Friday, July 8, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Fifty-Eight: "All Ducks on Deck"

How bizarre: prior to watching this episode, I was sure I had seen it before, but the only fragmentary scene I "remembered" from it--Donald from behind after, either getting out of the navy or going on leave or SOMETHING--is most definitely NOT in the episode itself. Huh.

Seems odd to put two naval episode featuring Donald back-to-back, but there you have it. There's a cool intro in which the ship is being menaced by a storm and running into dangerous reef territory, and the waves and the crags are personified with "evil" faces, and I thought hey, yeah, Donald can beat an octopus, GOOD GOING! and it wasn't until he entered the cabin to steer the ship to safety that I realized, darn--this is gonna be all a dream.

Well, a fantasy, anyway, that he's telling to the kids. It's certainly an appropriately Barksian thing for him to get in trouble due to his ego getting carried away like this, so kudos to that--he certainly plays a better role here than he did last episode.

Anyway, I suppose it's just burying the lede to have gone this long without mentioning that this episode feature the PHANTOM BLOT as a villain. You know, I've always thought the very idea of the Blot as a recurring comics villain is kind of dumb--the whole point of the character in the original Gottfredson story is that he's mysterious. But once we learn his True Identity...well, he's just some guy. So now Some Guy is a recurring Mickey villain, to what I have generally found to be minimal effect.

The Blot here has even less relationship to the original character than the latter-day comics version does; he's all over-the-top cackling and megalomaniacal. Fact remains, though, few if any of the people in the show's target audience are gonna have been familiar with the character at all, and stipulating that this guy has little or nothing to do with the original, he's pretty effective. He actually has comparatively little screen time, but his ranting IS entertaining to watch, and I have to admit, I was not expecting--spoiler alert!--for Grimitz's ass-kissing adjutant to be in league with him.

Oh, yeah, anyway, the Blot tries to steal an experimental invisible plane--though the idea that he's going to somehow be able to RULE THE WORLD with this plane needs some fine-tuning. He fails, and Donald…well, doesn't really save the day in any particularly profound way. It's not like lighting signal flares to let Scrooge's and Launchpad's plane land was a particularly brilliant idea. Oh well. The kids making a medal for him at the end is nicely reminiscent of the Barks ten-pager in which he tries out for the Olympics, and the meta-y business of the medal showing a Wheel-of-Fortune-type show in which "Duck Tales" is the solution is fun.

Stray Observations

-"A net! And I don't mean Funicello!" GROAN.

-Seems like the idea of the nephews stowing away in luggage is a bit ragged by this point…

-Pretty dumb of Grimitz & Co to think that HDL's remote-control thing is a shark, but it's funny when Donald shoots it with a flaregun and just sets the top of it on fire. I fail to see why he shouldn't get credit for having done that--not HIS fault it goes out of control.

-"It's nice to be fishing again!" "Aye! And THESE fish DESERVE to be caught!" As opposed, presumably, to regular fish, who are just innocent victims.

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Fifty-Seven: "Spies in Their Eyes"

He's a DUCK--TALES--HERO, got spies in his eyes!

Sorry, but I fail to see how anyone can talk about this episode and not use that one.

Anyway, here's Donald! Let there be much rejoicing! Although he doesn't exactly have a lot of agency in the episode, which is a bit of a bummer. The idea is that he's on shore leave in Singapore (we're all as mad as hatters here!); the sinister spy Cinnamon Teal hypnotizes him into stealing the navy's experimental…submarine computer thing, for which he is arrested, until Scrooge and HDL can prove his innocence.

The place is crawling with spies, is the idea, and there's a very cool scene in which the hypnotized Donald visits a den of spies, the Cloak & Dagger, to drop off the stolen thing, and a whole bunch of unrelated spies try to accost him with various cryptic things. Nice and atmospheric, and the whole thing recalls Barks' "Dangerous Disguise" in a limited but pleasant way. 'Course, then the scene is reprised in the light of day by Scrooge and HDL to much lesser effect, but what the hey.

Cinnamon Teal is a pretty great femme fatale, and I like the fact that, in spite of the fact that she's pretty clearly villainous (even if she had reason to steal the thing, she did it to get back papers that would incriminate her, so she was clearly guilty of SOMETHING) she doesn't get taken down in the end. The pig-face spy who's blackmailing her is pretty cool at first, but he degenerates precipitously towards the end. Spies are supposed to steal information and sensitive items. They're not supposed to just go around blasting at ships for no stated reason. Be less stupid, Ducktales!

But you know, whatever; it's a pretty good episode all told.

Stray Observations

-Louie: "What's hypnosis?" Dewey: "It's when you walk around in a daze and don't know what you're doing!" "That sounds like Unca Donald, all right!" No, it sounds like the forced setup for a stupid joke at the expense of character. STOP DOING THAT.

-You know, I think that if Donald's actually been convicted of espionage, he's gonna get way worse than just being discharged…

-Grimitz doing a hypnotized ballerina act=pretty funny.

-"You tore up my contracts!" Scrooge rages at the end, Donald having confused them with his discharge papers. But dude, WHO CARES? If the navy wants to buy stuff from you, why would that possibly matter? RRRGH.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Fifty-Six: "Once Upon a Dime"

Apologies for the lack of updates--I've just been preoccupied with this and that. But come hell or high water, I AM going to finish this.

This episode is Scrooge's biography--the Ducktales version of the L&T, I suppose. Rosa doesn't exactly have much to worry about, though. The episode opens really, really stupidly--oh no; what's happened to Scrooge's Number-One Dime? Oh look, HDL took it: "We gave you our lucky quarter instead!" "It's a quarter--that makes it two and a half times luckier than your dime!" Really, people? After all this time, we're meant to buy that HDL have no goddamn clue about the dime's significance? That really takes stupidity to the limit, and it demonstrates a pretty profound disrespect for the audience.

Anyway, Scrooge starts learnin' them a lesson about his past and the dime's True Meaning. I was actually sort of impressed by how many Barksian--and not JUST Barksian, either--facts the episode tossed in, albeit in a somewhat haphazard way: Scrooge getting his first dime shining a ditch-digger's boots, using a mass-shoe-shining contraption, having a river-rat uncle in the states and getting in a riverboat race (he leaves Scotland as a teenager, contradicting "The Curse of Castle McDuck," but whatever…)…alas, none of this really adds up to much good, however. There's an abundance of really dumb shit here, and what are some really good sequences in theory--the race, his Klondike days--are incredibly cursory in execution. The fact that the episode is saturated with stupid kilt and bagpipe jokes really shows just how much wit and creativity went into this one.

Also worthy of derision: he strikes oil--and thus becomes rich--purely by luck (he was just digging a hole to bury his dime!). That fundamentally misunderstands the character, and it's the most egregious example of the "lucky dime" heresy we've seen yet: "All thanks to my lucky number one dime!" Also, he becomes a diamond magnate. How? Well, he gets a coal field in Africa. He scatters some peanuts around, causing an elephant stampede, and the pressure of the elephants on the coal causes oh for fuck's sake I can't even finish that sentence, it's such a stupid idea. In fact, although god knows it has plenty of competition, I daresay it may be the dumbest thing in Ducktales thusfar. Take a bow, you dopey bastards.

Stray Observations


-Okay, the cowboy Beagles are sort of amusing.

-A really, really weird bit where a hitchhiking Scrooge hitches up his kilt to show some leg to get a ride. Who the hell is this episode for, anyway?

-Hey, did you know that the REAL treasure is family? Perfect point of comparison: Rosa did this same thing, more or less, at the end of the L&T, but, sentimentalist though he is, he avoided getting too goopily saccharine, 'cause who wants that? No such restraint in this episode, big surprise.