Sunday, February 16, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 71, "Super DuckTales, Part One: Liquid Assets"

DuckTales may have lasted 100 episodes, but, when it comes to series events, there are only three that truly stand out.  The September 1987 two-hour syndicated premiere of "Treasure of the Golden Suns" and the theatrical feature DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990) are, of course, the two no-brainers.  NBC's The Magical World of Disney's March 26, 1989 broadcast of the two-hour "cut" of "Super DuckTales" qualifies as the third.

To be sure, the broadcast of "A DuckTales Valentine" in the same venue the following February also provided prime-time viewers with a peek at the series, but "SDT" was easily the more ambitious project, featuring as it did the debut of Fenton Crackshell and his alter ego Gizmoduck.  Several other cast members who would serve the second and third seasons of the show well also made their bows here, but, make no mistake, this was Fenton's showcase.  Thankfully, the bumbling-yet-enthusiastic accountant with the iron-plated alter ego was up to the challenge.  In sharp contrast to Bubba Duck, whose retention in the DT cast following the events of "Time is Money" was a bone of contention from the off, and despite a resume of subsequent comic-book appearances that is only slightly thicker than Bubba's, Fenton appears to have reached a certain level of general acceptance as a worthy addition to the stable of Duck characters.  "SDT" may arguably go on for a chapter too long, feature occasionally sloppy animation, and indulge freely in the sillier humor stylings of writers Ken Koonce and David Weimers' flimsier "late period," but it rarely fails to entertain.  Thanks to all the new cast additions, some highly unexpected rifling of Carl Barks' oeuvre, and a fair bit of subsequent editorial alteration courtesy of the good folks at Toon Disney, it also provides plenty of fodder for dedicated retrospectivists to nosh on.

Koonce and Weimers' imagination had short borders when it came to titling the five parts of the full version of the serial.  Using the somewhat banal "Super DuckTales" as an overarching title was perhaps understandable in view of the fact that headlining Fenton, Gizmoduck, or even Scrooge McDuck would have been an insufficient lure for the casual, channel-hopping prime-time audience looking for an Easter-night diversion.  But "Liquid Assets" and "Frozen Assets" as the titles of parts one and two?  Were K&W even trying here?  Couldn't Jymn Magon (who chipped in by writing the "Frozen Assets" teleplay) have suggested at least one reasonably clever Duck pun?  I am retroactively "disappoint."

When we first wrote about "SDT," Joe Torcivia and I termed it "the longest sustained Beagle [Boy] assault on Scrooge's money in history."  I suppose that it would still qualify, though the fact that the actual "assault" ends at the start of "Money to Burn," and that the Beagles play little more than a token role in that final chapter, does stick in the craw a bit more now than it used to.  The scheme might have been wrapped up even sooner had Ma Beagle -- in her first truly dominant role of the series (with respectful nods to her substantial contributions to "Robot Robbers" and "Hero for Hire") -- not seized the initiative from her buffoonish offspring after the original plan to force Scrooge to move the Money Bin near Ma's property and then to literally dynamite the building onto her front lawn had failed.  The Beagles wind up grabbing control (or something close to it) of Scrooge's Bin holdings not once but twice during the proceedings, only to lose out in the end.  Evidently, this adventure was considered to be the limit in terms of how far the Beagles could push a direct assault on Scrooge's cash.  The series' one remaining Beagle-takeover episode, "The Bride Wore Stripes," would involve legal subterfuge instead.

"Liquid Assets" is, of course, most notorious for its brazen swiping of numerous elements from the most significant Scrooge tale of them all, Barks' "Only a Poor Old Man."  In truth, though, I think that the borrowings from the comparatively obscure seven-page filler story "Migrating Millions" (UNCLE $CROOGE #15, September 1956), which begin almost immediately after the Beagles have revealed their plan, are even more remarkable.  "Poor Old Man," after all, has probably been read at some point by just about everyone who has an elementary interest in Scrooge and his development as a character.  "Millions," by contrast, had been reprinted only twice in America since its original appearance, and one of those reprintings was set three of the hardcover CARL BARKS LIBRARY.  Would you really expect the writers who treated "The Horseradish Story" with so little respect in "Down and Out in Duckburg" to dig THIS deeply into the Barks canon for a story element?  It would even seem to be something of a stretch for Magon.  My guess is that Gladstone Comics' reprinting of "Millions" in its very first issue of UNCLE $CROOGE (#210, October 1986) may have served as a trigger here.  I can easily believe Magon or someone else dipping into some of those early Gladstone issues for ideas and glomming onto the notion of a reluctant Scrooge being obliged to move his Bin over and over again due to the "march of progress" as a good springboard for a story.

In retrofitting Scrooge's peripatetic pelf-pushing to match the Beagles' single plan, K&W condense Scrooge's two meetings with unsympathetic city officials into a single encounter with Duckburg's Mayor.  The cartoon script is simpler than Barks' version, but the spirit, Scrooge's splenetic alternative suggestions (digging a tunnel, building a "colossal" bridge, and moving Duckburg), and even some of the staging (e.g., Scrooge jumping up on the desk to make his points), remain the same.  Given that Scrooge is not above threatening to use his influence -- remember how he presaged an eternity of KP for Admiral Grimitz if the latter didn't toe the line in "A Whale of a Bad Time" -- it may be a bit surprising that he doesn't lay the proverbial whip across the Mayor's posterior here.  Since Ma Beagle WILL do something similar when in control of Scrooge's fortune in "The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club," it is possible that K&W didn't want Scrooge to "look bad" by trying essentially the same tactic.  (Funny...  K&W didn't have any problem depicting Scrooge in the harshest of terms in "Down and Out.")

Scrooge's infrastructure-induced headache is severe enough to drive him into the "Worry Room" for the first time on-screen -- I DON'T THINK.  Granted, it's the first time that the "Room" is identified by name, not to mention the first time that we see the classic rut in the floor...

... but, judging by the appearance of the doors in the two scenes below, it's fairly clear that the bottom scene, from "Don't Give Up the Ship," was supposed to be the "Worry Room"'s debut.  In the intervening time, Scrooge must have (1) reupholstered the place and (2) experienced enough traumas to finally wear a sizable trench in the floor.  Having to deal with rambunctious young'uns and a crash-crazy pilot on a regular basis does have its drawbacks.

Fenton's initial scenes in the bean factory (which, no surprise, will ultimately be revealed in "Attack of the Metal Mites" to be owned by Scrooge) waste no time in laying down two of the most powerful drives that animate his surprisingly complex character -- his desire to become "somebody" and his yearning to impress Gandra Dee.  It's oh, so tempting to try to link Fenton's obsession with making a name for himself to all of those Barks stories in which Donald succeeds in mastering some skill, only to crash and burn thanks to carelessness or out-and-out hubris.  In truth, the similarities are not all that strong.  Donald's various episodes of "brittle mastery" focus on one specific skill at a time and usually feature Donald taking his mastery of the particular trade to absurd extremes, whereas Fenton's actual career goals are... well, rather vague.  He definitely wants to become a success in business, but it's never made clear that becoming an accountant, in particular, is his grand goal; any position that will help him "rise above the common duck" will do.  Just as Rarity seems more enamored with the idea of romance than with an attachment to a specific "other," Fenton cares more about the idea of success and the idea of earning "status" than he does the mechanics of actually getting and maintaining a specific position.  At least, such is the impression he gives in these first few scenes; one of the more understated themes of "SDT" is the extent to which Fenton gradually learns his version of the famed Spider-Man adage: "with great success [and, as Gizmoduck, power] comes great responsibility."

Just as Fenton, in his drive to the top, takes a different route than does Donald, so too does Fenton's infatuation with Gandra Dee seem rather unlike Don's on-again, off-again relationship with Daisy.  For one thing, the circumstances under which their exchanges take place are generally a heck of a lot more pleasant.  Even at this early stage, when Fenton's crush is unspoken (and Gandra's desire to have him be her steady is equally muted!), the two get along well.  Their subsequent relationship will have its bumps and bruises, but never will you get the feeling that Fenton is a fool for "putting up with" an "impossible" girlfriend.  Daisy, by contrast, won't achieve Gandra's level of likability until her Quack Pack makeover... and, even then, her amplified skill set won't compare with some of the abilities that Gandra will flash in future DT appearances.  Fenton seems to appreciate Gandra's qualities, as he tends to idolize her more comprehensively than Donald idolizes Daisy... a mindset which leads to its own set of problems, but that's another story (literally).

Fenton's discovery of Scrooge's ad leads us to the pair's first encounter in the Money Bin -- and the first of the serial's censored moments.  Fenton's persistent "pop-ups" are straight out of the Warner Bros. playbook and a clear indication that DuckTales plans to handle Fenton-centered humor in a "loosier and goosier" manner than was its usual first-season wont.  Between the half-digested "biz-buzzword-speak" and the OUT OF NOWHERE appearances in elevated windows -- to fully capiche the scene below, you need to remember that Scrooge's office is in the top floors of the Money Bin -- the Fenton of these scenes comes across as a peculiar mixture of Daffy Duck, Pinkie Pie, and a hyper-caffeinated Harold Lloyd.  No wonder Scrooge ultimately feels the need to resort to the blunderbuss.

The censoring of this scene actually begins before the gun is pulled.  Fenton's various yipes and shouts of "Let go!" as Scrooge and Mrs. Featherby are pulling him off Scrooge's desk were removed for syndication, leaving the run-up to take place in eerie silence.  Fenton finally begins talking again once he grabs onto the Venetian blinds, imploring Scrooge to "Gimme a shot!"...

... whereupon Scrooge replies "You got it!", yanks the blunderbuss off the wall and... um, fires it into the air?  Well, that was apparently enough for Toon Disney to mandate an immediate cut to the Crackshells' trailer-park home, lopping off the business of Fenton demonstrating his amazing counting abilities to Scrooge (first with the gun-pellets and then with a handful of change), Scrooge giving Fenton the accounting job, and Scrooge subsequently paying off some earlier jokes in the bean factory (and cutting off Fenton's celebration in mid-stride) by asking Fenton to repeat his name.  None of these excisions do essential damage to the narrative, but the shift to the trailer is awfully clumsy.  Then again, so is the offending shooting scene itself.  Perhaps the original scene should have been rewritten, with Fenton getting to display his talents after a struggling Scrooge has dropped the coins out of his pocket, or something similar.  Having Scrooge pull a gun on someone is only effective (even in a comedic sense) if there's evidence that Scrooge actually plans to use the gun with deadly effect by, you know, trying to HIT SOMEONE WITH THE SHOTS.  Even Elmer Fudd aimed his gun at Bugs Bunny, after all.

Fenton's homecoming introduces us to Mrs. Crackshell, the third leg of the "stool of ambition" on which Fenton sits... and the one that most clearly differentiates him from Donald.  There is nothing in Donald's life remotely akin to Fenton's desire to be a dutiful son to his lazy and frequently unappreciative "M'Ma" (the Disney Wiki's official spelling) who, in her occasional appearances in the serial, is almost totally rebarbative.  We never do learn what became of Fenton's father, but perhaps it's just as well.  Mrs. C.'s comment in "Full Metal Duck" about Mr. Crackshell thinking that she was "worthless" is accompanied by a sardonic laugh, which could mean any number of things, none of them pleasant.  The series will make several subsequent attempts to, in GeoX's words, "humanize her," and those attempts will be reasonably successful, but her debut performance in "SDT" started her off a sizable number of points in the red, and I'm sure that some folks never warmed up to her as a result. 

Following Fenton's eager, and borderline creepy, attempt to start his career as Scrooge's employee by acting as a sort of "Nega-Valet"...

 ... the other featured element from "Migrating Millions" makes its appearance, in the form of the "big machine" that Scrooge plans to use to move his Money Bin to its new mountaintop site.  There's no doubt that the design of the giant hauler was lifted straight from the final panel of Barks' story.  Even the tractor that Launchpad uses to "drive" (and crash) the thing is a direct copy.  Curiously, it is DT, and not Barks, that makes an effort to show exactly  HOW the giant building was lifted onto the hauler.  Granted, the sight raises more engineering questions than it answers, but credit must be given to the show for addressing the issue.

   Duck Gang... woo hoo!
Signed by Walt, but built by Carl, 
it's Duck Gang!  Woo hoo!

In order to secure land at a "rock-bottom" price, Scrooge falls for a cheesy Beagle Boy disguise for the umpteenth time.  Actually, the use of terrible disguises will prove to be a running theme in the serial as a whole, with the ruses being employed by the heroes as well as the villains.  I'd like to think that K&W were making a subtle point here about the contrast between image and reality, just as they did in the superb "Hero for Hire."  More likely, they were just exploiting the lazy writing tropes that inform a good deal of their later joint work.

After the literal-minded Fenton "makes [Scrooge's assets] liquid" by dumping them in a lake and Scrooge instructs the late-arriving, suspicious HD&L to provide security for his "camping trip" by putting up some Junior Woodchuck booby traps, you begin to get the feeling that, as The Phantom Blot and Louie would put it, "something weird is going on here."  At least, you do if you've read "Only a Poor Old Man."  Joe and I were initially pretty offended that the series would give such an historically significant Scrooge story -- the tale that, for all intents and purposes, established Scrooge as a starring character -- what we termed "slapdash and opportunistic treatment."  I still wish that the show could have displayed a bit more respect for "Poor Old Man," perhaps by affording the story a stand-alone ep of its own, but I've mellowed out a bit on the issue in the intervening years.  In stark contrast to their manhandling of "The Horseradish Story," Koonce and Weimers do give "Poor Old Man" numerous fair chances to speak for itself, including action sequences and dialogue drawn straight from the original.  These include the Beagle Boys' attempt to burn down the dam with a giant magnifying glass, which is met with cannon fire (successful in Barks' version, not so much when Fenton does the deed)...

... and the disguised Beagles' use of "termite-destroying" bugs that are actually "super termites" to fool the Ducks into planting the seeds of their own destruction, so to speak.
Even the scene in which Scrooge keeps the B-Boys' "trained cormorants" from pecking the dam apart by using "cormorant language" is afforded a nice tribute, in the form of Fenton using a whistle to attract termite-eating woodpeckers.  Here, K&W depart from "book" by turning the avian assault into the figurative "final coin that bursts the Money Bin"...
... and leads to the great dam-break, which can't help but be a bit underwhelming on the small screen when compared to Barks' classic half-page rendering of the event.  At least K&W used the moment in proper dramatic context, as a cliffhanger for the following episode.
Of course, all of these afflictions are brought about by Fenton's stubbornness and naivete, as opposed to Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L's own conscious actions.  Therein lies the major problem with this "semi-adaptation."  It's not so much the fact that Fenton causes the difficulties at Lake Dobegon as the fact that he sets up the whole business himself after he misinterprets the phrase "liquid assets."  Given the semi-digested nature of Fenton's cereal-box business "education," he could conceivably make such a mistake, but SOMEONE had to give the orders to move all of Scrooge's money to the lake... and I highly doubt that other McDuck employees would have executed such a massive transaction on the word of a guy who has only been on Scrooge's payroll for a day or so without asking some very pointed questions.  The idea of Scrooge giving such discretionary authority to a new hire is, quite frankly, ludicrous.  It would have been much more believable had Scrooge planned and managed the whole thing himself, as he did in the Barks story, only to have Fenton make the well-meaning errors that caused the dam to collapse.
There are several other ways in which K&W's handling of the "Poor Old Man" material is somewhat suboptimal.  Scrooge's masterminding of the scheme in Barks' adventure includes the active cooperation of HD&L (as well as Donald).  K&W make another misstep by having Scrooge fail to take the Nephews into his confidence from the start, leaving the boys to discover the truth by accident -- and, as a negative bonus, to help reveal the scheme to the spying Beagle Boys.  Given the number of times that the boys have aided Scrooge in the series alone, Scrooge should certainly have invested more trust in HD&L than that.  Instead, he relies on the inexperienced newbie Fenton to assist him... at least, until the (unnecessarily!) pissed-off HD&L come sneaking around to find some answers and are "bagged" by the bumbling bookkeeper.  This sequence was completely unnecessary and makes the Nephews seem bratty and both Fenton and Scrooge seem somewhat "mentally-impaired."

The Beagles' discovery of Scrooge's phony "fishing trip" points up K&W's third adaptation-related goof: At no point is it explained HOW or WHEN the Beagles came to such a conclusion.  Big Time's suspicions about Scrooge's "fish story" were presumably inspired by Barks' scene in which a stir-crazy Beagle leaves his frustrated brothers to go out and do some fishing of his own, only to stumble upon Scrooge's aqueous hiding-place:

Unfortunately, the last time we saw Big Time and his band of brothers was right after they had blown the Bin into their Ma's dooryard and found the money missing.  "Tax assessor" Scrooge then bamboozled Baggy into ceding possession of the Bin and directed Launchpad to drive the structure to "the other mountain I just bought" (how could LP be expected to accomplish that now that the Bin has been dislodged from its hauler?  Does LP habitually carry a steroid-infused winch in his back pocket?).  After returning to the lake, Scrooge then found that the boys had dredged up some of his cash and panicked in the time-honored manner, just in time for the Beagles to arrive and uncover the scheme... the potential nature of which they had been completely ignorant of until that moment.  The problems here could have been fixed easily enough by including a scene in which the Beagles resolve to search for the missing money and taking out Big Time's explicit reference to Scrooge doing some fishing.  Either an additional explanatory scene was removed, or story editors K&W let writers K&W down.   

I've come to forgive a number of "Liquid Assets"' sins, and I do applaud the episode for establishing Fenton's basic character and motivations in such a quick and efficient manner, but I can't wipe the ep's slate completely clean.  K&W definitely did a better job with the Barks borrowings here than they did in "Down and Out."  However, they could have benefited from one or two additional editorial "passes" through the script to clear out some of its more irrational elements and make Fenton slightly less of a central figure.  Overall, "Liquid Assets," like "Marking Time," gets its serial off to a pretty decent start... with the added bonus that Fenton already displays far more potential as a contributing character than did Bubba Duck.




Bumper 6: "Bronco, or, Old Gluefoot's Revenge"




Perhaps Michael Eisner should be listed as a co-starring character here?  As was his wont during the Magical World of Disney era, Eisner makes a live, video-taped appearance at the start of the original NBC broadcast.  Initially, it's literally rather hard to see who the real stars of the evening's entertainment are; Mike has a way of taking center stage...
The obligatory "fade-out gag" turns out to be a ride down the flume at Splash Mountain... and that's literally IT.  No gag about Scrooge's cheapness?  Not even an all-but-teed-up reference to the Ducks liking the water more than Eisner?  
(GeoX) Yeah, Fenton (who now has HIS own place in the opening sequence). Am I in danger of overrating the character just because he's not Bubba? Maybe, but he seems okay so far. It actually makes organic sense that Scrooge would need an accountant, even if it's not quite clear that Fenton would be as psychotically determined to get the job as he is. I mean, sure the bean-counting job may suck and all, but it still seems a bit much.  Still, I like his enthusiasm, and I like the fact that he's able to use it to sort of overwhelm Scrooge. It's a different character dynamic than we've seen in the past.

Agreed.  Donald's attempts to impress Scrooge, even as a "rival entrepreneur" of sorts (e.g. in Barks' "City of Golden Roofs"), always had an air of the dogged about them, whereas Fenton's actions occasionally border on the manic.  Then again, Rarity fantasized about meeting "Prince Charming" at Canterlot's Grand Galloping Gala and built a literal shrine to Trenderhoof.  It is easy to get wound up when you're pining after an ideal. 

(Greg)  We officially begin this story arc AFTER HAPPY HOUR (after dark) inside the chipmunk house and then we head inside as Big Time and Bouncer (with flashlight in hand) are tinkering on a table and wanting to fudge some blueprints it seems.

It may look like Bouncer -- especially in this opening sequence -- but it's actually Baggy.  The latter sort of "morphs" into Bouncer as the ep progresses.  As for Bankjob, he (along with Babyface and Bebop/Bugle) does make his final appearance in the series during the serial, but not in this particular venue. 

(Greg) Scrooge stands on the desk and shows the mayor the blueprints. The mayor no sells because the plan was approved months ago. How? The original plans were to NOT go straight through the Money Bin. If you cannot change the plans; then the Beagle Boys found a way. Logic break #1 for the episode barely three minutes in.

Well, I can easily imagine the Mayor being dense enough not to be familiar with the precise details of the highway plan.  I can think of other instances in which politicians approved bills without knowing what was in them... 

(Greg) Scrooge realizes that it's harder now since he has to move three cubic acres of liquid assets. And thus the episode card ironically enough. Louie thinks that it means there is a leak on the roof and Scrooge corrects him as another term meaning cash.

We'll have to keep track of HD&L's behavior throughout the second and third seasons, in order to judge the merits of the claim that they became sillier, less intelligent, and less ethical (dare I say, more Quack Pack-ish?  Yes, I do so dare.) in these later episodes.  They started off well enough in "Time is Money," apart from Dewey's brain-hiccup regarding how coal is formed into diamonds.  Let's just say that "Liquid Assets" doesn't show the boys at the top of their game and let it go at that... for now. 

(Greg) [Fenton] is voiced by the late Hamilton Camp.

Camp, of course, had a long and successful career as a live actor, voice actor, and folksinger.  Will he be best remembered for Fenton/Gizmoduck?

(Greg) [Fenton] goes to the lamp post and reads a wooden sign that states that help is wanted as Scrooge McDuck needs an accountant.

Note Scrooge's "I Want You" pose on the poster.  BTW, isn't that a rather strange place in which to advertise such a prestigious position?  Sure, I'd be more than happy to hire someone who'd frequent the dimly-lit rear of a factory in what appears to be a slightly run-down neighborhood...

(Greg) Fenton shows [his mother] the cake and party flavors as the woman on the television is Millionair[a] Vanderbucks. HAHA! So she has become an actor now after the aborted Scrooge merger. As they say; if you can act and look good; you go to Duckywood. AHHAHAHAHAHA! 

It's actually the Duchess of Swansylvania from "Hotel Strangeduck."  It won't be her only appearance on the Crackshell telly, either.  In truth, I could sooner imagine Millionaira Vanderbucks being desperate enough to turn to acting (in the hope, I would imagine, that she can convince some stalwart young actor to marry her) than I could the Duchess and her brother Ludwing screwing up their business partnership with Scrooge and being forced to go out and earn their own living.


I suspect that someone at Wang Films was having some funsies at our expense, just as they were when they threw the "can of tuna" into the Gizmoduck-encasement scene in "Frozen Assets."  Admittedly, there IS a big difference between a few frames' worth of animatorial indulgence and the (almost literally) in-your-face nature of the binoculars business.  But what K&W could possibly be trying to prove by giving such a gag such extended exposure, I couldn't begin to tell you.  Toto, I don't think that we're in the Valley of the Golden Suns anymore... 

(Insert off-color joke here)

(Greg) Louie is throwing money into the air. Scrooge wants answers to this outrage and takes the bucket into the jaw with a pretty decent shot. OUCH! That is going to loosen some teeth. He gets knocked silly complete with stars as Dewey shows his big ass bucket of cash. Scrooge is pissed off as he wants the treasure thrown back into the lake as it is supposed to be buried. Well; you could have, I don't know TOLD THEM THAT Scroogie.

As Fenton would put it: Bingo!

(Greg) ...we go to the scene changer as Bouncer and Burger dress up Big Time into some fool as Big Time declares that this cannot miss. They give him a jar of pink jellybeans (It seems that way) and he runs on the dam's top (I see it gained about a foot wide since we last saw it) as Fenton is doing some REALLY STUPID poses with the blunderbuss. Fenton notices the Big Time Fly and gets in front of him holding the blunderbuss to his kisser. Fenton demands answers to what is wrong with this picture as Big Time Fly explains that he is a pest inspector and that the damn is infested with termites.

Several of the shots of Fenton waving the blunderbuss around and pointing it in the general direction of the disguised Big Time were clipped out by Toon Disney, along with as a snippet or two of his dialogue (having to do with questioning BT over what the latter is doing there).  There seems to be even less reason for censorship here than there was with Scrooge; Fenton doesn't fire the thing, and his antics make the scene seem silly more than anything else.

Next: Episode 72, "Super DuckTales, Part Two: Frozen Assets."


Anonymous said...

Aside from Gizmoduck's debut, I enjoyed Ma Beagle's star turn in the serial.

What seems most out of character to me in the serial is Scrooge's surprisingly laissez faire approach to the loss of his no. 1 dime in "Frozen Assets." It is really like Scrooge to sit back and leave the "dime recovery efforts" to Fenton?

Some "Status Seekers" appear again in "Billionaire Beagle Boys Club." Amusingly, at the end of that episode, Quackerbill from "Merit-Time Adventure" makes an appearance - lecturing Scrooge and co. about salvage rights!

Some other trivia: Kathleen Freeman (voice of M'ma Crackshell) appeared on Mister Ed, as Clint Eastwood's housekeeper (Clint Eastwood meets Mister Ed)

Comicbookrehab said...

I like Fenton - I wish they had made a toy figurine of him along with Gizmoduck - but I notice in retrospect that his character is the only element that made this arc interesting. The Beagles takeover of the bin felt like a rehash of the subplot from "Time Is Money" and the nephews were just along for the ride throughout...I remember expecting to see Bubba appear in this in the days leading up to the premiere of this TV Special and being disappointed that he was probably going to just make sporadic appearances (I was too young to know the word "sporadic", but that was what I was thinking).

I also wasn't expecting the wholesale layoff of most of the recurring characters that had popped up in the last 65 episodes either - I think that's a reflection of changes behind-the-scenes for this new batch of episodes (Tad Stones was working on "Rescue Rangers", Mahoney was working on "B Players", which evolved into "Talespin").

Was anyone at Disney aware at the time of the Paperinik/Duck Avenger stories? I can't help wondering what it would have been like if, instead of creating Fenton, they brought Donald back and integrated the Duck Avenger "mythos" into the series.

Comicbookrehab said...

Sorry - auto-correct changed "Jymn Magon" to "Mahoney" in my comment. :( I despise auto-correct.

Pan Miluś said...

I like this episode.

I find Fenton/Gizmoduck just ok but I never trully loved him. On other hand I find his M'ma hillarius... My only problem with Fenton (ESPECIALY in this episode) is that at moments it feels they where trying WAY TO HARD to make him funny (like some silly face and sound he makes after he read Scrooge's poster or stuff like that binoculars joke) The character is ok without them using every second to showoff how zany he is. And yhe - his more Duffy then Donald.

Pan Miluś said...

BTW -> I can totaly imagine DuckTales doing an adaptation of Barks "Gladstone Terrible Secret" and "Voodo Hoodo" with Fenton in place of Donald...

kenisu said...

That line from Mrs. Crackshell about her husband thinking she was worthless was actually changed in the special, where instead she says "See, Fenton? I'm not the only thing that falls apart around here... ha!"

I imagine they changed it because the serial's line is a bit of a shocking one - despite the fact that, like you say, she's not nearly as sympathetic a character here as she would become in later episodes.

It wouldn't be the only bit of dialogue that got changed, either - in Part Two of the serial, Fenton references Bugs Bunny by saying "Of course you know, this means... a skirmish!" This was changed to "OK, so they're looking for a skirmish!" I would think this was done so as to not tick off Warner Bros. (even though the original phrase is "war", not "a skirmish"), but then they kept the nephews' "We're hunting Beakley!" line intact in the "Golden Suns" special... and that's MUCH more immediately recognizable as a WB ripoff!

It's funny how the prime time versions were the "cleaned-up" ones. Maybe since these specials were big *family* events, they figured more parents would be watching, thus more opportunity for someone to get upset at the "worthless" line, or a Warner Bros. lawyer to catch the Bugs Bunny reference and start to wonder if they could sue.

Pan Miluś said...

AH! Also - WRONG!!!!!! Bankjob final apperance is a cameo in the Beagle Babes episode!

Chris Barat said...


"My only problem with Fenton (ESPECIALY in this episode) is that at moments it feels they where trying WAY TO HARD to make him funny (like some silly face and sound he makes after he read Scrooge's poster or stuff like that binoculars joke)"

That's the price you sometimes have to pay for introducing a character whose humor style is based on Warner Bros. Zaniness for zaniness' sake doesn't always work.

"AH! Also - WRONG!!!!!! Bankjob final apperance is a cameo in the Beagle Babes episode!"

It's a stretch to call that a "cameo," I think. It would be like calling an appearance on a wanted poster an official character "appearance."


Chris Barat said...


That line from Mrs. Crackshell about her husband thinking she was worthless was actually changed in the special, where instead she says "See, Fenton? I'm not the only thing that falls apart around here... ha!" I imagine they changed it because the serial's line is a bit of a shocking one - despite the fact that, like you say, she's not nearly as sympathetic a character here as she would become in later episodes."

I don't know... there are some folks who might take more offense to the "falls apart" line. Like it was a reference to menopause or something.

"It wouldn't be the only bit of dialogue that got changed, either - in Part Two of the serial, Fenton references Bugs Bunny by saying "Of course you know, this means... a skirmish!" This was changed to "OK, so they're looking for a skirmish!" I would think this was done so as to not tick off Warner Bros."

Of course, the more direct parody was the one that was repeated over and over again in syndication. That would seem to be more of a red flag waved in front of WB.


Ryan Wynns said...

Chris, et al,

I was in first grade when "Super DuckTales" premiered on The Magical World of Disney. From the promo spots, I was VERY excited in anticipation of it, VERY excited watching it, and continued to be VERY excited about it for weeks afterwards.

I forgot all about the Fenton "pop-ups" sequence. I really enjoyed that as a kid. And I was perceptive enough to be fully conscious of it being a Warner Bros. style of humor, and that it was a complete departure from the nature of the first season.

You and Joe noted in the Index that Fenton was inspired by the character of Roger Rabbit. Given the timing, I'm sure that was the case. I think the influence extended to the series' assuming of the cartoonier, squash-and-stretch style. Also, I think that the juxtaposition of a hyper, clownish character like Fenton against a "babe" like Gandra Dee owes a debt to Jessica Rabbit.

I didn't read "Only a Poor Old Man" until a few months later, when my parents gave me Uncle Scrooge: His Life and Times as a gift. I was surprised to recognize so much of it from "Liquid Assets", but there was also a certain satisfaction in how close some of it was, as you pointed out. Still, while they kept the logistics of the plot and recreated its action sequences, it eschewed the original's characterization of Scrooge, which is what makes the original so definitive and monumental.

-- Ryan

Ryan Wynns said...

Also, I wasn't aware of the Toon Disney edits. It sounds like they really butchered it -- I mean, Scrooge hiring Fenton is a pretty key plot point.

I don't remember Scrooge firing the blunderbuss very vividly, but it sounds like it was a traditional warning shot. Or does it not come off as such?

-- Ryan

Chris Barat said...


Wonder who has had more staying power as a character: Roger Rabbit or Fenton/Gizmo? It's a closer-run thing than I would have believed back in '89. Remarkable how quickly Roger has faded in memory. In the MAGICAL WORLD OF DISNEY title sequence that preceded the NBC showing of "SDT," he was all over the lot.

The blunderbuss shot looked like a warning shot, but since all that we saw was the end of the gun, it is hard to tell for absolute certain what the intention was.


Comicbookrehab said...

Actually, I think Roger Rabbit has enjoyed a healthy afterlife of sorts, largely because of his wife Jessica. Type "Jessica Rabbit fan art" or "Jessica Rabbit cosplay" on Google and you will be amazed... :)