tralla La to their flight home.  The Toon Disney edit removes the brief bit in which Scrooge renounces the need for the medicine and tosses the last bottle out of the plane.  That doggoned "needfulness" thing again!  Even with the excision, I think that the DuckTales version actually makes a bit more sense.  It's amusing how Barks just seems to assume that the Ducks will be able to find their way home through the mountains with no trouble at all.  Somehow, I don't think the "back again" portion of the adventure would be quite as cut-and-dried as all that.  (To be fair, I had much the same reaction to the ending of Barks' "The Seven Cities of Cibola" -- more so, in fact, since the Ducks are lost, supply-less, and amnesiac in that case.)

The rest of the windup is pure DuckTales, in both spirit and execution, and it is why Joe and I had such a thumpingly thumbs-up reaction when we first saw the ep as a whole.  It's far more than a mere excuse to shoehorn Gizmoduck into the plot.  Indeed, it brings a whole additional element into the picture through its reference to the original "Tralla La" story, the book and film versions of Lost Horizon.  James Hilton's tale climaxed with the discontented George Conway attempting to escape what he considered to be a phony Utopia (sound familiar, Fenton fans?), accompanied by his diplomat brother Robert.  Scrooge and Fenton's trek towards the nearby town doesn't have the grim consequences of the Conways' ordeal, but it does have its moments, both exciting and comedic.  Their climb up the cliff could be considered both, as Fenton's fear-filled request for real hazard pay causes Scrooge to go nuts once again.

Scrooge's creation of the "instant toboggan" -- a very "smarter than the smarties" thing to do -- is cleverly tied back to McDuck adventures past, as Scrooge claims that he originally got the idea during his Klondike mining days.  I'm not sure whether this throwaway line was added as a sop to any Barks fans who were quivering with rage over this act's departures from "book," but, in truth, it can be appreciated by any sort of enthusiast, from the "old sourdough" to the youthful TV viewer.  We also get an intriguing foretaste of what will become a major theme of the series' last adventure, "The Golden Goose," when Scrooge declares that he can't possibly give up because the Nephews' lives are at stake.

The dramatic sequence ends with a literal "bang-up" climax as Fenton finally comes through for his boss, getting the bright idea of alerting the passing Launchpad by using the "explosive" medicine to create an impromptu flare.  If "needfulness" was enough to get scenes snipped, then this scene didn't stand a snowball's chance in a meds-blaze once Toon Disney got its paws on it.  Everything from Fenton's request for some of the medicine to the immediate aftermath of the flare is scotched, leaving Scrooge and Fenton (not to mention the surrounding ground) thoroughly scorched and any audience members who had not seen the original version of the episode completely confused.  To say the least, these omissions fatally compromise the edited edition.  "Blowing up in one's face," indeed!

The "last-minute rescue" aspect of the conclusion, which all of this other new material has been leading up to, actually turns out to be rather underwhelming.  Some questionable logic doesn't help matters.  After the Gizmosuit is ripped out of the plane, leaving Launchpad inside as the craft goes into an out-of-control power dive, why don't Scrooge and Gizmo seem concerned about LP's ultimate fate?  Perhaps they're simply assuming that LP will find a way to crash safely, but isn't the craft that LP is trying to land a bit more... unstable than usual?  Wouldn't the High Muckyduck's wrath and death-threat have been touched off by the sound of THIS plane going down, as opposed to the (presumably) less noticeable sound of Gizmoduck's copter helmet?  And, in what will become a depressingly familiar theme as the season grinds on, why don't HD&L realize that, since Scrooge and Fenton left, Scrooge and Gizmoduck returned, and Fenton accompanies the Ducks on the ride home, Fenton therefore must be Gizmoduck?  Greg, whatever "dumbing down" of HD&L occurred during season two can probably be traced back to here.

It's a shame that no English-language version of "The Land of Trala La" appears to be available on the Internet.  All of the ones that I have been able to find are the cut Toon Disney versions.  Even if "a miracle occurs" and Disney decides to complete its DVD release of DuckTales, there's no guarantee that an episode that was found in retrospect to be so full of iffy material will be restored to full length.  If ever there was a reason to ignore "the clippers and the snippers," however, it's to preserve this ep's original form.  The adaptation certainly has its share of issues, but I still find it to be every bit as entertaining as the classic story that inspired it.

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Bumper 11: "Viking"
(Funny, I don't recall Scrooge being in "Luck of the North.")

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"DuckBlurbs" 

(GeoX) Given that they've been living this way for thousands of years, the Tralla-La-ites sure do cotton pretty instantaneously to the concept of money, don't they? That latter issue is actually accentuated here: when Scrooge asks them about money after first arriving, they're completely uncomprehending, but when he asks if he's really getting this house for free, the leader answers that "the house is on the house," indicating that they do in fact have some notion of how a barter economy works.

I think that you could say the same thing about Barks' Tralla Lallians, actually.  Donald may note that, in Tralla La, "nobody wants anything that belongs to anybody else," but that wouldn't preclude the locals from agreeing to trade goods, provided that the exchange was somehow beneficial to both parties.  The use of the slang phrase "on the house" was probably inadvisable, however.

(GeoX) Hint for Westerners: Avoid using phrases like "the natives are getting restless" in your stories about non-Western cultures. Kthnx.

As indicated above, the script tinkered with "native stereotypes" rather more directly than even this.

(Greg) We begin this one with a shot of a tree of blue birds as we head to the money bin and there is shouting as we head inside as various protestors are inside the bin office yelling and screaming at the door while the workers do nothing to stop them. 

Note that Percival, from The Explorers' Club, is among them.  Is the Club that hard up for funds?  Since Scrooge is a member, wouldn't Lord Battmounten simply contact Scrooge himself and request assistance in a more dignified manner?

(Greg) So [Scrooge] opens the conveniently placed door and is going to hide in the filing room. Okay; here's the obvious logic break: There are two doors in the filing room. So the people in the filing room could enter into Scrooge's office since that door is unlocked. Plus; if there was only one door; Scoorge [sic] couldn't have opened the door because Fenton had it locked and we saw it was locked. Ninety seconds in and we are already in trouble; just for a gag that will never catch.

Good catch... though it is possible that the room that Scrooge entered was a satellite file room and the locked room was right beyond it.

(Greg) Fenton closes the door and opens the vault and Scrooge runs out on all fours and gets on the desk acting like a nut. 

I love Fenton's "Interesting." reaction to this.  This line, and the later line "You're a very sick doctor!", mine a vein of dry humor that contrasts effectively with the more typical, slapstick-salted humor that is normally associated with the character. 

(Greg) ...the doctor states that [the medicine is] only a band-aid solution and the only cure is a long vacation away from money; which Scrooge flips out. Wait; if he HATES money; then he should feel relieved shouldn't he?  

I think that it was the notion of being separated from his money that caused him to flip out (and, since he hasn't taken the medicine yet, he has no way to control it).  The script could have been a little more consistent on the issue of exactly what language causes Scrooge to go crazy.  I think that the intention was for Scrooge to be set off by any mention of being forced to give money to someone.  However, Fenton's line that "just a little mention of money" causes the reaction clouds the truth of the matter.

Fun fact: the doctor's eye chart includes a message that reads "Another DuckTales [illegible] For U."

(Greg) So Fenton notices Canadian Bird and some other dogsperson who has changed his eyes and his clothes from green to gray and decides to play some mind games as he goes over to the men and stands at attention while wobbling. This is actually the first funny spot from Fenton 7 and a half minutes in! He shows them cash; but the men shrug their shoulders and the HMD states that they don't need pieces of paper. And Scrooge doesn't flip out. I guess he didn't really see it; although it would have worked better if the nephews told Scrooge to turn around so he couldn't have a chance to see it. Scrooge was looking straight at Fenton on the shot. Logic break #5 for the episode.

Here is one instance in which that line of Fenton's that I just mentioned causes confusion when it really shouldn't have.  It makes sense that Scrooge doesn't flip out here, because Fenton is trying to give the porters his own money.

(Greg) We head into the massive book room as we see Fenton reading books while hanging from a green bamboo ladder.

I suspect that this might have been a shout-out to the musical remake of Lost Horizon (1973), in which one of the numbers took place in a library and featured characters dancing on desks and swinging from ladders.  At least Fenton doesn't sing (though Hamilton Camp would surely have done a better job than Liv Ullmann and company).  Another moment that may have owed something to the '73 film is the scene in which the angry Tralla Lallians invade the Ducks' guest house with scythes and pitchforks.  When the planeload of Westerners left the revolution-torn country at the start of the '73 Lost Horizon, they were chased onto the plane by a bunch of angry locals wielding... you guessed it.

(Greg) So we head to a roadside cafe as Fenton and Scrooge are enjoying a drink and a meal as Fenton is so happy that they will forget about bottle caps. One of the waiters gives Scrooge the menu and he is SHOCKED at the outrageous prices as a hamburger is 45,000 bottle caps. Okay; now they are foreshadowing Dough Ray Me. Which is good because it makes Scrooge's turnaround make sense now. I am betting Scrooge flips out now. He doesn't. DAMMIT!

You're definitely on solider ground here than you were with the "gratuity under the table" business.

(Greg) I do not recall a giant boulder anchoring the cage on the bottom previously.

It wasn't visible the first time we saw the suspended cage, but it is in the subsequent shots.

Next: Episode 77, "My Mother the Psychic."

12 comments:

Jason said...

Yeah, it’s a shame no uncut version of “The Land of Trala-la” exists…

Oh wait, yes it does:

http://www.mediafire.com/watch/sjututfuoauu33y/76+-+The+Land+of+Trala-La+%28syndicated%29.mpg

I (or my mother) taped all but about 9 Ducktales eps from their original syndicated run, and the rest are from their early 90s Disney Channel reruns, not from Toon Disney. This copy might be one of the first few airings, if not THE first airing.

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

You write:

“(This could be considered a "visual dumbing-down" to match the animated script's substitutions of "ban" for "abolish" and "trick" for "ruse.")”

Couldn’t “Ban Billionaires” have just have merely been substituted for its alliterative qualities? I might have done that, and Vic Lockman CERTAINLY would have. The other cuts are reprehensible.

Re: “The Prime Directive”… Maybe Fenton never got to watch STAR TREK, because his mother constantly watched soaps and melodramas. I’d have a bigger problem with the farmer of that ancient culture wearing overalls.

Here’s a horrible thought… If this episode should ever finally be issued on DVD (for which I no longer have hope, anyway), will we get this horribly edited version?

Again, nice job on Barks panel vs .DT visual comparisons.

Joe.

Killer Moth said...

After reading this, I'm more annoyed at the Toon Disney than ever before. And I thought it was bad enough when they banned Flying Dupes. (I say that, as I'm a big -- yes, that sounds ironic -- Colonel Spigot fan.)

And I really appreciated the comic/TV compare/contrast, especially as I often wondered why Scrooge didn't criticize Fenton further for the billion bottlecap issue. (If only for cost issues, but I never read the Bark comics as my only Duck experience is with WDTVA.)

And while Fenton appearing to violate the Prime Directive, so to speak, bothered me during viewing/re-viewing, reading this now changed my mind. I apparently didn't pay attention, as I didn't connect on the Tralla Lallians' apparent smugness and how basically, their downfall would have happened, anyway, Fenton or not. Oh, he helped, but the stage was definitely set for him to do so.

And while I'm not crazy about Fenton's motivation of "a society with no money means I'm out of my accountant job" to justify his tinkering, I could understand why he might think that at this point of the series (if we're talking about production order). The prior 5 episodes were spent on Fenton's introduction and trying to prove his worth to Scrooge. So, technically (at least to me), he'd still be regarded as a relatively new hire, so his fear of losing his new job is a little more understandable in terms of timing and his having some extra insecurity here and there (plus the need to step up some conflict or so it would appear). If this episode was done later in the season, I'd be far more critical about that. Otherwise, I quite enjoyed Fenton's initial reaction to Scrooge's "Squirrel!" act and the exchange with the doctor, among other things.

Might as well ask, since the DVD issue is brought up, I know the Darkwing Duck DVDs used the Toon Disney re-edits as their masters (or at least with Darkly Dawns the Duck), was that the same deal with the Duck Tales sets, as well? (I'm asking before I decide to buy the sets, as to support the series and just wanting them generally.)

Can't wait for the Allowance Day retrospective and the inevitable comparison to TaleSpin's Time Bandits. Between the two, Allowance's premise made more sense, as misleading the world's richest Duck into thinking the world skipped a day, and his influence then affected the world into thinking the same way is quite believable vs. Baloo's small scale plan. Then again, Time Bandits did properly introduce the Thembrians. (And silly defense plane payloads aside, when they want to execute someone, they don't fool around.) Take what you can get.

It was a long read, and a most pleasurable one. I think this is your best retrospective yet, Chris.

Pan MiluĊ› said...

What I found improvement over Barks version is that this episode takes more time to develope and explore the valley.


In the comic we only spent one page in the Tralala world beafore the bottle cap madness starts and we know that they don't know the concept of money becose we are told so. Here they use few scenes to show it and have fun with it.
Spending more time in "paradise" first makes it stronger when it's finaly starts breaking apart.




...I only wish they would manage to end the story without bringing on Gizmoduck. I just don't like when they have him just for one scene towards the end. I woudn't call it deux ex machina since the character had to work to get to the Gizmo-suit but I wish they would find a way to end it without him...


But overall one of my favorite episodes. Next one is very strong as well... :)

Mike Russo said...

"Might as well ask, since the DVD issue is brought up, I know the Darkwing Duck DVDs used the Toon Disney re-edits as their masters (or at least with Darkly Dawns the Duck), was that the same deal with the Duck Tales sets, as well? (I'm asking before I decide to buy the sets, as to support the series and just wanting them generally.)"

The Darkwing Duck DVDs did NOT use Toon Disney masters. "Darkly Dawns the Duck" was ALWAYS edited down from the TV movie version, even when it first aired in syndication in 1991. The only way to get the full version is to have taped it when it first aired, or if you have the official VHS release. Scenes were cut out of both parts of the story so that it could air in a half hour time slot with the opening theme and end credits of both episodes. So long story short, the Darkwing DVDs are NOT edited. They just use the syndicated version of the pilot which, again, always aired this way.

"After reading this, I'm more annoyed at the Toon Disney than ever before."

I wouldn't blame Toon Disney too much. The scissors were being taken to this episode long before it started airing on Toon Disney.

Dan B said...

Thanks Jason for the full episode! I haven't seen it uncut in years.

Killer Moth said...

I actually didn't know that Darkly was edited long before Toon Disney. (And, yes, I do own the official VHS release. Now I got to find it, as it's somewhere in my house.) Much thanks for the clarification, Mike. Sorry, after seeing so many syndication cuts over the years on many shows I like (e.g., Sci-Fi Channel on the original Twilight Zone), I get a little defensive about that.

Meanwhile, this is fascinating, for behind-the-scenes Disney fans, as this is going to "trend," I'm sure:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/epic-disney-blow-up-1994-694476

Basically details the blow-ups between Eisner, Katzenberg and Ovitz during the mid 90's.

Also, have any of you guys read Disney War by James B. Stewart? Depressing all that was going while I was enjoying the Disney Afternoon as a kid, but that's how it goes. But it was a great tell-all, so I do recommend reading it.

Deb said...

I'm sure that the uncut master for The Land of Tralla-La exists somewhere in Disney's library, as the other DuckTales episodes on DVD have been (mostly) sourced from uncut masters, except for Sir Gyro DeGearloose, with the re-voiced "Vork! Vork! Vork!" sequence.

Anne said...

Somehow, I didn't realize until I read this that the copy of this episode I downloaded a while back is cut. There's yet another reason for Disney to release volume 4. Thanks for the uncut copy, Jason! =)

Gregory Weagle said...

--- Even if "a miracle occurs" and Disney decides to complete its DVD release of DuckTales, there's no guarantee that an episode that was found in retrospect to be so full of iffy material will be restored to full length.---

I am almost certain that it will be restored to second run syndication length. If Disney allowed Last Horizons to be unedited on DVD (and almost unedited in the Toon Disney version); then Trala La can make it unedited too.

@Mike Musso (DarthGonzo) - I think that rumor started with Rescue Ranger fans (The Acorn Cafe dwellers) complaining about the black slugs in between acts being edited out; and then they showed it as evidence that they were allegedly using the Toon Disney versions. There's just one problem: Dirty Rotten Diapers in the Toon Disney version kept the first run syndication line Gadget yelled near the end: "Trash the brat!". The DVD version has it as "Trash the bum!"

Ironically; they edited Gadget's dialog; but failed to edit Monty's "Brat Buster" line in second run syndication. Just dumb!

Chris Barat said...

Greg,

I would also imagine that the sanctioned version of Dirty Rotten Diapers kept the change of Gadget's other line "Let's shake that baby till he rattles!" which replaced "baby" with "crook."

Chris

Chris Barat said...

Killer,

Thank you for the praise!

Chris