DuckTales

Developed by Matt Youngberg and Francisco Angones
David Tennant, Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan, Kate Micucci, Beck Bennett, Toks Olagundoye, Tony Anselmo (cast)
Adapted from Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks and DuckTales (1987) by Jymn Magon
August 12, 2017 (US)

Disney XD premiered the 2017 re-imagining of Disney Afternoon favorite DuckTales on midnight August 12, and ran the double sized opener, aptly entitled “Woo-Oo!” from the tagline of the theme song, for twenty four hours straight. Really, it’s more like the first two episodes aired back to back and they spare us the opening credits for the first thirty minutes, preferring to get right into the action and introduce us to the characters. Thankfully Disney has a money source as big as Scrooge’s so we won’t have to endure the now popular 11 minute short format.

In order: Donald Duck (voiced excellently by Tony Anselmo who pulls off Donald’s speech impediment with the skill he’s had 30 years to hone) – the perpetually unlucky, short tempered star of many Disney shorts. Here, he lives on a rickety houseboat with his three young nephews, Huey (Danny Pudi), Dewey (Ben Schwartz), and Louie (Dann Moynihan). In a heated moment between the brothers, we learn two of their full names: Hubert and Dewford!

Scrooge, Louie, Huey, Webigail and Dewey all astride a pesky golden dragon

The boys aren’t all good little junior Woodchucks anymore. Now Huey seems to be the only one who follows that credo. Dewey, the middle triplet, born between his two brothers, seems always willing to get into some kind of trouble. Louie, the youngest, has a devious mind he hides behind an innocent smile and easy tears when the going gets tough.

A mishap with the babysitter orchestrated by the boys leaves Donald with no recourse but to take them to his Uncle Scrooge since Donald has a job interview.

L to R: Dewey, Louie, Huey, and Donald Duck

There the boys meet not only the wealthy and cranky Scrooge McDuck himself (David Tennant) but his housekeeper Mrs. Beakley (Toks Olagundoye), her granddaughter Webigail Vanderquack (Kate Miccuci), and Scrooge’s all-around chaffeur/pilot Launchpad McQuack (Beck Bennett).  With the main cast introduced, the episode wastes no time in getting the Indiana Jones-esque action underway, pausing only to toss a gag our way when a second is needed to catch our breath.

This series looks like it is growing out of its Disney comic roots, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel of the original series. There’s quite a pile of Easter eggs for comic fans in Webby’s string theory board and a big surprise waiting for them at the end of the entire bit.

The jokes are mostly intelligent and clever with no sign of the detestable potty humor that has been so prevalent in animation of the past decade and a half. The personalities of the characters seem right. Webigail has been aged up so she’s the same age as the boys. They’ve also made her a combination conspiracy theorist/McDuck family fangirl, with a catalogue in her head of many of Scrooge’s adventuring souvenirs and conquests. It looks like she is going to operate as the brains of the children when they’re adventuring without adults around.

Mrs. Beakley is not to be messed with in 2017

Mrs. Beakley has been buffed up as well. She is not only able to spar verbally with Scrooge, she is also built like a GLOW wrestler, and makes displays of strength anybody but Scrooge would find intimidating. She is ostensibly the housekeeper, but between the shorts and what we see in this episode, she might well double as Scrooge’s bodyguard. She’s also taught Webigail no small amount of martial skills, making her granddaughter formidable in her own right.

Launchpad is almost entirely unchanged from what I recall: he’s friendly, good spirited, and completely incapable of focusing his attention solely on flying or driving which leaves him prone to crashing.  A lot.

The series is definitely giving a wink and a nod to viewers of the Disney Afternoon as well. The towns where Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin and Goof Troop all took place are given mentions in the show’s first five minutes.

The only thing I can say wasn’t pretty close to perfect was the way the triplets’ clothing felt like coding. Huey, the eldest and therefore the “most responsible” of the three, wears a polo. Dewey, the one who acts out for attention, wears a short T-shirt over a long-sleeved one. But Louie? The one his brothers refer to as “the evil triplet”? The one who shamelessly demands valuables the instant he meets Scrooge? The one who begins putting “dibs” on stuff he wants when Scrooge dies? The one who steals things when nobody is looking? He’s wearing a hoodie. I can say with confidence this wasn’t intentional coding, because the hoodie also has an in-story purpose of cartoon type impossibly deep pockets … but it still feels like coding nonetheless. The hoodie is not an apolitical piece of clothing and hasn’t been for years.

True, ten years old is too young to have the animators put Louie in a leather jacket to establish him as the delinquent one, but they could’ve put him in a T-shirt with torn off sleeves, or a black T-shirt, or sunglasses. Overalls or cargo pants would’ve allowed the same cartoon deep pockets. There are dozens of other clothing and accessories combinations to telegraph “unrepentant troublemaker.”

Still, if that is the only complaint I can make besides the obvious one of “what do you mean it will be late September before the rest of the series starts airing?!” we’re doing okay so far. I look forward to the rest of the cast showing up—particularly Lin-Manuel Miranda who will be portraying Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera, and to see if the rumors about Darkwing Duck making an appearance turn out to be true.

DuckTales begins airing September 23, 2017 on Disney XD.  If you weren’t around for the 24 hour premiere marathon, you can watch it on the Disney XD app. It’s also free on YouTube.

Academy Grade:  A.