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.