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.


  1. I agree with your comments on the voice work. I always imagined Gyro's voice as a version of Ludwig von Drake without the accent. And Goldie's voice is perfect for her character. I'd originally imagined her with a bit of an Irish accent (O'Gilt), but the one they used is excellent.

    I think they referred to Little Helper by the name Little Bulb on the show, probably for the same reason Miss Quackfaster became Mrs. Featherby. If you look closely, you'll see in a couple of instances Little Helper/Bulb is fiddling around with something or fighting a bird or something in the background.

  2. Loved Bubba as a child. That wore off as I grew older. Always kept a soft spot for Dijon, though. ;)


  3. To me, Gyro always spoke in the voice that Harvey Korman used for The Great Gazoo! That of a fussy, prissy, intellectual loner – which he was in stories by Barks and others.

    I never envisioned – or accepted – him with Hal Smith’s “hayseed” voice!