Friday, December 30, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Sixteen: "Can't Bayou Love"

Jambalaya, crawfish pie, filet gumbo…

This one introduces a new villain, this pint-size backwoods creole named Jambalaya Jake, who doesn't really seem to be a supervillain per se, so much as some random dude with the twin powers of hyperactivity and having-a-pet/sidekick-alligator, Gumbo (who is mostly mute, but, being something of a gourmand, can still say "yum yum"). He's entertaining enough to watch, and the incidental music gets all zydeco-y when he's doing his thing, which is cool.

He doesn't really have much of an evil plan or anything (as I said--not really a supervillain). He's basically just come up to St. Canard because he'd heard tell that it was "easy pickings" for random acts of larceny, and he gets annoyed at Darkwing for getting in his way.

What he does is, he kidnaps Launchpad and ties him up with explosives strapped to him, to lure Darkwing out. This works, but, obviously, plan-foiling-type stuff happens. But here's my problem with this: it's made very clear that Jake is going to kill Launchpad if he sets the explosives off. But when DW rescues him, big surprise, he accidentally sets them off himself, and does anyone die? What do you think? Obviously, the reality here is much more elastic than it is in Ducktales, but that notwithstanding, I still don't think it's a good idea to make it explicit that even if the villains' nefarious plans go exactly as they're meant to, they don't work. I mean, way to make the show absolutely weightless. C'mon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Fifteen: "Hush, Hush Sweet Charltan"

Tuskernini has returned. I don't know about that name--a director-themed villain with a name that puns on the name of a guy who wasn't a director? How much thought went into THAT? How about Godaardvark? That's a villain I could get behind.

Still, the name is the least of our concerns, really; he's just not a very interesting character. Here, he's pretended to go straight so he can make a movie that's such a big flop that it destroys AF Erret's studio, allowing him to buy it cheaply for the oil underneath the property. Um…is the excitement killing us yet?

Anyway, Darkwing interferes and figures out and then ruins the scheme, while Gosalyn and Honker dash around know, this isn't exactly a tightly-plotted episode, is it? I'm frankly not terrible impressed, although there is one fun bit where DW and LP are doing exposition while performing ad hoc scenes to make the suspicious security guard think they're just run-of-the-mill actors.

Stray Observations

-And there's a washed-up actress name Gloria Swansong, who, however, does not appear to be the same washed-up actress named Gloria Swansong in Ducktales' "Uncrashable Hindentanic."

-Tuskernini's assistants are penguins. It's not made explicit or anything, but I assume this is for reasons of zoological proximity, in which case it falls on me to point out that walruses are arctic and penguins are antarctic.

-"You oughta sue for definition of character!"

-"And the aliens...I JUST DON'T KNOW!"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Fourteen: "Trading Faces"

Mmm, okay. Let's try to get this thing back into gear. I could blame my month-long pause on that whole L&T marathon at 'tother place, and you'd probably even believe me, but let's face it: the reality is, it's just laziness on my part. "Too lazy to watch cartoons?" APPARENTLY, YES. Well, also, I was binging on Homeland, which is a problematic show in some ways but still pretty riveting. But now I'll try to get back into a regular schedule.

This is the show's body-swap episode--with, you must admit, a singularly uninspired title. Whee! Specifically, DW gets some sorta machine thingie that's supposed to transfer data from his base to his ship thing the name of which I forget, only somehow, it actually switches his mind with Gosalyn's and Launchpad's with Honker's. That's science for you. Whatareyagonnado? Unfortunately, this comes just as FOWL, as represented by Steelbeak, are cooking up a new plot: to hold the world ransom and destroy it by stopping it from spinning unless the world's governments fork over one hundred trillion dollars!!! You know, guys, that money's not actually going to be of much use to you if you've utterly destroyed every economy in the world to get it. Or maybe that's the idea? Who knows what motivates FOWL?

I do like Steelbeak here more than in his first appearance. Still…well, I know there's not a lot of currency complaining about diabolical plans to Destroy The World™, as that's just kind of par for the course, but really now: for this threat to have any force, Steelbeak would have to be quite literally an insane, suicidal nihilist, which I don't get the impression is meant to be the case.

So anyway, the various people in various bodies gotta work to fix things. DW is pretty adorable in Gosalyn's body, though it must be said that, pigtails notwithstanding, when he's in costume (which is most of the time) he basically looks more like Young Darkwing than a whole different character. Honestly, I would've been happy to see more time spent on the characters trying ineptly to adapt to their new situations. But hey, it's all good--not in the ranks of all-time great episodes, but still pretty good. I think Honker's fast becoming my favorite character. I really like his sort of fatalistic acceptance of being involved in crazy hijinx that are way above his pay grade.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirteen: "A Revolution in Home Appliances"

Now, we return to the sort of genial battiness that I can get behind. The idea is that Megavolt accidentally zaps himself and gets the ability to bring appliances to life. In short order, he has a refrigerator, a television, Honker's guitar (not an appliance per se, but it's an electric guitar, so I guess it counts), and a salon chair working for him. They all have really broad accents, too, which adds to the fun. The refrigerator is a working-class New Yorker, the guitar is a seventies-British-punk-rocker, the chair is…huh. I don't quite know what descriptor to use, aside from "the stylist who always calls you 'hon.' I also don't know about the TV; it keeps doing different impressions--is it supposed to be some sort of Robin Williams thing? Never mind; it's all batty enough to be funny.

And then the usual; DW has to save the day. But there's a twist! The appliances go rogue, turning on Megavolt! Oh Em Gee! Also, there's a li'l subplot with Gosalyn and Honker trying to figure out what became of his guitar. Okay.

It's fun stuff, though I do with the episode let us see some of the chaos erupting when appliances city-wide temporarily gain sentience. Show don't tell, dammit!

Stray Observations

-There's a story that appeared in some issue or other of Gemstone's WDC where furniture starts gaining intelligence. You'd remember it if you'd read it. This sort of makes me think of that.

-As I noted in my entry on the Ducktales movie, I question the morality of granting life to inanimate objects only to kill them off again. Only more so here, since the things that come to life are actually sentient. Not that I feel especially strongly about the matter as it applies here, but I'm not sure what logical reason there would be for this to be okay if killing off regular people is frowned upon.

-"Gee, if you're really bored, DW, you might try starting a button collection, like mine! It's pretty darn exciting!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Season Marxist Literary Critic Georg Lukács (1885-1971), episode Eleven: "Going Nowhere Fast"


Yeah, I'm doing this because Ryan Wynns told me too, and I always mindlessly do what I'm told. I'd be a good cult member, I think. The idea was to get acquainted with this crazy new Negaduck before seeing him team up with other villains, I believe.

Actually "crazy" might be pushing it a bit. Negaduck is Darkwing in a yellow coat and red hat, and from this episode, at least, he's kind of generic. I liked the big-eyebrow "bad" Darkwing best. That guy had moxie!

The idea, at any rate, is that this guy hits DW with a special ray thing and inadvertently grants him super-speed (and also the ability to kind of hover, apparently), so he has fun with that for a while, but wouldntchaknowit, it turns out that he also ages super-fast, and he becomes old and decrepit and bearded, since we all know that beards are one of the main signs of aging.

So while he's sitting around knitting and stuff, Negaduck takes over the city. Fuck! But when he sees that LP, Gosalyn, and Honker have been captured, DW nonetheless creaks to the rescue, and I've gotta say…the way he de-ages himself is really pretty half-assed--apparently, moving backwards really fast does the trick. There's a somewhat cute bit where he really quickly goes and becomes a scientist and gives papers and does lab work and finds an antidote for the accelerating ray, but it's a li'l too-little-too-late for my taste. I found this episode to be pretty uninvolving. I feel like so far at least, this show lives and dies on the strength of its villains; hence, episodes with weak villains like Negaduck here and Steelbeak in "Water Way to Go"--as well as "Apes of Wrath" with the random hunter dude as villain--don't succeed very well. Hey, I'm not saying these guys can't come into their own at some point in the future. But they haven't yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Season Ing, Episode Three: "Negaduck"

Soooo…what happens, is Megavolt hits DW with his magic machine thingie that separates his 'good' and 'evil' sides. They look the same except that the evil one has thick eyebrows, as evil people generally do. The good one's all milquetoasty; the bad one's loud and angry, though 'evil' seems like a bit of a stretch. In fact, I strongly question the this episode's whole conception of good-vs-evil! Seriously, though, I do think that this idea that "good=ineffectual" probably says something not-that-complimentary about our society.

But that's okay, because it's entertaining stuff, especially the loud, obnoxious 'evil' version, who goes to a movie entitled The Cute Little Lost Bunnies Movie, stands up on the back of his seat angrily demanding car chases, and starts firing a shotgun at the screen. And then, because that's the kind of show this is, he enters the movie and commandeers a tank from god knows where.

The bad DW wants to smash Megavolt's ray so the process can never be reversed, but instead he gets hit with it again, which "galvanizes" him and makes him into the fiendish Negaduck, who is in black and white and seething with electricity, and I have already been apprised by Ryan Wynn that this is not the "real" Negaduck, so no need to tell me. Actually, although he looks pretty intimidating, I find him less fun than the regular-bad DW.

Then the "good" version gets galvanized too, and I just cannot tell you how bizarre it is to see him beatifically swanning around spouting advice about recycling and brushing your teeth. But in a fun way.

In conclusion, here's a youtube comment on this episode, which raises a few questions, such as: Who do you think you're arguing with? And why? And are you a crazy person?

First off, Negaduck was the main villain instead of Megavolt, whom I thought was wicked enough. Secondly, Gosalyn was right about Darkwing being arrogant. Even worse, he doesn't hug her back! He may not know it, but a true hero isn't measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart. If he keeps treating her like dirt, then he has NO heart!

Stray Observations

-"Sorry, but you can't stay! Dad's got the plague!"

-"Trons! The building blocks of good and evil! I learned that in school!"

-…did I really hear Herb Waddlefoot express his excitement about a show called "Wheel of Torture?"

-Okay, I really don't buy the idea that Gosalyn, Launchpad and Honker, having tied up the two DWs, are unable to tell which is which. A. The eyebrows, fercrissake; B. If that's not enough, just take another feather to look at it under the microscope! Sheesh!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twelve: "Easy Come, Easy Grows"

Seriously, what's the deal with "grows," plural? If there's a salient reason why this is better than the more natural-sounding singular would be, I'm not getting it.

This episode begins with vaults disappearing from banks; it then moves on to the seemingly unrelated notion of money growing on trees; this comes up when, paranoid about the rash of thefts, Herb Muddlefoot buries the family savings in the backyard (everyone in this world seem to store their money in home vaults and moneybags and the like). Gosalyn and Honker discover it--I like stuff focusing on the kids--but after their inevitable overreach, Drake takes over, instantly turning into a yuppie douchebag after this sudden windfall. There's a bit where he towers over the money, limned in green light like some sort of demon, which is entertainingly strange.

But this doesn't last, as the cops bust him regarding the issue of all the bills having the same serial number--an issue which if often ignored in things like this. It turns out that the counterfeit bills sprout and develop motility--but if it's ever indicated how Herb got one of them to start the process in the first place, I missed it.

Anyway, as you'd expect, Bushroot is behind this; he uses the fake money to steal real money 'cause the fake stuff turns to dust and really, people, this whole plot is needlessly complicated in the extreme, and I don't imagine it would make a whole lot of sense if you tried to sit down and diagram it. Nice to see Bushroot again, though. In spite of his occasional murderousness, I find he's more sympathetic than not. All he wants to do is help out his plant pals/pets. It's kinda sweet.

Stray Observations

-Not that I've been keeping track, but it struck me as vaguely surprising that you can apparently use a phrase like "this really blows" in a show like this.

-Maybe the most baroque close-escape ever--our heroes are wrapped up in vines and trapped, but DW saves the day by plucking a trumpet away from a flower and playing snake-charming music, causing the vines to do snake-type dances and release them. Yup.

-Oh, and it's surprisingly gruesome for the show to end with Bushroot and his tree allies getting fed through a industrial wood chipper. Sure, he regenerates as a little seedling, but the trees appear to die horrible deaths.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Eleven: "Paraducks"

So the story is this: SHUSH has invented a time machine. But not just any time machine: a time machine that runs on the sound of polkas, which is an awesome detail (if this were a Ducktales episode, there would have been a joke about how much everyone hates accordions. Glad we dodged that bullet).

So Darkwing and Gosalyn accidentally travel to the fifties, where young-Drake is being harassed by a gang of greasers led by an Elvis impersonator known only as "The King." I feel like given Drake's probably age (mid-thirties?), he should've had more of a sixties childhood, but this was amusing enough to let it slide. The gang forces him to aid in their evil scheme (which involves a not-bad musical number); Gosalyn insists that Darkwing not intervene, but, in an interesting twist on the usual time-travel sort of thing, his not-intervention results in a terrifying dystopian present where The King is in fact the King and everyone is forced to wear huge pompadours. So it's necessary to go back and teach young-Drake how to be more awesome, and then, with the help of another fairly-awesome song from Darkwing--I'm really impressed by how assured these musical interludes are--the day is saved and young-Drake gets renewed self-confidence and the aspiration to be a superhero. And Gosalyn brings up some of the paradoxical aspects of this caper just so Darkwing can brazenly fail to address them, which is a nice touch.

Not a super-indelible villain, but as I assume he's a one-shot, that's okay. And the episode as a whole was highly amusing.

Stray Observations

-"It gives the appearance of an ordinary stuffed bear, but it's capable of firing over a hundred poison darts with pinpoint accuracy!" "We hope to have it ready for the holidays."

-"I am the toddler that naps in the night!"

-Gosalyn and young-Drake as cheerleaders during DW's song are adorable.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Ten: "Water Way to Go"

Okay, so in this episode we get the name of FOWL--the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny--spelt out. In "Double-0 Duck" it was "foreign" instead of "fiendish," which you have to admit is funnier. Anyway, Darkwing and Launchpad have to go to this here Oilrabia place to stop these folks form stealing the country's oil via a weather-control machine. Spearheading this effort is this Steelbeak fellow--a rooster with a, uh, steel beak, who's a mobster sort of guy. Oh, and there's interpersonal conflict, because Launchpad, suddenly dissatisfied with being a sidekick, insists on taking the "hero" role and having DW assist, leading to some resentful seething. But then they iron things out. Huzzah.

Hate to say it, but this episode was a bit of a slog. While I think creating conflict between DW and LP is a good idea in principle, it feels very forced here, and more irritating than anything else. Also, the evil plot is kind of half-baked, and while I will concede that Steelbeak perhaps has potential as a villain, here at least he doesn't make anywhere near the impression of your Bushroots or your Megavolts.

Not howlingly terrible or anything, and not incompetent in the vein of the worst Ducktales episodes, but...well, indifferently-crafted, is what I might diplomatically call it. There's a strong sense of going-through-the-motions. Surely the weakest episode thusfar, and not one I'd be especially keen to watch again.

Stray Observations

-"Hey, you can't be slave to a schedule--it causes stress!"

-Okay, the car-on-a-camel setup is kind of funny.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Nine: "Comic Book Capers"

Aw man--Darkwing Duck as written by Donald Barthelme. An' don't think I don't appreciate it!

The idea is that our hero is NOT happy about his new comic book, as it portrays him cowering before Megavolt (I'm not quite clear whom "The Awesome Comic Book Corporation" imagined the target audience for this would be), so he goes off to do a rewrite of his own. But alas, his efforts are taken over by, in succession, Gosalyn, Launchpad, Binkie Muddlefoot, and Megavolt himself, resulting in a story where, on the way to stop Megavolt, he's waylaid by a "giant flesh-eating slug monster from Mars," he finds himself transferred to an old west setting, he becomes a cute rabbit, and Megavolt becomes giant and pwns him, until he wrests back control and the thing ends in a huge crack-up where all these elements get smashed together in postmodern fashion. And then the publisher hates the result, but gets hit in the face by a pie thrown by the Indian sidekick, "Little Running Gag."

You gotta have figured I'd love this, and I pretty much do--this sort of experimentation shows just how far we are from Ducktales. My one question: wouldn't Gosalyn have wanted to write herself into her part of the story, doing something awesome? Okay, and also, I wouldn't have minded seeing Binkie's segment go on a bit longer.

I'm also really digging Megavolt. Who knew he was voiced by Dan Castellaneta? Besides people who were paying attention, I mean? I found a better way to characterize the voice (soundin' nothin' like Homer Simpson, that's for sure): he always sounds like he's going to burst into tears at any moment. Really helps give an impression of instability. And there's a great moment at the end, after Darkwing's left his flat with the completed script, where he sits there looking miffed and then just irritatedly hits the carriage-return on his typewriter. Sometimes it's the little things.

Stray Observations

-"Does 'phenomenal' have one F or two?"

-So apparently these typewriters also do illustrations? Also, it's kind of interesting that they're all using typewriters in a show produced and (presumably) set in 1991.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Eight: "Duck Blind"

Here's Megavolt. I knew there was a villain by that name, but I didn't know anything else about him. I always pictured a robot guy with a giant lightbulb for a head blasting lighting bolts every which-way, like some kinda Megaman robot. Why is that?

Anyway, no, he's nothing like that. He's a dog guy with an electrical plug on his head, a socket on his chest, and a battery pack on his back. And, while I know I've described a lot of villains on this show as crazy or deranged or words to that effect, there are different sorts of crazy, and this is the first guy who really feels like he's genuinely not all there. It's a lot of fun, and the way he sounds alternately frustrated, pleading, and gleeful really sells it.

Anyway, Darkwing fights him a few times, and--although I'd go so far as to say he's the best villain thusfar--there's a bit of a pro forma quality to these fights. There's not a lot of preamble, and you can't help thinking, man. This is gonna be the whole episode? There's a thing with Darkwing being blinded by Megavolt's light, which is more cool conceptually than in practice, and I feel like his crisis of confidence where he decides that since he can't see he can't fight crime anymore could really have been played for a bit more pathos than it actually is. I do, however, like the casual way he describes how he would go about finding Megavolt again, if he were still doing that sort of thing. And I'm absolutely up for plenty more of this guy in the future.

Stray Observations

-"Just find me a robbery! A jaywalker! A stockbroker! Any crook'll do!" I like this train of thought. Drake Mallard is the ninety-nine percent!

-All we get of the villain's origin: "Megavolt is afraid of me! I sent him to the electric chair! Twice!" That's kinda dark, but it's not the first time this show has shown itself to be capable of going a bit further in that direction than Ducktales.

-"You couldn't have! Blast're handicapped!" Does this sound like dialogue from a really unsubtle sensitivity-training video, or what?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season Slumgullion, Episode Two: "Film Flam"

An evil walrus named Tuskernini uses a magic ray thing to zap movie characters out into the real world to do his evil bidding.

This episode is metaphysical as fuck. Drake's all concerned about Gosalyn because her guidance counsellor accuses her of making up stuff about monsters (what kinda authoritarian guidance counsellor IS this, anyway?), so he forbids her from seeing violent movies; instead, they go to see a cartoon, "Wacky Times with Andy Ape," which is a take-off on the cartoon sequence that opens Who Framed Roger Rabbit? "In real life, if you get hit with an anvil you don't just pop back up like that," he helpfully explains, although, in fact, that's exactly what happens in the show's version of "real life." Note also that here we have animated characters acting as though they're not animated while reacting to a bit inspired by a movie in which there are both "real" and animated characters. Man alive.

Anyway, they defeat the bad fellow in amusing fashion, as Drake in short order takes on the roles of the heroes of the movies from which the villains have been summoned--an old-west lawman, a Flash-Gordon type, and an Indiana-Jones guy--to beat them. My question: why is the Indiana-Jones guy ("South Dakota Smith") in the same movie as a zombie? Much less a zombie that, per Gosalyn, defeats him? Very suspicious. It's funny how each foe attacks him one at a time, while the others just idly watch from the sidelines in classic video-game fashion.

Stray Observations

-"Yes! You'll have no!"

-"Looks like Gosalyn really ISN'T a maladjusted pathological liar!"

-"It's Mongo from Mars!" "Yeah, right! And I'm Donald--" Note that Donald is an actual character in the show's larger universe. But given that, as far as we've seen, he doesn't have any great celebrity within this world, why would Drake pluck his name out of the air like that? You might respond that he wasn't necessarily referring to Donald Duck, to which I would reply, yes, but he obviously was.

-I feel like I'm violating some sort of principle here by mentioning a show I've never even seen, but yes, I noticed that, when the pirate guy slashes open Drake's jacket, his tee-shirt has a picture of Baloo from Talespin on it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Seven: "Dirty Sexy Money"

Okay, so I may have added a word to that title (but which one???). Gotta increase the traffic hereabouts somehow, right?

This episode, it becomes clear, was produced before "Apes of Wrath," as it features Darkwing's induction into SHUSH, which was alluded to in that episode. It also features the introduction of FOWL, from "Double-0 Duck," represented by sinister silhouettes who may or may not be meant to represent actual characters to be introduced later. Time will tell.

SHUSH is represented by its chief, J. Gander Hooter, and an agent named Grizzlykoff, whose name may or may not be a reference to someone in particular. But what's the deal with the printing disappearing from currency?* And what happens when Hooter is kidnapped by an insane rogue cleaning-lady named Ammonia Pine? Well...saving-the-day-type action may occur, but not until Darkwing is able to pass the tests to become a member of SHUSH, 'cause Grizzlykoff just plain doesn't like him. The tests are pretty funny, particularly the one where Grizzlykoff just goes apeshit and requires Darkwing to endure being shot by progressively larger pieces of artillery. The whole thing is a good demonstration of his basic competence, even if he does suffer various slapstick indignities along the way.

*Well, part of the deal is that I surmise that the whole episode was predicated on a pun about "money laundering" that never made it into the final cut.

The loud and brassy Ammonia Pine is also entertaining, as is the climax in which the two of them are dueling on giant soap-bubbles. Actually, there are several moments in the episode that recall the all-time arcade classic Bubble Bobble, which is something you always like to see.

What can I say? Another entertaining outing all 'round.

Stray Observations

-"I am the icky bug that crawls up your trouser leg!"

-I can only assume there will be a later episode in which J. Gander Hooter makes a concerted effort to destroy St. Canard's most prominent civil rights leader, Pine-Marten Luther Kingfisher. O the hijinx that'll lead to.

-Know what would be cool? A crossover with Double Duck (the thing Boom published, you know). Okay, maybe not; maybe the concepts are too similar to each other to really have much traction. Plus, DW is rather obviously superior. But I still would like to see the result, dammit.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Six: "Apes of Wrath"

So Darkwing is sent on a mission by SHUSH (which acronym is never explained) to find this here Dr. Brutée (sp?), who is missing on a jungle island. There are apes on this island, causing hijinx; there is also a guy named Major Trenchrot, who proves in short order to be a villain, whose goal is to open "a vacation villa for villains," where they can hunt the most dangerous game…man!

No, I made that last part up, mainly because I just like saying it. Actually, it's not at all clear what if any illegal activity is going to be going on in this hypothetical villa. I feel like if I were a "villain," I would probably prefer to just vacation in normal places. For me, villainy wouldn't be an end; it would only be a means. No need to take my work with me everywhere. I guess that's the difference between real life and cartoons.

So they find this here Brutée, who has more or less gone native and is a quite entertaining figure ("When in Rome, do as the Romans! When in the Jungle…go ape!"). Then, they defeat the baddies by launching cocoanuts filled with highly alcoholic gorilla-party-drink at the compound. The show's cavalier attitude towards realism is demonstrated when Trenchrot kicks Darkwing out of his helicopter, only to have him immediately appear again on the other side, like the whole thing's a videogame with a wrap-around screen.

The episode is fine, and there are quite a few quotable lines, but I wouldn't call it phenomenal--it more or less goes through the motions. Still, if this is the level that the motions are generally gone through on this show, I'll be a happy camper.

Stray Observations

-"Okay, so I don't practice what I preach…as a parent, I can get away with it."

-"The secret of being a good parent is letting your child know who's boss…'course, offering a ten-spot never hurt either…"

-"Forget it, Gosalyn. You're too young to explode."

-"The old 'falling out of a helicopter' trick works every time!"

-I like how Trenchrot immediately accedes that "that's Darkwing Duck, all right" after he's demonstrated his capacity for bumbling. Like DW is a household name, and not in a flattering way.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Five: "Night of the Living Spud"

There's a framing sequence where Darkwing--for reasons unknown--comes upon a campsite frequented by these really dickish cub-scout types; they are contemptuous of him, but I'm glad to say that he ultimately succeeds in scaring the shit out of them with the terrifying tale of the vampire potato.

Vampire potato? Sounds like Bushroot's back. Already? Hey, I don't mind; I like the guy. The idea is that he wants to make a flower into his ideal bride, but thanks to a mistake on the part of his bumbling man-eating-plant assistant, he makes a potato into a giant vampire creature, who, with the unpleasant sounds she makes, is indeed kind of frightening. He tries to make the best of a bad situation, but she breaks loose and starts infecting people with potato-zombie-hood. Can our hero save the day???

It's a pretty atmospheric, fifties-horror-movie-type episode, a highlight being when Darkwing and Launchpad are picked up while hitchhiking by a creepy Deliverance-y backwoods weasel guy (though there's a bit where the locals are convinced Darkwing's a vampire that goes on perhaps longer than it needs to). However…well, I wouldn't call this hugely dumb, but it's definitely at least a little dumb: DW & Co think they have to chant "potato" backwards to stop the monster, but then they figure out that "you don't say 'potato' backwards; you say 'potato backwards!'" Really, now.

Several milestones in this episode. First, it is, I believe, the first time we hear Darkwing's civilian name, Drake Mallard (we learned about "Mallard" at the end of part two of "Darkly Dawns the Duck," but I'm pretty sure this is the first time "Drake" has come up). Second, we meet Honker's family, though not in any great detail: his father Herb, his mother Binkie (embodying the pervasive fat husband/thin wife trope that's all over TV), and his bullying brother Tank. Plenty of room for growth here.

Stray Observations

-"Well, at least I'll have some peace and quiet." "We interrupt your peace and quiet for a special news bulletin."

"There are no vampire potatoes. Scientists who turn themselves into plants, yes, but vampire potatoes, that's ridiculous!"

-Also, the return of Hamburger Hippo!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Four: "Getting Antsy"

So does Darkwing actually have a day-job of some sort? Or does he exclusively do hero-stuff? How can he get by like that? Or is that a sort of running joke? So many questions…

Our villain this time is this kid (okay, more likely "short guy") with a lisp and a huge buck-tooth, Lilliput, who can communicate with ants via a special hat and enlists them as his minions as he uses his shrink ray to try to take out the entire city and use its buildings and whatnot in his miniature golf course. And he also steals money from miniaturized banks. His motivations here are actually kind of vague. I like miniature golf, so I kind of approve of what he's doing…but is that the whole end-goal? The awesome-est mini-golf course in the world? Or is it more about the money he's stealing? In which case the course would seem kind of beside the point. Or maybe both! Who can say? What an enigmatic fellow.

Another thing you can't help but notice is the distinct lack of people getting caught up in this scheme. I gather he tries to shrink things at night so as to avoid that problem, but it seems inconceivable that somebody wouldn't find him or herself inadvertently shrinkified. But no--the place seems oddly deserted.

Anyway, Darkwing gets shrunk (on purpose), and has to navigate the course to figure out what's going on and ultimately save the day. Shrunken people having to deal with normal-sized stuff is a theme that really seems to resonate with us down through history, and this is fun. Also, there's a clever yet very creepy ending where Darkwing saves the day after Lilliput shrinks him down to germ-size and he enlists the help of two actual germs, "Blob and Ray," to make the villain sick. Then they all return to normal size. Or giant-size, for the germs. Who just stand there, with their blobby, expressionless faces. And then, in the predictable ending where everyone gets sick, the giant germs appear to be sick as well, which certainly raises some interesting questions.

Stray Observations

-"I'll have two cheese-food-product burgers with fries one hippo shake and an apple-flavored pie substitute!"

-"Have I ever told you the story of the little girl with the golf club and the firing squad?"

-I've always pictured snails as somehow being more laid-back than the creature that attacks shrunken-Darkwing.

-Funny bit where he gets his Darkwing and "Drakespeare" costumes confused.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season Beebleberry, Episode One: "That Sinking Feeling"

On Ryan's recommendation, I am going to watch the episodes in modified order to try to make them make more sense chronologically. And even when it doesn't technically matter, I'm still going to try to watch them according to airdate. I have NO idea what they were thinking when they decided that this sort of fractured ordering system was a good idea. Oh, and it doesn't make much sense to classify the "ABC Season One" episodes as just "season two" when I'm doing it this way, so instead, I'm just going to use random words. Okay.

This episode introduces Gosalyn's pal Honker. Well, "introduces" would be pushing it; he's basically just there, not unlike--gulp--Doofus. It's too soon to have a firm opinion of him; I must simply try to remind myself that it's not his fault that he looks like the title character from that abhorrent Chicken Little movie. I do like that he actually sounds like a normal kid, as opposed to the gratingly overplayed voices that nerd-type character usually get.

Anyway, there's this mole supervillain, Moliarty, with a whiny sort of voice. I know it's a play on "Moriarty," but I can't stop thinking "molarity," even though I don't have a clear idea of what molarity is, because science is hard. His game is to try to plunge the world into darkness so the moles--with their giant, deranged-looking slugs and giant pillbug-tanks--can take over the surface. Oh no!

So he gets thwarted, obviously, but it's pretty good fun. Seeing the moles marching over the surface like little stormtroopers is striking, although I wish we'd seen more of the extent of their conquest. Also, the way that they finally stop Moliarty--in a surreal sort of baseball game--is quite cool, and seems to illustrate the difference in sensibility between this and Ducktales pretty well.

Another thing I like so far is the interaction between Darkwing and Gosalyn. A lot of times, when there's an adult authority figure looking after a strong-willed kid, this kid always gets his/her way, and so quickly becomes super-annoying. So far, however, this show is more balanced in that regard.

Stray Observations

-I also like the beginning, with Darkwing and Launchpad just kind of loitering at night on a bridge waiting for evildoers. The idea of superheroes having to endure a lot of tedious downtime is funny to me.

-Oh, and it's also funny when Gosalyn's complaining vociferously about being left behind while devouring copious quantities of ballpark food.

-Speaking of the show's sensibility, there's a bit where Darkwing tries to shoot Moliarty with some sort of gas gun, only the gas just forms into a human shape, starts crying, and dissolves. "Tear gas," he thoughtfully explains, evincing no sort of surprise or irritation. I do indeed like that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Three: "Beauty and the Beet"

This episode's title cleverly plays on the title of Edan's classic psychedelic hip-hop album Beauty and the Beat. What's that? You say the album didn't come out 'til 2005? Man, this show was really ahead of its time.

The idea is that there's this research scientist with a New-York-Jewish accent, Dr. Reginald Bushroot, who's being constantly fucked with by the mean jock research scientists, Dr. Gary and Dr. Larson (man, a Far Side reference--not half bad!). He's interested in figuring out how people can get nutrition via photosynthesis, but they, in a capitalist sort of way, are all about "bigger is better" as far as food goes. Eventually, he ends up using experimental techniques to merge with a flower and turn into a Doctor-Seuss-character-looking plant-person with the ability to enlist the aid of plants. He takes revenge on the mean scientists by...well, it's not quite clear, but it sure seems like he kills them dead.

I must say, I find this whole bit--the "origin story" takes up the first third of the episode--pretty hilarious; academic politics are of course real and frequently quite immature, but the very literal way this is presented here is great. It's definitely the best part of the episode.

Anyway, Darkwing gets on the case, but he feels like a bit of a guest in his own show (which is a tribute to what a great character Bushroot is). His fight to get the best of Bushroot--who wants to turn the lady-scientist he has a crush on into a plant as well--is fine; it just feels a bit routine compared to the first part. Still, quality episode, and I'm still waiting for the show's first really egregiously dumb moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episodes One & Two: "Darkly Dawns the Duck"

We shall treat these two episodes as one, since they're very closely linked--far more so than any Ducktales serial (okay, "The Golden Goose" comes closer than the others, but it's still not in the same ballpark).

I actually read the comic version of this story (as reprinted in Boom's Darkwing Duck Classics)--quite intentionally--before viewing the episodes. I thought it might be interesting to see what my reaction was after seeing/reading them in the non-traditional order. The verdict: they're very similar, but I would give the nod to the teevee version, if only because the action lends itself better to animation than to comic panels. There's only one major difference between the two: in the episode, Darkwing figures out the launch code pretty much immediately after Gosalyn teaches him the relevant lullaby, whereas in the comic, he doesn't figure it out until the last minute, when she's falling to her presumable doom and singing the lullaby for some sort of comfort. I see the reason for the change--you could argue that it makes for a more balanced narrative to not have the lullaby thing pay off until later--but I'm still going to side with the episode: let's face it, even if HE doesn't recognize it immediately, WE do (and seeing it written out makes this even MORE likely), and it just makes him seem a bit slower on the uptake.

These episodes featuring Darkwing meeting up with his co-conspirators, good ol' Launchpad and Gosalyn Waddlemeyer, the orphan girl whom he adopts at the end; while this is going on, he's also battling Russian-accented criminal mastermind Taurus Bulba (a way more sophisticated reference than the sort you'd find in the average Ducktales episode) and his henchcreatures.

Man…where to even start? With Ducktales, at least the comics formed sort of a preëstablished knowledge base from which to begin, but here, there's nothin.' The show is certainly more action-based than its predecessor, and here you see what seems like a fundamental difference between the two: DD is more intentionally absurdist than DT, which was mostly was only "absurdist" due to authorial incompetence. There are several times where Darkwing with not even a desultory explanation fails to die when he obviously should die--but the show's constructed in such a way that you readily accept that. Likewise, the setpieces--a train robbery, a plane-chase--don't necessarily make sense in a strict narrative sense, but again, you don't mind, because it's more about manic goofiness than it is about plot, really. Or at least, these episodes are.

(Okay, I'll concede that I may have raised a skeptical eyebrow at the fact that, for no apparent reason, Darkwing has a kitchen designed to inflict grievous bodily harm on users. That seemed a bit much.)

As for the characters, Darkwing himself has a similar sort of self-conscious theatricality to Gizmoduck, only more so. And a tendency to refer to himself in the third person in his frequent bits of self-narration. It's early to make any definitive pronouncements, but I like him. Launchpad is Launchpad, although a bit bulkier for whatever reason. It will be interesting to see how he's ultimately distinguished from the DT version; so far, he certainly seems more engaging than the somewhat lackluster version that inhabited the later DT episodes. Why he's suddenly hanging around a completely different city goes unexplained.

As for Gosalyn…well, it really wouldn't have taken much for her to be eighty-seven billion times better than Webby, but the fact remains, she is. Possibly even eighty-eight, though I'd hate to be accused of hyperbole. In fact, she makes Webby look even more useless than she already did. I was--and still am, to an extent--a bit trepidatious about her, since precocious kids can slide very easily into the "intolerably irritating" category, but I like her so far, and I'm not gonna deny it: the bits of her bonding with Darkwing are fucking adorable--as opposed to the occasional Scrooge/Webby bonding bits, which were just barf-inducing.

The real test here is going to be how consistent the series is able to be. There were a fair few great Ducktales episodes, but the median level of the show was substantially lower than that. But for now: this pilot is pretty great. I counted a grand total of zero egregiously stupid moments. Hey, I understand; stupid happens on occasion--but if the show can keep such things to a minimum, it's not gonna have much trouble blowing Ducktales out of the water.

Stray Observations

-I notice that the show is more--well, "mature" probably isn't the right word--but there are two explicit references to death in the episode, something Ducktales always shied away from, and Taurus dies, or at least appears to die, at the end, which, once again, was a DT rarity.

-"I got a whole scrapbook of your newspaper clippings! ''s not a very big scrapbook..."

-"I'm sorry, Darkwing. If they hadn't caught me, you wouldn't have risked your life." "Gos--before I met you I didn't have a life risking!" Okay, okay--so that may be pouring it on a bit thick. And come to think of it, Darkwing's transition from loner to family-man-with-sidekick is a bit abrupt. But certainly not a dealbreaker.

-"He probably sleeps with a boy scout handbook under his pillow!" Really, show? How could you possibly not have taken the opportunity to make a Junior Woodchucks reference? Making our hero a former Woodchuck would've been just about the coolest thing ever.

Darkwing Duck

I have never seen an episode of Darkwing Duck in my whole, wide life*, with the possible exception of this one time I was visiting somebody or other in a hospital room, and I vaguely remember there was something on the TV that might or might not have been one. And fuck, memory works in really weird ways; could be there's something I'm just forgetting, though that would be super-weird.

*Yes, I'm putting this up at the same time as my first episode review, but I wrote this before watching that. I'm not fooling you, dammit!

But the point is, dammit, that I basically have no idea about this show. I couldn't tell you what any of the characters' voices sound like or what the theme music sounds like or anything. We will be rectifying that in the coming months.

I'll tell you upfront: my expectations for this show are unreasonably high. What is it? I'm not sure…partly, no doubt, because the episode that this show spun off from, "Double-0 Duck," was so great. Partly because I think the title character himself just looks so cool, with that sweet pimp-hat an' everything. Partly because I really want to see a young female character who's less useless than Webby. And partly because everyone keeps saying that Boom's Darkwing comics are so great, making me assume, in some inchoate way, that the show must be, too (also, I really want to read them. It makes sense to watch an entire show so you can then consume the related ancillary products, right?). And in addition to everything else, there's the occasional Gizmoduck appearance. There's far too little Fenton in this world, so I've gotta take what I can get.

Still, I also have a doubt or two. A superhero thing involves the guy fighting villains, right? It just seems potentially more formulaic than Ducktales was, and that could get old no matter how well it's done. Also, it's a fine line with superhero parodies. The guy has to be, you know, super, but he also has to be prone to bumbling-type situations, and while these things aren't necessarily contradictory, they certainly are very, very prone to coming across as such. Takes a light touch to make it work, and Ducktales has not always demonstrated that that's a Disney-cartoon strength (though I don't know how much the production/writing teams of the two shows overlap).

Nonetheless, I'm excited. There's the sense of novelty, if nothing else. Don't let me down, early-nineties-kids'-show!

Oh, and one other thing: the wikipedia article "List of Darkwing Duck Episodes" lists the three seasons as "Disney Afternoon," "ABC Season 1," and "ABC Season 2." This sounds stupid, so I'm just going to list them as seasons one through three. And you know what the funny thing is? There ain't nothing you can do about it!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ducktales: Top/Bottom/Middle Tens

Okay, now the list of best, worst, and most average-est episodes. These are basically in descending order from best/worst to less-best/less-worst, though obviously there's an arbitrary aspect to the whole endeavor. I didn't include runners-up for average-est episodes, because this whole "average-est" concept is on shaky enough logical ground as it is without trying to quantify which episodes are almost, but not quite, average enough to qualify. The only reason I included the category in the first place was because so often my problem wasn't that the episodes were bad, per se, but rather that they were just totally limp and uninspiring. I felt that this aspect of the show deserved to be officially noted.

It should also be noted that I've only seen most of these once, and I am well aware that repeat exposure can change one's opinion quite dramatically. The first time I read Pynchon's Vineland, I was sort of lukewarm about it, I must admit, but when I reread it, I realized: holy crud this is a great book. Point being, these rankings are subject to change. Or would be if I were planning on rewatching the whole show, at any rate.

Feel free to present your own rankings in comments.

"Double-0 Duck"
"The Uncrashable Hindentanic"
"Metal Attraction"
"The Duck Who Knew too Much"
"Hero for Hire"
"Raiders of the Lost Harp"
"Spies in Their Eyes"
"Top Duck"
"Sphinx for the Memories"
"The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan"

Runners-Up: "Ducky Mountain High," "Duckworth's Revolt," "Pearl of Wisdom"

"Bubba's Big Brainstorm"
"The Duckman of Aquatraz"
"The Bride Wore Stripes"
"Down & Out in Duckburg"
"The Right Duck"
"Magica's Magic Mirror"/"Take Me Out of the Ballgame"
"The Money Vanishes"
"Once Upon a Dime"
"Luck o' the Ducks"

Runners-Up: "Ducky Horror Picture Show," "Ducks of the West," "Where No Duck Has Gone Before"

"Horse Scents"
"Launchpad's First Crash"
"Maid of the Myth"
"Scrooge's Pet"
"Dinosaur Ducks"
"The Duck Who Would Be King"
"Sweet Duck of Youth"
"Jungle Duck"
"Back Out in the Outback"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part Six: One-Shots Who Deserved to Be Multi-Shots

Ducktales features a lot of subpar efforts. It also features also a lot of great one-shot characters the reappearance of whom could've enlivened many an episode. What am I missin' here?

Filler Brushbill
This is that awesome salesman from "Much Ado about Scrooge" who substantially elevates an otherwise-mediocre episode. At first it seems like he's just going to be a standard unctuous-traveling-salesman stock type, but he reveals himself to be way cooler than that, an amiable guy who uses his silver tongue and his Felix-esque Bag of Tricks for Good when it's called for. I would so love to have seen him again.

Cinnamon Teal
What's great about the femme fatale from "Spies in Their Eyes" is that she remains morally ambiguous up to the very end. Given this show's general outlook, I can only assume that that happened by accident, but it's great that it did. Which, I suppose, is an argument that she really shouldn't have appeared again, since they'd almost certainly have just put her clearly and boringly on one side or the other. But if they did do her right in a sequel, it could be really great!

(I know she appears in the recent, ahem, controversial Ducktales comic serial; I haven't yet read it, but somehow I'm not optimistic that it'll give her the treatment she deserves.)

The Phantom Blot
As I noted at the time, he doesn't really have anything in common with the Gottfredson Blot, but his ranting megalomania is highly entertaining nonetheless. If used to excess, he could've gotten old real fast, but I don't think a few encores would've been out of line.

Birdy, Ripcord, & Loopy McQuack
Launchpad's family is just cool, and if we'd gotten to see more of them, we could've also got more character stuff with Launchpad himself, obviating some of the falling-off that his character experienced after the first season.

Ludwig von Drake
I suppose Ducktales shouldn't get that much credit for their rendition of Ludwig, since he started as an animated character, but the fact remains, he is so fucking awesome in "The Golden Fleecing." Out of all the characters I'm listing here, his failure to become a semi-regular is by far the most baffling.

The Beagle Babes
David tells me that my affection for these three puts me in a distinct minority, but what do I care about that? I think they're great. Naturally, they're far, far better than their cousins; they're not necessarily a whole lot more competent, but it really feels like they're more capable of getting shit done. More, please.

Actually, bad idea; don't bring back Robotica--you'll almost certainly just make a situation that's already kind of troubling from a feminist perspective worse. But she's a heckuva lot of fun in "Metal Attraction," is all I wanted to point out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part Five: Miscellaneous

(Yes, some of these could have appeared under "friends," but I was trying to keep each entry at a more or less equivalent length, and in any case, they're all kind of more tangential.)

Vacation Van Honk
VACATION VAN HONK IN THE HOUSE! The Honkster! Double-V to the H!

Yeah, I got nothin.' I do think it's interesting to see this guy just sort of appear now and then, a remnant of some sort of idea the producers had that never went anywhere. Like the weird crap that sometimes shows up in the code for videogames that never actually makes any in-game appearance.

Admiral Grimitz
I know Donald originally wore a sailor suit 'cause that's what kids did, and he was conceived as a mischievous child, more or less, but it's interesting to see the show try to make sense of it. Grimitz, his commanding officer, doesn't get a huge amount of screentime, but he's an entertainingly Strangelovian character, and the part where Cinnamon Teal hypnotizes him is funny.

Mrs. Crackshell
Fenton's awesome, and his mom's awesome, too? Must be genetic. I seriously did not have high hopes for the character when she first appeared, but she quickly endeared herself to me, thanks to great voice acting and a few cool starring-ish roles. I still wouldn't mind a hint as to what happened to Fenton's father, though--literally all we know is that he called her "useless," which suggests that she may be sublimating something with her constant TV-watching, but more than that--who can say? Only bad fan fiction can save us now!

Gandra Dee
Fenton's girlfriend wasn't really conceived as a character at first, so much as an aspiration. She bore exactly the same relationship to him as "a better job" did. Later, however, she comes into her own a bit, with her crowning achievement being her robot-operation in "The Duck Who Knew too Much." I woulda loved to see her have more opportunities to do cool stuff.

I like the fact that her relationship with Fenton seems more or less stable (in contrast to Donald and Daisy); I would've liked to see a bit more of it, though.

Oh, Dijon...debates over his exact ethnicity notwithstanding, you have to admit that it's not exactly a racially sensitive depiction. It really is odd the way Ducktales was able to get away with things that comics at the time never would've. I am on the record as noting that my opinion of him softened a bit during "The Golden Goose;" maybe if the show had kept going, they could've made him even better. Then again, if it's true, as Christopher posits, that "Attack of the Metal Mites" was made after "The Golden Goose"…maybe not.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part Four: Villains

Magica de Spell
If you asked me to rank Barks three* main villainous legacies to the world in order, Magica would undoubtedly have come in dead last. But if we're talking Ducktales, I have to put her first. Not even close. I still don't understand why an Italian witch living in Italy has a Russian accent, but I still really do like the portrayal for the most part. And when they really embrace her full potential--as in "Raiders of the Lost Harp"--she can be very effective indeed. Let's not forget the Forgotten Plot Point that Ratface "Poe" was originally supposed to be her transformed brother (apparently, their parents knew this transformation was coming when they named him). It's actually too bad that they forgot about that, because storylines involving their history and their relationship could really have given Magica some additional depth. As it is, she's just the Evil Witch. A mostly well-done Evil Witch, for sure--but nothing more.

*Okay, four if you count Rockerduck, but that doesn't have much to do with anything Barks did.

The Beagle Boys
It's sort of funny: if you look back at my earliest entries, you'll see that I was all tentative and circumspect in my criticism of the Beagles. Soon enough, however, that gave way to the Moral Clarity that I now enjoy. I suppose there's little point in my taking this opportunity to heap even more vitriol on them. I've said my piece a whole bunch of times. But damn…I just can't get over it. Perhaps it was inevitable that something like this would happen; maybe the cartoonish aspects of the Beagles couldn't help but dominate any animated version of them and metastasize in unappealing ways. I dunno. Regardless, fuck these guys.

Ma Beagle
I really liked her at first…well, maybe "really" would be pushing it, but she seemed like a pretty good idea, and she was certainly better than her stoopid kids. But presence made the heart grow…less fond. Familiarity bred contempt, let's say. Whatever! Point is, by the time episodes like "Beaglemania" and--god help us--"The Bride Wore Stripes" came up, I started questioning my anti-death-penalty absolutism (not actually).

Flintheart Glomgold
I can't blame the show itself, particularly, for its uninteresting portrayal of Glomgold as a garden-variety baddie, since every comic I've ever read that's not "The Second-Richest Duck" or "The Money Champ" has done exactly the same (okay, so "The Island at the Edge of Time" gets credit for once again making him and Flinty pretty much morally equivalent--but that's it!). Fact remains, though: regardless of the origins of the uninterestingness, there it is. And Ducktales does compound the problem by transplanting him from South Africa to Duckburg, making his conflicts with Scrooge seem even more flimsy and silly.

Black Petes
There are a number of incarnations of Pete in this show (I cannot at this time remember what their status is vis-à-vis peglegs). Some of them aren't even villains! I generally like these guys; as I've noted, they can actually be pretty darned adorable, especially my favorite, from "Pearls of Wisdom." Hmm. Pete, The Phantom Blot--what other MM villains should have appeared on Ducktales? The Professors X, surely. Also, Eli Squinch.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part Three: Employees

Launchpad McQuack
Of the spate of original characters introduced in the pilot, Launchpad is the most prominent and rather obviously the best. If it took me a little while to warm up to him, that's probably because it took a little while for the show to decide what it wanted to do with him. But he turns out to be a deeper character than you would initially think, and he stars in three great episodes, "Top Duck," Hero for Hire," and "Double-0 Duck."

So I am a fan. Problem is, though, he becomes substantially blander in the back half of the show. I am by no means saying that he needs to be constantly undergoing profound psychological explorations, but it's like the writers hit on "dumb" and "crash-prone" as his personality traits and basically stuck with these, not doing anything very interesting with them. He becomes, more often than not, wallpaper.

Bentina Beakley
What the…"Bentina?!?" I would've sworn up and down that Mrs. Beakley had no first name, but while looking through my write-ups of early episodes, I found that I had used her full name when she first appeared. The things you learn.

I'll grant you: Bentina's appearance makes a lot of sense; it's only natural that Scrooge would want some help when he suddenly has to look after three rambunctious children. And I liked the initial idea, which was pretty quickly forgotten about, that she's sort of badass and intimidating to HDL. But in general, there's just not a lot to say about her. She has that one starring turn in the episode where she's kidnapped by Wagner-loving Vikings (a bizarre concept even by Ducktales standards), which episode is okay but not phenomenal, and beyond that? Shrug. A good idea might've been for them to do more with her relationship with Webby (I mean, if we have to have Webby…). You'd think they'd have a particular bond, given whatever the hell happened to her daughter/son-in-law,* Webby's parents. But, they don't. Do more with it, that is. They might have a special bond. There's just no real way to know.

*Note how I made the heteronormative assumption that the parents were married, and also the patriarchal assumption that she's Webby's maternal grandmother, since that's the most obvious way that the two of them would have different surnames. Both of these are debatable, but I'm pretty sure it must be what the writers were thinking of, insofar as they were thinking of anything.

So why is he named "Duckworth" if he's a dog-person? Presumably because the duck-people colonized the dog-people's homeland and took away their culture, forcing them to speak duck-language and take on duck-names. A tragic yet all-too-common occurrence.

As far as the domestic help goes, he's substantially better than Bentina, if only because of his dry, reserved sense of humor (though this is more or less effective depending on who's doing the writing). Also, he stars--obviously, given the title--in "Duckworth's Revolt," which is one of the show's better episodes. What's that, you say? "Take Me Out of the…" what? No, sorry. Look, I've chronicled my viewing of the entire series on this blog. If there were some sort of baseball-related episode featuring Duckworth, I'd know about it. Believe me: there's no such thing.

Fenton Crackshell/Gizmoduck
Goddamn do I ever love this guy. But you already knew that. As I've noted, he really filled a gap in the show, and unlike Bubba, his additional feels natural and coherent--of course Scrooge needs an accountant. He stars in the series' two best post-season-one episodes, "Metal Attraction" and "The Duck Who Knew too Much," and his presence even enlivens otherwise less-than-spectacular episodes. It really feels as though his presence has a rejuvenating effect on the show, and it is a goshdarn shame that, what with appearing so late and having to trade off with Bubba, he got comparatively few appearances.

I think the initial conception of him was a bit more wacky/Warner-Bros-ish than he ultimately turned out. Sure, he does some zaniness later on, but most everyone does at one point or another, and there's nothing in later episodes in that regard to match him pretending to be the Tooth Fairy to try to recover the dime. I think that that's probably for the best; it makes him more relatable. And in any case, that spirit lives on, a little bit, in Gizmoduck (I think it really says something that, although I like Gizmoduck okay, he doesn't even immediately spring to mind when I think of Fenton: it's "He's that awesome accountant from Ducktales…oh yeah, and he has a superhero secret identity, too").   I like that Gizmo brings out an endearingly theatrical side in Fenton, and I like that he's mostly competent--though I still have a hard time conceiving of how he's supposed to simultaneously be doing two jobs for Scrooge with two separate identities.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part Two: Friends

Webbigail Vanderquack
I...completely forgot that that was her surname until I looked it up, if I ever knew it. It's kind of intriguing: are we to assume that her parents were wealthy in their own right, before some sort of fall from grace? I like to assume that they teamed up with Fenton's father to fight crime.

"Problematic" doesn't even begin to describe Webby, one of the most transparently token-y characters ever. Occasionally she shows her worth, like those times when she's depicted as a Woodchuck (yeah yeah, why no Chickadee Patrol, etc), but mostly she's the equivalent of those radioactively pink aisles that you find in every toy store. It can't be denied that that shit sells, so I dunno; maybe they had a (cynical) point, but that doesn't change the fact that she's usually depicted in really lazy, pandering, sometimes mildly nauseating fashion. Yes, there is an extent to which Disney comics are a boys' club, and their occasional efforts to reach across the aisle are likewise often embarrassingly maladroit. But man, Webby seems to just perfectly embody this sort of thing. Also, I'm not sure how much thought went into the producers' decision to use "web" as one of their frequent go-to words for sticking into random names and phrases. I know we're supposed to think of webbed feet, but it always makes me think "spiders."

Doofus Drake
"Drake?" Really? When is he actually called that?

Look, I'll admit that his dynamic with Launchpad had its heartwarming moments, but boy oh boy. In general, not a fan. His main purpose on the show, really, is fat jokes, or if not always fat jokes per se, then general incompetence jokes that are clearly causally related to the fat thing. You can see why he disappeared after season one: he's just not a well-conceived character. I can conceive of no reason for his creation that is flattering to the creators. I am, however, quite unreasonably amused by my theory (which is mine) that he's actually a deranged vagrant who found a ratty coonskin cap in a dumpster and attached himself to HDL, who were too freaked out to tell him to fuck off.

Also: "Superdoo!" Gah.

Gyro Gearloose
I'm a huge fan of Barks' Gyro shorts; there's nothing in the show that really captures their spirit, although to be fair, there's also nothing that really tries to do so. As is oft the case, he usually serves as more of a plot device than a character--though his starring turn in "Sir Gyro de Gearloose" is quite good. I'm sort of on the fence about his voice, though: on the one hand, it seems like a perfectly reasonable extrapolation, and it's hard for me to suggest an alternative; on the other, I'm still not a big fan.

The Helper appears occasionally, but to little effect. A more ambitious show might've made the occasional effort at mimicking the comics' little Helper-based parallel-mini-plots.

Bubba the Caveduck
I'll admit, I sort of feel bad saying mean things about Bubba. It makes me feel like I'm kicking a puppy. But that's part of the problem, isn't it? I mean, even beyond the obvious air of desperation behind introducing such a gimmicky character? He's almost more of a pet than an actual person, and what can you do with someone like that? "Not much," if his actual appearances are anything to go by. Judging by his love of rock music (which sort of disappears after the initial serial, if I recall) and that gruesome song all the kids sing when he first goes to school, they wanted him to be a sort of wacky, radical cave-dude in that inimitable (and thank god for that) early-nineties way. But when your character isn't capable of sentences more complex than "Bubba clubba," there are very severe limits to what you can do with him. It's possible for non-verbal characters to be done well, of course--just look at WALL-E--but that's not what they're going for here: he can talk, sort of, so they rely on that, not realizing that you really can't develop him in the same way as you can the less, uh, dumb characters.

Oh yeah, and he has a pet triceratops. If you have any cogent insights about Tootsie, please chime in, because I sure don't. She is surely the most insignificant recurring character on the show, and I include Vacation Van Honk in that statement.

Goldie O'Gilt
If there's one thing we can agree on, probably, it's that Goldie's voice is pretty much perfect. I don't have too many complaints about the rest of the character, either. Yes, "Back to the Klondike" is sentimentalized, but it could very easily have been oh-so-much worse. "Ducky Mountain High" also turned out to be a treat; never mind that her other two appearances don't amount to much. It's actually surprising to me that she turned out as well as she did; a lot of credit here has to go to whoever made the blessed decision to limit her appearances, preventing her from wearing out her welcome and not giving them much opportunity to do something really egregiously dumb with her.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ducktales Character Assessments, Part One: Family

Scrooge McDuck
The Founder of the Feast, of course. Obviously, he's been softened substantially from Barks--if he behaves badly in a Ducktales episode, you know he'll repent by the end, and you never see episodes concluding with him threatening to inflict bodily harm on family members. In spite of that, though, I don't think it's a bad portrayal, and Alan Young's voice acting is fine. The lack of emotional complexity compared to the original version is notable, though.

The one thing I can't quite get over is the fact that he has a mansion filled with valuable bric-a-brac (including bronze statues of himself), a limousine, and a chauffeur/butler. That is just wildly out of character, by comic or cartoon metric. I think it's more or less accepted in comic-world that he lives in an annex of the money bin, but if not, you would expect much more spartan digs. I think three factors contributed to this: first, the people who conceived the show simply didn't have particularly good grasp of the character, plain and simple. Second, they wanted to convey "great wealth," and they probably thought it would've been confusing if he didn't have the most conspicuous signifiers thereof. And finally, there's the matter of wish fulfillment: HDL are there for kids to identify with, and it's much more fun to live in a mansion than some hovel, even if Scrooge is tight with the spending money. So there you go.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie Duck
I read that the voice actress, Russi Taylor, also does Martin and a few other characters on The Simpsons, and there, of course, she sounds nothing like HDL do--so kudos to that. Impressive range. Fact is, HDL probably would sound like that, even if I'm a little uncomfortable about giving the comic characters voice actors at all.

The portrayal of HDL is kinda all over the map. Sometimes they're smart Junior Woodchucks (though the occasional "puzzles" they have to solve are always kind of on the inane side); sometimes they're just regular, rambunctious kids; sometimes they're amazingly dumb; and sometimes they're just plain dicks. Of course, there was variation in Barks' portrayal of them too, but nothing quite so schizophrenic. Still, when they're good, they're pretty good. Ducktales does a decent job with the basics.

Donald Duck
It's not really enough to say that Donald was eliminated as a regular character just because he would've been a third wheel, given that Launchpad frequently stands in for him. Clearly, another big factor is his voice: okay for shorts; might grate a bit after prolonged exposure in a twenty-two minute show. Still, fuckin' eh, man. There is a part of me that says: if you're trying to adapt Barks, you can't downplay Donald, dammit. I already wrote a bit about how I think his absence sometimes has an unbalancing effect. And on those infrequent occasions when he is present, he generally makes a decent impression, even if, by definition, his portrayal isn't wholly Barksian. I would probably, as with Scrooge, complain about lack of emotional complexity, but his appearances are infrequent enough that it's sort of a moot point. I would've liked more of him, is all I'm saying. I think if they'd made more episodes, it wouldn't have been a bad idea to have him get out of the navy and resume residence in Duckburg with HDL. Seems to me that that would've opened up some good plot ideas.

Gladstone Gander
…Who only has a substantial role in one episode, of course. Not saying his portrayal is bad, per se, but given that the entire purpose of Gladstone is to be obnoxious, the usual Ducktales softening effect seems counterproductive here. You can see why they didn't use him more often: if he's not serving as an antagonist to Donald, what is he doing, exactly? You have to admit, though, it would've been super-cool had they brought him and Donald together in an episode for a knock-down drag-out fight. Failing that, Fenton probably would've also made a good adversary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

And that is a wrap.

Crud. I Can't Believe I Watched the Whole Thing. In spite of the decidedly inconsistent nature of the show, I feel vaguely bereft. Thanks to everyone who commented, particularly Christopher, who made a lot of interesting and useful observations that I missed.

Anyway, stick around for a few retrospective analyses, best-of/worse-of lists, and that sort of thing. Then, we will embark on a new project, which shall be revealed all in good time.

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Seven: "The Golden Goose" Part II


The last episode was called "The Golden Goose Part I." This one is called "The Golden Goose" Part II, "part II" outside the quotation marks. C'mon, people--it was really that difficult to be consistent here?

As I said about gold…Scrooge is trapped in this gold sack, but then it cracks open like an egg when it's struck with a gold statuette. I just do not think gold works remotely in that fashion…

Poupon has a vial of water that would turn the nephews back to normal, but this cannot be, as it is necessary to use it on the goose, to delay its apocalyptic transformations: first it comes to life and turns everything it sees to gold; then, it transpires, there's the "golden death" phase, in which the gold comes off the goose and spreads over the entire planet and everyone and everything dies. I know very well the sort of thing that freaked me out when I was small, and I can tell you that this conceit would have absolutely terrified me.

So the nephews cannot be changed back, and in fact they make no appearance (except in statue form) 'til the last minute of the episode. Seems odd that you wouldn't want to feature some of your main-est characters in your last-ever episode. Oh, and Webby doesn't play any meaningful role either: she wants to help, but Scrooge gets her to beg to stay by telling her that the most important job is looking after the HDL statues and that she can't handle it, and seriously, what is this sub-Tom-Sawyer horseshit?

Anyway, they try to recover the statue from Glomgold's extremely slapstick-y factory, but alas, it works not, and the bird comes to life. Dijon becomes persona non grata after obtaining but then losing it, and it's then that you know he'll save the day in the end.

And then the idiot Beagles destroy the vial containing the magic water and the golden death thing starts, and yeah, it's a bit frightening to see the gold spreading all over the landscape, though the tone never becomes really desperate. But apparently, the transformation can be reversed if you find the molted goose and take it back to its resting spot in the temple; I find this questionable, but I suppose it might have been a controversial decision to end the series by destroying the entire world.

So yeah, it's not bad, actually, although, in spite of the existential nature of the threat, it doesn't really have the feeling of a grand finale. I wonder whether, when they shot this, they thought they might be able to do further episodes. But hey, whatever--it could have been a helluva lot worse, so let's congratulate them for going out on a comparative high note.

Stray Observations

-Okay, so why would Dijon possibly think that the regular-looking goose that he runs across is the goose, given that there's no indication that he had any idea what the transformation entailed? Okay okay, Poupon could've filled him in on the plane ride over. I still find the whole thing Highly Questionable.

-Poupon refers to Glomgold as "Mister Gloomduck," which is what Dijon kept calling him in "Attack of the Metal Mites." Nice bit of continuity, though I'm not sure what to make of the implication that A-rabs are inevitably going to hit on that particular mistake.


Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Six: "The Golden Goose Part I"

That's the exact title, per the card--"The Golden Goose Part I."

Okay, here we go. Nothing to do with Barks' "Isle of Golden Geese," for better or worse. The idea is that Scrooge and HDL are in Arabland to collect old junk to pawn off as antiques (um…didn't "Much Ado about Scrooge" establish that this is considered immoral by the show's metric?); Glomgold is also there, looking for…stuff. And there's Dijon. And there are a bunch of monks, led by Dijon's brother…Poupon. Actually, this makes me think of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in which Eli Wallach's bandit character ("the ugly") also has a brother who's a priest.

Anyway, these here monks venerate this golden goose statue that can turn anything into gold if you say the secret password ("gold") while you touch it. The Beagles are trying to steal it for Glomgold, while Dijon vacillates about whether or not he ought to take it himself. Yadda yadda, it accidentally gets stowed in Scrooge's luggage and towed back to the States, and it's quite weird how the show emphasizes how completely worthless he thinks it looks. Dude--it's a gold statue. He would be all over that shit, whether or not he knew its secret.

Glomgold tries to buy it, so naturally Scrooge doesn't want to sell it, and there's a funny back-and-forth where he repeatedly marks up the price. Once he figures out what the score is, he goes GOLD CRAZY--I'd go so far as to say he develops another case of The Terrible Gold Fever from way back in the pilot episode--how's that for full-circle? Certainly, his behavior is reminiscent of "The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone."

Back in Arabland, Poupon is insistent that they go recover the goose--otherwise, for unspecified reasons, the END OF THE WORLD may occur, as it's been known to do. But back, again, in Duckburg, the Beagles succeed in stealing the statue from Scrooge, and TURNS THE NEPHEWS TO GOLD OH NO and to be continued and I can't help pointing out that if you can turn people into gold, there is really no chance that Scrooge wouldn't have accidentally done it to himself in his transmutation binge.

This episode mostly feels like build-up, really; not awful, but not particularly notable, either (how often has THAT been the case?). The Beagles are more intolerable than usual, and believe me: they ain't usually all that tolerable. Still, I harbor a vague hope that the second part will really bring it, and we can end on a relative high note (yes, you will note that this post and the next one are going up at about the same time, but I haven't seen the second part as I write this. I'm not tricking you.)

Stray Observations

-Okay, Dijon isn't so bad here, and at least there's his brother to sort of counterbalance him.

-Again, the writers have no concept of gold's consistency. Scrooge would pretty much have destroyed his entire estate if this were remotely realistic.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Five: "Scrooge's Last Adventure"

…so why isn't this the last episode, then? Are they implying, thusly, that Scrooge Will Never Die? Or, more likely, was it planned to be the finale, but was shuffled around due to some desire to end with a two-parter?

HDL, playing in the house, break a grandfather clock--they really annihilate the hell out of that sucker. So they take it to a clock repairman, "Dr. Clockenspiel." As it happens, Scrooge just got back from his annual physical (at the free clinic--I don't know, but I kind of feel like such a place would turn someone like Scrooge away, as well they should--you're wasting valuable resources that should go to people who really need them, you jerk!), and he gets a call from Clockenspiel that he thinks is from the doctor and that he interprets to mean that he's dying ("the face and hands are just fine, but I'm afraid the old ticker is beyond repair. It may run for a few more days, but I'm afraid this is one ticker that's time has run out!" "Is there anything I can do?" "Well, you could sell me the spare parts!"). Note that this wouldn't work if Clockenspiel weren't a doctor of some sort--not that it's inconceivable, but I'm not sure such a degree is necessary for clock repair. At first, I wondered why the kids wouldn't just go to Gyro. Then, it became clear.

So Scrooge gets all morose about his imminent demise; when he wonders what's gonna happen to his money, Fenton suggests the brilliant expedient of Computer Banking. Scrooge takes him up on this, but thanks to some sort of nebulous "glitch," all his money vanishes, and he and Fenton have to go in after it, thanks to Gyro's magic science.

If there's one thing I like, it's media about "cyberspace" from a time when nobody was really clear on what that entailed. I am not joking. It's a sort of trippy, electronic-y version of Little Nemo in Dreamland here; it turns out that the "glitch" is some sorta pacman-ish whale creature that they dub "Moby Glitch." They have some travails, there's some business with the kids using the computer to play games and said games getting mixed up with Scrooge and Fenton, the day is saved, and money gushes out of the computer screen back into the bin. Note that this computer is actually in the bin, so now it's buried under huge mounds of cash--if Scrooge ever wants to get it out, he's got his work cut out for him. Oh, and he learns he's not dying. Obviously.

Cheesy and goofy though it is, I actually quite like all the "cyberspace" stuff. In fact, I'd have liked to see more of it. The problem is, there's really two episodes here, and neither one gets the space it deserves. If you want to do an episode where Scrooge Confronts His Morality, great, go for it (I'd be rather surprised if you did it well, but I'd at least be interested in seeing you try)--but don't just try to cram that into an unrelated story and seriously downplay the whole thing. Whereas if you want to do one about Scrooge And Computers…well, like I said. Give it your all.

This wouldn't be a transcendentally great end to the series, but it wouldn't be a terrible one, either. I am irked that I instead have to deal with a two-part thing prominently featuring fucking Dijon. I've had my expectations foiled before, but seriously, if it's not all downhill from here, I will eat my hat--though not before sprinkling it liberally with Jivaro Juice.

Stray Observations

-"Have I ever told you what a good cook you are?" "Not exactly. You said ' the way I look my must enjoy my cooking!''" Seriously? Dude--that may well be the most dickish thing you've ever said.

-The kids are going to tell Scrooge about the clock on the basis that "it's the good Junior Woodchuck thing to do," but then they vote against it and merrily go on their way. This is the second episode in recent memory--following "Yuppy [sic] Ducks"--in which they make a mockery of their status as Woodchucks. Dudes, not cool: you can portray them behaving like kids, fine, but don't rub it in that they're betraying the ideals of the organization that they're supposed to take very, very seriously. Jeez.

-"Nice game those Duckburg Dodgers had last night, huh?" The Mallards, the Stealers, and now a third baseball team??? Well, if the Stealers play baseball, I suppose the Dodgers can play football. You'd think there could at some point have been some sort of consultation on the subject among the writers, though.

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Four: "New Gizmo Kids on the Block"

Boy does that title ever instantly date the hell out of this episode.

In a perhaps overly elaborate set-up, Mrs. Crackshell wants to win this "mother-of-the-year" award that some TV station is holding, because the prize is a "fifty-inch cable-ready widescreen TV" (ooh, cable-ready!). Ma Beagle wants to win the same prize, apparently just for the glory of it. So Mrs. Crackshell decides to do Fenton's laundry, which results in her accidentally shrinking the gizmosuit (which is "dry-clean only," natch); and Ma Beagle breaks the Beagles out of jail by the baroque process of sending them a cake that, when consumed, causes Burger to vibrate like a jackhammer so they can burrow through the floor. Meanwhile, HDL are recycling cans for cash; people are leaving cans out for them, only Mrs. Crackshell, trying to hide the mistake from Fenton, accidentally puts the shrunken gizmosuit out instead, and they get hold of it. And the odds of them inadvertently activating it are high, since the codeword too has shrunk, to simply "bla."

So Mrs. Crackshell, in desperation, builds a replacement suit for Fenton out of various bits of this and that that she had lying around, including a ceiling fan, a lawnmower, a sewing machine, a trash can and a hairdryer which straps to the wrist. It proves to be pretty much completely ineffective, but you have to admit, it's still pretty impressive that she was able to cobble it together at all.

This is not Gizmoduck: it's Garbageduck, and it's pretty funny how blasé Scrooge is about the change, and how easily he takes to using this new name ("They're getting away! Where is that Garbageduck when I need him?!?").

Anyway, HDL bumble around in the gizmosuit--it switches from one to another whenever someone says a word starting with "bla"--and refuse, chauvinistically, to let Webby try it, until they all get caught and she has to save the day by capturing the Beagles, teaching HDL that "girls CAN do super stuff!" Fenton gets the suit back to normal size by means that weren't totally clear to me, and Mrs. Crackshell doesn't get to be mother of the year, but she does win the "mechanic of the year" prize thanks to the garbageduck suit, which seems only fair.

Busy busy episode. I'm not sure that it ever entirely comes together into anything coherent, but there are lots of good moments from Fenton, his mother, and even HDL (though they do get a tad irritating at times). And I like that Webby saves the day, even if it was a fairly obvious denouement.

Stray Observations

-Scrooge has a bronze statue of himself? As is often the case, I Have My Doubts.

-"A good mother would help her son; therefore, I, being a good mother, will help you."

-"To us, you're still the best!" "Yeah--what other mother would spend twenty years in the same room with her boys?"

-I never got the impression that the gizmosuit would just switch around to different users like that. Is there anywhere else where its behavior in that regard is established? Seems like a potentially fatal flaw.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Three: "The Duck Who Knew too Much"

For this one, the seminal wikipedia article "List of Ducktales Episodes" claims that "Fenton uncovers an international conspiracy to steal Scrooge's gold overseas while supposedly on vacation." I defy you to tell me, based on that description. who is overseas, who is on vacation, and whether or not these two things are one and the same.

They ARE, and it's Fenton. He wins a ski vacation to "Swizzleland" on the popular gameshow Let's Make a Mess (I feel like there's some sort of vague reference to Chuck Barris' alleged history as a CIA assassin here, but it never goes anywhere). Scrooge won't give him time off, natch, so he pretends to be sick; this works, but meanwhile Scrooge is also going to Swizzleland to check out potential security issues with his factory there.

So Fenton has to simultaneously avoid being seen by Scrooge, try not to alienate Gandra with his eccentric behavior, and foil the espionage plot he's stumbled onto.

And it is pretty fucking spectacular. It has the manic sort of pace that all the best Ducktales episodes seem to, and there's a lot of very funny business involving Fenton's efforts to hide while also figuring out what's going on ("Are you always this weird on vacations?" Gandra asks him). In the episode's best scene, we see Fenton and Gandra tricking an agent into thinking that she's their contact by means of a really fake Spanish accent ("Funny, you had a French accent on the phone." "She was calling from a phone booth in France!"). "Qu'est que c'est 'remote control?'" she asks, upon being told that she's supposed to be bringing one, which is funny and pretty darn smart--the sort of thing we see too infrequently in this show. Then, she gets a chance to shine, thanks to the course she took in "advanced espionage robotics" ("the advanced nail polishing class was full").

Great stuff--and as a bonus, we get to see Mrs. Crackshell in the gizmosuit. I'm always relieved when a really good episode comes down the lines, because it provides evidence that I'm not just being arbitrarily hard on the show's many substandard ones. The only real weakness is the ending, in which, apparently unable to come up with anything really satisfying in the limited space remaining, Fenton comes down with the illness ("the purple-blotch beak-pox") that he was feigning before.

Stray Observations

-Fenton and Gandra have separate hotel rooms, I note. Yeah, it's a kids' show, I know, but still…

-…could this have some relationship to the fact that he's so intensely--uncharacteristically, I would have thought--lecherous upon meeting the enemy femme fatale?

-"Good day. Please answer the following questions. True or false. Number one: I think spying would be a neat job."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode Two: "Attack of the Metal Mites"

Welp. Glomgold's scientists have invented (bred?) mites that eat metal, and he tries to use them to destroy Scrooge's money. Also--god help us--Dijon from the movie is now his assistant. I knew from the Wikipedia episode list that the character was going to reappear in the final two-parter, but seeing him here was an unwelcome surprise. My mind just reels that someone somewhere at some point announced "a cringing, sycophantic, avaricious A-rab stereotype? Boys, we've got ourselves a winner!" Jeez. Though I suppose if it's between him and the Ducktales Beagles, there isn't much to choose.

Anyway, mites. Money. Gotta stop them from eating stuff. This very much feels like your average early-first-season episode, except for the inclusion of a Fenton subplot: the gizmosuit gets eaten by the mites (big surprise), and he feels inadequate until he saves the day thanks to being smart. Didn't we already go through something like this in "Super Ducktales?"

What he does is use the magic words to summon the gizmosuit, on the highly dubious premise that each chewed-up piece of suit must "remember" its previous function and respond appropriately. Then he's covered in mites, which would actually be pretty darned gross, but he uses a magnet to stop them. And now he's going to get another suit. Huzzah.

It's a pretty aimless episode, all told. The Fenton bit is okay but not phenomenal, and far too much time is devoted to Dijon's bumbling. It's kinda weird that they'd have Bubba and Fenton episodes back to back and I'd prefer the former by a wide margin, but there you go. Signs and wonders.

Stray Observations

-I like the idea that Fenton can count all of Scrooge's money at a rapid rate while frantically tunneling through the piles of cash.

-Gizmoduck, on deploying his head-copter to save a worker from a mite-eaten catwalk: "And you thought my head was only full of brains!" "No! I'd never think that!"

-HDL: "Way to go, Fenton--all that metal in their tummies made it easy!" And yet they still can't figure out that he's Gizmoduck? What exactly do they think he just did?

-Webby as a Junior Woodchuck, recalling "Merit-Time Adventure." I'm down with that.

Ducktales, Season Four, Episode One: "Ducky Mountain High"

I basically liked the portrayal of Goldie in the Ducktales' "Back to the Klondike." She's appeared two times since then, but neither of them is really what you'd call "canonical:" as a faerie-tale princess in "Scroogerello," and as a dubious punchline at the end of "Till Nephews Do Us Part." So I was all for a real repeat appearance, if only they could make it work.

The idea here is that Scrooge, smelling GOLD! on his stationery, heads up to the origin of the paper at a mill in Alaska to see what's what. Turns out there are gold trees up there--Scrooge reasons that they "must be growing over a rich gold deposit that the roots have soaked up over the years" (???). But it turns out he doesn't actually own the land with the trees, as he'd thought; that belongs to Goldie ("your old girlfriend?" HDL ask, demonstrating why this can never quite be on a Barksian level). So he plots to buy the land from her, but FUCK! Glomgold wants the land, too!

Now, I do have to say this: I really have a hard time imagining Scrooge being quite so willing and eager to cheat Goldie by buying up her gold trees with her all unawares. But apart from that…

…well, I have to admit it: this episode totally got me. Maybe it wouldn't have if my expectations hadn't been severely lowered by innumerable episodes prior, but whatever the reason, it did. I was all prepared to give it a scathing review, but then we reach the denouement, in which it is revealed--spoiler!--that the trees are secondary, and that Goldie had been plotting all this time (successfully!) to get Scrooge's land, which contains the real gold. "I've been workin' on a way to get your land for months; now I've got a gold deposit and you've got a lousy bunch of tree stumps!" This set me to grinning madly, and it made me retrospectively like the episode a whole lot. Don Rosa would probably gone with something more sentimental, but based solely on the original Barks story, this is a reasonable extrapolation. There's a bit early on when she's going out with both Scrooge and Glomgold and she gets gussied up with a blond wig and makeup in a way that's absolutely fucking grotesque, but you get to the end and you realize, huh. That was just to help in manipulating the boys. Well played, madame. Well played.

Certainly the best Bubba episode yet; that's damning with faint praise, admittedly, and Bubba's role in it is NOT a high point (there's this annoying running theme of him being obsessed with sports and therefore doing sports-related things to stop Glomgold and his Beagle assistants). But, even if it's not the all-time best, I really did like it! If the worst Ducktales episodes were half as good, there would be absolutely no cause for complaint.

Stray Observations

-…okay, I also kind of liked the ostentatiously Canadian Beagles that appear here, if only for their aggressive bizarreness. One of them's a pig. "He had a bad case of swine flu." I like how that non-explanation is just sort of left dangling there.

-"The only other restaurant in town is Yak-in-the-Box."

-"You wouldn't know a good deal if it was behind door number three!"

-"Goldie--you're a dirty deal-maker!" "I learned from the master!" Still devoted to the concept of "earning it square?" Just asking.

-…also, in spite of the ending's welcome tartness, they just can't resist tossing in a little sugar: Goldie kisses him and he blushes and winks at the camera as we go out with a heart. Hmph.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ducktales: The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

I saw this in a theater back in the day. I truly cannot remember, but I suspect I'd seen few if any actual episodes of the show at that point. I just remember being excited that the characters that I loved from the comics would now be on the screen, and I could go see them (we had no television at the time, as I've probably mentioned).

And…I remember essentially nothing about it, except perhaps being vaguely disappointed that it wasn't more Barksian (a word I would not have used nor recognized at the time). My dad took me to see it, and he said he liked the first part best. That was some sort of treasure-hunting bit, I gather? Probably as a parallel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which the title is obviously mimicking (and, of course, there's the obvious similarity between the Indiana Jones and Ducktales title logos)? I probably would have agreed with him, but again, I just don't remember.

As you may have surmised, I'm writing this bit before watching the movie (and I have to admit, I'm sort of impressed that the show was successful enough to merit a theatrical film). It'll be interesting to see how much of comes back to me when I do. I've complained about the failure of the show's multi-part episodes to really take advantage of the additional length to tell extended stories; that may have been inevitable given the necessities of syndication, but here there's no excuse. So show me what you've got, people. Surely for this--your crowning glory, in theory--you want to really knock one out of the park, don't you? Don't you? Stay tuned.

Well, the intro is sort of Indiana-Jones-ish, but it doesn't hit any specific beats from the movies--just in a sort of generic "ruins full of traps" way. The film opens in flight, and there's a weird bit where Scrooge incredulously exclaims, to Launchpad, "you mean you never took flying lessons?!?" It's clearly aimed at people who are unfamiliar with the Ducktales mythos (if "mythos" isn't giving it too much credit), which I suppose makes a certain amount of sense, but feels really odd to those of us who've been following the series.

The plane action is actually not half bad. I'm not sure whether this actually has better animation than the show, or if it's just that the DVD I was watching was of higher quality.

Anyway, the "opening" that my dad liked (or at least hated less--I'm not quite sure--I'll ask him, though I doubt he'll remember it any better than I did) is the bit where they enter the pyramid in search of this here lost treasure (they unearth this massive, three-tiered pyramid--which is wholly submerged in the sand--using shovels. Hokay. You may recall the Barks short in which it took them a huge amount of time, money, and construction equipment to accomplish a similar task. As usual, Barks FTW.) The inside-the-pyramid bit does feel at least a little bit Barksian, I'll give it that, the part where they're wallowing in treasure especially recalling "The Lost Mines of King Solomon."

Anyway (fuck it--I'm just going to start every paragraph from now on with "anyway"-- Try an' stop me!), they ultimately lose the treasure, due to Evil Sorcerer Dude Merlock who's also after it--only they do keep this seemingly-useless (dum dum dum!) lamp, which turns out, quelle surprise, to contain a genie. If you didn't know that this had been released years before, you would be sure it had been strongly influenced by Disney's Aladdin. The genie is a peppy, slightly annoying little squirt who is ultimately christened, cleverly enough, "Gene."

Anyway, the kids do some rather aimless dicking around with the genie, cavalierly wishing for this and that. It's not super-exciting, and Gene tends to grate. They learn, in the course of events, that Merlock is super-evil an' he wants the lamp an' he "has unlimited wishes because he has a magic talisman" (don't expect THAT little eyebrow-raiser to be further explained). But the jig is up when Webby idiotically wishes that "all my toys and dollies were alive," causing mass chaos. I'll grant you, it IS sort of funny that the living dolls turn out to be kind of insane. I do wonder about the ethics of reducing living toys back to their inanimate state, however.

Anyway, now Scrooge has the lamp, and he's mad with power. After wishing for the return of the treasure he'd lost, he goes to an archeologists' banquet to gloat, but oh no, Merlock is after them. They effect a close escape, but then Scrooge somehow loses the lamp after crashing into a table cart, and it is retrieved by Merlock's comedy-racism servant, Dijon. Gene convinces him that he'd be better off KEEPING him rather than giving him back to his boss, so he wishes for SCROOGE'S fortune! Oh noes!

Really now, this makes absolutely no sense (darn--broke my "anyway" streak). By what legal right would he be able to KEEP Scrooge's fortune, might I ask? The guards even tote Scrooge away and throw him in jail when he tries to do something about it. Maybe the idea is that Gene switched us into a slightly different universe in which Dijon somehow owned it all all along? But no, because the kids and staff all know the score. There's just no way to reconcile this--I suppose if we want to avoid castigating the writers for constructing dumb plots that make no sense (…but when have I ever been reticent on that front?), we have to chalk this up to Christopher's oft-stated theory that the law in Duckburg is just corrupt as fuck--but even that doesn't really work, since this massive transfer of wealth would clearly require multinational coöperation.

Anyway (back in the swing, baby!), our heroes hatch a plan to break into the bin and steal the lamp. This part's pretty decent, albeit short; it's also literally the only thing I remembered--extremely vaguely--having seen before. But it doesn't help, as Merlock gets his hands on the lamp after all, and wishes for the bin to transform into a more "evil," Snake-Mountain-ish form (the transformation sequence is admittedly pretty hardcore) and fly back to, uh, Arabland, I suppose. I guess Merlock must technically be the most evil Ducktales villain around--per Gene, he was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis and Pompeii--but he doesn't make a huge impression, even when he does all sorts of theoretically-cool (though one thinks back to "Raiders of the Lost Harp," in which Magica's were way better) transformations.

Anyway, he's stopped (he dies, making him only the second Ducktales character to do that unless I'm forgetting something--and by the old Disney standby of Falling From A Great Height, no less). There's not much more to say than that. Scrooge saves the day by wishing that Gene would turn into a Real Boy™ (turns out that Real Boys™ have backwards baseball caps instead of turbans). Where exactly he's going to live now is anybody's guess--no reason he couldn't stay with Scrooge & Co, I suppose (except that he's annoying, but that didn't stop Bubba), but I am severely doubting that he will turn up in any of the seven last episodes. Maybe he can go live in Doofus's dumpster.

And the film ends with Scrooge chasing Dijon, who was trying to cadge some cash, away from the bin. Ho ho ho.

Movie has its moments, but it's no masterpiece. I have a hard time imagining that anyone who'd never seen the show would become a convert on the strength of it. Per Wikipedia, more movies were planned, but the relative box office failure of this one put the kibosh on them. That's too bad, but dammit, people, what did you think would happen? I can easily imagine that this might be hailed to this day as a classic if it were as good as "The Uncrashable Hindentanic," but you can't expect movie audiences to be as undiscriminating as consumers of syndicated cartoons are, especially when, given the Disney imprimatur, people have certain expectations (though it's important to note that this was not a product of the real Walt Disney Studios, but rather the first release of DisneyToons, infamous for their terrible direct-to-video "sequels").

You know what would have made it better? Fenton. Granted, he wouldn't have fit all that well here, but I'm willing to bet that if they'd come up with an entirely different movie featuring our favorite accountant/superhero in a central role, it would've been a lot better than this. Maybe they'd even have gotten to make those sequels. What might have been!

Stray Observations

-No, seriously, the portrayal of Dijon is amazingly racially insensitive. I once again shake my head in wonder at the arbitrariness of Disney's censorship policies.

-"But he's our friend!" "Nonsense! A genie isn't a person! A genie is a thing!" Ah, there's that world-renowned Ducktales subtlety!

-The closed-captioning for the theme song over the closing credits renders "ponytails or cottontails" as "phony tales of captain tales." I just thought you'd want to know that.

-Speaking of the theme song, given that there would've been plenty of time, I'm disappointed that they didn't insert the hilariously nonsensical "cool deduction never fails, that's for certain" verse into it.