Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Final Thoughts and a Look Ahead

A housekeeping note before I begin: I have placed links to the opening chapters of my two sets of animation retrospectives (DuckTales and Kimba the White Lion) at the head of my list of favorite blogs and Web sites, on the far right of this page.  The DT "launch page" has direct links to my reviews of all 100 of the episodes, and I'm going to include a similar set of links for Kimba as soon as I get the chance.

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"
9.  "Double-O-Duck"
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.

Best Half-Hour Components of Multi-Part Stories

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)

Now, to tackle some of the issues raised by others.  I'm going to paraphrase the actual comments a bit in order to save space.  If you have any additional general, series-related questions to ask me, I'd be happy to tackle them in the Comments section.

(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.

(GeoX: "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.

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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!

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Ducktales retrospective. As someone who looks at the series with the rose coloured glasses of early childhood nostalgia, it was great reading an informative and entertaining episode-by-episode review of the program.

My favourite episode is Too Much of a Gold Thing. I would have placed Ducky Horror Picture Show as the worst for little action and a botched (but good intentioned) message. However reading your account, I've realized I've shrugged off the mischaracterization and plot holes of episodes like Yuppy Ducks and Ducks of the West.

Pan Miluś said...

You... You review fan-fictions!? :D :D :D
Love to hear you take on some of mine :D Sadly I have no DuckTales themed, but some simply Disney Duck themed ;)



BTW 1 -> During last Valentine day I publish on my blog series of short romantic fan-fictions (not serious ones but spoofs mocking the entire concept, describing characters in over-the top "passionate" situations, some going into very creepy places) and one includend love scene between Gladstone Gander and Magica DeSpell, in fact titled "It's a Duck-blutr".

Sadly it's all in Polish ( http://panmilus.blogspot.com/2014/02/z-okazji-walentynek-najupiorniejsze.html ) But I might remake it into enlgish some day.

[Other fan-fictions included "Asterix", "Legend of Korra", "My Little Pony", "Tytus, Romek & A'tomek" (a Polish comic), "Popeye/She-Hulk" crossover, "South Park", "Lucky Luke", "Brides Story" (a manga), and "The Addams Family"]


BTW vol. 2 -> Here is something that might intrest you veeeeery much :D :

a) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW2NuxOC8fU&feature=youtu.be

b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txj6ROnIUIo&feature=youtu.be

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

I should add that, in my DuckTales version of Barks’ “The 24-Carat Moon”, it is Glomgold (with the DT Beagle Boys in tow, as cheap labor), and not Barks’ “Terrible Beagle Boys” who man that final competing rocket ship. The DT beagles could never have pulled off such a space flight on their own.

Glomgold could just as readily fall for the “gold-painted asteroid” ruse that stopped Barks’ Beagles. He’d deduce that the greater profit in mining a much-closer golden-asteroid field (vs. the regular and repeated burning of costly rocket fuel to reach the golden moon) would put him ahead of Scrooge.

Adapting this story was such an obvious a thing to do (though the Gold Planetoid would have to be well beyond our solar system – and not “hiding” behind our own Moon, by 1987), I can’t imagine why they failed to do so.

Thank you, Chris, for a great retrospective, more than worthy of our own ages-ago efforts!

Joe.

Comicbookrehab said...

I always thought the villain from "Treasure of The Golden Suns" was partly inspired by the villain from "King Scrooge the 1st"..

Chris Barat said...

Pan,

You'll notice that I posted the "real ducks" video. I wonder just how long it took the person(s) responsible to put that thing together.

Chris

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

Dang! I forgot that the Beagle Boys were part of "24-Carat Moon." The teamup with Glomgold would have made perfect sense.

And thanks for the words of praise re: the Retro!

Chris

Chris Barat said...

CBR,

Could be... based on the available evidence, though, I think it is a bit more likely that the writers drew their major inspiration from Barks' "Seven Cities of Cibola," though they ultimately decided not to do a direct adaptation of that episode.

Chris

Regular GeoX said...

I wanted to say congratulations as well--this was an impressively thoughtful and thorough series.

Pan Miluś said...

To be fair Chris, I posted the post a day beafore you posted the video on your blog ;)

Deb said...

"Interplanetary Postman" would have made a fun DuckTales story. They could have written in Gyro, to build Scrooge a rocket to deliver the mail to Venus,and Launchpad to pilot it (of course). Could you imagine the animated version of that crazy Martian mailbox on the cover?

Ryan Wynns said...

Chris,

Do you consider the Darkwing Duck Launchpad inferior to his DuckTales incarnation? If pressed, I'd have to say that I do. On the night "Darkly Dawns the Duck" premiered, when Launchpad entered the picture, I was extremely put-off by the changes to his charactser ... especially seeing as his inclusion was probably the prospect of the new series that I'd been the most excited about. He still has a certain appeal, and that characterization worked well off of Drake and Gosalyn, but, eh, it's still just not the same.

As I have long been, I am floored by the volume and quality of work you're able to consistently put out. At this rate, my Aladdin series will probably take twice as long as this project took you. :)

I've always noticed the dearth of DuckTales fan-fiction on the Internet. On the one hand, it means we've been spared BAD fan-fiction, but on the other, it seems like a slight, in comparison to the far greater extent other Disney Afternoon series have been paid homage to in that medium. I have actually sort of been getting the fan-fic bug again. Maybe, just maybe, I'll give it a shot.

-- Ryan

Chris Barat said...

GeoX,

Thanks! The praise is especially appreciated coming from you.

Chris

Chris Barat said...

Ryan,

Yes, LP was definitely better in DT than in DARKWING. It was harder for him to stand out as a comedy-centric character in the latter show, because, well, EVERYONE in that show was drawn in fairly broad strokes. In order to distinguish LP from the other zanies, they gave him rather silly new traits, such as the obsession with junk food, and turned him into almost a parody of the DT character who, while funny, was still capable of touching moments and legitimately heroic actions.

The most ambitious DT-related fanfics out there seem to be crossovers, usually with DARKWING. I am currently reading a 300 page effort entitled DUCKTALES: 20 YEARS LATER, a mashup of several different universes and time lines. It's definitely going to be a subject for review. As for the lack of normal DT fanfics, I have always figured that would be writers simply turned back to the regular comics to get their Duck adventure fix. Those who have tried to write DT stories tend to be... Well, quirky, and I'll leave it at that for now.

I was fortunate enough to have this transplant-related down time to finish the RETROSPECTIVE. The fact that I am organized and plan these things out pretty carefully has stood me in good stead from the off.

Chris

Anne said...

This is random, but did anyone else notice that in the DuckTales cast shot, Fenton and GizmoDuck are both there? :P I know it's a clip-art picture, but I still think it's funny.

Adel Khan said...

Chris, I immensely enjoyed your retrospective on “DUCKTALES”. The detail you explore on the writing and animation is impressive. It made revisit the series.

Your top-ten of the worst episodes is interesting. I enjoyed the majority of the worst episodes you listed, with the exception of entries 1,2,3, 9, and 10.

I liked your list on prospective Carl Barks’ “Uncle Scrooge” tales that would have worked as adaptations. “McDuck Of Arabia” would have been interesting to see. "The Doom Diamond" would have worked well, with Donald having a leave of absence from the navy.

It is interesting that when I had read, "The 24 Carat Moon" for the first time, I thought it would have been great material for an episode.

I wish they had explored Daisy with her “Quack Pack” hairstyle, working as a reporter. She could follow Scrooge and the nephews on their exploits. It would have been neat seeing her have an identity besides being Don's girlfriend.

Can't wait to see more!

Chris Barat said...

Adel,

"Your top-ten of the worst episodes is interesting. I enjoyed the majority of the worst episodes you listed, with the exception of entries 1,2,3, 9, and 10."

(Actually, shouldn't that be "BOTTOM ten"?) Anyway, I think that, if you search carefully enough, you can find something to appreciate in even the WORST of the worst DT eps. Well, perhaps excepting "Yuppy Ducks."

"I liked your list on prospective Carl Barks’ “Uncle Scrooge” tales that would have worked as adaptations. “McDuck Of Arabia” would have been interesting to see. "The Doom Diamond" would have worked well, with Donald having a leave of absence from the navy."

Those are both good suggestions. It occurs to me that a lot of the adaptations that I would have liked to have seen come from the latter stages of Barks' career, when his storytelling style had gotten a bit (for lack of better terms) looser and zanier. In other words, a bit closer to what would become a standard DT approach.

"I wish they had explored Daisy with her “Quack Pack” hairstyle, working as a reporter. She could follow Scrooge and the nephews on their exploits. It would have been neat seeing her have an identity besides being Don's girlfriend."

I think that a DT Daisy would probably have been more likely to have had "80s big hair," kind of like the Daisy on HOUSE OF MOUSE, but I certainly agree that her inclusion in the cast (especially if the QUACK PACK attitude had been maintained) would have given the series a big boost. Ditto, making room for more appearances by Ludwig Von Drake.

Thank you for your extensive comments!

Chris

Adel Khan said...

Chris, I was busy when you left the last comment. I wanted to express how glad I enjoyed your last
comment! On Geoducks “Christmas In Duckburg” post, you mentioned how that would have been worth seeing. I could picture Fenton replacing Donald. It is odd how out of the festive seasons, there was never a Christmas episode.

When I first viewed “Yuppy Ducks”, I cringed at the ending. Yes, even in the worst episodes, there is something worth appreciating.

I also enjoyed Ludwig von Drake’s appearance in “The Golden Fleecing”; I don’t know why the staff did not explore having Ludwig von Drake or Daisy in the cast. Could it have been to make room for other new creations?

I have seen very little of “Quack Pack”. I don’t have the true scope of how dynamic Daisy’s personality was. The saving face of “QUACK PACK” was the redesigned Daisy. It’s interesting that I picture a DT would look eerily like Launchpad’s sister Loopy.

Chris Barat said...

Adel,

"On Geoducks “Christmas In Duckburg” post, you mentioned how that would have been worth seeing. I could picture Fenton replacing Donald. It is odd how out of the festive seasons, there was never a Christmas episode."

Nor was there one during RESCUE RANGERS. TALE SPIN was the first WDTVA series to do a Christmas story.

"I have seen very little of “Quack Pack”. I don’t have the true scope of how dynamic Daisy’s personality was."

She was clever and a little snarky, much more on the ball than the slightly air-headed Daisy of HOUSE OF MOUSE, and DEFINITELY more with it than the clueless Daisy of several of the MOUSEWORKS shorts.
The QP Daisy managed to pull off the impressive feat of having "attitude" yet not being annoying at the same time. (The QP HD&L, by contrast, did not.)

Bringing a QP-style Daisy to DUCKTALES would have run into one possible problem: the QP Daisy was basically a character from an era in which cable news and pseudo-news shows had become more prominent. (Think INSIDE EDITION, HARD COPY, etc.) There wasn't as much of that kind of thing in the 80s, so it would have been difficult for someone to have thought up that QP personality out of whole cloth. We were probably more likely to have gotten a Daisy similar to the one who appeared in the Boom! comics' "Rightful Owners" serial. Not that that would be a bad thing... Daisy would probably have been a bit more conventionally portrayed. Think Webra Walters with a Duck bill and big bow.

Chris