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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Eighteen: "A Duck Tales' [sic] Valentine"

"I thought you loved me but it seems you don't care."
"I care enough to know I can never love you."

The wikipedia entry--as well as various other internet places--lists the full title of this episode as "A Ducktales Valentine (amour or less)," but that last part does NOT appear on the title card. PLEASE PROVIDE EXPLANATION. Also, it renders "Ducktales" as two words (and includes an inappropriate apostrophe), though the internet fails to acknowledge that.

This is the second Ducktales Valentine's Day episode. The first was the adaptation of "Back to the Klondike," which, in spite of smoothing out the emotional complexity of the Barks original, as well as having an infamously-sappy ending, was actually pretty good. So what's this one like?

Um well um. Scrooge is on the hunt for the "Lost Temple of Aphroducky" and the treasure it contains, callously disregarding the fact that Valentine's Day is coming up. The coldhearted bastard! He refuses to allow HDL and Webby to go along, and there's an unintentionally hilarious bit where they're like, oh man, what'll we do? And then the camera focuses on an empty crate and they're all, maybe we CAN go, after all! Dudes, you stow away in boxes three or four times a week. Don't act like the idea is such a revelation.

Anyway…they go to check out this temple, which is currently submerged under the sea. And they find statues of Aphroducky, as well as Vulcan and Cupid, and two things: A) if you're going to give one of them a lame duck-oriented name, you have to do it for all of them. None of this lame inconsistency; and B) Aphrodite is Greek; Vulcan and Cupid are Roman. I don't think it's asking too much to expect the show to get this fairly basic bit right--at least, if you don't want people to resort to the damming-with-faint-praise "who cares? It's just a dumb kids' show." Of course, you probably want to keep "Cupid," since "Eros" doesn't quite have the same cultural resonance, and besides, hypersensitive parent groups might get enraged. So the best choice would've been to just go with "Venus;" we'd lose the awesome duck-name, of course, but I can honestly say that that is a sacrifice I am prepared to make.

That was certainly a lot of ink spilt on an incredibly minor point! Anyway, they find Cupid's golden arrows, and there's a vaguely amusing bit with Launchpad getting poked by one and falling in love with a shark. They take them back to the states, but it turns out Aphrofuckit is still kicking around, and she's pissed off that her arrows have gone missing, so she goes to retrieve them personally. Only, sigh, she gets poked and falls in love with Scrooge and vice versa, and the kids are sad about being ignored. Webby in particular engages in an intolerable amount of saccharine burbling; there is definite evidence of some sort of Electra Complex here.

There's a serious contradiction here; to wit, the episode is supposed to be glorifying love, of which the goddess who will not be named is meant to be a representation, yet the show is unable to resist depicting her with your typically lazy, low-level misogyny: selfish, callous, slightly bitchy. Not so fantastic, guys.

Anyway, it turns out that to break the curse of love, you have to be forced to choose between it and something else you love. Scrooge picks goddess over money, but--get ready for a shocker--it turns out he loves HDL and Webby more'n anything, and good god, if you thought the train blowing smoke-hearts at the end of "Klondike" was syrupy, get a load of him declaring "I've got all the treasure I need right here!" as he and the kids are limned in violently-pulsing red, white, and pink hearts.

Probably not quite as bad as this description makes it sound, but still relatively awful.

Stray Observations

-Yes, the conflation of romantic and familial love is just a bit creepy, now that you mention it.

-"This so-called holiday is just a ploy by the card and candy companies to make a buck!" We're clearly meant to disagree with this statement, but…well, don't get me wrong, I find lazy anti-Valentine's-Day cynicism super-boring, but the fact remains, it's sorta kinda completely true.

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Seventeen: "The Masked Mallard"

Scrooge as a superhero? I was actually, perhaps naïvely, hopeful that this could be something really cool, like Launchpad as a secret agent. Hmph.

So Scrooge is building a shopping mall, and there's an evil news anchor dude, "Lloyd Loudmouth" (a sort-of proto-Glenn-Beck, I suppose, though orders of magnitude less media-savvy), who accuses him of just wanting to "line [his] pockets at the public's expense." This is all very nonsensical, but he apparently succeeds in making everyone hate the shit out of Scrooge, to the extent that children hurl rotten produce at him. I won't say I don't think it would be good if the general public adopted that attitude towards investment bankers in real life, but here it's just heavy-handed and dumb, similar to the heavy-handed dumbness in the last episode of everyone marginalizing Webby, only even less justified.

So anyway, Scrooge has the brilliant idea to adopt the identity of the title character, with the help of some inventions from Gyro, and fight some crime and whatnot, before revealing his true identity to make people realize he doesn't suck so much.

But oh no, a person who is transparently the evil news anchor dude is pretending to be the Masked Mallard and committing crimes to discredit him. And there's some mistaken-identity stuff, with Gizmo nabbing the wrong one, and a climactic battle, and blah.

I should note that the episode DOES include some sort-of-cool comic-book-style backgrounds, but aside from that, this is all very unimaginative stuff. I think the laziness is crystalized in this bit of lampshading when Gizmoduck has nabbed Scrooge, thinking he's the Mallard: "Listen: did you no see both me and the Masked Mallard outside the art museum?" "Yes…" "Doesn't that give ya a clue?" "No…" Come on.

Also, while I have no problem with the characters being fooled by dumb secret identities, it rubs me the wrong way when we're meant, to whatever extent, to sort of go along with them being fooled.

Seriously, Ducktales. Just one more episode as good as "Metal Attraction." Don't make me beg.

Stray Observations

-Okay, I do like Scrooge's incredibly bizarre Masked-Mallard voice, trying to do the Gizmoduck sound on top of the brogue.

-Oh, and Scrooge is saved from being tied to a flagpole by activating his whistle-activated laser-cane that then fires lasers around wildly and just so happens to shoot clean through the ropes. You're not even trying here, guys.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Sixteen: "Attack of the Fifty-Foot Webby"

See? You guys can correctly hyphenate your titles if you're serious about it. Of course, you can also make titles that sound very much as though the show is reaching the end of its creative rope. But hey--looks can be deceiving, right? Let's see.

I cannot help but note that this is the second of Webby's uncommon starring roles in a row where the idea is that nobody pays attention to her. This seems like an indication that, consciously or not, the writers are acknowledging the character's fundamental superfluousness to the show. She was clearly created with an eye towards reaching a female demographic, but the fact that she's so totally marginal seems to me like a bigger slap in the face to said demographic than just not having her at all would've been.

Be that as it may, that's the way it is, and it's actually kinda stupid, the extent to which everyone exaggeratedly fails to notice Webby all the time. Subtlety: this episode can't haz it. And they keep talking about her being "small." Dudes: she's the exact same size as the nephews. Unless they were speaking figuratively, in which case I guess I can't argue with them...

In spite of the title, this is a King Kong spoof with nothing but the title to do with Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman (I assume, anyway--never seen the film; going solely off the wikipedia article). Scrooge is off to find a giant "long-tailed gorilla" as a tourist thing, and I have to give the episode at least a little credit: I was all ready to shout "GORILLAS DON'T HAVE TAILS," but the show ultimately acknowledges that he's not actually a gorilla but a giant monkey--though why anyone would ever have thought he looked anything like a gorilla is a mystery.

Anyway, it turns out he's big thanks to Magic Water, and, well, what do you think happens? And while Scrooge is waiting for the doctor (who should have been but isn't played by Ludwig Von Drake) to cook up a shrinking solution, an evil circus-dude tries to capture her and stuff. And then there's a sort of cute reversal, in which giant-Webby climbs to the top of a skyscraper holding the ape, and that's about that.

Meh. I suppose this isn't terrible, apart from the artlessness with which it pushes its dopey "theme," but once again, Webby doesn't do much to distinguish herself. "I've brought everything I need: my quackypatch doll, extra hair ribbons, and a canteen of cocoa!" Yeah. Way to confirm you're anything but a lazy, token-y stereotype.

Stray Observations

-Giant Webby is way huger than Giant Monkey. I suppose the idea is that she's the same size in relation to it as she would be if they were both regular-sized, but in that case, that's one minuscule monkey.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Fifteen: "The Unbreakable Bin"

This episode has a really cool introductory nightmare sequence, where implacable, zombie-ish Beagle Boys are attacking the money bin and Scrooge can do nothing to stop them. The whole thing's rendered in crayonish textures and everything's filmed at odd angles. It's neat, and it reminds me of the similar opening to Rota's "Money Ocean."

The episode is an adaptation of Barks' "Unsafe Safe," and, by Ducktales standards, a faithful-ish one, but with the always-welcome addition of a Fenton subplot. The idea--as if you didn't know--is that Gyro invents new, unbreakable glass for Scrooge's new glasses (apparently, after "The Money Well," he took to heart the importance of being able to see properly); he uses this to sheathe the bin (actually, he appears to not just sheathe it, but actually replace the metal with glass, given that you can see through it to the money--cool effect; not necessarily that practical), which is liberating for him, but, oh no, there's a tropical bird with a call that can shatter even the magic glass, and now it is necessary to stop Magica (in her first appearance since "Nothing to Fear," way back in season one) from utilizing this to take his dime. In this version, Scrooge fires Fenton from his Gizmoduck job on the basis that he's no longer necessary, and he tries to find other suit-augmented work, with limited success.

I don't love the Barks story, but it's pleasant enough. That's also how I'd describe this episode: pleasant enough. Sufficiently pleasant. And that's a relief, given how brutal some of these recent episodes have been.

Stray Observations

-Hey, guess what? I've watched ninety episodes now. Just ten more, plus the movie. What a long, strange oh I'm sorry; I was momentarily channeling every high school yearbook ever.

-"But I really need that second paycheck! Mama and I have grown accustomed to our extravagant lower-middle-class lifestyle!" See, this is the kind of thing you shouldn't make explicit, guys. 'Cause if you spell out the fact that Fenton's barely able to keep afloat on the salary from two important jobs with the richest duck in the world, you're gonna make people think, wow, that Scrooge is an asshole. Which I'm pretty sure is not the idea.

-"...and in addition to withstanding three cubic tons of pressure per square inch, I also carry my own sonar equipment and intercontinental ballistic missiles!"

-I like the bad-comedian tour guide that the episode throws in for no reason.

-"Now that I've stopped worrying about my money, I don't mind spending it!" I don't think that's an accurate rendering of Scrooge's psychology.

-Gizmoduck patrolling back and forth in a variety of outfits--Rocket Gizmo, Chainsaw Gizmo, Napoleonic Gizmo, Rambo Gizmo--is funny.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Fourteen: "The Bride Wore Stripes"

You know, I'm pretty sure you people who've already seen all these episodes can by now more or less predict what my reaction's going to be to a given episode--so what the hell do you think I thought of "The Bride Wore Stripes?" I was seriously considering just making this entry a long string of disconnected profanity, but fuck it--let's try to do this. Sigh.

Actually, there is one good thing about it: when some Beagle comments that Ma "sure [has] been on edge lately," she respond with what sounds for all the world--I replayed it a half dozen times--like "Well, what do you expect--after living in this rat shit all these years!" Another good thing that's at least related to the episode: in comments on youtube you can hear some dude elaborating on his desire to fuck Ma Beagle. So that's very edifying.

But oh gawd…the idea is that Ma Beagle comes up with a plan to convince everyone that she's married to Scrooge, so that she can divorce him and take half his stuff. She does this by the brilliant strategy of posing in the background of photographs in which he's holding cards and flowers for Mrs. Beakley's birthday. By this brilliant expedient, she gets a judge to confirm that they're legally married and then there are bits with her and her sons running amuck in Scrooge's mansion that make me want to vomit with rage at the sheer idiocy.

So Scrooge tries to get rid of her by, uh, forcing her to do housework and cooking and stuff. How can he force her to do anything? Shut up, that's how. When she rises to the challenge, he comes up with the brilliant plan of faking his own death-by-drowning in the Money Bin; this causes the cops to suspect her of murder, even though he manifestly "drowned" all by himself right there on the surveillance camera, and this causes her to confess that the two of them aren't really married.

Dismal, just dismal. Bottom-ten material, for sure. Dammit, Ducktales. Your episode's bad and you should feel bad.

Stray Observations

-"If I were married, my wife would own half my fortune! And if she ever divorced me, she'd take half of it with her!" No such thing as a prenuptial agreement in Calisota, then?

-I was sort of okay with Ma Beagle at first. After this extended exposure to her…not so much anymore.

-Also, Burger: he's easily the worst of them. He appears to be literally mentally disabled. Fuck you for thinking this is funny, Ducktales! And I don't mean that in some sorta political-correctness-type way, either (although I'm not insensitive to such concerns). I mean it in a "this is stupid and lazy and not even slightly funny and it ruins the Beagle Boys and I hate you all" way.

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Thirteen: "Yuppy [sic] Ducks"

HDL announce that they're ten years old, which would confirm "Bubbeo and Juliet's" assertion as to their age--but again, until I see this in a non-Bubba episode, I'm not buying it. Sorry!

Scrooge suddenly itches all over; he stops at the "free clinic," which is full of derelicts and seems as good an argument as any for universal healthcare; he gets examined by a crazy German doctor who I'm pretty sure is an ex-Nazi, and is diagnosed with "loot lice," meaning he has to be in quarantine for a week. Egads!

So when members of his board call asking for his input on business decisions, HDL luck out by giving them useful money-making advice. This causes the board members--who are clearly none too bright--to start relying on them for advice on EVERYTHING. They get quite insufferable and dictatorial, but finally their bad decisions come home to roost, and they apparently lose all of Scrooge's money, which doesn't seem terribly plausible.

But never fear: in one of the dumber denouements in recent memory, they discover that since they're only ten, they're not legally qualified to give business advice (???), and therefore none of the stuff they've done "counts," so Scrooge gets all of his money back (which wouldn't be enough to fool him, really, since we know he recognizes specific bits of currency, but that semi-rule's been broken enough times before now, in both comic and cartoon). Also, the Beagles are involved, but not in any very essential way.

This episode really isn't awful; it has its vaguely amusing moments, and the way HDL design their own eccentric car for Scrooge's line reminds me of this. But it's not very good, either; as with all too many Ducktales episodes, "mediocre" is about the most you can say. And I don't like the fact that, as they're trying to decide what to do, they keep going "oh no--not that Junior Woodchucks truth-telling thing!" Dude--why would you want to emphasize the fact that they're behaving out-of-character like that?

Stray Observations

-"We didn't wanna tell you, but--Louie's a vampire!"

-The baseball team is the "Calisota Stealers?" What about the Duckburg Mallards? Are we to assume that they're just a farm team for the Stealers? You'd think Duckburg would be big enough for a major-league team.

-"Yes-Man Bubba"--well, I guess that's about all he's good for.

-The name I was looking for is Fenton Hardy, father of Frank and Joe, the Hardy Boys. I know they don't have the same cultural presence they once did, but none of all y'all read those books as kids? Really? When I was small, I was quite baffled by this: what the hell kind of name is "Fenton?" But I guess Ducktales vindicates it.

-Speaking of the Hardy Boys and names, they also had a friend named "Biff," which is an awesome, hilarious, and sadly-neglected name. It got some added publicity (though not necessarily the good kind) from Back to the Future, but the Hardy Boys were keeping it alive well before. This is wildly off-topic, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Twelve: "Beaglemania"

Oh me oh my…the idea is that the Beagles are going to steal the jackpot from this "America's Next Top Band"-type thing, but they get caught, so they have to quickly pretend they're there to sing, performing a song that Ma Beagle hastily scribbles on a napkin. And from there they become big stars with their own money bin. Which they're able to swim in, contradicting previous episodes.

Now, obviously this is goofy as hell, but it's clear that this is just going to be That Kind Of Episode, and That Kind Of Episode can be quite good. And indeed, the initial performance of that song--the "Boogie Beagle Blues"--isn't bad. But man, after that, this episode gets horribly tedious horribly quickly. I think my feelings on the Ducktales Beagles are no secret to anyone at this point, but I'm not saying this episode couldn't have been a clever music-industry satire. But no; it's all very broad and toothless, and yeah, those fucking Beagles do grate, not least because this is easily the least duck-centric episode yet--the Beagles get by far the most screentime.

Strange as it sounds to say it, given that they've always been goofy in their own way, the reason I don't like these Ducktales Beagles (I mean, aside from the fact that, regardless of context, they're just annoying) is that they rob the Barksian originals of their dignity, with their stupid voices and their stupid individual gimmicks. The Barks Beagles were, at times, quite canny, and they actually represented a legitimate threat to Scrooge. Who can picture these jokers being a serious threat to anyone?

Anyway, that's by way of saying that I have nothing cogent to say about "Beaglemania." It's just a big ol' null set, as far as I'm concerned.

Stray Observations

-"Gold seven times over"--shouldn't that be some variety of platinum? Oh, wait, I forgot: I don't care.

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Eleven: "Blue Collar Scrooge"

Again, a failure of hyphenation, unless that's meant to be an imperative directed at someone named "Blue." In which case you'd need a comma. So, failure either way.

So. Scrooge is going to sell his skateboard factory to the overseas competition, which is, hilariously, actually called "The Overseas Competition Corporation." But he slips on a skateboard and bashes his head and--as I am led to believe generally happens when people get concussions--loses his memory. "What IS my name?" he wonders. "Who am I? And why am I talking in this funny accent?" Okay okay, I know it's just a joke, but it always bears repeating: everyone has an accent; you don't notice your own or those of people who sound like you because for you that's the default, but it is there nonetheless. Regardless, in his amnesiac state, he switches to an American one.

The obvious problem with extending this idea--that pretty much everyone on the show would immediately recognize Scrooge--is dispatched by--apparently--deciding that nobody can tell who he is without his hat and glasses. Seems somewhat dubious to me! But it DOES lead to a somewhat amusing character bit where, while rooting through a trash bin, Mrs. Crackshell sees him and the two start dating, sort of (including a cute riff on the famous spaghetti-eating scene from Lady and the Tramp). Also, with no explanation, Scrooge is apparently now a big fan of soap operas, causing the two of them to bond some more.

Anyway, Scrooge gets a job in his own skateboard factory, and when he hears that the factory's going to be sold, he instigates a strike; meanwhile, Fenton is compelled to impersonate Scrooge to make sure the sale goes through. How accomplishing a strike is going to somehow stop the concern from being sold is anyone's guess; so is the question of why, on hearing about this strike, the representative of OCC calls the whole thing off--they were going to liquidate it and move the whole thing Overseas anyway, so what's the problem?

Having seen how shitty the working conditions are--and how dictatorial Fenton was acting as him--Scrooge calls off the sale (which had already been called off, but eh) and dictates a modest improvement in working conditions. Characterwise, it's appropriate that he makes things better, but not too much better. Too bad this isn't a change that's gonna last beyond this episode.

Oh, and at the end, he's apparently still with Mrs. Crackshell. Now that's a dynamic I'd really like to see continued. But alas!

In all, not too bad, in spite of my nitpicking.

Stray Observations

-"Let's split up and search for him!"
"Good idea! Boys, you search high and low! Mrs. Beakley, you search far and wide! And I'll search here and there!"

-It's funny that Fenton has no idea what sort of accent Scrooge has, trying on French and German before getting it right (in an abbreviated My Fair Lady spoof).

-Scroogeburgers cost five bucks each? Please tell me how this could possibly be an effective business plan.

-"Please, call me Mrs. Crackshell." We're really determined not to give her a first name, aren't we?

-Pop quiz: name another piece of children's entertainment featuring a character named "Fenton."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Ten: "A Case of Mistaken Secret Identity"

Well…HDL become convinced that Gizmoduck is Launchpad, which, there's no getting around it, is an incredibly stupid thing to be convinced of, given that they have quite unambiguously seen Gizmoduck and Launchpad together on several occasions; plus, Launchpad obviously has the wrong body type. It's just not good characterization to depict the nephews as being this dimwitted--and absolutely insufferable about their wrongness, too. Boy oh boy.

Actually, an episode dealing with Fenton's frustration at being unable to get any of that Gizmoglory is a good idea, and there IS quite a funny bit where he's arguing with himself over whether to tell the kids the truth: "Oh yeah? I'll tell you who he is! But…oh, I shouldn't! I must! No no! Yes! Gizmoduck is…no! I won't say! Oh! I just gotta! Never! Never! I must! Gizmoduck happens to be…" But in general, this was NOT the right way to handle this.

Anyway, due to a series of contrivances, the whole public becomes convinced of the veracity of this dubious idea; ultimately, Launchpad accidentally gets crammed into the suit and, not being familiar with the controls, disaster results; Fenton saves him and gets some measure of acclaim, and everyone accepts that Launchpad isn't Gizmoduck. And then, the kids decide that Mrs. Beakley is the next-most-likely candidate. Sigh.

Stray Observations

-This episode features "Oprah Webry" (who was also in the last one) and "Geralduck Rivera," who appear to be normal humans in every respect except that they have beaks. This looks really strange.

-"I'm gonna bare my soul!" "Jeepers--you can do that on television?"

-Like the way Launchpad immediately gets groupies after everyone becomes convinced he's Gizmoduck.

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Nine: "The Big Flub"

Fenton wants to be promoted to Vice President in Charge of New Products, but Scrooge is unwilling, based, not unreasonably, on the fact that he has no qualifications. So, to show that he has what it takes, Fenton shoots a series of commercials with Gandra, only realizing as they're shooting that he has no idea what they're commercials for, and so creating a phantom product called "Pep." The commercials are funny ("No one ever used to ask me out--now I'm in the swing of things, thanks to Pep!"), and it's a nicely postmodern satire--signifier with no signified. Reminds me of the Philip K. Dick novel Ubik, in which each chapter opens with a little ad for the mysterious title product. When there's a mix-up and the ads are actually run, as you'd expect, huge demand is created for this here Pep without anyone knowing what it is.

So that's all well and good, but it's a cool concept that sort of becomes less interesting in the back end. Scrooge hits up Gyro to create a product to match the ads, and he hits on a magic bubblegum that makes you float when you chew it. Not that this is bad, exactly, but when you narrow things down like that, it all becomes rather less funny/clever.

Anyway, turns out when you chew too much of the stuff, you start floating all the time, disrupting Fenton's new high-flying vice-presidential lifestyle (which lifestyle I find somewhat dubious--Scrooge really gives him a percentage of the Pep profits for no apparent reason? That seems uncharacteristic). It's up to Gizmoduck to save the day by bringing the floating people back to earth, and then there's a rather massive loose end, as the floating effect of the Pep never actually wears off--parents just keep their kids down in lead shoes and whatnot. How nobody could've noticed that, I can't imagine.

So no, not brilliant, but even an okay episode is a big relief after last time. I'm starting to conceive of Fenton and Bubba representing respectively the good and evil sides of Ducktales. They should have a pitched battle to determine the fate of the universe.

Stray Observations

-"And to think, your class voted you most likely to become homeless!"

-HDL got Scrooge to buy them a bike "once [they] convinced him it's cheaper than having Duckworth drive [them] to school for thirteen years." Thirteen years! That would mean that they're currently five, contra the assertion in "Bubbeo and Juliet" that they're entering fifth grade. And ya know, when a Fenton episode and a Bubba episode contradict each other, I don't have to think too hard about which one I'm going with.

-Also, you'd think an allegedly-shrewd businessman like Scrooge would realize that when they're teenagers they're not gonna be able to ride the same bike they did when they were kindergarteners.

-"Maybe it's time for your alter-ego to fix this mess!"
"You mean…Gizmoduck?"
"How many alter-egos do you have?"

-There's a bizarre bit where Fenton's floating in the sky and planes crash into him and he starts spinning around wildly and then he monetarily pops out of existence and then reappears in a cloud like in The Lion King. Guh?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Eight: "Bubba's Big Brainstorm"

If you'd told me that there was a Ducktales episode in which Bubba uses technology to become a genius, I would've bet you money that I could tell you what the title was. And then you'd've taken my money, you jerk, 'cause I sure wouldn't have said "Bubba's Big Brainstorm." But I'm not the only one, right? This IS obvious? Tell me in comments.

Actually, I might've recouped some of that lost money, 'cause I would also have bet you that it would be fucking terrible. Then again, that would've been a sucker's bet, and you probably wouldn't have taken me up on it. Dammit…I just can't win. But yeah. I was sort of vaguely laboring under the illusion that from now on, Ducktales episodes would be at least okay. I guess there needed to be a Bubba-exception in that proposition, but even as far as Bubba goes, you wouldn't quite expect this.

The idea is that Bubba's so dumb that he gets straight-Z's on his report card, so he uses a "thinking cap" that Gyro's invented to become an obnoxiously self-satisfied, slightly fey genius with a British-ish accent, alienating HDL. Then they all go to some sort of native-island-y place to find treasure, where Bubba learns the True Value of Stupidity. The end.

Seriously, the anti-intellectualism just drips from this episode (the know-your-place message reminds me of the awful "Superdoo," but this one's actually much worse). Note that there's nothing inherent in being smart that means you're also going to be a selfish, cowardly, vaguely racist (the way he brushes aside the notion that the treasure belongs to the natives on the basis that they're too dumb to appreciate it) jerk, but the episode at no point indicates that these traits are at all separate from the increased intelligence. The whole thing resembles some sort of crazed, nationalist rant about intellectuals sapping our National Vigor.

And they can't even get that rant right: we're supposed to hold Bubba in contempt for being too cowardly to beat a monster with a club, but wholly unremarked is the fact that, just minutes ago, they would all have been horribly crushed to death if smart-Bubba hadn't been able to correctly answer a series of riddles.

In all, this episode is quite repulsive. Seriously, Ducktales: fuck you.

Stray Observations

-As Bubba ineffectually tries to decide which passage to take: "Louie's coin-toss is never wrong, Bubba! We go right!" Yeah! Your élitist commie faggot book learnin' is no match for our good old-fashioned common-sense salt-of-the-earth, uh, blind luck! Christ, guys…

-Also, note the way it's made quite clear that Bubba isn't just smart-Bubba; he's a completely different person (as explicitly evinced by the way he says "goodbye" and "I'm back!" when changing back to "normal"). We don't even want to suggest that Bubba could even potentially have something of the Evil Intellectual in him. God forbid.

-"How long is a piece of string?" "Twice the distance from the center to either end!" So the answer is "twice as long as half a piece of string?" And only the genius could figure that out? Ducktales' idea of relative intelligence is kind of terrifying.

-"They became so smart they forgot their own survival skills and couldn't fight back the monsters of their time!" When you say "survival skills," you mean "laser-spears," right? The dumbness just doesn't stop.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Seven: "Dough Ray Me"

Assuming that title is meant to be an imperative--which is the only way it parses as a sentence--it really needs to be hyphenated: Dough-Ray me, damn you!

Anyway, this one opens with the kids playing an arcade game in which the player controls the Beagle Boys trying to rob the money bin. That's a funny idea--apparently, the Scrooge/Beagles conflicts are big, public events in Ducktalesworld.

Alas, they run out of quarters and Scrooge won't give them anymore; he also won't give Fenton a raise unless he figures out a good money-making scheme, so when it transpires that Gyro's invented a gadget that duplicates stuff, the prayers of both HDL and Fenton are answered. Seemingly.

Naturally, the kids use the machine to duplicate money, but it turns out the machine has a li'l bug where anything you've duplicated duplicates again at the sound of a bell. This of course results in riches riches everywhere. It's kind of a neat idea (and this sort of thing can be done to chilling effect), but the episode can't really seem to figure out how to exploit it to the hilt--it's kind of amusing to see people brushing away huge piles of money like snow, but there's not much more to it than that.

Another thing I find amusing: Scrooge objects to this money-doubling thing even before the side-effects are made known, on the basis that excessive duplication will cause runaway inflation (cf "A Financial Fable;") which misses the more obvious point--to wit, that this would be incredibly illegal--rather comically. Seriously, there's a reminiscence on the DVD of To Live and Die in LA in which some sorta production person tells how he took a few of the prop counterfeit bills used in the film home with him as a souvenir (or something), and his son tried to spend it, and they were almost instantly swarmed with federal agents. Point being: they take this shit perhaps excessively seriously--but here, that doesn't even occur to anyone.

Never mind. It turns out duplicated things self-destruct after a while, so Fenton comes up with a plan to let the Beagles scoop up all the money, take it somewhere, and let it blow up (let's not even think about the plausibility of them being able to scoop up literally all of this currency). The thing is, Fenton really gets screwed here: 'cause the plan works. Perfectly. And Scrooge is all set to give him that raise for having dealt with the problem. But then Gyro comes and goes, oh no, the duplicated stuff won't explode as I'd thought! And everyone goes, shit! We've got to get the money back! But then it turns out that instead it implodes, which amounts to exactly the same thing, only now, for no good reason, Scrooge is pissed off and Fenton doesn't get the raise after all. Man, that's some serious bullshit.

So yeah, cute idea, but not a great episode. Skirts a li'l too close to your dumber season one episodes, though, as usual, Fenton at least helps a bit.

Stray Observations

-"Two cavities--that'll be forty thousand dollars per filling." "Well, at least some prices haven't gone up." Ho ho--not to be dismissive of the very real problem of excessive medical costs, but in the real world, getting a cavity filled costs, what, a hundred dollars? Two hundred at most?

-"Fenton, you're a genuine genius!" "Aw, I'll bet you say that to all the genuine geniuses!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Everyducks

I understand the series' justification for removing Donald from the picture except for occasional guest appearances, but I still think this was a dubious decision, as it substantially unbalances the show. It's not just out of random chance or inertia that Donald appears in every single one of Barks' Scrooge adventures (he did a few Donald-less Scrooge shorts, but aside from the one-pagers, that's all), as well as virtually every one of anyone's. Donald serves as a counterbalance to Scrooge, at various times raising objections to his uncle's pie-in-the-sky plans, complaining about his stinginess, plotting to slack off instead of doing his work, and, from time to time, rising to the occasion and getting things done, coerced or not. This is very nuanced stuff, and even a talented cartoonist can screw it up (witness the sadistic abuse that Don Rosa inflicted on him a little too often), but done right, all this comes together to make him into, essentially, the stories' viewpoint character--the Everyduck with whom we identify. Everyone likes Scrooge, but his concerns are far removed from those of readers (there's a Barks quote floating around out there acknowledging this), and he obviously is very specialized--all of which prevents him from really being universal. Likewise HDL: they have a better claim than Scrooge, but the fact remains, even at their most mature, they're kids with kids' concerns. Donald's the one who serves to keep the whole affair grounded; indeed, I would go so far as to argue that, aimed at children though they are, these comics aren't likely to be fully appreciated by kids themselves*, who aren't really in a position to be able to really understand Donald. I certainly liked him well enough as a young'un, but my real identification was, naturally enough, with the kids, which I think is slightly missing the point, awesome as they are.

*That's right: I appreciate duck comics on a much deeper level than you.

Of course, in Ducktales, Launchpad takes the place of Donald--indeed, there are a few comics which it's clear were hastily retooled to substitute Donald for Launchpad when Ducktales comics ceased to be a going affair. I like Launchpad; he can be a great character when well-written, and he's generally acquitted himself well in his occasional starring turn. But he's not a substitute for Donald: he's too broad and cartoonish, with his ostentatious dumbness and pride at his constant crashing, to play the same role.

All of which is only to make the point that Fenton is a great addition to the show because he plays that everyduck role, and plays it very well. Not that he and Donald are interchangeable, of course, and stories that focus on him are not stories that could very well have been written with Donald in mind. But he's a generally sympathetic character with strengths and weaknesses and relatable, real-world concerns (secret identity notwithstanding), and he really provides the show with an element that I didn't even realize it was missing until I saw it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Six: "Metal Attraction"

Gyro invents a robotic maid--"Robotica"--to cut down on Mrs. Beakley's workload. She's super-robotic and creepy and hilarious: "Oh you must be the children units shall we play a game good how about Simon Says good Simon Says spin your head" [head spins like Linda Blair in The Exorcist; kids run in terror] "Why are you not playing Simon Says is fun for the whole family ha ha ha ha ha;" then he reprograms her to be hyperemotional--either way, her animation and voice-acting are extremely memorable, and often hilarious--I laughed a lot, which is not that common in these things.

Anyway, Gyro also apparently programmed her for, um, concupiscence, as she falls extremely hard for Gizmoduck, and her language in describing her feelings is only very-barely veiled in that regard: "Why do you deny our love? Can't you see how you tickle my transformers? Inflame my insulators? Excite my engines?" It's the Ducktales version of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

While this is going on, Fenton is being overbearing in his relationship with his girlfriend, Gandra Dee, making these constant, hugely-elaborate gestures of love; this shit was honestly incredibly painful to watch; that was the point, of course, so no points off there, but it's hard to overlook the fact that in real life, this stuff would be grounds for a restraining order, whereas here Gandra just sighs prettily and more or less accepts that there's nothing to be done.

The episode contrasts Fenton's obsessive behavior towards Gandra with Robotica's towards Gizmoduck, and Fenton ultimately finds himself in the untenable situation of having to be two people at once on a double date with the women, resulting in hijinks. Ultimately realizing that this isn't gonna work, he tries, as Gizmoduck, to break up with Robotica, which results in her going completely insane--she's really quite terrifying in Deranged Mode--and trying to kill Gandra. But she gets blown up and then rebuilt and reprogrammed and Fenton learns a valuable lesson.

Now, there's no denying that this episode's gender politics are incredibly dodgy: neither Gandra's passivity nor Robotica's derangement are exactly progressive portrayals of women (though admittedly, as far as the latter goes, given the episode's namesake, you wouldn't expect much else). And, insane though she may have been, I can't help but find the ending--in which she's been reprogrammed with dialed-down emotions, leaving her with this spacey, lobotomized demeanor--creepy as hell. Hello, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!

That said, none of that changes the fact that this is an absolutely brilliant episode. It's hilarious throughout, due to top-notch writing and acting, and you can't help but admire the sophistication of the comparison between the two relationships, even if it does get troubling when you put on your critical theorist hat; furthermore, the writers have a great, absurdist sensibility, resulting in Gandra and Robotica both frequenting an "econolube and perm boutique" and a version of the Teacups--that hoary old carnival ride--in which you're riding in teabag-chairs which giant hands dunk into giant teacups of water. A top-three episode, for sure.

Stray Observations

-I'm pretty sure Fenton only has to say "blatherskite" to summon the suit, yet he always appends "blatherin'" to the beginning. Is he unaware that the extra word is redundant, or did the writers just forget?

-And hey, creepy as I found the ending, it must be said, "that diagnostic machine has been making eyes at me" is edifyingly predictive-of-Futurama.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Five: "My Mother the Psychic"

The episode opens with Fenton's mother (you'd think she'd get a first name if she's going to feature heavily) is watching All My Ducklings: "So what's the verdict, doctor?" "I'm afraid the tests are conclusive, Erica: you have only three hours to live. With proper care, maybe four." I know it's not exactly hard to make fun of soap operas, but that's still pretty awesome.

Anyway, thanks to an electrical shock, she gets precognitive powers, and Scrooge takes her on as a "financial consultant." This gets in the way of her relationship with Fenton, but when she gets captured by Glomgold (who lives in a Sinister Castle, of course--have we ever actually seen his house before? This is certainly the first time I noted it), and then it's Gizmoduck to the rescue. I must say, as far as Glomgold goes on this show, mostly I just sorta roll my eyes, whatever, he's a cartoon villain, yadda yadda--but with the sort of callous cruelty he displays her to Mrs. Crackshell, for the first time he struck me as a real asshole. Hey, if you're going to modify the original Barks character beyond all recognition, you might as well do a thorough job of it.

I feel like this episode doesn't do quite as much with the mother-son relationship as it could, but it's not at all bad, and there's a really sweet scene when Glomgold's about to launch Gizmoduck into space where they tell how much they'll miss each other without letting on that she knows Gizmoduck's true identity.

So far, Fenton's made every episode he appears in better, whereas the best Bubba can do is stay out of the way and not make things too much worse. The choice is clear.

Stray Observations

-"By the time they realize no one's home, we'll be on a boat to Bombay!" So Glomgold's great plan to not have to let Mrs. Crackshell go is to become a permanent fugitive? Hokay.

-Scrooge, mournfully, when she loses her psychic powers: "Back to making money the hard way--earning it." Uh huh. So does this mean, Ducktales, that you're never again going to have any of those risible lines where he gets all judgmental about other people having unearned money? Can I get that in writing, please?

-Not related to this episode, but how come no Fenton/Gizmoduck in Ducktales 2 on the NES? The first game was probably in development before the character had been introduced, but the sequel came out in 1993, and it seems like Gizmo would've offered some good gameplay possibilities.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Four: "The Good Muddahs"

Webby's feeling unappreciated at home, but then she's kidnapped and held for ransom by the "Beagle Babes," and what with all the Beagle Boys behind bars, the only cops available are incompetent trainees. What is to be done?!?

Let me first say what would have made this by far the best episode ever: if Webby had gone rogue and joined the Beagle Babes for keeps. Seriously, how awesome would that have been?

Yes, I must admit, they're pretty great characters: the matronly one, Bouffant; the hot, ditzy one, Boom Boom; and the childlike, slightly insane one, Babydoll (according to the internet, anyway--I missed her name in-episode). Yes, there are certain sorta-sexist assumptions that went behind making them "softer" than their male counterparts, but they're also way better, and the way they bond with Webby is super-cool (the bit where they're telling her their own versions of "Cinderella" is priceless). Though I'm not gonna lie (I'm fully aware that "I'm not gonna lie [to you]" is a writing (also vocal) tic of mine; where did that come from, I wonder?): the bit at the end where she starts acting like a crazy gangster (with HDL and Bubba's help) in order to alienate them so they won't feel bad about losing her is pretty painfully stupid.

Also, I feel like they should've gotten away at the end. It's good that they choose jail over Scrooge's insulting offer of work at the "McDuck Daycare Center," but I think avoiding jail altogether would've been better. But no…the show just can't quite get over its firmly entrenched, bourgeois value system enough to make that a possibility.

Still, strong characterizations make for a mostly-strong episode. The Babes badly need to make a repeat appearance or three.

Stray Observations

-Are Babydoll's odd vocal patterns based on someone specific? It sounds like they must be, but I'm insufficiently culturally attuned to be able to say whom.

-I like the call-back to I-forget-which-first-season-episode of Webby's faerie-tale mangling.

"You couldn't keep me here this like this if I wasn't a little girl!"
"Butcha are, Webigail. Yuh are a little girl."

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Three: "Bubbeo and Juliet"

Bubbeo was restless he was ready to kill
He jumped out the window 'cause he couldn't keep still
Juliet was waitin' with a safety net
Said "don't bury me 'cause I'm not dead yet"

So some white-trash lottery winners move in next to Scrooge, provoking an amazingly élitist reaction on Scrooge's part--natural, perhaps--and, it seems to me, also on the writers' part: although it's true that their feud is laid bare as childish and pointless at the end, the fact remains that we are pretty clearly meant to see the new neighbors' behavior as, at best, tasteless, and the restoration of the status quo (inevitable in a show like this, of course, but doesn't that in itself represent an embedded tendency towards a particular politics?) as the natural order re-asserting itself.

Blah, whatever. The other plot concerns Bubba having a crush on the daughter of these interlopers (hot duck-on-dogface action!), but when they realize how much their families hate each other and how untenable the whole thing is, they commit mutual suicide. Unless I hallucinated that last part, but really, what are the chances of that?

I suppose this episode really isn't terrible; the Scrooge-vs.-new-neighbors dueling thing is reminiscent of the Donald/Jones fights of old, and there's a cool part where Scrooge and HDL are imagining how they get get their revenge, and their fantasies take the form of highly stylized versions of the characters, showing a concern with aesthetics rarely seen on this show.

So yeah, okay, mostly painless.

Stray Observations

-"Now boys--you had a whole summer off; time to start fifth grade!" I know HDL's ages are a bit on the indeterminate side, but I can't resist trotting this Barks image out:

-"You won ten million dollars gambling?!? You didn't work for it?!?" Seriously, dude, give it a break. If that's a big problem you have, there are many, many people you should get pissed off at before lottery winners.

-"Wow! What a fastball! Nobody's ever gotten a strike against Bruiser before!" As in "Time Teasers," the show evinces a certain ignorance of how percentages work in baseball.

-"It cost me two hundred fifty dollars to get out of jail this time!" …and also, an ignorance of how bail works.

-To disrupt pigman's party (I didn't note the new neighbors' names--sorry!), Scrooge starts playing the bagpipes, which pigman counters with an accordion. Yeah, this is a particular bête noire of mine, but seriously, writers: FUCK. YOU.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode Two: "Allowance Day"

HDL want to buy a kickass new scooter, but they're short on cash, it's only on sale 'til Friday, and they don't get their allowance until Saturday, so they change all the clocks and calendars and whatnot to trick Scrooge into thinking it's already Saturday. This has cascading results.

Clever stuff--the absurdist premise is sold quite effectively, though it is on occasion contradictory: the idea is that nobody's quite sure what day it is, but the Walter-Cronkite-equivalent newscaster sez "Saddest of all are those people who missed their Friday birthdays--now they're not sure how old they are." It's a funny line, but it indicates an awareness that a day did indeed disappear, which seems contrary to the general consensus; ie, that Friday DID happen and everyone just somehow forgot about it.

The episode gets a bit less awesome in its second half--not that it's bad, but it becomes a sort of standard get-out-of-peril thing: Fenton's gone to sign a lease extension on a factory so that it doesn't revert to a Latin-American dictator (the depiction of whom is not wholly racially unproblematic), only now, what with it being "Saturday," it's too late, so Scrooge goes down to argue with the guy and gets himself and Fenton condemned to death. Not blindingly brilliant, though Fenton's frantic filibuster to delay the execution in time for the Gizmoduck suit (which can fly for THOUSANDS OF MILES to reach the guy who sez the keyword, it turns out) to get there.

Still, a generally fine episode. Fenton is a very definite asset to the show.

Stray Observations

-"Today the President assigned a special task force to determine what day it is."

-They can show generic Latin-American revolutionary types HERE, yet the Barks ten-pager "Cap'n Blight's Mystery Ship" was banned for just such a depiction. More contradictory Disney-censorship bullshit.

-Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure you can tell there's a solar eclipse on even if you can't actually see the Sun. And hey, per Wikipedia, there's a partial one due in November! Mark your calendars!

-"When a day on the week is sorely missed/Get back on track with a solar eclipse"--I like the idea that the Junior Woodchucks' Guidebook would have advice on how to handle missing days, but I find the idea that it would be written in doggerel form somewhat questionable.

-HDL need to rescue Scrooge and Fenton. They know this. But when Fenton is gone with no explanation and Gizmoduck appears in his place, does this set off any alarms? Of course not. I don't know; maybe this is just the nature of secret identities, but they seem to be pushing this goofiness a bit hard.

Ducktales, Season Three, Episode One: "The Land of Trala La"

So was there some particular REASON that the show strips one of the 'l's out of "Tralla La?" Did no one care that this would fuck up the pronunciation? Or did the writers just not understand how English pronunciation works? Or what?

This episode is relatively faithful to the Barks story (though, obviously, without Donald, and thus without the cool line above). Several of the issues that came up when I watched it were ones you could raise with the source material as well: Donald and HDL--or, here, Fenton, Launchpad and HDL--are REALLY good with staying in Trala La [sic] forever (given that Fenton is worried that we won't be able to find accounting work in a place with no concept of money, he sure seems to be planning on it)? Given that they've been living this way for thousands of years, the Tralla-La-ites sure do cotton pretty instantaneously to the concept of money, don't they? That latter issue is actually accentuated here: when Scrooge asks them about money after first arriving, they're completely uncomprehending, but when he asks if he's really getting this house for free, the leader answers that "the house is on the house," indicating that they do in fact have some notion of how a barter economy works. Another episode-specific gripe: they sure do find the place easily enough, given how isolated it's supposed to be. The cool bit in the Barks story where the kids figure out where it is through observational detective work is no more.

The other big difference is that here it's Fenton--with his somewhat nonsensical "oh noes! I won't be able to do accountancy any more!" worries--who instigates the Tralla-La-ites' greed. This works okay (though it doesn't paint him in a particularly good light), as does Scrooge's and Fenton's trek to stop Launchpad from delivering more caps--though the notion that the kids would still have no idea as to Gizmoduck's identity after all this seems highly questionable. I don't really think it was necessary or desirable for the Tralla-La-ites to get murderous, however.

Hey, whatever--in spite of my kvetching, I did think this was a good episode--although, pace Chris and Joe's opinion in the introduction to volume II of Carl Barks' Greatest Ducktales, I don't really agree that it's better than the Barks story, let alone "considerably better." I'd say the two are about on par, though, for different reasons--which is pretty good in itself.

-The Barks story's League to Abolish Billionaires becomes the League to Ban Billionaires--apparently, the show's writers imagined that polysyllabic words would be too much for their audience. In either case, though, I'd be happy to make a donation.

-I'm going to assume that Scrooge's "nerve medicine" is in fact laudanum, with no justification except that it amuses me to do so.

-Hint for Westerners: Avoid using phrases like "the natives are getting restless" in your stories about non-Western cultures. Kthnx.