Sunday, September 29, 2013

Delaware Valley 41, Stevenson 23

The Mustangs couldn't hold a 17-7 first-half lead, coughing up four second-half turnovers and absorbing their first loss of the season at Delaware Valley.  The final score was a little deceptive as the Aggies (#22 in Division III polls) scored their last touchdown with :47 remaining.

Next week, SU hosts Widener, which is coming off an upset loss to Lycoming. Nicky and I should be able to attend this one.  If the Mustangs are going to be any kind of threat at all in the MAC this season, they've got to have this game.

Friday, September 27, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 56, "The Uncrashable Hindentanic"

When it comes to out-and-out, no-holds-barred, no-messages-in-the-mix, fun-first DuckTales episodes, "The Uncrashable Hindentanic" is the unquestioned champion and probably will always be regarded as such.  "Scroogerello" and "Double-O-Duck" previously brought roughly comparable "levels of funny" to Duckburg, but those episodes could be considered special cases: a fantasy setting in the former, a single-character showcase in the latter.  In "Hindentanic," by contrast, the majority of the main cast gets to participate in a showy, guffaw-filled spoof that takes place solidly within an established Duck context -- in the case, the eternal "battle of bucks" between Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold.

As they did in "Double-O-Duck," writers Ken Koonce and David Weimers manage to do the little things right here.  Their numerous pop-culture references treat the audience with respect and do not intrude upon the larger narrative (what there is of one, anyway).  They eschew facile moralizing (oh, there's a line or two about Scrooge ruing his initial decision to "gamble" with Glomgold, but that's strictly a throwaway bit) and stick doggedly to the task of making the viewers laugh.  The pacing is brisk, the lines (including the "so-bad-they're-good" ones) clever, and, despite all of the zaniness, there are only a small handful of plot points that could legitimately be criticized on a strictly logical basis.  They even manage to toss some surprisingly scary moments into the mix, though you have to be paying attention in order to fully appreciate them.  Watching this tale unspool makes one wonder all the more why Koonce and Wiemers, who could be so "on" in their best moments, could slip so badly off the beam in eps like "Down and Out in Duckburg" and "The Right Duck."  My own theory is that K&W began to flounder when they tried to force morals and/or extraneous gags into their scripts in an unnatural or clumsy fashion.  In terms of tone, "Hindentanic" is about as far from K&W's earlier gem "Hero for Hire" as could be imagined, but I think that both episodes possess the signal virtue of devotion to first principles. 

Perhaps Glomgold would have thought better of challenging Scrooge to "make money off of anything" had he realized that Scrooge somehow managed to sell the citizens of Duckburg "toys" (the old tires) that they could just as easily have procured themselves or picked up off the nearest junkpile.  Actually, rather than laughing at Scrooge for taking on the task of renovating the Hindentanic, Flinty should probably be looking at himself in the mirror and asking why HE hadn't tried doing that himself, since he had presumably possessed the contract for some time.  Someone watching this episode "cold" could perhaps be forgiven for not realizing that Glomgold is every bit the aggressive entrepreneur that Scrooge is.  How else could Flinty have gotten to be the world's second-richest Duck in the second... er, first place?

As for Greg's point that Scrooge seemingly forgot his earlier activities as "a gambling man," let's run down the existing evidence:

(1)  The money-piling contest in "Catch as Cash Can," like the similar duel in Carl Barks' "The Money Champ," did not involve any monetary betting (though I wouldn't have been surprised if the Duckburgian kibitzers watching the piling had made a few friendly wagers amongst themselves).  The only bet seen in either of these two adventures was Flinty's agreement to "eat Scrooge's top hat" if he lost in "The Money Champ."

(2)  The bet in "Wrongway in Ronguay" involved a similar ingestion of headgear (Glomgold's tam, this time).

(3)  There was no evidence that Scrooge and Glomgold placed any actual bets on the Kenducky Derby during "Horse Scents"; they were simply competing for the prize money that would go to the owner of the winning horse.

(4)  Scrooge's gambling at cards at Dangerous Dan's honkytonk during "Back to the Klondike" (Hah! Did you forget about that one?) was what Hergé of TINTIN fame might have termed "les péchés de jeunesse" (the sins of youth), and "The Goose Egg Nugget" was probably worth less than $1 million anyway.

I think we all would agree that Scrooge's wager on the outcome of the Hindentanic project is by far the largest monetary gamble that Scrooge has essayed to date.  In that sense, Scrooge truly is a "gambling man" here in a way that he never has been before, at least in a DT context.

True to his frugal nature, Scrooge eschews hiring outside workers and enlists his family to help him fix up the Hindentanic.  (Where was Webby during all this, I wonder?)  It's a fun little exercise to compare the Ducks' diligent activities here to those of the Cutie Mark Crusaders when they fix up their parade float in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "One Bad Apple."  I actually think that the CMC's effort is just as impressive: they do their job overnight, do not have the assistance of adults (not to mention fingers and thumbs!), and sabotage their handiwork at the same time that they are completing it!  Sure, the Hindentanic was much bigger than the Golden Apple Float, but the CMC were working from a skimpier infrastructure.  Judge for yourself...

The "christening" and "all aboard" sequences, in which we are introduced to our cast of stereotyped passengers, may go on a bit too long for some folks' tastes -- cutting as they do into the time allotted for the Hindentanic's fateful flight -- but they're squarely in the tradition of the 1970s disaster movies that are the focus of parody here.  They also provide the tantalizing hint that, despite the director's credit being given to David Block, Terence Harrison just might have had a hand in putting this ep together.  The "jerk and jolt" animation during the christening scene has a definite Harrison-esque "vibe" to it...

... as does Scrooge's decidedly un-thrilled reaction to the appearance of skywriting Launchpad.

"Jerking and jolting" also combine to make Launchpad's "first crash" (at least in this episode) surprisingly violent, even by his standards.  The doomed plane bounces several times, shedding parts all the while, before settling into a pile of mashed metal, and the short time duration between the bounces is a little startling to the viewer.  If LP were ever fated to actually be injured in a crash, then this would probably have been the one that would have done the job.

Launchpad literally "pops" back into form with his out-of-nowhere Casablanca riff, which, in terms of imitating Humphrey Bogart's actual mannerisms (including Terry McGovern's voicing), is far more exaggerated that what we saw at the end of "Double-O-Duck."  Needless to say, the overplaying works well in this particular context.  (And, GeoX, regarding the "play it again [sic], Sam" error, at least this episode is in some pretty distinguished company in that regard.)

The episode's animation snaps back into a relatively conventional style once the Hindentanic gets off the ground, leaving some intriguing "behind the scenes" questions lingering in its wake.

Of course, "the great Gloria Swansong" is by far the most memorable of the visiting players here.  Koonce and Weimers not only show considerable confidence in the ability of the viewers to recognize that Swansong and her porcine retainer Quax were spoofs of the Norman Desmond and Max characters from Sunset Blvd. (1950), but also showcase a fairly deep knowledge of arcane movie trivia by making Swansong's long-awaited "comeback" movie a disaster flickGloria Swanson had not made a theatrical movie since 1956 before agreeing to appear in Airport 1975 (1974) as, quite literally, herself.  The only explanation that I've ever seen for this decision was Swanson's announced desire to appear in an "old-fashioned family movie" of which she didn't have to be ashamed.  Well, there are different kinds of shame, as those who have seen Airport 1975 are well aware.

Compared to Swansong, the other celebrity parodies who board the blimp are relatively casual in nature, with no serious attempt being made to render the parodies in an accurate manner.  "Generic film director" Irwin Mallard and "bespectacled nerd scientist" Carl Sagander bear no real resemblance whatsoever to their real-life counterparts, apart from their professions and Sagander's constantly-evoked "billions and billions" catchphrase...

... while we don't even get a clear idea of what sort of critter Burt Quackarach is supposed to be.  (GeoX speculates that he's a parrot or a turtle; Joe and I always figured that he was meant to be a "lounge lizard.")  At least Koonce and Wiemers acknowledge the inspiration for Quackarach in an indirect manner; apart from his brief riff on "Light My Fire," all of Burt's little tunelets are swiped from Hal David and Burt Bacharach songs.

The slightly vague nature of these tribute characters (and poor, generic John D. Rockefeather and Mr. Webworth don't even qualify as vague tributes!) lends credence to the notion that "Hindentanic," like the eternally popular Airplane! (1980), was more attuned to the goofier, more exaggerated iterations of the disaster-movie genre.  Nowadays, films like Airport (1970) and Irwin Allen's The Poseidon Adventure (1972) are routinely lumped in with the likes of Airport 1975 and Allen's The Swarm (1978), but the former two are works of great art compared to the latter two, which begged to be taken seriously but could ultimately only be accepted as unintentional comedies.  The Hindentanic's Airport 1975-style lack of a pilot (once Captain Foghorn bails, that is), Mrs. Beakley's "Roy Rogers counter staff" wardrobe, and, of course, John D. Rockefeather's loosed bees are all clear signs that the "decadent era" of disaster movies was the target here.  That being said, K&W's inclusion of the mallet-wielding "hijackass" who wants to go to London is probably the single most memorable gag of the lot, because it is not instantly recognizable as 70s-inspired and, well, it is just so hilariously unexpected.  I don't recall "Hindentanic" being pulled off the air in the wake of 9/11, so evidently even the would-be "cleansers of potentially offensive imagery" managed to take this scene in the goofy spirit in which it was meant.

While I'm more than happy to give K&W the benefit of the doubt on most "plotular" twists and turns here, I can't ignore the ep's biggest gaffe: HD&L's inexplicable abandonment of their bee-watching post.  This whole sequence, starting with the boys' discovery that the disguised Glomgold has surreptitiously opened the bees' cage (as if they couldn't have gotten out through the mesh easily enough before that), does not appear to have been sufficiently thought through.  Why did HD&L open the door to the luggage compartment in the first place?  And, after they've discovered the truth and kept the bees "locked in," why did they suddenly leave the premises?  Surely all of them didn't need to go to the "little ducklings' room" at the same time?  Even HD&L's obligatory consultations of the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook reflect a certain lack of common sense: couldn't they have figured out how to trap bees and "keep a leaky blimp afloat" all on their own?  And then there's Huey's inability to pronounce "dirigible"...  Some people have complained that HD&L's intelligence level dropped precipitously during DT's second season.  One can argue that point, but the lads are certainly not at their best here.

"Let's get hopping"... yeah, right.

For all of Scrooge's pledges that he won't let Launchpad near the controls of the Hindentanic no matter what, the old miser should have realized that allowing LP to be part of the crew in any capacity wouldn't end well.  Fatalism that the Launchpad of "Top Duck" would have wholeheartedly embraced kicks in as LP accidentally bursts the blimp, Duckworth's attempt to take the controls leads to Poseidon Adventure-style upside-down sky-high hijinks, and the Ducks' efforts to keep the Hindentanic afloat with additional "hot air" quickly go up in smoke.  Scrooge finally bows to the inevitable and gives LP the controls for the final dégringolade, leading to the ep's best exchange:

Launchpad: I won't let you down, Mr. McD!
Scrooge: You'd better... why do you think I'm hiring you?

There follows a dramatic explosion-and-crash sequence that would probably have spelled a real-life finis for any non-Toons on board...

... and the "happy ending" rescue that leaves Scrooge with an unexpected profit, Glomgold with a familiar mad-on, Irwin Mallard with a free movie, Gloria Swansong with a new lease on her professional life, and... well, the viewers with a strange new respect for Captain Foghorn's psychic powers.  (I mean, really: first he knows that the steering mechanism is stuck without testing, or even looking at, the wheel, then he knows exactly where to bring the rescue ship to find the crash victims?  How can one not be impressed by that?)

Interestingly, during its "tribute to DuckTales" phase, kaboom!'s UNCLE $CROOGE title served up a brief morsel of a story that brought back distinct memories of this episode: "Big Blimp in Little Trouble."  It was a serviceable enough story, but the main reaction that it evinced from me was nostalgia for the genuine article.  Would it ever have been possible for a back-in-the-day DuckTales comic-book adaptation to have captured the spirit of "Hindentanic"?  At their best, John Lustig and William Van Horn might have been able to do so, and, if DUCKTALES comics were still being produced today, so might a moonlighting Katie Cook and Andy Price.  The mere fact that I have to invoke such comedic comics talents for such an imagined job tells you all that you need to know about the quality of "Hindentanic."





(GeoX) have the mentally incompetent captain [Foghorn] from "Bermuda Triangle Tangle"...

... who, despite that silly sojourn with the steering wheel in hand, does seem to possess a level of self-awareness that he didn't have in that earlier appearance.  "Bailing out" may not have been a brave thing to do, but it's a classic example of the truth of the quip, "I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid."

(GeoX) "I'll make this turkey fly even if it takes all the money in my money bin!" "But sir, turkeys can't fly either!" There's no good reason for me getting as annoyed as I do when people make this mistake, but the fact remains: TURKEYS CAN FLY.  Thank you.

Perhaps K&W should have substituted "white elephant" for "turkey."  That would have made pretty much the same point (since "white elephant" means "valuable but burdensome possession") and allowed for the same type of gag (Duckworth hearing a trumpeting elephant flying overhead).  They aren't the first people to make that mistake about flying turkeys, however.  I did the same thing when I reviewed a LITTLE LULU collection some time ago.

(Greg)  So we head into Scrooge's Money Bin office as Scrooge runs in and puts his cane on the vault door and sits down at his desk which has the oldest golden phone and name plate in history. Man; he is cheap to hire a gold polisher. Scrooge goes to his phone and dials the phone for the Duckb[u]rg Daily News. Scrooge wants to announce the return of the Hindentanic and [we hear] the gobbling on the phone as Scrooge blows it off because he knows turkey[s] cannot fly and orders them to print it. Nice to see Scrooge show that he gets the figure of speech.

But what happened to his phone?

(Greg) This is of course Gloria Swansong...  and she's voiced by Joan Gerber. The Mrs. Beakly voice gives it away. By the way; I also noticed a BS&P decision of using a weird rose in place of the long black smoke pipe. 

Good catch, and a clever SWERVE around the whole smoking issue.

(Greg) So we logically return to Flintheart's office as we pan over to Flint reading the newspaper proclaiming that according to Scrooge; a flight on the Hindentanic will be like a trip back in history. And you know Flint is a little bit of a sadist when he has a picture of Scrooge holding a golden cane and top hat in his office.

Was this some sort of an attempt at continuity with "Duckman of Aquatraz"?  If so, then someone must not have gotten the proverbial memo, both in terms of the appearance of the portrait and its placement in Glomgold's home.

(Greg) Scrooge has a champagne bottle in his hands and tries to break it; but stops and questions Duckworth on the cost of the bottle of alcohol. HAHA! Duckworth calls it the cheapest and that's enough for Scrooge to break it over the ship and it must be red wine because it sure as hell looks like it. Logic break #2 for the episode. I don't think champagne is red in color guys.

Um... and that's what makes it so cheap?  I guess. 

(Greg) [Swansong and Quax] go to Duckworth as she hands the ticket over and Duckworth answers the letter pleading for help because [Mr. Webworth] is having a beak transplant. Wow... I didn't expect them to allow dismemberment in any context in DTVA; but here it is.  

Don't forget the mamluks in the Aladdin seriesFor them, dismemberment was one of the common side effects of their profession.

(Greg) John [D. Rockefeather] gives [Duckworth] a yellow ticket (I guess the different colors and styles are for security reasons) and asks if there is trust that the honey bees are safe for this trip. Duckworth states that it will; just don't call him honey. 

Airplane! shout-out!  Rockefeather does not seem to be amused, which makes him one of the very few individuals who has not laughed at the gag being referenced.

(Greg) Farley [Foghorn] of course doesn't know how to pilot an airship and cannot pronounce it properly (Neither can I for that matter) as Farley walks up the stairs. Scrooge sulks on the fact that he made that wager on Flint. 

And, in so doing, he does a most un-Scrooge-McDuck-like thing and appears to break the fourth wall!  I mean, who ELSE would he be speaking to here, apart from the audience?  An unseen Cinnamon Teal?  I don't think so.

Don't worry, Scrooge -- you can't be expected to compete with an expert.

(Greg)  Gloria orders Quax to put Sheik Nurse of Baghdad in the projector at once. And yes; Webworth is a duck by the way as Quax agrees to [it]; reminding Gloria that people walked out over Kansas. I'm sure that they DIED in tears and frustration too. Geez; even this show is mocking suicide over a bad movie. 

Another unexpectedly "dark" reference in this "laugh riot" of an episode.

(Greg) So we head to the cleared dining room as Scrooge walks in and sees Launchpad sweeping the floors in his blue suit. I see he left his web boots at home today. Launchpad doesn't like this job because he has to stoop so low and Scrooge blows him off to stoop lower because he missed a spot. And there is a big dust bunny magically appearing from the floor out of nowhere.

Actually, you can see it when Scrooge first enters the scene: check at lower left.

(Greg) We continue inside the dining room with more running and panicking as the fire continues to burn and Irwin Mallard just keeps on filming. I['m] guessing the finish right now: Scrooge wins the bet on the profits coming from the disaster movie Irwin Mallard shoots in these scenes. I'm calling it right now. 

Evidently, Captain Foghorn isn't the only one around these parts with psychic powers.

(Greg) Now that was a balloon ride filled with old movie parodies and lots of chaos, destruction, terror and even Gloria Swansong's bad acting. Flint turned out to be the better terrorist than the real hijacking terrorist just to make the parody even funn[i]er. 

As I noted above, I don't believe that "Hindentanic" was blackballed due to 9/11, but, if it had been, then Flinty's "Middle Eastern gear" would probably have been the reason.  The getup, and even Glomgold's fake voice, aren't particularly offensive, but the mere juxtaposition of a "Middle Eastern character" with an air disaster might have been enough to tip the scales.  Thankfully, cooler heads appear to have prevailed in this case.

Next: Episode 57, "Dime Enough for Luck."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Update and a PSA

On Tuesday, Nicky and I paid a visit to the neurosurgeon who operated on my subdural hematoma two weeks ago.  He officially cleared me to return to work as of October 1 (pending the reception of paperwork by Stevenson's HR office).  However, the exact nature of said "work," at least for the remainder of this semester, remains to be determined.  My classes and independent study student have been assigned to other faculty members for the balance of the Fall semester.  My chair and I are going to have to work out plans for me for the next several months.  Obviously, I'd prefer to get right back into the swing of teaching, but I understand the university's caution in this matter.  I'm generally feeling fine and am gradually getting my stamina back.




From occasional blog contributor "kenisu" comes the following message regarding a DuckTales initiative:

I've put together a petition to try and get Disney Records or Intrada to release the complete music score from DuckTales, and it's going to need all the signatures it can get. If there's any way you can promote this thing on your blog, I'd appreciate it immensely!

Here's the link:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 55, "Launchpad's First Crash"

"Launchpad's First Crash" -- which, given previously established DuckTales continuity, really ought to have been titled "Launchpad and Scrooge's First Crash" -- is a real anomaly among DT eps: a show that, while relatively uninspired and uninteresting in and of itself, opens the door to one heck of a lot of philosophical speculation.  Trying to fit this tale into established Duck-comics continuity is indeed, as GeoX notes, "a tall order," but Joe Torcivia and I sure gave it the old "Duckburg try" in THE DUCKTALES INDEX, and I'll make sure to revisit what we wrote when the time comes and see how well it has held up over the years.  Squaring the first meeting of Scrooge and Launchpad with what has come before on-screen isn't quite as difficult, but only provided that the viewer can execute a couple of "leaps of faith" along the way.

I have a suspicion that "First Crash" experienced a rather rough gestation period, simply because Anthony Adams and Michael Keyes are credited as co-writers.  Apart from their assistance in writing teleplays for several chapters of "Catch as Cash Can," these two gentlemen typically worked alone, so what could have brought them together here?  Did one begin writing the episode, only to run into difficulty, leaving the other to clean up the mess?  Whatever "the story behind the story" was here, it seems quite remarkable that two writers who have long since amply demonstrated their ability to craft high-quality Duck tales would put their heads together and come up with something as pallid as this to fete such a fateful first encounter.

The Wages of Fear-flavored setup for the flashback is a solid one, though Scrooge and Launchpad should probably have been giving profound thanks that their planeload of TNT turned out to be so... um, well-behaved.  It's understandable that the initial lightning strike, hitting as it did one of the plane engines, wouldn't have set off the explosives right away, but the headlong crash onto the mesa was surely more than severe enough to trigger something...

... especially since a good deal of the TNT seems to have fallen out of the split fuselage as a result.  How convenient that the spillage appears to have been sufficiently well-organized that no detonative damage was done.

After LP triggers the duo's memories with that riff on the "beloved harmonica" that we had never seen him play before and never will again, we channel a Vic Lockman caption or ten and "take a few steps back in time"... and the questions begin.  The obvious initial query is: Why did Scrooge decide to seek out Launchpad in the first place?  Given that success in the mission to find the Lost City of Diamonds will result in Scrooge becoming the world's richest Duck -- oh, yes, we'll get back to that pesky "will" soon enough -- one would think that Scrooge would want to team up with a more experienced pilot.  There's no evidence that Scrooge has any prior idea as to Launchpad's fees, so simply wanting to save money was probably not the reason for his decision to give LP a call.  My own guess is that Launchpad's air service was originally called "A-1 Air Service" and Scrooge found him listed first in the phone book.

Now, let's see whether we can get this scenario right with "Top Duck."  That episode's flashback to the Flying McQuacks' show "out on the coast" doesn't give us a truly clear picture of the young Launchpad -- all of the shots in which he appears are medium to long in nature -- but it seems fairly obvious that he is rather more chunkily built than the stripling who strikes that "soft (headed) bargain" with Scrooge.  I don't agree with GeoX that the "First Crash" LP "appears to be about 12," but, if you showed me these two images "cold" and asked me to pick the one showing the older LP, I would pick the "Top Duck" pic without hesitation.

Even if you put the appearance of the skinnier, more callow Launchpad of "First Crash" down to simple inconsistency of character design -- and, gosh knows, Wang Films has been known to suffer from that problem -- you're still faced with the task of squaring the attitudes of these two versions of LP.  In "Top Duck," the bag-headed laddie who slinks away in disgrace (at least in his own mind) from his Mom and Dad is obviously going to need a LOT of time to rebuild his shattered confidence, no matter what his next career move might be.  Indeed, at the time of "Top Duck," he is still suffering from feelings of inferiority and shame, at least insofar as "making his family proud of him" is concerned.

While it would be difficult for me to argue that the Launchpad of "First Crash" is pumped full of confidence -- he does resort to pleading on his knees and dropping his fee per mile to almost nothing, after all -- he still does manifest a certain naive insouciance, never more clearly than when he reacts to Scrooge introducing himself by saying, "Oh yeah, the rich guy!" A "broken in spirit" LP, however naively insouciant, would probably have shown Scrooge a little more formal respect than that in order to get the old miser on his side.  The mere fact that Launchpad is being so flippant suggests that, if this really is supposed to be the post-humiliation "Top Duck" LP, then he must have regained at least a portion of his spirit relatively quickly.  Granted that you're willing to buy that -- and, perhaps, that the thinness of the "First Crash" LP may have arisen from living on short commons while waiting for that elusive "first job" to turn up -- I'm willing to accept that the LP of "Top Duck" and the LP of "First Crash" could be one and the same.

While "Oh yeah, the rich guy!" may be a funny and in-character line, it presages a problem that dogs Scrooge and Launchpad's first adventure from beginning to end: There is no true development of the relationship between them.  One would think that it would take a while for the two characters to get comfortable with one another, especially during a mission with so much at stake for the both of them. For example, it would have been perfectly believable had Launchpad been a little timid at the start and allowed Scrooge to make all of the major decisions.  Instead, S&L fall to bantering in "mature" (so to speak) DuckTales style virtually right away, with Scrooge slinging insults and threats of firing and LP riposting with sometimes-amusing, sometimes-inane comments.  In short, the narrative plays out more like a conventional DT ep than it probably should have.  This may be part of the reason why GeoX criticized Launchpad's behavior as "annoying," as opposed to being infused with "his usual dopey charm."  The Launchpad of "First Crash" needed to be sufficiently different from the older LP in order to both fit believably into this storyline and help to provide an explanation as to the subsequent development of LP's character.  Instead, the "Ichabod Crane" LP behaves pretty much like the older LP, and such behavior coming from a younger character would probably come across as being more "annoying."

DuckTales' -- er, unconventional presentation of the setting at "the center of the Earth" raises some obvious questions of its own.  The potential for tectonic instability in a setup like this goes without saying.  How can the Earth's molten core be such a discrete entity, with some sort of -- well, it's not a vacuum, since the Sunchaser can fly through it, so what is it? Some sort of independent interior atmosphere? -- taking up the space between the core and the surrounding volcanoes?  Since the Earth obviously doesn't have that many huge, active volcanoes on its surface, a great number of the openings seen in the images below must lead to locations within the Earth's mantle itself, including the "hidden world" of the Amazons and their Babutas.  So how did the "legend of the Lost City of Diamonds" become common knowledge?  The Sunchaser is described at the end of the episode as "the first plane to fly through the center of the Earth," so who made that first trip to Amazon Land and returned with those reports of the riches to be found there?  We've grown accustomed to giving plausibility a fairly wide berth in many of Scrooge's treasure-hunting adventures, but it takes a heck of a lot to accept the legitimacy of the scenario presented here.

The subtheme of the Amazons' tiny Babutas running away to be "liberated" isn't particularly interesting, and the Amazons and Babutas themselves are pretty much forgettable as characters, with the possible exception of Grunta.  Even Grunta gets a nod primarily because Linda Gary's dialogue is so difficult to understand.  (BTW, Greg, that's why I misidentified Queen Oofa as "Queen Pupa.")  These characters are supposed to be subliterate savages, but one could say that Gary did her job too well here.  

More distressingly, the action in and around (and, considering that the albino bat guardians kidnap Scrooge and Grunta at one point, above) the Lost City of Diamonds is fairly mundane as well, and feature some tetchy animation to boot.  Scrooge does pull one of the biggest rocks (no pun intended) of his career when he blithely causes the collapse of the City by digging out a diamond.  At least Scrooge had the excuse of being under the spell of "Gold Fever" in "Treasure of the Golden Suns" when he triggered that self-destruct mechanism; here, he just seems to have had a temporary short circuit in his brain pan.
Once the city begins to crumble and the blue-ish diamonds start to literally flow like water, the obligatory surfing parody isn't far behind.  The "watery" diamonds then magically become discrete rocks once the wave has settled.  All of a sudden, the "moving brown lemming blobs" of "Scrooge's Pet" -- which, let it not be forgotten, also provided fodder for a surfing gag involving Launchpad -- don't seem quite so annoying.

As ho-hum as all this is, the real letdown has to be the manner in which Launchpad and the other Amazons and Babutas rescue Scrooge and Grunta.  Launchpad shouts, "Blow the horns!", the primitives make with the tootling, and the bats simply fly away and disappear?  That's it?  I suspect that this business was cut to the bone because of time constraints.  I would have preferred that the ep had fleshed this denouement out a bit while spending a bit less time dawdling around the Amazons' campsite and drawing out the encounters with the giant crab and giant octopus.

Scrooge and Launchpad's return to the outside world is probably the best action featured in the episode.  Even before the repaired Sunchaser gets off the ground, we get the priceless sequence in which Scrooge desperately tries to "lighten the load" by any means other than the disposal of his haul of diamonds -- up to and including the jettisoning of Launchpad!  Obviously, this comes off as pretty cold-blooded on Scrooge's part, but one must admit that, if Scrooge would ever have been tempted to cast LP aside for profit's sake, then it would have been on this mission, when the ties between the two characters are not yet so tight.  Just as S&L's being sucked into the subterranean world through a hole in a volcano was lifted from a scene in The Empire Strikes Back, so the duo's escape to safety through an erupting volcano has a parallel in The Millennium Falcon's escape from "Death Star II" in Return of the Jedi.  (Too bad that Adams and Keyes couldn't have had the Sunchaser traveling down a narrow trench at some point; that would have finished off the "original-Star-Wars-trilogy straight.")  The whole hollow-Earth scenario may have been a silly one, but this closing sequence gets as much out of the idea as could reasonably be expected.  The only major problem is that Scrooge winds up only one diamond to the good.  Would that one stone be enough to make him the world's richest Duck?  If not, then wouldn't this "first mission" with Launchpad have to be classified as a failure?

It's well past time to grasp the nettle, look the "Duck fanboys" squarely in the snout, and try to make some sense of this adventure in a Duck-comics context.  Here, it is necessary to quote at length from the DUCKTALES INDEX (thanks to Joe for giving me permission to do this):

It is made tolerably clear [in "First Crash"] that Launchpad is a post-Barks creation in both artistic and "realistic" terms.  The young Launchpad seems to be in his teens; presumably, his hiring by Scrooge (his "first job") came very soon after his leaving The Flying McQuacks.  Assuming he's now in his late 20s or early 30s, his first crash would seem to date from the mid- to late 70s, well past the end of Barks' working career -- a neat explanation of why Launchpad never could have appeared in a Barks story (except perhaps as a crash-prone infant).  Scrooge and Launchpad may then have dropped out of contact, only to be reunited by Gyro in "Three Ducks of the Condor" (in which the two do not seem to be strangers to one another).  The only problem with this theory is that Scrooge says that finding the Lost City WILL make him the richest Duck in the world.  Our only possible explanation (assuming Scrooge didn't misspeak himself): as Scrooge's adventures dwindled to almost nothing in the post-Barks, reprint-dominated 70s, Glomgold may have temporarily edged ahead of him in money count, prompting him to resume his globetrotting with this quest.  If this idea is too heretical to accept, you can always blame Adams and Keyes.

Knowing what I know now about Scrooge's few original "adventures" during the barren era in question, I honestly have to channel Greg and say: Damn, Joe and I were good!  Mild domestic conflicts with the Beagle Boys, Donald and HD&L generally left out of the picture... it's extremely easy to imagine this version of Scrooge losing his position, if only temporarily, at the top of the "slippery pole."  I will slightly qualify what Joe and I said above and leave open the possibility that S&L may have had a few dual adventures between the time of "First Crash" and that of "Three Ducks."  Considering that "Don't Give Up the Ship" suggests that Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L may have been on the outs for some time before Donald joined the Navy and HD&L came to live with Scrooge, it would make perfect sense for Scrooge to "restart" his adventuring career through some other avenue, even a treacherous (by which I mean, crash-prone) one.
It was a bad era for a lot of people -- Scrooge not excepted.
"First Crash" certainly isn't a dreadful episode, merely a forgettable one.  Most of the fun that Joe and I had with it arose from our attempts to entwine it in established Duck continuity... and even those who disagree with our hypotheses must admit that, if you can mine such deep musings out of a decidedly mediocre episode, then you're talking about one outstanding series.





(GeoX) …or, per the title card, "Launchpads First Crash," clearly a Finnegans Wake reference, or else grammatical dumbness.

Funny, I don't recall ever seeing a title card with a missing apostrophe... 

(GeoX) Yes, diamonds are hard, but that doesn't mean you can just cut through metal by rubbing them against it. Jeez.

Yes, it appears as though, even under the most favorable of circumstances -- namely, under controlled conditions in the factory -- this operation would be much harder (heh) than Scrooge and Launchpad make it out to be.  It's shocking, I know.
(Greg) We begin this one in the desert complete with lots of CACTUS JACKS OF DOOM and we pan up to see the white plane as Launchpad is flying it (duh); informing Scrooge that they will reach the copper mine before AFTER HAPPY HOUR (dark). We then cut to the cockpit as Scrooge is worried stiff because there are explosives (!!!) in the plane. Man; if there is one episode that is just begging to be black balled after 9/11; this one is it. 

If it was shelved post-9/11, I'm unaware of that fact.  I rather doubt it, because this is simply a "transportation job," unlike the scenario of, say, TaleSpin's "Flying Dupes."

(Greg) Man; the Sun Chaser looks like a big ass model airplane. I wonder if Launchpad had a hobby and it just went out of control now?

Or perhaps he fashioned the Sunchaser out of the bag of wreckage and oddments that he carried away with him at the end of the flashback scene in "Top Duck"?  If I were a struggling young pilot on a strict budget, that's what I would do.

(Greg) Launchpad gets forced down [by the octopus] as apparently they have stop[ped] selling the fact that the lake is BOILING HOT!

Yes, by all rights, Launchpad ought to have been nicely parboiled here.
(Greg) This episode was going so well; until Scrooge and Launchpad decided to act stupid.

I'm willing to grant Launchpad a pass, since it was literally his first adventure.  Scrooge?  Not so much.  He must have been way out of practice at this treasure-hunting business.

Next: Episode 56, "The Uncrashable Hindentanic."