Friday, February 11, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Nine: "The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan"

The soft-hearted boy that I used to be was always bothered by the Barks story of this title: I couldn't stop thinking about how sad Gu, the yeti, was going to be when the watch stopped ticking again. I know he was imprisoning the ducks and all that, but that didn't really make him a bad guy, did it? Well, it upset me. More recently, I read Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart's Marxist critique How to Read Donald Duck, in which they pinpoint this story specifically as an example of imperialist ideology in action--ie, Gu is a feeble-minded native to be casually exploited by the callous Westerner. The book is seriously flawed, no doubt about it, but it's hard to deny that "Lost Crown" lends itself very well to a reading of this sort. As a result, it's not one of my favorites, though the exploration leading up to the ducks' capture is as well-done as you'd expect from Barks.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm saying it: this episode is better than the original story. Well…maybe. It improves on it in a lot of ways, but it also introduces a few egregious annoyances that prevent it from being quite as awesome as I feel like it ought to be. Let's get those out of the way right away.

First: unlike the Barks story, this is set up as a contest where toffs vie for the hidden treasure (ie, the crown). This feels kind of tacked-on, but what's really annoying and tacked-on is the guy with the horribly irritating voice acting and vocal mannerisms who sabotages the other contestants and tries to stop Scrooge. Man, fuck that guy.

Second: the ending, where the yeti comes back to the explorers' club with Scrooge and chases around evil-dude? Egregiously silly, no question about it.

However, there's a lot to recommend the episode: portraying the yeti as a more sympathetic character was definitely a good idea--I thought making him into a her would end up being kinda dumb, but it actually works, and most of the original's condescension is removed. There's also a lot of good character stuff--as when Scrooge finds the crown, excitedly declares himself "King of the Explorers once again!" and then wilts as he realizes that, having lost his entire party in the process, this is a hollow victory. Finally, there's a very atmospheric night blizzard scene, in which the ducks are sleeping in their tend as the winds howl until they are awakened by the yeti, who they can just make out heading off into the storm.

Good work all 'round. More like this, please.

Stray Observations

-'Course, if you did want to see this as some sort of comment on imperialism, the fact that the head of the Explorers' Club is named "Lord Battmounten" would certainly be relevant.

-In the brief flashback sequence at the beginning, the role of Genghis Khan is played by perennial Mickey Mouse villain Black Pete.

-Funny bit before they set off with Launchpad trying to impress the local girls by doing a trepaka-type dance to the tune of "The Streets of Cairo."

-I mostly don't have strong opinions about Webby, but there's one part where you can definitely see why she would rub people the wrong way. Webby: Aah! HDL: Webby, what is it?!? Webby [giggling]: A snowflake just landed on my nose! No more of THAT, thank you very much.

-The persistence of Scrooge's anger at the yeti is somewhat inexplicable.

-Funny dialogue:
"You guys gotta think positive!"
"But Launchpad! Webby's lost, Unca Scrooge is lost, we're lost, and there's a monster in these caves trying to get us!"
"Come on, there must be SOMETHING positive about all this!"
"If we don't keep moving, we're going to freeze to death!"
"There you go!"


  1. As for the ending, I always thought that Scrooge had the yeti chase evil-dude until he confessed that he stole the crown, admitted that Scrooge really won, and gave Scrooge the crown back, as well as the Explorer of the Year award. I like to think that Scrooge then had the yeti chase the other members of the Explorer Club until they apologized for not believing him.

  2. wait, in the finnish translation of the comic at least scrooge shows the yeti how to rewind the watch? I guess it will still eventually break though...