Tuesday, September 9, 2014
DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Final Thoughts and a Look Ahead
I'd like to augment the thank-yous I wrote in my review of "The Golden Goose, Part 1" by paying special tributes to GeoX and Greg Weagle. Responding to their different takes on the eps played a central role in helping me to clarify some of the new thoughts that came to my mind while revisiting the series. So, what better way to organize my final thoughts on the project than by sticking with tradition and answering some other DT-related questions that turned up during their own wrapup comments and posts?
(The N&V Community) What, you're not going to favor us with the inevitable "Best of" and "Worst of" lists first? Isn't that sort of thing kind of expected at this point?
Well, GeoX and his correspondents discussed such lists, whereas Greg did not -- at least, not formally -- but I can certainly get behind adherence to that particular tradition. Here are my lists, which may be a little more extensive than what you might be expecting:
Best Half-Hour Episodes
1. "Hero for Hire"
2. "Sir Gyro de Gearloose"
3. "Raiders of the Lost Harp"
4. "The Uncrashable Hindentanic"
5. "Top Duck"
6. "Duck in the Iron Mask"
7. "Home Sweet Homer"
8. "All Ducks on Deck"
10. "The Land of Trala La"
An exceptionally difficult list to put together; there were quite a few eps that I felt bad about leaving out, especially those from the Fenton-Bubba era.
Worst Half-Hour Episodes
10. "Down and Out in Duckburg"
9. "The Right Duck"
8. "The Money Vanishes"
7. "Duckman of Aquatraz"
6. "Luck O' the Ducks"
5. "Once Upon a Dime"
4. "Magica's Magic Mirror" / "Take Me Out of the Ballgame"
3. "Bubba's Big Brainstorm"
2. "New Gizmo-Kids on the Block"
1. "Yuppy Ducks"
Most of these are obvious, but I did put some thought into how to order them. I decided to give "Once Upon a Dime" a little bit of extra consideration for at least trying to incorporate bits and pieces of Duck-comics lore into Scrooge's story, including some elements that were fairly obscure. It may not have been done well, but "Dime" at least showed more essential ambition than the misbegotten two-episode experiment.
1. "Don't Give Up the Ship" ("Treasure of the Golden Suns")
2. "Too Much of a Gold Thing" ("Treasure of the Golden Suns")
3. "A Whale of a Bad Time" ("Catch as Cash Can")
4. "Wrongway in Ronguay" ("Treasure of the Golden Suns")
5. "The Golden Goose, Part 2"
Worst Half-Hour Components of Multi-Part Stories
5. "A Drain on the Economy" ("Catch as Cash Can")
4. "The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club" ("Time is Money")
3. "Aqua Ducks" ("Catch as Cash Can")
2. "Ducks on the Lam" ("Time is Money")
1. "Bubba Trubba" ("Time is Money")
I'm not really down on "Super DuckTales," but the individual parts of that serial had some very tough competition to overcome. I had a difficult time choosing between "GG2" and "The Duck Who Would Be King" for the final slot but ultimately decided to give the former the nod, primarily because of, you know, that whole "end of the world" thing.
Best Adaptations of Carl Barks Stories
1. "The Land of Trala La"
2. "The Status Seekers"
3. "The Unbreakable Bin"
4. "Scrooge's Pet"
5. "Lost Crown of Genghis Khan"
I'm not going to do a "Worst Adaptations" list, because, quite frankly, all of the Barks adaptations were at the very least passable, with the obvious exception of "Down and Out in Duckburg." For my "Best" list, I favored those adaptations which brought something interesting and (in my view) appropriate to the table, apart from merely transferring the Barksian details into animated form.
Top One-Shot Characters Whom I Would Have Liked To Have Seen Again
1. The Flying McQuacks ("Top Duck")
2. The Phantom Blot ("All Ducks on Deck")
3. Ludwig Von Drake ("The Golden Fleecing")
4. Filler Brushbill ("Much Ado About Scrooge")
5 (tie). J. R. Mooing ("Ducks of the West") and the Grand Kishki of Macaroon ("Catch as Cash Can")
Er... let me explain that last entry. This was a sort of tribute to Joe Torcivia. The Barks adaptation that Joe has always wished could have come to pass in the series was an adaptation of "The 24-Carat Moon" (UNCLE $CROOGE #24, December 1958), with Mooing (as "The Fabulous Cattle King"), "Kishy" (as "The Rajah of Eyesore"), and Scrooge rocket-racing to the newly-discovered golden Moon to claim its riches. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Other Barks Stories (Unrelated to Any Series Offerings) That Would Have Made for Good DuckTales Adaptations
1. "The Heedless Horseman" (UNCLE $CROOGE #66, November 1966) (could have been a great slapstick offering along the lines of "Hindentanic" if handled properly)
2. "Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad" (UNCLE $CROOGE #56, March 1965) (should have replaced "Ducks of the West")
3. "King Scrooge the First" (UNCLE $CROOGE #71, October 1967) (yes, I know that Barks only wrote this one, but I think that it might have worked pretty well on-screen)
4. "The Mines of King Solomon" (UNCLE $CROOGE #19, September 1957) (can easily imagine Fenton getting involved here, helping Scrooge survey his various businesses)
5. "The Flying Dutchman" (UNCLE $CROOGE #25, March 1959) (could have been a REALLY scary Halloween-style episode)
(GeoX: "On Everyducks") How much of a detriment to the series was it to leave Donald (mostly) out of the picture, thus eliminating the "Everyman" role that Donald played so well in the $CROOGE adventures?
I think it was a loss, but not a grave one. As Geo himself notes, Launchpad and (especially) Fenton have their own personal motivations and hangups and thereby fill some of the gap left behind by the absence of Donald. The softening of Scrooge also helped in this regard, as he took over Donald's domestic responsibilities and came across as a somewhat less remote and forbidding figure.
Speaking of Donald's "Everyman" role, a book about that very topic should be coming out soon. I've already preordered it from Amazon.
(GeoX and correspondents: "Family") Is it out of character for Scrooge to be presented as living in a luxurious mansion, complete with servants?
I've got to admit, I'm prejudiced here, thanks to my longstanding affection for Richie Rich and the world in which he operated. I see no issue with the DT Scrooge having an impressive place to call home, or, for that matter, operating as a classic business tycoon (as he did in numerous Barks stories). If you take the "deracinated" image of Scrooge to its logical extreme, then he would concentrate almost exclusively on (1) hanging onto the fortune in his Money Bin; (2) going on occasional adventures to add to said fortune. If you're going to accept that Scrooge may be motivated to go on adventures because of business deals or discoveries made during the course of his business endeavors -- which I assume that most of us do -- then you're going to have to accept that he is more in the mold of a classic tycoon, who differs from other such creatures in that he has an unusually strong attachment to the places from which he has come to get to that point. And in the world of TV in which DT operates, a classic tycoon "should" have a mansion.
(GeoX: "Employees") Did the characterization of Launchpad deteriorate as time went on?
Not as badly as did the Nephews' characterization (at times), but the show definitely made much less use of him than it should have during the Fenton/Bubba period, and his characterization in these rare appearances basically traded off of what had been established during the first season, with relatively little progression. The real falloff didn't begin until he joined the cast of Darkwing Duck.
Villains") Which Barks villain was best realized in "DuckTales"?
I have no real complaint with the portrayals of Magica and Glomgold. The "personalized" Beagle Boys (including Ma) had their moments, but I definitely think that it was a mistake to have relied so heavily on Big Time, Burger, Bouncer, and Baggy. Burger and Baggy had all-too-obvious character "hooks" and did suffer from some "Flanderization" as time went on. Bankjob and Babyface did not seem to have obvious "hooks," and Bugle/Bebop's "hook" was at least more interesting than either Burger's or Baggy's, so it is a real shame that they didn't get more screen time. The "wild card" among the villain was Black Pete, who always had something of value to contribute and surely merited a few additional "costumed" turns.
(Greg) Did "DuckTales" "jump the shark" when Bubba was introduced?
No way; there were more than enough solid episodes among the final 35. Unquestionably, however, the introduction of Bubba as a continuing cast member was the biggest mistake that the show ever made.
One issue that I raised during my discussion of the later eps should also be brought up here. The sensibility of the show's humor style took a distinct turn towards the "sitcommy" during the Fenton-Bubba era. That approach seemed to fit Fenton and his subcast (Mrs. Crackshell and Gandra Dee) quite well. But, looking back on it now, I do wish that a few more globe-trotting, adventure-focused episodes had found their way into the second and third seasons, for balance's sake. A hearty sense of humor could certainly have informed these tales, but a sense of real peril and intrigue should have been included, as well. Don't forget that "The Uncrashable Hindentanic" included some moments of genuine danger along with all of the funny business.
So, what DuckTales-related matters can you expect to see me discussing in the future? Here is a provisional list (which I pretty much sketched out already while reviewing "The Golden Goose", but it won't hurt to repeat it here).
1. A review of the DuckTales Remastered video game
2. Reviews of some DUCKTALES comic-book stories (both good and bad) that I've never reviewed in detail before
3. Reviews of several DUCKTALES fanfics
There is also a possibility that, at some point in the future, I will return to some of my earlier RETROSPECTIVES and beef them up with additional images and such. If I make any changes, I will be sure to let you all know about them on the blog.
Thanks again for patronizing my DUCKTALES project!