Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wilkes 21, Stevenson 17

While Nicky and I were away for the weekend -- visiting Nicky's sister and hospitalized brother-in-law in NYC and meeting up with David Gerstein and Joe Torcivia -- Stevenson was, in all likelihood, kicking away any chance of its first .500 season, thanks to a dreadful fourth-quarter meltdown at Wilkes.  For three quarters, the Mustangs had things their own way against the Colonels, building a 17-0 lead.  Wilkes finally managed to score on a gadget play early in the fourth.  An SU fumble and a subsequent personal foul penalty helped the Colonels narrow the margin to 17-14 with about 1 1/2 minutes left.  The Mustangs needed only one first down to ice the game but couldn't get it.  Working with no timeouts, Wilkes connected on two long pass plays to get down to the SU 1, then scored on another pass to take the lead with :24 remaining.  A desperation pass by the Mustangs was intercepted as time ran out.

The Mustangs' mental mindset will be key as they host winless Misericordia this weekend.  This should be win number four at long last, but who knows how long that Wilkes wilt will linger.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 61, "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. McDuck"

Uh, oh, a DuckTales story set in a hitherto-unexploited region of those rainy little islands in the North Sea.  Where have I heard that notion before?  As I recall, the last such effort left a whole lot to be desired.  Thankfully, "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. McDuck," though shot through with flaws, does considerably better by London (or a heavily Disneyfied version of same) than "Luck O' The Ducks" did by "The Emerald Isle."

The London of Shedlock Jones and Dr. Jekyll (pinfeathered version) is a decidedly odd mixture of old and new, factual and fanciful.  For whatever reason, writers Michael Keyes and Margaret Osborne (the latter yet another of those mysterious "one [credit] and done" DT contributors in the noble/vague tradition of James A. Markovich and Judy Zook) couldn't seem to come to a consensus regarding how to handle place names and landmarks.  Thus, Dr. J.'s abandoned mansion is located in "Hyde Park" and the crazed "Uncle Moneybags" version of Scrooge is domiciled at "Scotland Yard," but the Queen lives at "Duckingham Palace," the resident genius detective is "Shedlock Jones," Jones' evil archrival is "Professor Moodydoody," and Scrooge is corralled by bobbies at "Tra La La Square."  (I suspect a possible Barksian shout-out in the latter.)  The last-named euphemism is particularly peculiar because the background artists appear to have made a concerted effort to at least approximate the look of the REAL Trafalgar Square:

The iconic dome of St. Paul's Cathedral isn't directly referenced in the episode, but here, too, the background crew appears to have been paying reasonably close attention to the real thing:

Unfortunately, things break down when it comes to simple geography.  The shot below suggests that Big Ben and Dr. Jekyll's mansion are very close together...

... but the clock tower and Hyde Park are actually separated by three or so miles.  Apart from making no geographical sense, this scene makes a hash of the idea that Jekyll's estate is stone broke and that Jekyll's effects had to be auctioned off to pay "outstanding debts and taxes."  There's no way in the world that a prime piece of real estate like that would have been permitted to go to seed to such an extent.

Aside from the hit-or-miss use of and/or references to real landmarks, the DT London reminds me of nothing so much as... St. Canard!  Aside from the sighting of one limousine at the start of Act 2, the streets, fog-bound or otherwise, are utterly deserted.  In a Darkwing Duck episode, this would mean that the field was clear for hero-on-villain violence.  Here, it gives the animators a chance to fancy up their visuals by showing characters moving towards the camera from a distance.  The trick was executed quite well in the top scene below, less well in the scene at bottom (at one point, the oncoming bobby noticeably lunges forward a few paces).  I agree with GeoX that the animators do manage to capture a certain "late-Victorian-style fog-and-gaslight ambience" in a number of their scenes, particularly Jack the Tripper's nocturnal assaults on the banker at the beginning of Act 1 and on "Lord and Lady Somebody-or-Other" at the start of Act 2.  The problem is that even the London of the late Victorian era would have had people and conveyances on the streets at pretty much all hours of the day and night, so the empty London seen here gives one a decidedly uneasy feeling, as if one is reading a Conan Doyle story in which a neutron bomb has suddenly been set off.

Following the introduction of Jack the Tripper and his self-explanatory way of doing criminal business, with a potted summary of the key facts about the life and fate of the late Dr. Jekyll being thrown in for good measure, the plot proper gets off to something of a ragged start.  GeoX correctly notes that both Scrooge and HD&L are a little out of character in the auction scene, the former in his heckling of the auctioneer and the latter in their atypical concern over the possible loss of their "inheritance."  The welcome appearance of Gladstone balances things out a bit, with the gander making a classic killing on the contents of the McDuck-mocked coffer.

Scrooge's subsequent decision to bid on the next trunk isn't as badly out of character as GeoX makes it seem.  His interest having been piqued by Gladstone's success, he is merely rising to the challenge of Jack the Tripper bidding on the item, and you know how much Scrooge relishes a challenge.  After Scrooge makes the ill-advised decision to test the "cologne," the REAL out-of-character madness ensues.  This scene also launches the running "funny hat" gag, which, sad to say, isn't a patch on the repeated phraseology in the previous episode.  It doesn't help that the gag forces credulity to be stretched when the auctioneer calls Scrooge "the man in the funnier hat" rather than recognizing him as Scrooge, as he surely ought to have done (thanks to Greg for noticing this).

Literally tearing Dewey's cheek away from his beak?!  That's gotta hurt...

Greg seemed to have some issues with the logic behind "the madness of kinked Scrooge" -- specifically, the mechanics of how the "Moneybags mania" is triggered and then halted.  It doesn't seem that complicated to me... at least, not up to a certain point.  It's tolerably clear that:

(1)  The initial spray with the "Jekyll formula" brings on the first episode of madness.  "Lord and Lady S.O.O." experienced the same effect at the start of Act 2.

(2)  Being doused with a liquid causes the madness to abate, but the "Jekyll formula" remains in the victim's system until the next contact with money.

(3)  After each subsequent contact with money, the madness returns and can only be halted by another splash of liquid.

(4)  (Here, there be speculation)  After a certain point, the "Jekyll formula" completely compromises one's system.  Scrooge's rapid-fire transformations at Tra La La Square were an indication that he was about to permanently switch into "Moneybags mode."  Once in jail (or, should I say, "gaol") at Scotland Yard, Scrooge would have become permanently mad had HD&L and Shedlock Jones not brought him the antidote in time.

The difficulty that I can't adequately resolve is this: When Dr. Jekyll created the antidote, he was presumably in the "final phase" of the madness, at least according to the note in his journal ("it's too late for me").  So how could he have gotten his increasingly erratic actions under sufficient control to cook up the stuff?  And how would he have known about the "48-hour rule" (the fact that the antidote will fail if not used within 48 hours of the initial spraying) without having tested the antidote on someone other than himself?  Admittedly, the use of "the six-hour time difference between London and Duckburg" (yet another indication that Duckburg is on the East Coast of the U.S., by the way) to buy HD&L and Jones some extra time is undoubtedly the cleverest aspect of the episode.  It does lose some of its effectiveness, however, if the absence of a good explanation for the "48-hour rule" makes it seem more like a haphazard contrivance.  I almost hate to say it, but, had all references to the "48-hour rule" been dropped in favor of a more logically coherent explanation of the antidote's existence -- say, that Jekyll had created the antidote at the same time that he created the "Jekyll formula," but had overdosed himself with the "Jekyll formula" and thus gone mad before having had the chance to use the antidote -- I wouldn't have minded at all.  We might even have gotten a good anti-drug message out of the ep as a result.

Happily, Shedlock Jones, like his real-life... er... literary equivalent, is not presented as a perfect savior with all the answers.  In our first few moments with him, he actually comes across more like a cross between Darkwing Duck and the bumbling detective Goosely Clueless from "The Great Paint Robbery."  Jones' use of a huge signboard to advertise his existence to all and sundry, criminals included, surely indicates a Darkwing-sized ego...

... and, of course, Jones haughtily blows off HD&L's entreaties to help with their "little" problem before belatedly realizing that his "honor as a Junior Woodchuck" is at stake.  There is an interesting foreshadowing of Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers in the whole idea of "big crook" Professor Moodydoody trying to cover his trail by disguising himself as a "little crook."  The contrast would have been more satisfying had Moodydoody been pulling his various crimes as a precursor to executing a much BIGGER plot.  Given Moodydoody's intense interest in the "Jekyll formula," perhaps he could have been presented as a master chemist who plans to plant the stuff in London's water supply and reap massive rewards from the crazed citizenry as a result.  (He could even have been ingeniously renamed Professor Molarity for the purpose, which would certainly have made more sense than the where-the-heck-did-THAT-come-from "Moodydoody.")  Now that would be a sinister scheme fully worthy of Shedlock Jones' chief antagonist.  I simply refuse to believe that all of Moodydoody's efforts were geared towards the "mere" theft of the Crown Jewels.

After a few too many additional "tripping" gags, Jack/Moodydoody takes his final tumble, and we close with the funny sequence in which HD&L are sorely tempted to let "Uncle Moneybags" shower them with mail-order gifts.  (If you like, you can regard the boys' self-sacrificial decision to cure Scrooge as a tacit admission that their earlier "inheritance" comment was out of order.)  Scrooge's parting blowoff of Jones both reestablishes his ultra-thrifty bona fides and provides the perfect capper to his money-flinging actions throughout most of the episode.  The neatness and tidiness of these concluding scenes make the confusion of some of the ep's earlier parts all the more frustrating.

"Dr. Jekyll" may be a middle-ranking DT ep, but it's a veritable masterpiece compared to the Ducks' previous jaunt to Ireland... not to mention the return to bonny Scotland that's right around the corner (and the oncoming presence of which is duly signaled by the piercing sound of "electric bagpipe" music).  I'm looking forward to the latter in the same manner that I would relish a hot, steaming haggis... which is to say, not a-TALL





(Greg) The bobbies go to the iron gate as the tall bobby tries to get the lock open but the short one tells him to let it go. The tall one is addressed as Chucky as he explains that no one would ever hide in Doctor Jekyll's old mansion; not even Jack the Tripper. Well; he just did you idiots! Then again; I'm not surprised. In DTVA; the police are even dumber than the heels sometimes. 

Actually, it's fairly clear that Jack slipped over the gate and into the shadows of the Jekyll estate far enough in advance of the bobbies that they might legitimately have missed him.

Why, Chucky, how transparently phallic of you!

(Greg) The auctioneer starts with fifty dollars and Scrooge gleefully blows him off. Then we go [to] $40 and Scrooge blows him off on that one because he's not called Shirley see. Now here's an obvious logic break: Don't all auctions in real life starts with a low bid and then the bids INCREASE as they go on? Doesn't this auctioneer realize that he's LOSING that MONEY, MONEY, YEAH, YEAH?

My understanding always has been that the increasing of bids only begins after the first (minimum) bid has been received, and the auctioneer has the option of lowering the proposed minimum bid if the original minimum bid is not given.

(Greg) So we go back to the auctioneer again as there are items recently received from London. We cut to see a black trunk on the pillar and the auctioneer asks for $100, and Jack's voice beckons as Scrooge cannot put his bid in. The auctioneer proclaims that Jack is “the man in the funny hat”. Big logic break #2: Why didn't Jack just STEAL the trunk from the house from the start? Unless the writers are implying that the stuff was already in Duckb[u]rg beforehand... And why would he be stupid enough to appear in an auction without a proper disguise so he doesn't obviously look like Jack the Tripper? 

I'm assuming that everything of importance in Jekyll's mansion (with one or two highly notable exceptions) was carted over to Duckburg for the auction.  As for the lack of a disguise, people in Duckburg (as opposed to people in London) naturally have no clue as to who Jack the Tripper is.

(Greg) And so we cut to inside Scrooge's room as Scrooge (in red pjs) walks to the picture of Goldie with her blunderbuss and opens the frame as it is a hidden safe.

We'll be seeing that portrait of Goldie again -- in a different, and more prominent, location in the McDuck Mansion -- in "Till Nephews Do Us Part."  I wonder who painted it?  Images of an itinerant, starving artist wandering the Klondike for random commissions come to mind.

(Greg) Dewey asks what will happen if there is no antidote; and Scrooge proclaims that he can never touch money again. He goes to the closet and then it open and a wave of dollar bills and some coins entomb Scrooge. Oh; that wasn't contrived in the very least no siree. 

Yeah, as if every (visible) closet and room wouldn't have been thoroughly vetted for valuables long before this.

(Greg) Shedlock Jones is voiced by Clive Revill... 

You can't possibly list Revill's credits without including Matilda (1978), the notorious -- or it would be, if anyone remembered it -- "family-friendly" movie about a boxing kangaroo that was supposed to be a monster Summertime hit and the source of a major crossover promotion with McDonalds (at a time when such tie-ins were still relatively new).  Instead, the finished product turned out to be so hideously awful that the movie barely made it to any theaters at all.  Revill, who plays Matilda's trainer, can be seen in the video's opening scene.

(Greg) Interesting Moment #1: And then history is made as Shedlock Jones is actually SMOKING HIS PIPE and there's smoke coming out of it! And Disney DVD doesn't censor it at all! I don't know if Toon Disney cut the scene out; but Disney is one of those companies that has been painstaking[ly] strict when it comes to smoking to please anti-smoking groups for years now. Huey does blow him off with a health promo; but so what?!... Shedlock claims that he doesn't smoke the pipe; even though he clearly DOES in that scene. He's not fooling anyone. 

Early version of an e-cigarette, anyone?  It would have been so much easier if they'd simply nixed the Meerschaum and showed Shedlock engaging in one of his other pastimes, such as shooting cocaine into his... um, er, such as playing his violin!  Yes, that's the ticket.  We've had enough drug references in this episode already.
(Greg)  Shedlock leans on the fireplace and asks the boys to study the painting and ask what is wrong with this picture. Huey claims it's ugly. Shouldn't LOUIE be cracking that joke? Then they get the LIGHTBULB OF BLOODY CLARITY and see that there is a green door in the painting even though there is none. 

Actually, Dewey is the one with the brainstorm, a very fitting choice given past practice (cf. "Duck in the Iron Mask").




The immeasurable coolness of the following two "mash-up" videos (made by two completely different people, as far as I can tell) goes without saying.

Next: Episode 62, "Once Upon a Dime."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fanfic Review: THE VINYL SCRATCH TAPES by Corey W. Williams

When I started to become interested in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I always had one overriding principle in the back of my mind:  DON'T get into MLP:FIM fanfic!  There is simply too much of the stuff to keep track of unless you're a "round the bend" brony.  However, Mark Lungo suggested that I look at "The Vinyl Scratch Tapes," arguing that its quality was very much in the tradition of the Disney Afternoon fanfics we enjoyed in the APA WTFB.  I couldn't pass up that recommendation, now, could I?  Nor could I ignore his request that I review the work in this space.


"Tapes" isn't for the MLP newcomer, as Twilight Sparkle is the only member of the "Mane 6" to "appear" (she speaks one line).  The main players here are a couple of "background ponies" who, as has been the case with more than a few spear-carriers, have been given character development, backstories, and more by MLP fans.  Prim 'n proper cellist Octavia and self-consciously "radical" disk jockey (isn't that an ironic job description for an equine?) DJ Pon-3, aka Vinyl Scratch, start their own radio talk show, leading to embarrassing moments aplenty and predictable but amusing oil-and-water gaggery... that is, until the duo are forced to cooperate to thwart the evil designs of the comically conceited (yet, thankfully, only marginally ept) Prince Blueblood, aided and abetted (in a manner of speaking) by the equally egotistical magician, "The Great and Powerful" Trixie.  The entire fanfic is presented as a series of transcripts of tapes of Octavia and Vinyl's show and Blueblood's fumbling attempts to compete with it.

The best thing about "Tapes" is the way in which it believably develops the relationship between these characters, all of whom (with the exception of Trixie, who has had major roles in two TV episodes) are essentially tabulae rasae that author Williams has free rein (see what I did there?) to present as he likes.  In the hands of less circumspect writers, this can sometimes lead to trouble, but Williams keeps things under control and clearly understands that, in a show like MLP:FIM, no character, no matter how unlikable, is entirely beyond redemption.  The only caveat is that one really needs to have some prior exposure to the series in order to fully comprehend all the "in-jokes" and offhand references in the scripts.  If you are willing to do the necessary spadework, though, there's a lot to enjoy here.

King's (Pa.) 31, Stevenson 24

This one really stung, not least because it came before a packed Homecoming crowd.  The game could not have started worse for the Mustangs as their starting quarterback was sacked and knocked out of the game on the second offensive series.  On came the backup QB, the same guy who was responsible for dropping a couple of field-goal snaps in the game against Widener.  First play: sack, fumble, which King's returned for a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead.  SU pulled it together, though, and rallied back to take a 17-14 halftime lead.  Tit then repaid tat as the Mustangs intercepted the Monarchs on the first series of the second half and returned the pick for six.  And then... the offense simply stopped, as King's ground out a couple of lengthy drives for touchdowns.  SU had one final chance to tie on the last series and tried the "Cal Play," which failed and led to a game-ending brawl for good measure.  Had an SU player not socked a King's player during the melee, the Mustangs might have gotten one final chance at a "Hail Mary."

So now, the Mustangs are 3-3 and the chances of that first .500 season are suddenly looking a bit slimmer.  A lot will depend on next week's game at 2-4 Wilkes.  Win that game, then beat winless Misericordia at home on November 2, and a .500 record will be assured.  SU will not be favored in the last two games at Lebanon Valley and at home against Lycoming.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 60, "Nothing to Fear"

Somewhat surprisingly, the "Face Your Fears" plot doesn't seem to be as common a trope in animated series as one might think.  Perhaps that might explain the unevenness with which DuckTales handled "Nothing to Fear."  There's nothing egregiously wrong with most of the episode -- at least up to a point -- but writers Richard Merwin, Tedd Anasti, and Patsy Cameron commit a couple of unforced errors that could easily have been avoided had the plot been edited more crisply.  Perhaps Anasti and Cameron should have concentrated on their standard editorial duties and left Merwin to handle the bulk of the writing chores himself.  In the end, the gaffes don't ruin the ep, but they certainly do compromise it a great deal.

"Fear" does get one major thing right, as Greg noted in his episode summary.  The various "fears" with which our "magic fear cloud"-beset friends (in this case, Scrooge, HD&L, Doofus, and Duckworth) are confronted begin in a relatively minor key, with relatively comical or semi-comical visions, and then ramp up in the latter part of the episode to more challenging apparitions that begin to tear at the characters' psyches.  Duckworth is the only character who gets off relatively easy, but that's only because, after he is spooked by the limo-turned-panther and the vacuum-turned-snake-like... er... thing...

... he completely disappears from the narrative in Act Three, save for a brief bow after the entr'acte in which he declares that he's "pulling out" and runs off to -- well, you tell me.  It's hard for me to fathom how Merwin, Anasti, and Cameron could have allowed this particular "story thread" to snap.  Perhaps they had trouble figuring out a worthy psychological challenge for Duckworth (Getting fired?  Been there and done that.  Losing his ability to perform mundane household tasks?  Wouldn't exactly make for riveting television.) and simply hoped that folks wouldn't notice Duckworth's departure.  It might have been simpler to have written Duckworth out of the story altogether and concentrated on Scrooge and the boys.  Duckworth does have something substantial to contribute to the ep (apart from fear of tasks that he professed to love in "Duckworth's Revolt"), but strictly on a humorous level, as we'll see.

Doofus fares a little better than Duckworth, but not much.  The threat of the "big banana" that grows from his would-be banana snack is too absurd to be taken entirely seriously, try though the animators, designers, and the inevitable Frank Welker might to render the thing a "fruitful" menace...

... but then, the McDucks' "favorite neighbor" (GeoX would probably interpret this as meaning that Doofus lives in a nearby dumpster) faces a much more serious, and horribly credible, peril in the pompadoured, leather-jacketed person of Bully Beagle.  (I wonder why Bully doesn't wear a Beagle Boy-style number plate.  He probably thought it would be uncool, or something.)

Uhmmmm... no comment.

Obviously, giving Doofus the chance to face down a threat who always "picks on him" would be the perfect way for HD&L's pal to break the fear-spell... except that it never happens.  Beginning with the scene in which the "anti-Scrooge" bursts into HD&L's room, Doofus never appears again.  Greg specifically mentioned this flaw in his review, and it is easy to see why he did so while omitting any mention of Duckworth.  Doofus' torment had progressed to the point at which we really NEEDED to see him join the others in beating back their fears.

Scrooge and HD&L, of course, get fear-blasted with both bete noire-bearing barrels, and it's a credit to Merwin, Anasti, and Cameron that, on balance, the supposedly "protected" Nephews receive the rougher treatment.  The boys' spooking starts slowly, with video-game villain Commander Gander.  It is admittedly something of a stretch to imagine a late-1980s video-game character -- even one in a game that amazingly predicts the future by including a voice track -- frightening HD&L to such an extent.  Aside from the fact that they've only previously glimpsed Gander as a crudely pixilated, clumsily animated image on a small TV screen, the boys have been on enough adventures by now that dealing with a large, bellowing adversary should not be that intimidating.  Gander does give it a good try, though, shooting up the lads' room and channeling the famous closing scene of The Great Train Robbery (1903) by firing his ray gun straight at the "fourth wall" at one point.

The screws tighten on the boys when their teacher, Mrs. Quackenbush, shows up in what can only be described as a semi-psychotic mood.  A considerably toned-down Mrs. Q. will reappear on several occasions during the second season.  Perhaps "Fear" was anticipating the raft of "demonic and/or sadistic teachers and principals" that would infest such WDTVA series of the late 90s as Pepper Ann and Recess.

Then, of course, we get the spirit-killing blow, as "anti-Scrooge" shows up to give the tearful boys a verbal lashing and tell them "the truth" of how he really feels about their presence in his home.  Since Scrooge truly was initially reluctant to take in HD&L at the start of "Treasure of the Golden Suns," one can easily imagine the thought of Scrooge changing his mind being buried in the boys' subconscious for some time, awaiting only the right stimulus to bring it to the surface.  The only thing that could have made this scene more disturbing was to have had "no-good" Donald appear and tell the reeling HD&L that HE didn't want them anymore, either, and that they would have to go back and live with their mother Della.  Considering how certain fanfic writers have chosen to deal with such a scenario, perhaps it's all for the best that the ep didn't go there.
As for Scrooge, he gets the hectoring bill collectors, followed by the equally squirm-inducing "anti-Nephews."  Actually, the creditors' assault comes in two distinct phases: the initial "We own you, McDuck!" scene at the Mansion, and the scene at the (supposedly empty) Money Bin in which they threaten to take HD&L away from Scrooge "forever." We've seen the first scenario before in the comics, often couched in semi-comical terms. The second obviously ups the ante where the psychological stakes are concerned.

I'd argue that the "Nega-HD&L" are even scarier than "anti-Scrooge," for several reasons: (1) Russi Taylor really does make them sound like brats, a nontrivial accomplishment given their standard voices; (2) their greedy desire to get their hands on Scrooge's "dough" is a painful inversion of Scrooge's original stinginess when the boys came to live with him; and, of course, (3) they literally shake an old man down for a few coins and bills.  A little "mature lighting" might have made this scene even nastier, but it's plenty distasteful just the way it is.

Of course, by the time all of this goes down, we already know full well that Magica De Spell is behind the appearance of the "fear cloud."  Not that we probably wouldn't have been able to dope it out ourselves had she not appeared until the ep's end -- if the sudden appearance of the cloud at the start hadn't convinced us, then the "unnatural" fact that the cloud follows Scrooge's limo during the trip to the Money Bin would have been the giveaway that a magical force was behind the whole thing -- but I really wish that Merwin, Anasti, and Cameron had at least tried to prolong the suspense until the last minute.  One of the advantages of this approach, as Greg noted, is that eliminating the unnecessary "cackling Magica" scenes would have freed up the air time to allow Doofus, and perhaps even Duckworth, to conquer their demons alongside Scrooge and HD&L.  Perhaps Merwin should have indulged his inner "Scooby-Doo fanboy" and insisted that the symbolic "lifting of the mask" be deferred until the end.

After Magica finally DOES arrive on the scene, we get the reasonably satisfying, if rather truncated and formulaic, "facedown" sequence.  Magica may have made a mistake by bringing the various fears back to the fore in such an unimaginative fashion, lining them all up like targets in a shooting gallery.  She seems to have forgotten that the effectiveness of the fears was a combination of both character and setting (think of "anti-Scrooge" flinging HD&L's bedroom door open and literally penning the boys in their room).  Setting 'em up and allowing Scrooge and HD&L to knock 'em down makes things almost too easy for our heroes -- plus, of course, not all of the heroes (or victims) are present to begin with.  Still, it's fitting that Magica's own worst fear leads to her ultimate downfall.

Despite its many flaws, I do enjoy "Fear" quite a bit.  The production values are generally impressive, with lighting and sound effects used to ramp up the tension as the effects of the "fear cloud" grow "worse, and worse, and WORSE."  The forbidding scene in which the cloud arrives on top of the Mansion is neatly bookended by the fadeout long shot, lending a nice sense of closure to the drama as a whole.

The episode also benefits from having a certain intriguing "rhythm" to it.  Carl Barks once said of one of his best "ten-pagers" in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES that it could "almost have been set to music," and "Fear" packs its own passel of internal vibrations.  The repetitions of "Commander Gander... big banana... limo monster" and "Figured it out, did you?" have almost a mantra-like effect at times, and the serious business of the characters being assaulted by their fears is delightfully punctuated by the "closet routine" between Scrooge and Duckworth, which I've compared to a Senor Wences routine in the past.  (I'm also tempted to compare it to the well-worn "Scooby-Doo Door Routine," but there's only one door involved.)  At one point during the closet capers, Scrooge, as if to comment on the strangeness of the situation, appears to break the "fourth wall," just as he did in "The Uncrashable Hindentanic."

Finally, of course, there's the touching scene in which the crushed Scrooge and HD&L reconcile with one another and then decide to face their fears.  Sure, this scene might have been even better had the Nephews been voiced by a real child, but let's give all due props to Russi Taylor and Alan Young for their sincere efforts here.  Could Brian Cummings have pulled off the same feat had Doofus been present?  Er, we're still waiting for the jury to finish its deliberations on that one.

Overall, "Fear" is a decent episode that could have been so much MORE with just a little extra editorial TLC.  As I noted above, the major change that I would have made would have been to have reduced the number of affected characters -- certainly not to one, as was done in the excellent My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Sleepless in Ponyville," but to Scrooge and HD&L, with Doofus possibly along for the ride (provided that the unnecessary Magica teasers were tossed).  But even the compromised version of the episode has its undeniable charms.





(Greg) The nephews use the Frisbees as a shield and run back inside. They decide to try to do their homework (I thought the Frisbees WERE part of homework?)...

Only as long as the weather was decent enough to use them as an excuse to perform outside "experimentation," I guess.

(Greg) So Scrooge leaves the room as we cut to the hallway with Doofus and Bully Beagle fighting each other and Doofus managing to hang in there. I wonder if Toon Disney would cut that one out; knowing the [Virginia Tech] school shootings in 1999. 

No guns were involved in the making of that rasslin' match, so I would imagine not.  The more intriguing question is: How would the current anti-bullying movement interpret the Doofus/Bully interactions here?

Next: Episode 61, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. McDuck."