Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nostalgic for the "Afternoon"

It's been pretty hectic around here.  I'm behind on pretty much everything blog-related: DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVES, My Little Pony-related reviews, book reviews, the works.  However, after grading three tests and a project this weekend, I am finally starting to get out from under.  You should finally see some activity around these parts as we move into April (and, hopefully, out from under winter's thumb once and for all).

Pan Milus sent word that the Nostalgia Critic had devoted a full-length show to a review of the history of The Disney Afternoon.  He did right by DuckTales -- more specifically, "Treasure of the Golden Suns" -- a while ago, so, naturally enough, I was interested to see how he'd cover the other shows, both good and bad.  I would have to say that I agree with him on most of these, with a few minor qualifications (e.g., Molly Cunningham as Webby 2.0??  I think not).  I also rather wish that he'd taken the more measured approach of his "Disneycember" reviews of Disney's animated features and live-action films.  I have never been the biggest fan of the shtick he does with other "cast members," as opposed to him just being himself (or his TNC persona) and doing the reviews with a voice-over.

For DAFT completists (and who isn't -- or doesn't want to be, for that matter?), here's a link to TNC's review of Gargoyles.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"We'll Have to Postpone Your Uncle's Breakdown for Hoops!"

It's just my luck that the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament coincides with the weekend in which I am scheduled to do a DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE on "The Land of Trala [sic] La."  I've known for some time that doing a thorough job of detailing the similarities and differences between Carl Barks' original version of the story and the TV adaptation would be a tall order requiring a good deal of prep time.  Add to that the fact that I have three tests to make up this weekend, and you'll understand why I've decided to postpone the RETRO piece until the last weekend of March (at the earliest).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Report: THE CAVE AND THE LIGHT by Arthur Herman (Random House, 2013)

It's been quite a while since I've read a book as enlightening as this.  Arthur Herman (HOW THE SCOTS INVENTED THE MODERN WORLD) walks us through the history of Western civilization on the twin shoulders of Plato and Aristotle, who might be described as the "ultimate dead white males."  The two philosophers' disagreements over the nature of reality and how best to understand the world continue to echo today.  While I fully realize that Herman's disputatious dipole can't be used to explain every subsequent current in Western thought, it does provide a useful framework through which to understand how philosophical systems grew, flourished, declined, and/or adapted over time as they attempted to co-opt and/or synthesize the Platonian and Aristotelian worldviews.

Though Herman certainly does not short-shrift Plato's successors and carefully lays out the good and the bad consequences of the two Greeks' philosophies, it's not hard to detect a subtle Aristotelian bias.  The best evidence of this is the inclusion, amidst a list of the very heaviest of philosophical hitters, of Ayn Rand.  One of Herman's previous books covered the theme of the "heroic entrepreneur" as it related to American war production during World War II, so I do see how Rand's thinking along those lines might have appealed to him.

This would be an excellent "companion" book for a high-school or college course on "good old Western civ" or just a good, browse-able read for anyone seeking to further their liberal education outside the walls of academe.  I think that I'll be revisiting it more than once.

We Are the Champions

A quick medical update:  earlier this month, Nicky and I attended the last of six monthly meetings of a Johns Hopkins-sponsored group called Live Donor Champions.  The members were all people who were on the wait list to receive a kidney transplant and/or were expecting to begin dialysis soon.  The goal was to learn strategies for seeking potential live kidney donors and informing them about the process, risks, and rewards of live donation. 

I'm happy to report that several of the people shown in the picture above have just recently received new kidneys (albeit from deceased, rather than live, donors).  I'll be sure to update you about my own progress.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 75, "Super DuckTales, Part Five: Money to Burn"

"Can ["Super DuckTales"] get any more overbooked?" asked Greg at the start of his review of "Money to Burn."  Paraphrasing Gizmoduck himself:  It CAN?  Yes, I guess it can.

Overbooked and, sadly, underedited.  The evidence that "SDT" was something of a rush job, which has been trickling in throughout the serial, pours out in a gush in this final chapter, in the manner of the "Lake Dobegon Money Dam" bust that climaxed "Liquid Assets."  Clearly at a loss as to how to stretch the "longest sustained Beagle Boy assault on Scrooge's money in history" (yeah, I'm allowed to swipe from myself) out to cover an additional 22 minutes, Ken Koonce and David Weimers execute the sire of all "swerves" by anticipating one of the future cardinal rules for Quack Pack writers: When in doubt, throw in a space alien.  In all honesty, the shift in focus does result in a fair amount of clever humor, not to mention a large number of much-appreciated sci-fi and pop-culture shoutouts, and it gives Scrooge, Gizmoduck, and Launchpad the only chance that they will ever have to share an adventure together.  Unfortunately, the Beagle Boys plot threads aren't "tied up" as much as they are balled up and tossed carelessly into the corner, as if the audience is expected to forget that the Beagles' takeover of Scrooge's mansion, subversion of Duckburg's justice system, and so forth ever happened.  This is considerably more insulting to the viewers' intelligence than the fuzzy "explanation" for the Beagles' sudden presence on Duckbill Island with Glomgold in "Ali Bubba's Cave."  The audience's patience is further tested by a series of events that are logically absurd even by the comparatively lax standards of a DuckTales space saga.  Marrying visual indifference to narrative laxity, Wang Films chooses this final chapter of the serial to "blow" its proverbial "fuse," littering our path with visual mistakes and obvious goofs that wouldn't have passed muster if the production had been subjected to normal quality control inspection.  The result is a climactic chapter that, while it's certainly memorable, can't honestly be classified as great, except insofar as it gives Fenton ample opportunity to prove his full worth as both himself and Gizmoduck.

The Scrooge-Launchpad-Gizmoduck troika turns out to be a winning combination, and I commend Koonce and Weimers' ability to keep the distinctions between the two original creations clear, much as "Three Ducks of the Condor" managed to perform a balancing act between LP and Donald.  We get a quick taste of this right off the bat, as the trio prepare to join the hordes of Duckburgians in search of the sunken Money Bin (which, lest we forget, sank in clear view a mere couple of hundred of feet off shore, but let's not visit that subject again).  Gizmo is all ready to make a bombastic pronouncement about the Ducks' impending investigation, but LP quite literally squelches him and directs him inside the sub -- a perfect reaction for a character who, despite his occasional bouts of braggadocio, is all about deeds, rather than words.

The peculiar use of a literal "space plane," the USS Jumpstart ("USS"?  Shouldn't that be "DSS," for Duckburg Space Ship, given that Duckburg has its own space agency?), provides the excuse for LP to serve as pilot during the Ducks' mission to track the alien robots who have made off with the Money Bin.  The Jumpstart, with its theoretically unnecessary clutch, wipers, and open-able windows, gets a sufficient amount of air time that I wonder whether K&W had the intention of bringing the craft back in some future episode.  If doing so would have allowed Launchpad to participate in another "adult teamup," then I would have been all for it.

On the robot planet, Gizmoduck, of necessity, does most of the fighting, but Launchpad does get one glorious moment to shine when he and Scrooge are attempting to launch the Jumpstart from the edge of the cliff.  When LP pushed the Jumpstart over the edge and hung onto the wing for dear life while waiting for Scrooge to pop the clutch, who wasn't thinking of the pilot's condor-back flight during "Three Ducks of the Condor"?  "Flyin' coach" was even more problematic here because LP had to figure out a way to get from the wing to the cockpit before the Jumpstart plunged into the lava (or molten metal, or whatever it was).  Given the structure of the Jumpstart, this feat would literally seem impossible, but, true to Scrooge's tribute at the end of "Launchpad's First Crash," LP finds a way to make the impossible possible. It's a moment of derring-do to rival anything we saw during the first season, and, Scrooge verbally acknowledges the fact after the two have flown to safety, as well he should.  It also marks the literal end of an era: it's almost literally the last time that Launchpad will be allowed to BE Launchpad, in the most dramatic sense, before the onset of the Darkwing Duck neutering process.     

We never do find out exactly what happened when Gizmoduck "pushed all his buttons" and destroyed Planet MEL.  This is actually a harbinger of sorts of what's to come insofar as Gizmo's battles are concerned.  Believe it or not, this is the last time that we will ever see Gizmo using his deadliest weapons (the "torsal torpedoes" and such) in any major manner.  His future missions will generally involve him using his flying abilities, extendable arms and legs, speed, and the occasional quirky gadget (e.g. the "microscopic handcuffs" that he intends to use on the Metal Mites), but missiles, rockets, and other explicitly military-style paraphernalia?  Not so much.  This is so remarkable that I have to wonder whether it was a conscious decision.  The production crew even seems to have become somewhat leery of Gizmo using gadgets in general; how many of the items pictured below ever made another appearance, even one in jest?

Gizmoduck's track record on the robot planet isn't spotless -- he did get walloped by that first bunch of robot guards -- but, before we're done, we just know that Launchpad, as is his wont, is going to trump any mechanical error of Gizmo's with a mental rock of his own.  This comes to pass when LP accidentally releases the Money Bin into Earth's atmosphere... and now the obsessed Scrooge, heretofore mainly a captive and/or ineffective kvetcher, gets his moment in the unfiltered rays of the Sun.  Of course, GeoX is correct in criticizing the "scientific research" that went into putting Scrooge's "space swim" together (though the truth of the matter turns out to be a little more complicated than one would think), but, given such conveniences as days-long trips to other planets (a la the speedy trips to and from Mars in "The Right Duck"), holes and doorways on spacecraft that don't cause air to be sucked into the vacuum, and the like, it's difficult to get too bent out of shape about it.  Besides, it sets up a really neat homage to Slim Pickens' missile-ride near the end of Dr. Strangelove (1964).

The reason for the Strangelove call-back becomes chillingly clear when the Bin lands back atop Killmotor Hill accompanied by a massive flash that looks for all the world like a nuclear detonation.  K&W seem to have assumed that, since no actual explosion was involved, none of the nearby buildings would have been destroyed.  I find that exceptionally hard to believe.  At the very least, the shock wave would have blown out all the windows in the area as surely as the baby Yeeker shattered all the Protectoglass at the conclusion of "The Unbreakable Bin."  A few of the flimsier buildings would probably have bitten the dust, as well.  Then there's the little matter of damage to the Bin itself.  Not even Scrooge's installation of a bin bottom with the toughness of a command module's heat shield (I guess that the events of "A Drain on the Economy" must have scared him into doing something about that vulnerability) would have prevented a structure that has been cracked and pierced by far less stringent shocks in the past from sustaining some massive trauma.  I mean, the force of the blow was strong enough to peel the highway off of its foundation like a bandage being pulled off a person's skin (leading to a particularly visceral form of Karma being visited upon the puzzlingly unpunished Beagles' heads).  If you asked me which climax was more outlandish -- the destruction of the Valley of the Golden Suns or the Bin's thunderous touchdown -- I might just pick the latter.

While the absurdities of "Burn" wind up burying the viewer's logical faculties as thoroughly as the displaced highway obliterated Ma Beagle's cottage, the serial's thematic continuity -- that of Fenton gradually realizing and taking full advantage of his own capacities -- did carry through in rock-solid fashion to the very end, completely independent of the planet on which the action was taking place.  After defeating MEL in the counting contest armed only with his wits ("no cracks about going into battle unarmed!") and returning to Earth, Fenton proceeds to take on two of his other personal demons, reading his lazy "M'Ma" the riot act and ginning up enough courage to ask Gandra Dee for a date that, as things turned out, hadn't previously materialized only because of his own lack of self-confidence.  The latter two scenes hit exactly the right emotional notes -- yes, even including the "facedown" scene in the trailer, which some elements of today's viewing public might regard as bordering on verbal domestic violence -- and allow us to exit with a smile on our faces, not to mention a sense of legitimate anticipation as to what challenges Fenton (as opposed to Gizmoduck) might have to take on in the future.

Tucked in between these moments, however, is the post-touchdown scene in the Money Bin, hereafter to be known as the "Two Somebodies (and I'm not kidding)" scene.  After Scrooge gives both Gizmoduck and his "friend" Fenton the promise of continuing employment...

... an ecstatic Gizmoduck exits the Money Bin above the watching figures of HD&L, Launchpad, and... Scrooge?!

One can only assume that "Scrooge 2" is the great-uncle of the notorious "fourth Nephew," Phooey Duck.  Come to think of it, that might help explain all of Phooey's appearances in the Duck comics.  Phooey feels so neglected by his ethereal elder (who, as far as I know, only appears in this one TV episode) that he tries to horn in on the legitimate fun whenever he can.  Needless to say, this visual gaffe ends up detracting somewhat from what should have been a much more powerful scene.

Likewise, it is difficult to become totally invested in the perils of the robot-planet ruckus (Good night, Vic, wherever you are.) when the animation continually performs the visual equivalent of tickling us under the armpits and making us laugh.  Start with one of WDTVA's worst examples of the "Conveyor Belt Of Doom," one rivaling even those seen in Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers' "Mind Your Cheese and Q's" and Bonkers' "Hand Over the Dough."  The problems go well beyond the one Greg mentioned regarding the contradictory directions in which the traumatizing treadmill is shown to be traveling.  Compare Scrooge and Launchpad's position on the belt upon initial placement...

... to their location a nontrivial amount of time later, AFTER Fenton and MEL have had their little enumerational extravaganza AND the revived Gizmoduck has taken out some robot guards:

I suppose that Scrooge and LP slipped into a wormhole in the interim.  (BTW, if they're supposed to be processed into "axle grease," then why are presumably worn-out robots being dumped into the melting pot as well?)  The Money Bin, incidentally, is handled in similarly dilatory fashion; while the framework of the "big machine" (RIP) is stripped and presumably destroyed before the end, the Bin itself is never wrecked or "blasted open," despite the robot workman's announcement that the robots are ready to do the deed before the Ducks are dragged in front of MEL.  While the Bin may not have been thoroughly cooked, it was certainly heated up to sauna-like levels at some point, as it seems to have been reduced in dimension by the time Gizmoduck rescues it and returns it to Scrooge:

The aliens' spacecraft undergo similar waxings and wanings in size.  The first shots of the salvage cruiser zeroing in on the sunken Bin -- bits that obviously take after the opening scenes of the original Star Wars -- suggests that the ship is quite massive:

During the salvage process (aka "The Parting of Duckburg Harbor"), however, the craft appears to have shrunk in size:

Hard to imagine a full-grown Money Bin fitting inside that thing, but it does.  In fact, it has a mechanical claw that literally reaches down, picks up the Bin, and lifts it into the hold.  (Mind you, this is the same Bin that supposedly couldn't be moved while all the money was inside, at least, not until the end of "Full Metal Duck.")  We "supersize it" again after the destruction of Planet MEL, with the alien ship dwarfing the captured Jumpstart...

... and literally covering the entire Duckburgian sky when it comes in for a landing... er, hover... after the Bin has landed.  Hammering home the sheer immensity of the huge ship, Gizmo and Launchpad descend to Earth in a massive elevator-like device that seems to have been inspired by Dune.

What subsequently happened to that gigantic spacecraft?  It had to come down eventually.  My own "headcanon" is that Scrooge's scientists then examined it, discovered the secrets of its operation, and applied them to other projects, ultimately leading to the Duckburg of Carl Barks' "Island in the Sky" at some point in the undefined future.  That would certainly take care of many of the lingering logical problems that I have with that Barks story.  It would also tie in nicely with the retrofitted backstory of Lost in Space that was provided by Bill Mumy in the comics adventure "Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul."

Aside from Fenton getting in touch with his potential for heroism of any sort, the major emotional breakthrough examined here is the maturation of Scrooge and Fenton's relationship.  In all honesty, this material could have been handled more artfully.  The issue I have with it isn't with Fenton's behavior so much as Scrooge's.  After Fenton has been stripped and revealed by MEL, Scrooge's comment about Fenton's "inferiority" probably pulls an automatic guffaw from most viewers, but it's actually out of place.  Granted, Fenton made quite a few goofs on the "Assets" side of the serial's ledger, but shouldn't Scrooge have considered that Fenton also has shown himself to be capable of controlling the Gizmosuit (including during a time period when he did not have access to the manual) and therefore must have something going for him?  A classic example of overreaching while going for a cheap laugh, says I.

While Scrooge and Fenton are being dragged away to what they believe to be a greasy fate, Fenton (no doubt thinking of that earlier "inferiority" remark) tries to convince Scrooge that he is worthy of the miser's trust, but Scrooge appears to have given up all hope.  Again, Scrooge's attitude is the problem here, especially given the parameters established in the TV series.  Has Scrooge forgotten so quickly that his "true wealth" consists of his family (cf. "Once Upon a Dime")?  Wouldn't he feel some sense of responsibility to keep fighting until the end for their sakes?  And wouldn't he appreciate the fact that Fenton is showing the kind of spirit that sustained Scrooge as a youth?  Remember how galvanized Scrooge became when similar points were brought up to him at his lowest ebb during "Down and Out in Duckburg." Why couldn't he bring such points to mind here?  At least Scrooge ultimately comes to acknowledge his errors and give Fenton full credit for coming through in the clutch.

If you're in a forgiving mood, Scrooge's uncharacteristically passive acceptance of his apparent fate here might be written off as a simple oversight, overlooked in the rush to get to the serial's climax.  The handling of the Beagle Boys, by contrast, is just plain sloppy.  They continue to be a part of the narrative in the opening moments of "Burn," commandeering a vessel to go and search for the Money Bin...

... but, after the aliens swoop in, the Beagles are quite literally overshadowed -- victims, along with Scrooge, of the robot craft's powers.

So now the police are going to recover their moxie and take the Beagles into custody, right?  Wrong!  The B-Boys are next seen sitting on Ma Beagle's porch and complaining about being bored.  No explanation is given as to what the legal status of their purchase of Scrooge's Mansion is, whether they are now wanted fugitives, or anything similar.  This could have been their first appearance of the serial, and it wouldn't have made any real difference insofar as their reactions were concerned.  You've heard of hand-waves; this is a veritable hand tsunami.  It's not an outright mistake akin to the problems that dogged the final chapters of "Time is Money," but it's something almost as offensive: It's writing that is contemptuous of its audience.

So where does "SDT" rank among the quartet of DuckTales four- and five-part adventures?  Safely behind "Treasure of the Golden Suns," to be sure, and safely ahead of the even more problematic "Time is Money."  That leaves a direct comparison with "Catch as Cash Can."  I suppose that I'd give the nod to "SDT" due to its sheer scope and the presence of Fenton, who, by and large, makes an extremely successful debut here.  But the call is a little closer than it would have been had I done this comparison back in the late 80s.  Entertaining as "The Birth of Gizmoduck" is and continues to be, the signs of lowering "Cartoon Duck Syndrome" seem rather more ominous now than they did then. 




Bumper #10: "Dollar"




(GeoX) Funny bit: as the robot boss [MEL] is claiming to be "the fastest, most sophisticated computer in the universe," it turns its head and you can see the port marked "VHF cable" on the back. 

MEL, of course, was a parody of yet another figure that (quite literally) flashed across the consciousness of America in the late 80's, namely, Max Headroom.  The irony is that the Max Headroom TV series involved a satire of a future dystopia, whereas here, MEL himself is the overbearing authority figure.  Unlike Max, MEL himself is real, rather than virtual, with the pixellated shenanigans being confined to the monitor in his head.

(Greg) The spaceship scans and then beeps white buttons on the bottom of the ship about 15 times and then shoots the laser as the sea parts completely from the ocean as Scrooge is shocked and swears in DUBBED ANIME STYLE (Holy Sesame! Disney Caption ignores this part by the way.)

Scrooge actually said, "Holy Cecil B. DeMille!  The ocean's parting!" referring to the famed parting of the Red Sea in DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956).  The light-pattern on the ship's hull may also be a movie reference: think Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
(Greg) [W]e head inside and see Scrooge, LP and Gizmo Duck pop up from a metal railing and they watch on seeing metal cars in a line as this is really out of the Jetsons' motif now. 

Actually, given the nature of the civilization on Planet MEL, it's like something out of Mega-City One.

(Greg) We pan west to see behind the junkyard Gizmo Duck, Scrooge and Launchpad dressed up in disguises. Sadly; Scrooge's spats give away the cover right in advance. Then for no reason; we cut to them walking across a bridge with glass and metal. So they manage to get past the guards somehow? Logic break #3 for the episode.

Perhaps they waited until the guards marched into the complex and tagged along behind him, in the manner of Dorothy's friends in The Wizard of Oz (1939).  It's not as if Koonce and Weimers haven't swiped from that source before...

(Greg) Scrooge doesn't care how many names he calls [MEL] unless he gives Scrooge his money back of course. MEL no sells because his money is valued as a way to make useful robots. Scrooge calls it a waste which is funny projection considering who is with him now and all those other robots in previous episodes.

I think that Scrooge meant that it would be a waste to turn his money into parts for robots. 

(Greg) MEL breaks down as Fenton bails to the tray and takes one out for him to count and MEL counts them. Fenton calls it wrong because it's nuts instead of bolts. Which is irrelevant since he asked for ball bearings which is logic break #4 for the episode.

I know this was an error of sorts, but I have to applaud K&W for that clever callback to the interview scene in "Liquid Assets."
(Greg) Scrooge apologizes for his treatment of Fenton because it proves that it takes more than a suit of armor to become a hero. And this is why I like Fenton more than Drake because while both of them are full of themselves and REALLY STUPID; Fenton knows how to fold them when it is on the line a lot better than Drake Mallard ever could.

Two lines of Gizmoduck's -- "I am [a hero]?  Yes, I guess I am" and "You had a right to be upset" -- sum up the psychological difference between Gizmo and Darkwing about as well as anything ever has.

(Greg) So we head to the trailer park and Mrs. Crackshell's trailer as Fenton wheels into the trailer and proclaims that they are home to his mother. Mrs. Crackshell blows him off to be quiet as she is watching As The Feathers Fly. I guess she found a spare television from somewhere.

And if anyone could just simply "find a spare television," it would be her.

Next: Episode 76, "The Land of Trala [sic] La."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

DUCKTALES RETROSPECTIVE: Episode 74, "Super DuckTales, Part Four: The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club"

For the benefit of those who skipped the prerequisite course on the ephemeral pop culture of the 1980s: The Billionaire Boys Club (1987) was a two-part TV movie starring Judd Nelson and Ron Silver and based on the real-world exploits of a bunch of high-school buddies who got rich in commodities trading and ultimately got involved in murder.  Needless to say, the DuckTales Beagle Boys, after having come into possession of Scrooge's Money Bin at the end of "Full Metal Duck," don't go to such extremes -- though the gleefully overbearing Ma Beagle, in what is certainly her most... muscular role of the series, does creep right up to the line at times.  The dodgy logic and inconsistency that pockmark the episode, however, do push the viewer's patience with the overarching "Super DuckTales" narrative to a certain sort of limit.  The ep isn't without its share of high points, but a certain sense of narrative desperation becomes increasingly apparent as we move along.  Ultimately, it will take a complete "swerve," in the form of an "out-of-left-space" alien intervention in "Money to Burn," in order to justify extending the story arc to a fifth chapter.  

 Um, guys... your titles are slipping...

Greg dubbed "The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club" "DuckTales: The Abridged Series," and there sure does seem to be a lot of old ground being plowed here.  Not that there's anything wrong with giving shout-outs to past ideas.  The problem is that the ep seems to gets its "messages from the past" garbled more often than not.  Start with the basic premise, that of "poor" Scrooge and his family being forced to leave McDuck Mansion in the hands of a spendthrift adversary.  Ken Koonce and David Weimers no doubt had memories of their "masterful" (*cough*) handling of the same theme in "Down and Out in Duckburg" animating them as they worked on this spiritual sequel.  Unfortunately, to mangle a common metaphor, they overlooked a nearby tree while looking back at the in-the-past forest.  "Time is Money" used the exact same notion of Scrooge being separated from contact with his Money Bin... and, while its handling of the situation was anything but ideal, it did acknowledge that Scrooge had some other sources of income from which to get the money to pay off Glomgold.  Here, once Scrooge has been served with foreclosure (as if he wouldn't have paid off the Mansion long before this!) and has been obliged to sell out to "motivated buyer" Ma Beagle, he and his retinue are rendered well and truly busted, forced to bunk with Launchpad.  (I guess the reticence Scrooge felt about asking LP for help in "Down and Out in Duckburg" is a thing of the past.)  GeoX is right -- the exact disbursement of Scrooge's fortune has always been somewhat fuzzy -- but you honestly can't avoid "dinging" this episode for inconsistency, considering that the previous story arc provided a scenario that flatly contradicts this one.

I will give K&W credit for restraint in one area of this grand rehash: they did not show the Beagle Boys running completely wild and spending Scrooge's cash left and right.  Ma Beagle's opening "shopping spree" lasts only a few minutes and, despite the extravagance of the store and statue purchases...

... it is actually reasonably mild when compared to the behavior of Carl Barks' Beagles in "The Case of the Sticky Money" (UNCLE $CROOGE #42, May 1963), a story that may well have been consulted here for a reason I'll amplify below.  Having created a surreptitious way of stealing a little of Scrooge's fortune at a time, the Beagles of "Sticky Money" tape the equivalent of a "SUSPECT ME" sign to their collective cans and practice the most ludicrous sorts of "conspicuous consumption" for all the world (including an appalled Scrooge) to see.  The Beagles are so obviously guilty of some kind of "ultra-grand theft" that Barks doesn't even bother to hold the reader in suspense, instead revealing the truth well before the final pages.  The Beagles' behavior in "Sticky Money" is the four-color equivalent of, let us say, hiding your ill-gotten gains in the middle of Duckburg inside a flimsily disguised "doughnut factory."  (Even if you buy the notion that the citizens of Duckburg are stupid or blind enough not to notice the obvious presence of the Bin, there's still the question of how the Beagles managed to drive the Bin from Ma's country place into town with no one noticing.)

I'm not willing to cut K&W nearly as much slack when it comes to the reuse of the "identical Nephews" trope -- not after I spent not one, but two, posts rallying to the defense of "Duck in the Iron Mask"!  The odd thing is that HD&L have more of a justification for getting themselves mixed up when they are dressed in identical commando outfits...

... than they did at the beginning of "Iron Mask," where the colored sleeves that were visible under their identical baseball jerseys clearly gave away who was who.

Of course, the fact that "BBBC" plays the "identical Nephews" idea strictly for laughs -- during HD&L's biggest moment of the serial, no less, when they are trying to get evidence that the Beagles have Scrooge's money -- undercuts the logically superior setup and renders the whole business somewhat silly.  Too bad; in the (surprisingly) long line of productions in which HD&L have dressed and acted as guerrillas, starting with "Pearl of Wisdom" and extending all the way through to (sorry, Greg) Quack Pack's "Feats of Clay," "BBBC" represents one of the boys' more impressive efforts in the role.  They were in more actual physical peril during the infiltration of the Money Bin in DuckTales: The Movie (1990), but they showed a good deal of resourceful improvisation while trying to evade the Beagles, including imitating stuffed toys, riding the dumbwaiter (aka "The Nephew Emergency Escape Elevator") as they did in "Till Nephews Do Us Part," and even channeling the "playing 'aircraft carrier' moment" from "Don't Give Up the Ship" by sliding through and out of the Mansion on a dessert trolley.

Perhaps acting on some advice from fellow "Super DT" contributor Jymn Magon, Koonce and Weimers use the nouveau riche Beagles' "society party" as an excuse to trot out characters and other notions from "The Status Seekers."  Actually, this rerun works reasonably well, all things considered, despite the painfully unfunny disguises that Scrooge uses when trying to crash the party.  In fact, one could almost say that it works too well.  The scenes in which Ma Beagle threatens the Mayor, John D. Rockefeather, Mrs. Pedigree, Lady De Lardo, and other worthies with dire consequences if they don't do exactly what she wants are some of the most depressing scenes of the series.  I know that the authority figures of DuckTales are rarely given the chance to display mere competence, let alone courage, but standing silent in the face of blatant extortion is a cringe too far.  Barks himself was rarely that cynical.  The police chief's arrest of Scrooge at the end of Act Two is simply the final nail in the coffin of what remains of Duckburg's civic integrity.  After these craven displays, is it any wonder that the Beagles are successful in their efforts to pack the jury for Scrooge's sham trial?

Given the obvious disdain with which they treat the Beagles from the beginning, I suppose that the argument can be made that the "Status Seekers Redux" deserved what they got here, just as the original "Status Seekers" deserved to be thrown over by Scrooge.  But the nature of the earlier episode's displays of social hauteur was of a different order of complexity from the simple snobbery on display in "BBBC."  The original members of the ASS (Association of Status Seekers) probably wouldn't have agreed to come to the Beagles' fete in the first place; they were so convinced in the rightness of their belief that "status" was the "golden ticket" to their inner circle that even a few threats like "Show up or else!" might not have fazed them.  Their ultimate downfall was pleasing precisely because of the extreme nature of their exclusiveness.  It's harder to be upset by the behavior of the more "generically upstuck" party crowd, who would quite naturally look askance at the idea of the Beagles strong-arming their way into society.  The fact that the guests refuse to put up a defense against Ma's threats is what really drives the audience's ire.

Scrooge's efforts to expose the Beagles range from the ridiculous (the fire marshal and baby disguises) to the sublimely Barksian (his ultimate recognition of the serial numbers on some of the bills pilfered by HD&L).  This latter idea may well have been inspired by "The Case of the Sticky Money," in which Scrooge becomes suspicious of the Beagles after he recognizes that one of the bills the Beagles have spent around town has a familiar ID number.

K&W make Scrooge's powers of recall even more impressive by having him admit that he knows the serial number of "every dollar [he's] ever made," presumably including those (relatively few) dollars that he has spent over the years.  Alas, this mental gift doesn't prevent Scrooge from being railroaded into jail (and being stuck there for lack of $10,000 bail -- *grumble"Time is Money"*grumble*).  So now we get another do-over from the Bubba Duck adventure, that of getting Scrooge (and, once the attempt to sneak the "loaded" cake into the prison has backfired, Mrs. Beakley) out of jail.  K&W must have completely winged this portion of the ep, as precious little of it makes sense.  Mrs. Beakley appears to have been put in the same cell as Scrooge strictly for purposes of plot convenience (either that, or Duckburg runs a very progressive penal system... which, come to think of it, might help explain why the Beagle Boys are never in jail for very long).  In a similarly fortuitous manner, the location of the cell is suddenly changed from an upper story to the ground floor, just in time for the freed Gizmoduck to come charging through the guards, crash through the prison wall, and smash right into the relocated lockup.  Having Gizmo fly up to the cell window, break through the bars, and carry Scrooge and Mrs. Beakley to safety would have worked just as well -- and, ultimately, Gizmo has to do that anyway in order to get over the wall -- but apparently, K&W simply had to add that little frisson of destruction in order to make the breakout seem sufficiently "dramatic."

The guards then helpfully neglect to pursue the escapees out of the hoosegow, leaving time enough for the latter to have a conversation right outside the main gate.  It's as if K&W zipped through this sequence as a matter of form in their haste to get to the final chase scene... which, in all honesty, is pretty darn nifty.  I'll bet that Barks never dreamed that the "big machine" of his humble tale "Migrating Millions" would ever be put to such uses as this.  You could argue that the Bin-carrier should have caused more damage to the streets and buildings than it did, but the totaling of Scrooge's limousine helps make up for the comparative lack of collateral destruction.

The Bin's harbor-plunge, of course, sets the stage for the salvage operations that comprise the first few minutes of "Money to Burn."  In truth, having Gizmoduck overpower Ma Beagle, take over the controls of the "big machine," and drive the Bin back to the top of Killmotor Hill wouldn't have made for much of a climax (not to mention that it would have eliminated the need for a fifth chapter, unless Scrooge then fought a pitched battle against the highway crew for control of the location, in a sort of modern reprise of the legendary battle of Fort Duckburg).  However, there is some question as to how effectively the Bin-sinking sets up what is to come next.  It is clear that the Bin doesn't sink all that far off shore, and the location of its sinking is easily visible, so why does everyone, including Scrooge, Launchpad, and Gizmoduck, subsequently search for it as if it were a long-lost sunken treasure?  One might argue that the "big machine" could have rolled the Bin some distance away from its original underwater landing spot, but that would make sense only if the "machine"'s motor continued to run, and it's highly unlikely that it would do so.  Ultimately, the only reason that the salvage sequence goes on as long as it does is because the aliens need time to fly onto the scene, spot the Bin, and take it away.  Whatever floats your Bin, Ken and Dave...

As GeoX points out, Gizmoduck plays a surprisingly small role here; very little is done with the whole notion of Gizmo being under the unwilling control of the Beagle Boys.  I would imagine that Fenton would spend a good deal of time of his involuntary servitude moaning and groaning about how it would ruin his reputation, hurt his relationships, make him a "blemish on society," and so forth, but the "tiny violins" don't get pulled out until after HD&L have switched the remote controls and freed Gizmo from the Beagles' clutches.  Likewise, Megabyte's foolish revelation of the means whereby the Beagles have gained control of the Gizmosuit probably should have been the fatal mistake that brought the B-Boys' scheme to grief, but HD&L come up with the idea of switching remotes completely on their own, with a little assist from Launchpad.  It's hard to see where any extra Fenton/Gizmo material could have been shoehorned into the narrative, though trimming the Beagle-party sequence might have freed up the space to do so.

Up until this point, "Super DuckTales" has compared reasonably favorably with "Treasure of the Golden Suns" insofar as overall quality goes, with the important caveat that "Golden Suns" deserves extra points for setting the stage for the remainder of the entire series, as opposed to the participation of several new characters.  With "BBBC," I think it's fair to claim that "SDT" drops behind "Golden Suns" for good.  The silliness and illogic have simply become too much to overlook.




Bumper #9: "Bigfoot"
(GeoX)  Ma Beagle has tattoos of hearts with arrows through them on both her arms. Love to know what the story is there.

You'd probably have to ask the "dear old Dad" who married her (and presumably died or disappeared at some point, perhaps because he was weary from siring all those Beagle offspring).

(GeoX) Even assuming that the tour guide is somehow empowered to sell Ma Beagle the Venus de Milo equivalent, it would sure as hell have to be be for a lot more than four hundred thousand dollars. Some Ducktales writer that we could name if we could be bothered to look up his or her name is wholly unfamiliar with the world of art collecting. 

It isn't just the "Venus Dog Milo"; all of the prices in this episode seem a bit wonky.  Scrooge's mansion selling for "only" $150 million?  I can imagine it commanding far more than that, even given that the sale is an emergency sale.  Then again, I might be projecting my vision of the Rich Mansion -- which has so many rooms that people have to literally mount expeditions to find some of them -- onto Scrooge's place, which would probably be a bit more modest, befitting its owner.  (Scrooge makes a passing reference in "Till Nephews Do Us Part" to the fact that his Mansion has 42 rooms, which is a pittance compared to the Riches' massive manse.)  Whatever the "fair" price of McDuck Mansion might be, one must wonder to whom the proceeds of the sale are going.  If all or part of them went to Scrooge, then wouldn't he have enough money to avoid having to go live with Launchpad?  Or did the bank take all the money to pay off the Mansion?  K&W never make this clear.

(GeoX) Scrooge disguised as a baby? There's some serious size-distortion going on for that to be even remotely plausible. 

Yeah, unless he's some sort of amateur contortionist, that scene below would appear to be physically impossible.  But then, he's RICHHe can do ANYTHING!!  MUAHAHAHAHA!!

(GeoX) Dude, you can't simultaneously have the Bin-money be Scrooge's only source of cash and have him have sentimental attachments to specific bits of money. One or the other! Otherwise it's just dumb. 

I wouldn't call Scrooge's recognition of the "Spamway" money "sentimental," though Alan Young's line-reading certainly suggests that it is.  Scrooge's wistful remembrance of a successful past business venture is very much in character, and he probably would have evinced the same reaction had the money been made in some other enterprise.

(Greg) We begin this one as the Money Bin on a tow truck appears with Ma and Me[ga]byte. Okay; I see an obvious logic break here: Why are the original Beagle Boys here? Shouldn't they be in jail?  

I presume that they were among the escapees when Megabyte's wire gizmo opened all the cell doors in "Full Metal Duck."  It would probably be too much to expect the Duckburg authorities to distribute the incarcerated Beagles to several prisons so that they couldn't, you know, cooperate to escape.

(Greg) Four furries... are listening to the pig furry sales lady from Cash As Catch Can part one ["A Drain on the Economy"] as she explains the duck statue which has its arms cut off. 

She also appeared as a realtor in "Magica's Shadow War."  I wonder why she wasn't used as the "Coldnose Banker Realty" representative here -- that would have made for some neat continuity.  Joan Gerber uses a different voice for the character here than she did in "Shadow War," just as she altered Lady De Lardo's voice from its form in "The Status Seekers."

(Greg) The nephews are cornered right next to the conveniently placed dumb waiter and they open it and go downstairs.

Pretty decent continuity here -- not only is the dumbwaiter reused, but its non-kitchen end is still in the same relative place (the upstairs hallway).  The kitchen egress isn't quite the same, and the dumbwaiter in "BBBC" has three compartments rather than one, but you can't have everything.

(Greg) And just to be more insulting to Scrooge; Ma even stole his blunderbuss as she blows off the snobs for not having any fun. HAHA! She fires the blunderbuss (Toon Disney Cut commencing) and the snob ladies play much faster than usual.

The firing was indeed cut.  No real surprise there, I suppose, given what was done in "Liquid Assets."  At least the excision played much less havoc with the plot in this case.

(Greg) So we head to Launchpad Unlimited inside his house as Launchpad is playing with a toy Gizmo Duck by remote control (nice to see Launchpad likes Gizmoduck still) as the nephews go through their plans with a blueprint of the prison. How in the world did they find THAT information?! Huey wonders if they could use Gizmoduck as a pawn to smash through the prison walls and no one could stop him. Launchpad demonstrates from his remote control and the toy Gizmo Duck smashes into the wall and does absolutely no damage whatsoever. HEE HEE! LP apologizes for forcing the point as Louie now has a wonderful MIMI JOKE ZONE PLAN as he steals the remote control and bails as LP asks about the plan.

The sight of the toy Gizmoduck reminds me a bit of the toy Armstrong... but the toy Gizmo is used for more than just a sight gag.  It sure didn't take long for someone (I'm guessing McDuck Enterprises) to start producing those Gizmoduck toys, did it?

(Greg) The nephews do the human chain ladder spot as it's Operation Launchpad as Gizmo Duck races in and the police shoot him with...water pistols?! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! 

Actually, they behave more like water cannons.  Given that Gizmoduck is armor-plated and probably able to withstand "mere" bullets, the use of a water weapon makes a twisted sort of sense.  Incidentally, I don't see any contradiction between this scene and the later scene in which Gizmoduck admits a weakness against water.  There's a legitimate difference between being knocked down by a blast of water (which I presume the guards were trying to do to Gizmo) and submerging oneself in the ocean. 

(Greg) The motorcycle and Gizmo Duck run beside the tow-dozer as the motorcycle [driver] blows off Mrs. Beakly's weight with the best thinly veiled fat joke in the history of DTVA. 

Specifically, he says, "Even Superman couldn't see through THIS!".  Which, to me, represents a missed opportunity to introduce a clever Barksian reference.  Using "Super Snooper" in place of the "real-world" Superman would have gratified the Barks fans, and it would have been close enough to the "truth" that the "civilian audience" would probably have gotten the gist of the joke anyway.

Next: Episode 75, "Super DuckTales, Part Five: Money to Burn."