Saturday, August 31, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 51, "Jungle Duck"

DuckTales' crack at the legend of Tarzan is probably the series' foremost example of a "neither fish nor (uncapitalized) fowl" episode.  Other adaptations of the story of the "wild man of the jungle" have played the story straight, frequently making reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs' original conception of Tarzan as the lost son of British aristocrats...

... used the Tarzan framework as an elaborate excuse to showcase popular sports/movie heroes in situations more or less convincing...

... or simply mined the idea for laughs, which (the reasonable success of the 1999 Disney animated feature notwithstanding) seems to be the version of the story of which folks are most fond today.

Unfortunately, "Jungle Duck," though it is pleasantly told, never does make up its mind as to whether it's supposed to be a Duckified version of the "Lord Greystoke" legend or a spoof of same.  There are enough serious elements -- the plane crash that stranded young Greystoke in the African jungle, the sympathetic portrayal of the relationship between Greydrake and his ex-nanny Mrs. Beakley, the fact that he's in danger of losing his impending kingship -- that I gather that the FOUR writers who labored over this thing (script by Evelyn Gabai, Jymn Magon, and Bruce Talkington; teleplay by WDTVA production assistant Judy Zook, getting the sole writing credit of her career) were leaning in the direction of playing things relatively straight.  The problem is that the "Jungle Duck" version of Greydrake is rather difficult to take seriously; though he doesn't bungle all that much, his brainpower certainly bears closer comparison to Jay Ward's George of the Jungle than it does to most movie Tarzans, and, far from fighting the idea of leaving his longtime jungle home, he's perfectly OK with it once he's convinced that his "evil uncle" was behind the plane crash.  (It's funny how Mrs. Beakley calls the uncle "evil" as if it were somehow common knowledge.  I agree with Greg and GeoX that this vague motivation seems badly contrived.)  Hopefully, Greyduckistan (or whatever the name of Greydrake's country is) will see fit to provide such a gullible ruler with a quality prime minister.

To me, the most intriguing thing about the episode is the brief, tantalizing hint we get about Mrs. Beakley's past career.  It stands to reason that, if she were able to earn the job of nanny to a prince, then she must have had numerous interesting jobs on her resume before that, much as the Rich family's "perfect butler" Cadbury worked for such masters as "Sir Ruddy Blighter" before being hired to care for the Riches.  RICHIE RICH comics featured plenty of backup stories in which Cadbury told Richie of these past exploits; it seems a shame that Mrs. Beakley didn't get more opportunities to do the same.  Since the Nephews have by now clearly accepted Mrs. B. into their hearts as "the best nanny a kid could have," they could certainly have eagerly taken on the Richie role of fascinated listeners.

We've seen the "You'll never fly a plane for me again!" bit from Scrooge vis-a-vis Launchpad before, of course, but the idea played a much more central role in "Hero for Hire" and "The Right Duck," among other episodes.  Here, it turns out to be a great, big, fat... well, nothing, resulting in ONE throwaway joke as the Ducks are preparing to fly the repaired "silver buzzard" out of the jungle.  In all honesty, I fail to see what was accomplished by including it here.

The "Phantom"'s abduction of "Mizbeaky," the Tarzan/Jane parodies, and the subsequent reveal of "Jungle Duck"'s true identity provide no surprises whatsoever, as GeoX makes exceedingly clear in his review.  Even if a definitive decision had been made to go the more serious route with the plot, this would have been an ideal spot to inject at least a little bit of humor, playing on audience expectations.  For sure, we were never going to get a whole lot of guffaws out of the broadly drawn "savage native" characters.  We never even learn WHY these guys have a swimming pool filled with boiling crude oil.  Why couldn't Scrooge have commandeered the wrecked village for McDuck Petroleum once the natives had been driven away and his hopes for finding the "giant silver mine" had been squashed?  He would be at least semi-justified in doing so, since the natives tried to kill him and the other Ducks for no reason.

The ep's front-loaded pacing -- with too much attention being paid to the Ducks' arrival in the jungle and the initial encounters with Greydrake and not enough time being left over to wrap things up properly -- really begins to work against it once the gang discovers the "silver buzzard."  Needless to say, refining the natives' crude oil and fixing the plane without the use of tools or special equipment requires us to suspend a whole honkin' lot of disbelief, but there simply isn't enough time to make all of this activity convincing.  The last-second creation of the runway (are "Jungle Duck"'s elephants related to the pachyderms who will later notoriously mash coal into diamonds in "Once Upon a Dime"?) is similarly tossed off.  Among other things, I'd be interested to know how Greydrake immediately knew what a runway was.  Perhaps Greg was correct in suggesting that Greydrake was the pilot of the plane.

The encounter with the "evil uncle" is as cut-and-dried as the rest of the episode, with the ruthless relation (whom the IMDB credits rather confusingly refer to as "Uncle Greydrake") rather stupidly revealing his possible complicity in the plane plot.  Even then, I can imagine the uncle filing a lawsuit that would muck the succession up for a while.  For one thing, in order to send the uncle to the slammer, the Ducks would have to prove that the crash of Greydrake's plane was actually caused by sabotage.

Joe and I originally rated "Jungle Duck" as an above-average episode, but I think that I would have to drop its rating a bit now.  I do appreciate the shout-outs to other entertainment entities, such as the comic-strip hero The Phantom (Captain Fargo's referring to "Jungle Duck" as "The Ghost Who Swings by Night"), The Beverly Hillbillies ("Black gold!  Texas tea!"), King Leonardo and his Short Subjects (Greydrake's jungle home being called the "Bongo Congo"), and perhaps even Captain Fargo himself (see "DuckBlurbs" below).  But the balance of the episode, uninspired, thematically inconsistent, and lumpily plotted as it is, is about as "meh" as it is possible for a DT ep to get.





Given that it was produced rather late in DuckTales' first season, "Jungle Duck" got a surprisingly large amount of love when it came to adaptations in other media.  It was featured in one of the DT story books (along with a similarly "mid-table" episode, "Dinosaur Ducks" -- I guess that the editors figured that it would make logical sense to pair two "jungle-based adventures" together) and was the lead story in the second issue of Gladstone's DUCKTALES title (November 1988).  Jim Fanning's script for the latter replicates the TV episode's dialogue very closely, so reading the comic is the functional equivalent of watching the show itself.  Once again, Daan Jippes' lively cover contrasts dramatically with the "functional" Jaime Diaz Studios artwork inside.

(GeoX) There's no addressing at all of the moral/philosophical question of whether entering civilization is the right thing for [Greydrake] under the circumstances.

As I mentioned above, Greydrake's brief objection to the idea of leaving his jungle home is casually swatted aside thanks to the "evil uncle" dodge.  Including a more elaborate exploration of the dilemma would have required a full commitment to a serious storyline and some dramatic cutting of the episode's first half.  The writers apparently weren't willing or able to do that.

(GeoX) Someone at the coronation who looks awfully like Gladstone, though he lacks the usual curls.

The inclusion of the cravat definitely suggests that this was supposed to be Gladstone, though the flashy gander rarely dresses in such drab colors.   A number of the members of the Explorers' Club ("Lost Crown of Genghis Khan") can also be glimpsed in the bleachers at various times. 

(Greg) The nephews surprise me by being impressed with Beakly's juggling skills. My guess is her previous line of work was being in the circus. Now THERE'S a back story that Disney never looked into.

You don't want to go anywhere NEAR there.  Trust me. 

(Greg) We then see a window which is dark with white eyes inside and then it comes out as we see a sailor gray wolf (in sailor clothing which looks similar to Don Karnage; only the uniform is a dark blue.) as he asks how he can serve them. Scrooge asks for a guide and the wolf furry (who so happens to have worn gloves) proclaims he knows someone who is tough as nails and can wrestle a Hippo blindfolded. Now that's my kind of guy. Maybe he can wrestle Hoppo off her See Food Diet. AHHAHAHAHAHA! POW! OUCH! Ummm...And of course; it's the wolf who's name is Captain Fargo (Terry McGovern) as he shows his boat and it looks only slightly better than the airplane that Launchpad just crashed. 

I used to think that Captain Fargo might have been a reference to the Humphrey Bogart character in The African Queen (1951).  Since then, I've seen the John Huston film in its entirety and am no longer so sure.  Fargo is characterized in a fashion that simply shrieks "homage," but who else could be the target of the parody here?
Next: Episode 52, "Duck to the Future."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Fanboy Looks at Fifty... From BOTH Sides

Three situations came together to inspire the following exercise in ramblage:

(1)  My DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE series reaching entry #50 (duh).

(2)  Some comments posted by Joe Torcivia in response to my review of "The Right Duck."

(3)  My growing interest in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic -- the TV series itself, that is, as opposed to the comic-book title.  (You can tell the difference because I typically use italics for TV series, capital letters for comic-book series.)

Joe started the ball rolling in his response to "kenisu" regarding the subjective nature of fans' reviews of their favorite works:

Chris is one of the best reviewers I’ve ever been associated with – and together we go back just about as far as DuckTales itself. He does a magnificent job reviewing this series in retrospect – as he (and I) did back when it was “current”. But, I don’t always agree with him – and that doesn’t make his views any less valid than my own. I find that I am far more critical of DT now, than I was then. A combination of no longer being enthralled with the “mere notion” of such a series after too many years of “bad animated programming”, Disney-decision-making vs. Barks’ original visions, and the fact that other series (mostly from Warner / DC) have surpassed it in overall quality.  The great DT eps are still great – but the flaws of the lesser ones have become far more glaring (fairly or unfairly) due to the reasons cited above.

I've gradually come around to the same conclusion as Joe -- that DuckTales, for all its many virtues, has in fact been "passed" by several newer series (I won't be specific).  The thing is, it took me a very long while to admit that he was right.  You see, my experience with DuckTales mirrors how most people become fans (short for "fanatics," let's not forget) of entertainment products.  You start with an emotional commitment to the product.  Why did Star Trek become the first and foremost of all "cult TV shows"?  Because, at that turbulent time, people desperately wanted to believe that the idealized, cooperative future pictured on the show was possible.  The intellectual rationalization for the emotional interest -- all those Klingon vocabularies, character backstories, specs of Starfleet vehicles, and so forth -- followed soon after.  In the case of DuckTales, while I had already begun reading Duck comics at the time the show debuted, the TV show was a product that I could literally experience from Day One.  I still recall how excited I was when "Treasure of the Golden Suns" aired in its two-hour format, and I still do feel those reverberations.  That excitement led to my work with Joe on the DUCKTALES INDEX, and I hope that that same sense of commitment has been visible in the various RETROSPECTIVES columns.  I had a similar sort of emotional investment in RICHIE RICH comics, which were the only comics I collected for quite some time.  By the time I got to write for Mark Arnold's HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES!, I was ready to subject those comics to an intellectual (well, quasi-intellectual) examination, writing about the different genres of RICHIE adventure stories and so forth.  One of the reasons why I decided to do my Kimba the White Lion columns starting in 2009 was to perform a similar dissection of a TV series for which I had always had a very powerful emotional attachment and had "rediscovered" as an adult.

The problem with the emotional/intellectual paradigm is that, depending upon how emotionally flexible you are, you may have trouble accepting that the thing that you love so much doesn't look quite so good in retrospect.  Emotionally and temperamentally, I am much more conservative than the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances, so shoving DT several paces back in the queue was not so easy a task.  Depending upon how invested you are in the product, this process can be extremely disconcerting.  Reading through all those "great" RICHIE RICH adventure stories and having to pick out all the inconsistencies and logical absurdities was annoying enough, but taking DT down a peg or two was considerably harder.

A while back, I mentioned a piece I wrote for THFT! a few years ago entitled "Free DuckTales!" in which I bemoaned the loss of status that the series had (at least in my eyes) endured among animation fans in general.  I tried to walk through it in an even-tempered a manner as possible, and I think that I did a good job, keeping the whining (as opposed to the garden-variety complaining) to a minimum.  In retrospect, I see what I was trying to do there: come to intellectual terms with the idea of knocking DT off its pedestal.  Emotionally, however, I hadn't quite "bought in" yet.

After reading Joe's comments and mulling them over, I was at long last able to come to terms with the reality of the situation.  DuckTales will never lose its status as the "Arnold Palmer" of modern-day TV animation, the trailblazing monster hit that showed the industry that high-quality, intelligent TV Toons could be done on a reasonable budget and cross age and gender lines to be popular with a mass audience.  I'm still absolutely convinced that post-1987 TV animation of ALL sorts owes a massive debt to DT that ought never to be forgotten.  But I'm fine now with the whole notion of other animated series being better.

Needless to say, when I attended the recent BronyCon, I saw plenty of evidence that the people in attendance had made intense emotional commitments to the series, with the intellectual activity trailing in its wake.  The emotional stakes appear to be far higher now than they were to me in 1987, though.  Even I never considered writing about "100 Years of Narrative Art" (the title of one of the Con panels) and treating DuckTales as the panel blurb seemed to treat MLP: FIM:

Come on a 100-year journey [through] the history of modern culture from the publication of PETER PAN to the one-year anniversary of MY LITTLE PONY.  We'll look at CITIZEN KANE, WATCHMEN, DUBLINERS, and CLANNAD and show how it all leads up to MY LITTLE PONY.  (Boldface mine)

Of course, the Internet, social media, Youtube fan reviews, and other technological advances (not to mention Hasbro's very active encouragement of the MLP: FIM fandom) have everything to do with this.  This is light-years removed from the days of taking handwritten notes and reading the DT credits realfast because I didn't have a VCR.  It's enough to cause a new, middle-aged fan of the thing to throw up his hands in despair, as I seemed to do during my review of the first four issues of the comic-book series when I said, "there's no way that I'm ever going to be anything more than a 'fellow galloper' in their bubbly little world."  What I'm discovering -- actually, it's more like relearning -- is that there is another way to become a fan of something, one that reverses the emotional/intellectual paradigm.

Unlike most of my Duck fan-friends, I did not read the Duck comics while growing up, apart from brief exposure to one WALT DISNEY'S COMICS DIGEST.  I did, however, learn something about the works of Carl Barks from other sources.  In 1985, with RICHIE RICH comics having for all intents and purposes "gone away," my curiosity finally got the better of me, and I bought two sets of the Another Rainbow CARL BARKS LIBRARY.  This was first and foremost an intellectual decision; I wanted to examine these works, see what made them tick, and see why they were so popular with so many highly intelligent people.  Of course, I found them even better than I had supposed.  The emotional "buy-in" came soon thereafter, helped in no small measure by the return of American Disney newsstand comics.  At the same time, the manner in which I entered Disney comics fandom made it somewhat easier to "accept" the many changes that were made to the Duck "universe" in DuckTales.  I wasn't protecting any sort of primal emotional commitment.

Of course, if you enter a fandom through the intellectual "door," then it's more likely that your interest in the product will not be sustained, since the fandom wasn't, in a sense, "part of you."  I was curious about superhero comics in the 90s and started to buy several of the DC titles, later augmenting them with titles from America's Best and the like.  My interest started to peter out soon after 2000, however, simply because the emotional commitment was just not forthcoming.  The fact that DC was at a creative peak in the 90s, only to slip a few years later, certainly didn't help matters.  But part of the reason for the change of feeling was the "gut sense" that superheroes simply aren't my "bag" in the way that humorous comics and TV series and classic comic strips are.  In the same manner, I greatly enjoyed Warners' Batman and Superman animated series of the 90s and still respect the hell out of them, but that's pretty much as far as it has gone; I feel no compelling "push" to seriously seek out any of the more recent series and am content to let others show me episodes that they think I might enjoy seeing.

Regarding MLP: FIM, as I wend my way through the old episodes, I think that I'm traveling the same route that brought me to my interest in Duck comics, starting with an intellectual curiosity about the product (Adults and teens getting into a new version of that crappy series from the pre-DuckTales 80s about cute ponies?  What is UP with that?).  Unlike what happened with superhero comics and animation, however, I've definitely started the process of the emotional "buyin."  I can tell because (*gasp!*) I'm now willing to admit that the show is actually better than Kimba.  It's more consistent and just as "Heart"-filled without the irritating continuity lapses and occasionally jarring animation.  For me to admit this would have been absolutely unthinkable just a couple of months ago.  It's "demotion of DuckTales" syndrome all over again.  The difference this time is that I've been down this road before, and so the process is somewhat easier.  By this point, I'm also more at peace with myself about what I truly enjoy and don't really care as much about the sort of impression it makes on others.  I'm not going to try to justify my liking of MLP: FIM in the same elaborate manner that I've done for the likes of RICHIE RICH, Kimba, and DuckTales.  I'll leave that to the show's original, first-and-foremost emotionally committed fans.  If it's good, it's good, "intended demographic" be damned. 

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on my emotional/intellectual theory of fandom.  Does it make sense from your perspective?  (And I didn't even use the phrase "playfully transgressing normative coding."  Yes, that appeared in the blurb for a BronyCon panel, too.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 50, "Double-O-Duck"

We're halfway home!  This weekend, I plan to write up some reflections on the "journey" thus far, including some comments (similar to those put forth by Joe Torcivia in the comments section not long ago) on how this retrospective has thus far influenced my overall view of DuckTales.  First, though, we have one of the series' unquestioned classics to plow through, an episode that seems to have a secure place on everyone's "Top 5" list.

It's pretty safe to say that, in terms of its influence on other creative entities, "Double-O-Duck" has enjoyed the longest "half-life" of any single DT episode.  The fans' interest in extending their exposure to super- (or should that be stupor-?) spy Launchpad immediately became apparent when the Gladstone Comics DUCKTALES title ran a poll to determine which ep readers most wanted to have turned into a comic-book story.  "Double-O" was the webs-down winner.  Alas, we ultimately had to content ourselves with...

I don't own this book, but something tells me that the version of the story presented therein is rather more... sedate... than the wild, Terence Harrison-fashioned version that we saw on screen.  Why else would the publisher have seen fit to put a scene from the "equivalent of the flip side" on the cover. In all honesty, the lack of a "Double-O" comic in the late 1980s was probably a blessing in disguise, as the artistic chores would almost certainly have been handled by the Jaime Diaz Studios, whose offerings were famously bland (though, admittedly, very rarely off-model -- which might actually have been an additional disadvantage for artists trying to capture the ep's squash-and-stretch, "pop from pose to pose" style).

On his blog, Mike Peraza fills in the details of the next stage quite thoroughly.  A fateful flip-flop turned Launchpad from the star of a proposed new Double-O-Duck show into the sidekick to a brand-new mallard, who eventually emerged as the re-branded Darkwing Duck. 

After his Disney Afternoon and re-run... um, runs, the popular DW enjoyed a well-received (though all-too-brief) revival in 2010, getting the regular comic-book title he had never previously enjoyed.  The tremors from "Double-O"'s original "Big Bang-Up Job" could still be felt as late as the Fall of 2011, when an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic featured a masked hero character named "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well" and sporting a costume with a suspiciously familiar color scheme.

Of course, "Double-O" was far from being Disney's first crack at the spy genre.  In one of its boldest moves ever, Western Publishing completely made over the rather staid MICKEY MOUSE comic-book title in 1966, turning Mickey and Goofy into "Super Secret Agents" operating in a world of realistically drawn humans.  Paul Murry and Dan Spiegle tried hard to make it work, but the "new look" lasted only three issues.

Overseas Disney comics readers, meanwhile, were given an original spy character in the feathered form of 0. 0. Duck.  (By the way, those are zeroes, not O's.  The Inducks search engine told me so.)  Created by writer Dick Kinney and artist Al Hubbard, the team behind Fethry Duck (among others), 0.0. made his debut in 1966 and, to my considerable amazement, continues to appear in new stories to this day, though his appearances seem to have slowly petered out after the 1980s.  I suppose that as long as James Bond movies continue to be made, this character's existence in the "Duck universe" will continue to be justified, if only just.

Cover to a 1967 Australian comic (which seems to have made the zeroes/O's error)

I was able to find only one 0. 0. DUCK story in English, and, from what I could gather, the character resembles Maxwell Smart more than anyone else.  He's not a comical bumbler so much as he is comically oblivious to and/or unconcerned by what is going on around him.  Notice how he and his female partner Mata Harrier react to their car careening off a cliff...

... and compare it to Launchpad's somewhat different take on a very similar situation at the end of Act One of "Double-O-Duck":
I would argue that LP's unique combination of physical bunglage, general attitude, and mental confusion makes him a far more successful potential spoof-spy than 0. 0. could ever hope to be.  The fact that "Double-O" maximizes the potential of the basic idea so well, however, should not be overlooked.

So what works so well in "Double-O-Duck"?  As the saying goes, if you have to ask, then you obviously haven't seen the episode.  Start with the opening sequence in which agent Bruno von Beak leads the DIA spies on a merry chase -- arguably, the single best opening of any DT ep, period.  Is it any coincidence that the jazzy "chase music" we hear here is the same music that accompanies the car chase at the end of the equally outstanding "Hero for Hire"?  I think not.

After Bruno winds up on the plane's wing, the episode's visual aesthetic begins to appear with a vengeance.  Characters don't react in this ep, they lunge; they don't vault gracefully, they hang in midair and defy gravity; above all, they pose.  Harrison foreshadowed this approach in "The Golden Fleecing," but he totally commits to it here.  The ending gag, with Bruno, having survived all of those perils, being trampled by a mob of frenzied commuters, is the perfect capper.

BTW, what's up with that strangely suggestive advertisement on the station wall in the fourth image?  And that won't be the only such wink-wink moment that we'll see.

After LP is mistaken for Bruno and taken to see J. Gander Hoover (Arrest warrant?  What's that?), the storyline rolls smoothly into the well-established James Bond plot-ruts.  As GeoX notes, everything that should be covered in the spoof is in fact covered, though some things are admittedly covered more thoroughly and/or effectively than others.  Take Scrooge's relationship to the DIA, for example.  In "The Right Duck," it was strongly intimated that Scrooge funded or supported DASA in some way, else he would not have had access to the information that Launchpad had been launched aboard the "Voyager."  The fact that LP uses his presumed "one phone call" to contact "Mr. McDee" here suggests that (1) he knows how much weight Scrooge pulls in Duckburg in general and (2) Scrooge has some level of interest in the DIA's activities, most likely a financial one.  Since it is far less likely for a single city to have its own intelligence force than even to have its own space program, it's quite possible that Scrooge is financing the DIA single-handedly.

As described by Hoover, Dr. Nogood's scheme has glaringly obvious flaws, of course.  Simply destroying the paper money in all the Swiss banks (interesting how the country retains its "real" name here but is turned into "Swizzleland" in "The Duck Who Knew Too Much") wouldn't affect the paper money elsewhere, much less hard currency.  In my comments on "The Money Vanishes," I made the same point regarding Scrooge inexplicably forgetting that the "money moths" wouldn't attack his gold coins.  Perhaps writers Ken Koonce and David Weimers should have thought on a more modest scale and had Nogood's plans involve the destruction of one single, precious substance in which Scrooge might have a very large stake.

I was a bit disappointed to see that K&W overlooked "Sir Gyro de Gearloose" when they explained why Gyro was serving as "G" (or, as the lab door with the even-then-anachronistic slide rule painted on it proclaims, "Dr. G").  I know that they didn't write that episode, but it wouldn't have taken much effort to check and note that Gyro is a general inventor-for-hire, not some sort of hireling of Scrooge's who depends upon Scrooge's generosity to stay in business.

If you asked me to finger the single cleverest idea in "Double-O-Duck," it would probably be the use of maps to show Launchpad's globe-hopping travels.  Yes, I know that it's a bit of a "cheater," but some thought was put into the creation of these things.  The peculiar placement of Duckburg in what seems to be the general vicinity of Roanoke, Virginia will, of course, be questioned by many...

... but another map shows what looks like a cartoon explosion where Israel would be (talk about getting crap past the radar -- good luck getting away with that today, fellas).  Some good continuity is also shown when Launchpad "fills up in Istanbul" (yes, Greg, check the unmistakable form of the Anatolian peninsula; that wasn't Iraq!) and refers to that fact during the ep's iris- (and crash-) out scene.  The geographical ingenuity is, of course, partially undercut by the surprising Indian stereotyping.  It's not the snake-charmers, flutists, and bazaar salesmen that bother me so much as the line about LP going to New Delhi (yeah, the Delhi/Deli stuff was fairly lame, but what the hey) and meeting "beggars who'd love a pastrami on rye."  Jokes involving starvation... oh, what fun.  It reminded me a little bit of the RICHIE RICH comic-book stories involving the comically poor Latin American nation of El Squalid, where "El Presidente" ate a tiny pellet of food each day because "a Presidente must keep up his strength."

As the side-switching femme fatale with the (no surprise) first-rate Tress MacNeille voice, Feathers Galore brings quite a lot to this episode, so I suppose that I shouldn't complain too much about the fact that, since Nathan Yodel's Deli and Dr. Nogood's hideout are in Geneva already, it would have been far easier for Launchpad to have met her there (in a different locale in the city, of course) than to have gone all the way back to New Delhi to do so.  After all, without that side trip, we wouldn't have had the hilarious scene in Feathers' room in which her desire for some "smoochy smoochy" gets out of hand and she gets to show off her karate skills.  When LP boasted in "Lost Crown of Genghis Khan," "Usually, it's the girls' chasin' me!", I don't think that this is what he had in mind.  Interesting how Feathers' "sexy" dancing-girl outfit is actually far LESS sexy than the outfit she's wearing during this sequence.

The first of two Toon Disney cuts occurs soon after this, as Launchpad's comment that Feathers is the sort who "gives women drivers a bad name!" was removed for TD rebroadcast.  Since LP's comment was actually critical of the familiar stereotype, I don't see what the problem was here.  As we'll see, the second excision makes even LESS sense.

The encounter with Dr. Nogood is a massive mash-up of more-or-less direct swipes from James Bond films.  Nogood and his silent henchman Odduck are clearly meant to evoke memories of Auric Goldfinger and his body servant Oddjob, the cat Flower (Bambi reference?) dates back to the earliest movies to feature SPECTRE mastermind Blofeld, while the DIA forces' "dropping in on" Nogood's troops on rappel lines is lifted from the climax of You Only Live Twice.  (Since Nogood's setup is already far underground, I wonder what obstacles the DIA troops had to obliterate in order to blast that giant hole.  Scratch one pseudo-deli, I guess.)  Unfortunately, I can't recall a Bond flick during which Bond was put in a death trap with carnivorous animals.  It must have happened sometime, wouldn't you think?

Despite the quick response of the DIA troops -- even Jimmy John's probably wouldn't have been that "freaky fast" -- I'd be hard-pressed to say that the DIA pulled off this caper more efficiently than even the bureaucracy-bound SHUSH of Darkwing Duck would have.  A number of the problems encountered by Launchpad are the direct result of the operators at the DIA not being told that LP was going to be calling in on "unauthorized" equipment.  That's a pretty big oversight, even though J. Gander Hoover would more than likely brush it off as an example of "details, details!".  Greg's theory that Hoover was put out to pasture after this caper, with the agency changing its name and bringing in J. Gander Hooter as a more competent replacement, begins to look plausible now.

As menacing as Harold Sakata's Oddjob was in the original Goldfinger, the silent Odduck goes him two better here by catching Launchpad's toupee bullet in his teeth and then grabbing some additional bullets and crumbling them to dust.  Toon Disney kept the first scene (though it dropped LP's line "Is this what they mean by 'bite the bullet'?") but eliminated the second.  THIS MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.  It would have been better (not to mention more consistent) had TD purged ALL references to Odduck stopping bullets and limited the big goon's hench-activities to chasing after Launchpad and Feathers and dumping LP into the lions' den.

The demise of Nogood, and the subsequent tearful goodbye between Launchpad and Feathers, could have been handled a little better.  We don't get to see Odduck or Flower meet their demises; instead, Nogood clambers up a catwalk and gives himself no reasonable avenue for escape apart from plowing straight through LP and Feathers.  If nothing else, he should not put himself in the position of having to defeat Feathers, since he presumably knows something about her karate talents.  The death-dive remains pretty "gruesome" (GeoX's description), though, and that's true regardless of whether the bubbling vat contained acid or (as is more likely) "vanishing fluid" (which Nogood, oddly, was previously able to store in a test tube without the tube itself dissolving).

GeoX is right in fingering the Casablanca-inspired farewell scene as being somewhat awkward.  The major issue is Launchpad's declaration that Feathers belongs with her "true love" Bruno.  Even if this were true, there's still the inconvenient fact that Bruno is now in jail and is presumably going to stay there for a long time.  If Feathers takes LP's suggestion seriously, then she'll be placed in the awkward position of being forced to pine after two former colleagues.  That seems rather harsh to me.  As Greg notes, it is possible that Feathers herself will have to lose her liberty for a short time due to her association with FOWL, and who knows what will happen after she is released?  (For a very believable -- and somewhat bittersweet -- fanfic take on what might have happened to Feathers after the events of "Double-O-Duck," I highly recommend Kim McFarland's Darkwing Duck story "Here a Slug, There a Slug.")  At least the Casablanca riff gives us some legitimately fine visuals -- atypically serene ones given the manic tone of most of the episode, but affecting ones nevertheless.

In a sense, "Double-O-Duck," despite its free-swinging approach, takes less risks with the DT characters than does a "reality-bending" ep like "Scroogerello."  You pretty much know what to expect here; the fun lies in getting to the final goal.  And great fun it certainly is.  This is an episode that no one gets tired of rewatching.





Thanks to Greg, I was able to confirm that my name was, in fact, listed in the "Special Thanks" credits of DuckTales Remastered.  Go here and scroll to 30:48.  Regarding those names preceding my own... Yossi, I really don't know what to say.  I consider that a HUGE compliment in and of itself.

(Greg)  So we head outside the D.I.A. Headquarters (Note to self: Never show thy name in front where everyone can see it)

It's all good, thanks to the ingenious use of an extra letter to throw enemies off the track.  (I'm assuming that the "H" stood for "headquarters.")
(Greg)  So we logically go to the scene changer of doom as LP re-enter[s] disguised as a stereotypical German [actually, I think it's a Bavarian] carrying a barrel of pickles that Peter Piper picked....apparently. 

Between that beard-obscured lower beak and the lederhosen he's wearing, LP resembles no one so much as a larger version of Super Duck here.

(Greg)  Other than the usual Wang screw ups and logic breaks; this episode was perfectly written and pretty much the high watermark in terms of writing from the KK/DW duo. I also like Feathers and her chemistry with LP as well since she had some killer moves while at the same thing not being a total super feminist. 

In terms of precise writing, I'd have to vote for "Hero for Hire" and "The Uncrashable Hindentanic" as superior to "Double-O," but "Double-O"'s sheer "energy and panache" (thanks, GeoX) place it right behind those.  And I do agree that Koonce and Weimers managed to walk the fine line with Feathers, making her competent to handle herself while somewhat vulnerable at the same time.

Next:  Episode 51, "Jungle Duck"... but first, those aforementioned reflections on reaching the halfway mark.