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.


  1. It would be interesting to do a character/psychological comparison of Launchpad in "Ducktales" and "Darkwing Duck."

    I don't think that it's too hard for Fenton to juggle both jobs. We see at one point that Fenton can dive through Scrooge's ENTIRE BIN and count it as quickly as Scrooge can. Plus Scrooge has a few thousand booby traps, which means that Gizmoduck doesn't have to patrol 24/7.

    I have an alternative explanation for Duckworth's name. Perhaps when his ancestors came to America through the Calisota equivalent of Ellis Island, the duck-clerks immersed in a duck culture put down their family name as Ducksworth instead of Dogsworth, and it was just easier for them to take the name they were given, as happened often in real life.

    So... I figure that you're going to do character assessments of villains soon (Glomgold, Beagle Boys (and Ma), Magica, Dijon, Merlock), but what about the other "friend" recurring characters? I kind of wanted to see your thoughts on Mrs. Crackshell and Gandra Dee.

  2. Patience, young Jedi. This thing's going to run six parts all told.

  3. I initially thought that Donald's ambition to be "a real accountant!" in ND's "Woo-hoo!" was a nod to Quackmore...but now I'm wondering if it's also a wink at how Fenton replaced Donald in OD. Like in that episode that was partly based on "Only a Poor Old Man," where Fenton actually played Donald's original role. But also more generally as a "nervous modern," as you have described Donald, running to stand still...while Scrooge bats him around like a plutocratic kitten.