Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Mickey's Christmas Carol"

This 1983 short (well, twenty-five minutes) was--wikipedia tells me--the first theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoon in thirty years, and thus there was clearly a desire to really create a splash; to make this into a Big Thing (though that title is clearly just for name recognition; Mickey, as Bob Cratchit, is not at all the central character).  Also worth noting: we have here Clarence Nash's final performance as Donald and Alan Young's first as Scrooge.  Some sort of vague metaphor about transition and renewal seems to be called for.  Certainly, this is worlds beyond that Little Golden Book both in terms of textual fidelity and overall quality; ultimately, however, in absolute terms, the results are decidedly mixed.

To start with the positive: it looks really, really good.  Not for these producers the chintzy visual minimalism of tomorrow's entry; if nothing else, this cartoon really looks rich and alive.  Furthermore, and also unlike the aforementioned story, there is a wholehearted embrace of Disney's legacy; just about all the secondary characters, including random background people, are actual characters; for instance, the two guys who try to solicit money from Scrooge for charity are played by the water rat and mole from The Wind in the Willows via Mr. Toad's Wild Ride; Toad himself shows up later on as Mr. Fezziwig (spelled "Fezzywig" here, for whatever reason).  It's pretty fun just IDing familiar faces; we even get (non-speaking) animated appearances from Grandma and Gus:

Is that fun?  Sure, that's fun.  It's clear that the producers were not messing around here; they wanted to go all-out.

As for the story itself?  Well, it follows the general beats of the original, but overall, for better and for worse, it's a very loose adaptation in the specifics.  But before anything else, let's stop ignoring the elephant in the room and note what is by far the worst decision the producers made here, which is that Jacob Marley is played by fucking Goofy ("what makes you think your wife is crazy, Mr. Mouse?").  I find Marley's scene to be by far the most memorable part of Dickens' story, and this version just ruins it.  There's this bizarre tonal disconnect: on the one hand, the script tries to make it clear that he was a bad guy, who "robbed the widows and swindled the poor," but you just can't take this seriously, because his dialogue and mannerisms are all one hundred percent Goofy, including the "hilarious" bit where he trips and falls over Scrooge's cane:

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?  COME ON!  Granted, it's sort of hard to know what Disney character you would cast in this role, given a milieu in which Glomgold and especially Rockerduck are both far too obscure, but this was just about the worst way this could possibly have been played.  And on a somewhat subtler note, can I object to that "robbed the widows and swindled the poor" bit?  Granted, we don't get specific details of what this means, but the strong implication seems to be that we're talking about illegal activity here, which is substantially missing Dickens' point.  Just nothin' good to say here, except perhaps that his chains are nicely substantial--and look, we can even see the financial accoutrements that Dickens describes them as being composed of.  Whee.

The three spirits, however--played respectively by Jiminy Cricket, Wille the Giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk, and Pete--are a lot better, and somehow manage to capture the proper feeling…well, okay, that last one is pretty ridiculous, but I find the chutzpah endearing.  Christmas Present is best:

Really captures the feeling of plentitude that Dickens describes.

As for the visions themselves?  Again, a mixed bag.  They're extremely truncated, and this does not tend to work in their favor.  In the past, Fezziwig's party--featuring Scrooge's very hot-to-trot fiancée, here named "Isabelle"--is reasonably fun, but then the scene of the two of them breaking up is mishandled; here, he more or less actively rejects her, as opposed to the original, in which he just lets her slip away, which has a great deal more tragic resonance.  

That's all that happens in the past, and in the present, there's only one vision, at the Cratchit residence; the part with Fred's family is entirely absent.  This scene is actually quite good, however--certainly better than it is in our third entry, tomorrow.  This is the only version of the story I'm covering that features Tiny Tim, a character who is important to the narrative but is also easy to overplay and render just intolerably saccharine.  The cartoon avoids the latter, though it certainly never achieves Dickensian levels of pathos either.

Then, we transition quite abruptly into the very short future segment, which has the guts to show the Cratchits at Tim's grave, and then, oh no, here's Scrooge's grave, and then, bam, reform.  Here, "reform" consists mainly of an all-new scene where he visits the Cratchits, and again, I have to say: it's actually really good; heartwarming without being overly pushy about it.  And he makes Bob a partner, which seems to demonstrate an egalitarian spirit that you don't really see in the original.

…and did he really just stick this enormous roast goose, unwrapped, in the same bag as the toys?  Well, they had different ideas about hygiene back in the day.

So anyway, the cartoon is problematic--very problematic--in some ways, but overall pretty okay for what it is.  Coulda been great with a little revision, however.  Check back tomorrow at the regular blog for the centerpiece of this series.  Believe you me, it'll be a doozy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Duh, Episode Twelve: "A Brush with Oblivion"

So is this the way it's gonna be, then?  One episode a month?  Pretty pathetic, I have to admit.  Well, I suppose at that rate I'd be done in some number of years…

…but maybe I'll watch 'em at a somewhat higher rate than that, 'cause this episode reminds me that this show can be really, really good.  The idea is that our protagonists are at the St. Canard art museum, which appears to have every famous painting in the world, when Honker spies a sinister women who is able to hide by hopping in and out of pictures.  The adults think he's crazy, and he's grounded, but Gosalyn takes him back to the museum to figure out what's what.  Turns out this woman is a frustrated artist who came up with the idea of stealing art so that she would have enough money to show everyone what a great artist she is (no, it doesn't really hold up under scrutiny), and she traps Gosalyn in a "Guernica"-ish painting, and DW and LP have to save the day and stuff.  RIGHT.

Now, this villain, Splatter Phoenix, benefits by looking extremely cool, a goth-y type like a duck version of Siouxsie Sioux; even if her plans are kind of nonsensical, she's quite expressive and fun to watch.  Also, more than in perhaps any other DATV thing I've seen, it's really obvious here that the creators were smart people who were interested in doing genuinely cool stuff, as opposed to "just" making a kids' show (even a good kids' show).  So the "artistic" gibberish deployed in the episode is a notch or three above what you'd expect ("'Ey, what can I say sweets--if the neo-postmodernist backlash hadn't-a caught pre-anti-realism in its wake, heh heh, you'd be sittin' pretty!"), and the episode can just toss out a line like "you've got a screw loose, Lautrec!" an' who CARES if anyone gets it?  It's not just the writing, either: naturally our heroes and villains enter various paintings, at which time they are rendered in an approximation of the artistic styles of said paintings, and it's strikingly ambitious and just plain fun on a bun.

Okay, there's this sort of side-side-sideplot about Honker's family life that doesn't really go anywhere or do anything interesting, but in the main, I liked this episode lots.  More, please.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Seven: "Heavy Mental"

Here's a crazy idea: let's try watching a Darkwing Duck episode and see what happens!  Crazy, I know, but I'm thinking it just…might…work.  Yeah, okay, I should be watching a Quack Pack episode right now if I want to follow my own rules, but fuck me, after all this time, the first thing you want me to do is watch more of that shitpile?  I mean, I will.  Eventually.  But for now, let's call Dee Double-You.

This episode opens with Darkwing and Launchpad on a mission to the Swiss Alps to deliver a top-secret something to SHUSH, which turns out to be a stapler, ha ha, how wacky.  While they're there, SHUSH scientist Sara Bellum (boy, I'll bet that one took a lot of thought) gets LP to try out her new psychic ray machine which is supposed to endow people with psychic powers.  I want to note that the rays in question are called "Norma Rays," and to further note that a pun like this would be a whole lot more effective if there were, you know, any connection whatsoever between Norma Rae and psychic business.  Without that, it's just weird and arbitrary.

Anyway, LP seems unaffected, because everyone comically misses the trees out the window that he levitates and sets on fire, so off they go, back home.  It turns out that the powers that LP, inevitably, gained, are kind of random and impossible to control; sometimes he predicts stuff, sometimes he summons fire or ice, and sometimes he just moves stuff around, but his ability to do this seems to be triggered more by momentary sense impressions than by anything he tries to do.  It's actually somewhat well-done.

Meanwhile, FOWL's Psychic Division, led by a bear named Major Synapse and staffed exclusively by a couple of hippies (hmm…I'm getting a real Men Who Stare at Goats vibe here), is also trying to figure out this psychic-powers business.  Why does he only have these two staff members?  Because "troops perish when they're marched into erupting volcanoes."  Jeez, show--that's pretty brutal.  Long story short, they end up invading the Alps SHUSH facility, and the two hippies get psychic powers.  They also get supervillain costumes and identities (and turn evil, apparently--they just seemed kind of neutral before).  He's called Hotshot, an' she's called Flygirl, an' it's up to our heroes to come an' stop them, which they do.  Though not before DW is incapacitated and threatened: oh noes! They're gonna drop a giant anvil on his head!  As I've noted, though, these life-or-death situations just don't work on this show, because we know damn well that getting flattened by an anvil is never going to be anything more than a minor inconvenience for anyone--as we later see, when the hippies get smashed but don't die.

Oh, and in the end, Major Synapse becomes godlike and then gets his brain exploded.  Crikey.

Did I like this?  I liked it okay, though that was surely at least in part for not having seen the show in some months.  I wouldn't say the writing was the greatest; there was a bit more of the "look how ZANY it all is, goddammit!" stuff than I usually like.  Still, it certainly could have been worse!

Stray Observations

-We get a close-up image of Synapse's drivers license, and we see that it expired on 04-07-66.  Oh man--driving with an expired license?  Is there anything those fiendish FOWL fiends won't do?  Also, if I'm reading it correctly, he was born on 02-06-39.  I wouldn't have thought he was quite that old, but it is kind of hard to tell in situations like this: you can differentiate between youngish and oldish with anthropomorphic animals, but precise gradations can be more problematic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Five: "Life, the Negaverse and Everything"

Hmm.  Sorry for the long silence here.  I've been busy with, um…well, not writing cartoon posts, apparently.  Anyway, here's this, which is pretty entertaining, and I'm certainly not gonna complain about the Douglas Adams title.

At the end of a Fearsome-Five heist, Quackerjack wonders why Negaduck never wants to "hang out" with them afterwards.  Truly, it's hard in any circumstance to wonder why anyone would want to hang out with Negaduck, but his response--because "I hate you guys 'cause you're just a bunch of losers!"--seems ill-advised; I mean, how masochistic are these people meant to be?  Pretty substantially, it seems.

Anyway, what ultimately happens is, DW gets sucked into the Negaverse, where everyone's personalities are reversed.  I like that they include pretty much all the important characters in this (well, except Morgana, I suppose), and there's a lot of fun stuff: punk Launchpad with five o'clock shadow is nice; the leather-fetish-Nazi-biker-chic Muddlefoot family is even nicer (no swastikas, obviously, but I'm pretty sure if the show could've gotten away with it, there would be).  Unfortunately, not everyone fares so well: Gosalyn is all demure and "lady-like" in a pink dress with her hair in curls--in contrast to her normal-universe obstreperousness, sure, but given that everyone <i>else</i> goes from 'good' to 'evil' or vice versa, it's distractingly inconsistent.  More irksomely still, the 'good' versions of Bushroot, Megavolt, Quackerjack, and Liquidator aren't visually distinguished in any way from their regular versions--nor do they do anything really memorable to make them stand out.  I enjoy the conclusion when they all get Darkwing costumes and are apparently set to become Nega-Gosalyn's new daughter, but this really raises the question of why Negaduck would possibly have adopted her in the first place.  I would've liked it if they'd complexified his character a bit by deciding that, in spite of everything, he was a good father figure…but they don't.  So what gives?

Regardless, not a bad effort.

Stray Observation

-Negaduck keeps calling his enemies "knobs."  Clearly not a British-produced episode, then.

-"So long--I'm off to create MORE unnecessary pain and suffering--losers!"  Okay, which onea you jokers leaked Romney's victory speech?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Six: "Pride Goeth Before the Fall Guy"

So the idea here is that there's Columbus had a fourth ship that somehow got lost somewhere.  But it's been recovered!  An' there's an awesome treasure aboard!  An' Daisy's network has exclusive rights to film the unveiling!  But there's a MASTER THIEF, Nigel Nightshade, who wants that treasure!  Crud!

Nigel's a short, smarmy guy who looks exactly (seriously, exactly--I feel like someone could've sued someone if anyone had been paying attention to or cared about Quack Pack in any way) like Leisure Suit Larry.  The other notable thing about him is that he's clearly voiced by the same guy who does Steelbeak in Darkwing Duck.  "Clearly" because he uses exactly the same voice.  I guess he didn't feel the need to come up with something new for a one-off character like this, but I found it really distracting.  I like his work as Steelbeak, but only when he's actually playing Steelbeak.

Now, this whole missing ship/treasure business seems potentially interesting, but the show does exactly nothing with it.  How'd this ship get lost?  What's the deal with this treasure?  Don't ask, 'cause the show ain't about to tell you.  Instead, it's going to give you this really long, tedious business where Nigel worms his way in as Donald's assistant cameraman, because he thinks this will get his hands on the treasure, for reasons that are more or less wholly incomprehensible.  He plays some dumb slapstick tricks on Donald to get him fired so he can take his place, and then…I dunno.  He gets the treasure somehow.  It's unclear and dumb.  And then Donald uses his own trickery to get it back.  There's a final chase sequence that I guess is okay, where the ducks follow him through deserts, jungles, prehistoric lands, ice fields, and so on, but that's about it.  This episode is not exactly well-paced, nor particularly entertaining.

Stray Observations

-Okay, when Donald's tricking Nigel into thinking there's an extra treasure he should go after, he calls it the treasure of Tralfamadore, after Vonnegut, which is kinda cool I guess, but you've gotta stick in a Pynchon reference to really impress me.  An easy way would be to include a sailor--a pig sailor, no less!--named Pig Bodine.

-So…is the idea that Donald has always been Daisy's cameraman and they just never made this even remotely clear, or did they just come up with that for this one episode?  I feel like a better show wouldn't leave me asking questions like that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Series One, Episode Thirty-Four: "Up, Up, and Awry"

Darkwing is undercover at a racetrack trying to figure out why horses are disappearing.  Turns out Megavolt is magicking them away to steal the horseshoes (the disturbing question of what he does with the horses themselves is never addressed).  DW and Launchpad are engaged in trying stop him when, in a genuinely unexpected twist, Gizmoduck shows up to save the dang ol' day (why was he just hanging out in St. Canard? Another mystery). 

As expected, DW is jealous of Gizmoduck's popularity and general awesomeness, and wishes he had superpowers too (if you count a suit as a "superpower"--and in any case, surely that teleporting thing he always does must count…).  So GD builds him an amusingly half-assed Gizmosuit knock-off involving a barrel around his torso and skateboards strapped to his feet.  Then, it's time to stop Megavolt.

Now, Megavolt's plan is good: he wants to steal all the metal he can so he can melt it down to make magnets which he can use to steal more metal to build even bigger magnets.  This seems quintessentially Megavoltian, and I approve.  I don't approve so much of the portrayal of Gizmoduck, though: Megavolt has them incapacitated with his giant electromagnet, and he goes "I'm afraid we're in trouble, Darkwing--without this suit, I'm nothing!"  Cue an obvious chance for DW to prove that fancy-pants metal suits aren't everything.  But that's exactly the opposite of the point of Gizmoduck in Ducktales, which went out of its way to demonstrate that he isn't just the sum total of the suit's powers.  Different show, different requirements, sure, but I really don't care for this devaluation of Fenton's character.

Also, the way DW subdues Megavolt is kind of unpleasant--he ties him up with wire and then, as he's begging for mercy, plugs the cord in, electrocuting the hell out of him, and then makes a dumb joke about "magnetic personality."  It reads like a parody of your Frank-Miller-style gratuitous sadism, but I'm pretty sure it's actually a version of the thing itself, and I kind of hate it.

So…yup.  That's about it.  I may have initially been keen on watching this series because of the promise of Gizmoduck appearances, but now I could do without ever seeing him again.  And let's be more careful about our characterization of Darkwing too, okay?

Stray Observation

-Hey, Ducktales' Webwa Walters appears, though Gizmo just calls her "Barb."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Five: "All Hands on Duck!"

Hey, here's an episode with no HDL in sight!  A good thing?  Well, not a bad thing, I suppose, but let's not get carried away.

The idea is that due to some sorta bureaucratic snafu, Donald, who thought he'd been discharged, has to spend another twenty-four hours in the navy, which a vindictive captain wants to use to make his life hell.  This captain is an insane fellow who's constantly petting and making much of a little toy sailboat that he calls "Mr. Sloopy;" granted, that sounds pretty awesome, but it's not executed with much in the way of panache.

Meanwhile, Daisy wants to do some sort of profile on Donald, because she's bought hook like and sinker his stories about what an awesome hero he was in the navy, which seems to me to rather drastically compromise her character, since she's supposed to be, like, smart and competent and stuff in this show.  But in any case, Donald predictably fails at various tasks that he's assigned, and all I could think was, dude, it's just twenty-four hours--sure, it sucks, but just do a really slow, sloppy job, lollygag around a bit, and you'll be done before you know it.  The insane captain does at one point threaten to have him sent to the brig for twenty-four years if he doesn't do everything right, but that's almost certainly just so much hot air, and if it's not, let's face it, he's just gonna fuck with you no matter what, so there's nothing to be done about it.

Anyway, the computer turns evil or something for some reason that I didn't quite catch and then Donald has to fly a plane and stuff and blah blah flippin' blah.  Not very exciting, but it does have the line "Good work, my boy--you've got the heart of a lion, the eyes of an eagle, and the gulf of Mexico," which isn't half bad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Three: "The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck"

Hokay.  This episode starts in The Future™, where Future Gosalyn and Future Honker (named "Gosaloid" and "Honkulon") are visiting a museum which features the costume of some old twentieth-century superhero named Darkwing Duck (or rather, "props from a massively popular cartoon series based on Darkwing's mythic exploits"--I can only grit my teeth and endure such facile self-referentiality).  The two of them end up accidentally getting whisked away to the basement, where Drake, in the role of Mysterious Old Janitor Guy, is working, an' he tells them Darkwing's SEKRIT ORIGIN STORY, a takeoff of Superman's.

Now obviously, the show's just messing around and thumbing its nose at continuity by giving DW multiple origins, but if there's one thing I like about this episode, it's that it never even tries to pretend that Drake is doing anything other than making up the nonsense that he's regaling the kid with.  That makes it funnier to me.

The idea is that baby DW gets rocketed to earth, yeah yeah, but so does his Evil Cousin, Negaduck.  He falls in with Gosalyn-as-masked-avenger and Launchpad; he gets some superhero training, but when Gosalyn DIES(!!!!!), it's up to him to save the day and stuff.  Seriously, it blow my mind that the writers were allowed to do that, even in an alternate-reality setting.  Cripes.

The episode certainly has its amusing moments, but in the above description I kinda glossed over some pretty dull stuff, like the business with DW's and Negaduck's respective parents back on the doomed planet and DW's kung fu training and Herb Muddlefoot as a genie.  Those drag the episode down a bit, and the writing really isn't all that.

Stray Observations

-Cute Sorcerer's-Apprentice riff with Drake-the-Janitor.

-"But if he was real, there'd be some record of it--there'd be a birth certificate or something!"  This is where a joke involving the phrase "long-form birth certificate" goes.

-"Haven't you forgotten something?"  "Yeah, like telling a story that makes sense?"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Four: "Leader of the Quack"

Someone in the back went quack quack
Money is stacked now bust your gun quack quack 

Okay okay…here we are.  In this episode, Donald, Daisy, and HDL are off to a place called "Quaintinia" for some sort of vague reporting-type business; if it's ever explained in greater detail than that, I don't remember it, or care to.  Quaitinia, we are given to understand, is "a whole country still stuck in medieval times."  DON'T QUESTION IT; JUST ACCEPT IT. 

When they get there, it turns out, to everyone's surprise, that everyone is awaiting Donald as their long-lost king.  What happened, we learn, is that, when Donald had visited the country years ago, on his way out he backed his car into a catapult causing it to launch a rock which hit a floodgate which washed away the dragon that was attacking the kingdom, and the law says that whoever does that is king.

So he's king, and there's a whole lot of aimlessness.  Then there's an evil wannabe-king guy who makes several inept attempts at assassinating Donald and who, we learn, actually has the aforementioned dragon locked in a tower, trying to figure out how to get her fire to start up again so he can get her to take over the kingdom for him again.  Oh, and the dragon talks like a stereotypical teenage girl.  And there's this unbelievably-fucked-up-and-not-in-a-good-way business in which it appears that she is romantically interested in would-be-king guy, and he is using this attraction to manipulate her to command her obedience, and seriously, this whole thing makes me feel unclean.

Anyway, when she gets her fire back in a manner too dumb to bother going into, Donald has to stop her, and he figures the best way is to give her presents, and he and usurper-man (he does have a name, but I didn't quite catch it, and he's too lame a character to make any effort for) compete to see who can give her the most presents; the idea is that she will go with whoever gives her the most--not feminism's finest hour, this.  Usurper-guy wins, but he's defeated anyway, when…you know, I watched this a few days ago, and I'm drawing a complete blank on how he gets defeated.  I'm sure it's something dumb, though.  And Donald loses the throne 'cause of his unreasonable edicts and blah.

Nothing more to say--this is just a shitty episode, for reasons that really have nothing to do with HDL, showing that they're not the only problem with this show.  Okay, there's one bit I found sort of funny: Donald has a taster to avoid potential poisoning, but instead of just tasting the guy just eats all his food.  Okay, maybe you had to be there.  And have an infantile sense of humor.  But I thought it was amusing.  But that's all.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Flargle, Episode Ten: "Bad Tidings"

Hmph.  Okay.  Here we have an episode where DW has to team up with this other shush agent, a Russian bear-person named Grizzlikof--SHUSH's version of Illya Kuryakin.  He's appeared before, but I never got any very strong impression of him.  They need to stop Steelbeak and co from using the threat of their tidal-wave-making machine thing to extort a bunch of dollars from people.  Right.

So…giving DW a foil like this is kind of a cool idea in theory, but I must say, I kind of hated this episode.  The idea is that Grizzlikof is all by-the-books and stuff!  And Darkwing's all spontaneous and stuff!  What'll happen when these guys have to work--record scratch--as a team???  In fact, what'll happen will be that it will be super-annoying as DW fucks everything up and tries to get out of doing any work and is generally quite unpleasant about the whole thing and the learn-to-work-together business is very forced and predictable and insincere, and Steelbeak's efforts to sow dissension between them are pretty dumb.  Also, the way it lurches from a desert island setting to the moon is jarring.

Seriously, man, the writing is leaden and I've never liked DW less.  Here's a bit that's a good example of a failing the show sometimes has--this refusal to trust the audience enough not to laboriously spell out jokes: "I'd hate to be marooned on a desert island with him.  Oh yeah…I AM marooned on a desert island with him!"  The entire second sentence there is totally unnecessary.  A pregnant pause after the first one, and you're done, or at most, leave it at "oh yeah…"  Kids aren't dumb!  Well, okay, they kind of are.  But they're not that dumb!

Hmph.  Maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but fuck this episode.

Stray Observation

-Well, at least when they divide the island in two, it makes me think of this classic bit: "My side of the woods abounds in natural scenic splendor!  Your side wallows in decay and filth!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Three: "I.O.U. a U.F.O."

Shit, man, I watched this episode last night, and I'm only now bringing myself to write about it, which maybe should tell you something about the level of enthusiasm I feel.  Actually, though, it's not that bad, all things considered; for whatever reason, I guess I was marginally--but only marginally!--less irked by HDL than I was in the previous two.  Dewey has this child-like fixation on photographing UFOs, which is kind of endearing and really limns what's wrong with the characters in general: they trade almost exclusively in this self-conscious, detached irony, of the "of course we don't actually care about anything; that would be just hopelessly uncool" model that's a big reason why I don't watch South Park anymore even though it can be really funny.  I just can't stand that bullshit.  But when the character's caught in a moment of sincerity, you realize, wow, if the writers weren't so committed to pitching them in this way, they could actually be, you know, likable and stuff, and then we'd have a goddamn show.  But noooo…

(Well, yeah, I'm generalizing here based on all of three episodes, but your comments have not given me much cause for optimism.)

Yeah, so the idea is that that Daisy, along with Donald and HDL, are off to some southwestern locale so she can do a story about supposed UFO sightings.  She, along with everyone but Dewey, is skeptical, but then little alien thingies appear and some kinda dull hijinx occur.  In the end, it turns out that this rancher guy was just using a special projector thing to create the appearance of extraterrestrials.  Turns out there's no such thing as aliens until the expected twist at the very end when there actually is.

Man, when I say it like that, it sounds like an awfully damned thin plot, doesn't it?  Well, it kind of is.  But you know, whatever; as far as these things go (which isn't all that far, but what the hey), this episode was more or less tolerable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Two: "Toys Czar Us"

The idea here is that Quackerjack is stealing toys from toy stores to restock them with his own, more evil-type playthings.  Meanwhile, Gosalyn is getting in hot water for being too much of a cut-up after she causes damage playing baseball in school, so Drake earnestly gets down to the business of being a "good," stifling parent, which leads to ambivalences about facing Quackerjack and being a crime-fighter in general.  To Gosalyn's dismay, obviously.  Drake dragoons Gosalyn, Honker, Tank, and some extras to appear in a school play, "The Cookie-Crumb Faerie."  Their reactions to this are quite good: Gosalyn, predictably, doesn't want to be any damn faerie; Tank is upset because "your dad cut my napalm scene!" (?!?), and Honker is just happy that he gets to play a rock.  But then Quackerjack lures them away to his underground "ultimate toy utopia," and day-saving must occur.

Quackerjack's motivations here are totally incoherent: first it seems as though he just wants to get his destructive toys into the hands of kids to fuck them up; then, it appears that he wants kids to have them just so everyone will recognize their superior awesomeness--but then he wants the kids to pay for them, suggesting a more pragmatic profit motive.  To be clear, I like this a lot: I can't really tell how intentional it is on the writers' part, but it's an appropriate characterization of the show's most insane villain.  Who knows what fires burn in his head?  Also, when Gosalyn and the Muddlefoot kids escape only to be recaptured, he's all set to execute them as punishment via toy soldiers with guns, cementing his "most psychopathic" status.  I think this is his best episode yet.

I also like the Drake/Gosalyn conflict, which doesn't go overboard into parody and is surprisingly balanced, with both of them ultimately admitting that the other might have a point re Gosalyn's behavior.  And at the end, when she gives in and agrees to play the dumb ol' faerie, Drake removes her prop crown and puts her baseball cap on her head, which is a really great capper.

Bottom line: excellent episode.  Best in a while, for sure.

Stray Observations

-Still, I don't know what the deal is with the teacher menacingly brandishing a paddle and then offering Drake cheese and crackers--is this meant to be some sort of one-woman good-cop/bad-cop routine?

"So, would you say the pesky perpetrator pilfered your plentiful stock of profitable playthings?"
"No--I'd just say I got robbed."

-"The incredibly dreary Mr. History Doll--he'll simply bore you to death!"

-"We'll be blown to bits!"  "No, honey--we'll probably be smothered before that happens."

-I was disturbed to learn that the actress who plays Tank died at the very age that I am right now.  Io fu già quel che voi sete: e quel chi son voi ancor sarete.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Two: "Island of the Not so Nice"

Uh, well, okay, here's this again.  The idea here is that HDL--after a really irritating intro about how exaggeratedly teenage and bored they are--get a great idea to take Daisy's pet echidna iguana, Knuckles, for a walk so as to, uh, give them an opening to talk to a girl they like but are too shy/awkward to approach under ordinary circumstances.  I suppose something like this is good inasmuch as, in theory, it makes them seem a bit more human, but they do it in a predictably douchey way that reduces one's sympathy.  Bah.

Meanwhile, Daisy, as a reporter, is taking a ride on this new automatic plane, and for some reason she's allowed to bring Donald with her.  Certainly, these parts are the best part of the episode, and not JUST because not featuring teenage HDL kinda makes them so by default.  Daisy is indeed a very palatable character--certainly more so than she is in the great majority of comics--and Donald is…well, Donald.  Point being, I like them both.  And there's some amusing business here with the automated flight attendant and automated pilot.

Anyway, the iguana gets lost, and in chasing it, HDL end up on an island ruled by a mad scientist who wants to use his special ray thingie to reduce all lifeforms to a prehistoric state (which, when you think about it, makes little sense, given how divergent evolution is--there isn't just one single ancestor for any given plant or animal).  And eventually Knuckles gets turned big'n'prehistoric and heads back to Duckburg to, like terrorize it and stuff, until he's stopped in a singularly dumb plot twist--see, the ray was powered by peanut butter, so obviously it can be reversed by means of jelly.  I know it's kinda meant to be dumb to an extent, but the dumbness overflows the boundaries of what was intended.

Also, there is a joke about enormous-prehistoric-pigeon shit.

The key to this show, I suppose, is trying your damnedest to just endure HDL as best you can--which is fucking hard, because it's not just their language; it's also their awful facial expressions: seriously, if that smug, heavy-lidded, shit-eating smirk they do isn't enough to drive you into a killing frenzy, nothing is.  I just think about how good this show could have been if they had maintained the current versions of Donald and Daisy and went back to the Ducktales iterations of HDL.  Probably woulda lasted longer than thirty-nine episodes, too.  A real missed opportunity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-One: "Adopt-A-Con"

I'm pretty indifferent to Tuskernini as a villain, but this is an okay episode because of a sort of Abrahams-Zucker-&-Zucker-ish use of intentionally dumb/silly throwaway jokes--like in the beginning, where Tuskernini's on trial and being represented by his penguin sidekicks, who keep using props to pantomime what he should plead and then the judge goes "Enough of these charades!"  Or when DW goes "I smell a rat!" in relation to Tuskernini's presumed plotting, and Gosalyn pulls out a rat and goes "aw, can't I keep him, dad?"

So anyway, the idea is that Drake inadvertently signs up for this "Adopt-A-Con" program in which people take in convicts to reform them.  Guess who he gets stuck with (it's really easy to forget here that not everyone knows DW's identity, since they both act and look more or less identically.  But, of course, Tuskernini has no idea).

Anyway, big surprise, Tuskernini is still up to no good, and he's robbing banks via tunnels dug from Drake's house.  He likes to do his crimes dressed up, comically, as other villains, leading to an historic moment in which a lame costume actually fails to fool someone: "You're not Megavolt!  You're Tuskernini--in a really bad Megavolt disguise."

Then, there's a conclusion where Drake, LP, and Gosalyn trick him into thinking they want him to rob a mint and getting him to come in on it, and there's a really indescribably weird bit where Drake has to quickly shift from being tied up in the building to being outside with the cops as DW, which involves him crawling over vast trackless desert wastes and swimming through crocodile-filled rivers.

It's a fun episode, and that's certainly down to the writing.  This could easily have been really mediocre and boring, but the writer here went the extra mile.  Well done.

Stray Observation

-Okay okay, so nobody knows that Drake and DW are one.  Fine.  But…while I would have to go back and rewatch previous Tuskernini appearances be sure, I'm pretty much <i>certain</i> he knows that LP works with DW, and probably Gosalyn too.  And this really wouldn't tip him off that this robbery is a set-up?

Quack Pack, Episode One: "The Really Mighty Ducks"

Surprise!  Since DW episodes are, let's face it, a bit samey, I thought it might be fun (or at least different) to alternate between episodes of that and this. 

Now, I feel like I have a reputation as being excessively harsh on comics/cartoons I don't like in general and on Ducktales in particular.  Of course, this is nothing but vicious calumny, but I will allow that I have been known to state my opinions perhaps more vehemently than some.  So when people who are generally a bit more circumspect than I am have no problem more or less calling Quack Pack complete garbage, it's hard to see how any good is going to come of me watching it--especially given that I more or less vomit in sheer rage at the very thought of HDL portrayed as disaffected teenagers.

So…I don't know.  I feel that, given this blog's charter, I have some sort of duty to check it out nonetheless, but we'll have to see.  If I can't find any redeeming features here, there may be no point in me watching the entire run, abbreviated though it is: if it's uniformly shit, repeating that over and over might well get old fast.

Let's first talk about the opening, shall we?  I really like the first seven or eight seconds about it, as Donald is setting up a projector to watch some of his old-school cartoons.  And then…HDL come onto the scene with bigger screens and loud music to watch their own, more X-TREME!!! cartoons.  The message here is obvious: this AIN'T YOUR DADDY'S DISNEY SHOW!  Which message I find distasteful enough; it would, however, perhaps be a bit more coherent if the music were something other than sixties-garage-rock-sounding stuff, which is sorta kinda exactly the sort of theme song you'd expect Your Daddy's Disney Show to have.

On to the show itself.  The idea is that HDL refuse to clean their room, to Donald's irritation.  They go to see Von Drake to find a way to do it easily, but get sidetracked by his superhero-making machine.  Naturally, they just have to turn into superheroes themselves--one is smart, one is strong, one is fast--after which they form some sorta special squad thing to right injustices and things.  But then Donald turns into a supervillain and goes after them.

Now, the thing is, there's actually a fair bit to like here.  Von Drake, for instance!  Not exactly as well-characterized as he was in "The Golden Fleecing," but still, I'll take it.  I also quite like the portrayal of old-school Donald.  As for things specific to this episode, the conflict between uncle and nephews reaches amusingly enormous proportions, culminating in Donald using Saturn's rings as a slingshot to blast planets and things at HDL and destroying the entire universe until Von Drake fixes things by moving time backwards (it's not yet clear whether or not the entire show's gonna have so cavalier an attitude towards realism).  There's also a funny thing where the stentorian narrator keeps actually appearing on-screen and annoying the characters.  Yes, it is absolutely the case that the writing is excessively impressed by how clever it thinks it is when it really isn't, but, you know…nothing unforgivable.

Thing is, though, this is all obviated to a substantial degree by how absolutely, vomitously awful the nephews are.  I suppose the idea was that the Disney shows would grow up with the viewers, so that ten-year-olds would be able to identify with them in Ducktales and those same ten-year-olds, now sixteenish, would be able to in Quack Pack.  But their supercilious, too-cool-for-school, way-less-clever-than-they-think-they-are characterization (if we're supposed to differentiate among them to a greater degree than we were in Ducktales, it's not apparent from this first episode) is just unforgivably shit.  Their horrible douchiness makes me think of Ferris Bueller or John Connor in Terminator 2.  Granted!  Granted granted granted!  This is just the first episode.  They may later on demonstrate redeeming qualities that make me hate them less than I do those guys.  But it's gonna be hard.  And that fucking sucks, because, as I noted, there are things here that are/have the potential to be extremely worthwhile and really don't deserve to be buried underneath a mountain of suckitude.  But here is Louie, sotto voce, when it transpires that Von Drake's machine won't work because it's unplugged, in a brainlessly snide tone: "And there's [sic--also, suck] people who question his genius!"  How does that inspire anything in the viewer other than a hearty fuck you?

Stray Observations

-"Fear not, super siblings: I will subdue the brute with my magnificent mammoth muscles!"  "You let him borrow your thesaurus again, didn't ya?"  Seriously, what words in there are meant to be difficult/exotic?  "Siblings?"  "Subdue?"  "Mammoth?"  If you can't do this half-assed pseudo-clever bullshit competently even in its own terms…

-Huey can't think of a good superhero name, so he just goes as "The Really Incredibly Fast Guy."  Granted, thirteen-year-old me would probably have found this facile shit hilarious, but please don't pander to that asshole, show: he had a terrible sense of humor!  No good can come of that!

-People say that Daisy is the best aspect of the show.  She only briefly appears here, so it's difficult to judge.  She's a reporter, but when she realizes that no one's watching because all the TVs have been stolen…she decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of playing bagpipes?  Guh?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Eight: "All's Fahrenheit in Love and War"

There's a big ol' blizzard in St. Canard, and DW wants to go on vacation, but what's this?  Banks getting robbed!  Turns out the responsible parties are these "fireflies" that melt their way into vaults, melt gold mullion into liquid, and take it out.  There's a scene that I actually found sort of distressing when they're heating up the room and DW and LP are desperately trying to escape the heat.  I mean, I know that, given this show's epistemology, there's no real danger, but I couldn't help thinking how horrific that would be in real life.

Anyway, turns out these bugs are being controlled by one Isis Vanderchill, a large woman who looks sort of like a duck version of Ursula from The Little Mermaid.  It seems she used to be "the ice Queen of St. Canard," but she had experimental surgery to freeze her face to keep it from aging, but it went wrong and, uh, froze her blood, so now she's always cold.  Which is why she apparently lives in, well, Hell, deep beneath the ground.  She takes a shine to DW, and there's some sorta-sexist stuff where she makes him go out with her, but then it is revealed that she's controlling the bugs, and Shit Gets Real.  It transpires that the ultimate goal is to coat all of St. Canard with gold, on the basis that this will "reflect enough heat to keep [her] warm all year long."  I ain't one a them there fancy-pants scientists, but I am nonetheless fairly certain that gold does not work that way.

Basically making time, really.  I feel like Vanderchill needs to be more flamboyant--or more something, at any rate--to be memorable.  But as it stands, like this episode, she really isn't.  Instead of watching it, why not read Alfred Bester's short story "Fondly Fahrenheit?"  It does some interesting things with perspective and is ultimately quite chilling (ho ho).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Seven: "Smarter than a Speeding Bullet"

As DW and LP are looking to foil Steelbeak's theft of rubber duckies, an alien capsule crashes down in the middle of the fracas.  Inside is Comet Guy, a generic-looking musclebound alien superhero from the planet Mertz (sp?).  I like the name "Comet Guy" because it sounds like a superhero name that a six-year-old would come up with.  Perhaps this is intentional, inasmuch as he has the intellect of a little kid.  Apparently, he's no great shakes as a superhero, so he needs a champion from another planet--like DW!--to train him.  Oh, and he has one weakness: when he hears the sound of a bell, he has to dance uncontrollably, wearing various different dancing costumes, until he hears a whistle.  Hokay.  This is an excuse for the writers to play dress-up with him, more or less; some of his get-ups and accompanying dances are pretty funny, but this is a conceit that could get old very fast if it manifests again in later appearances of the character.

Anyway, DW gets fed up with CG's incompetence and refuses to continue the training.  I thought there would be some sorta conflict with DW getting jealous of the fact that CG has actual superpowers, like flight and ice-vision, but that never really comes up.  Probably a good thing, ultimately; it's a bit predictable (then again, I suppose DW might have some too--that teleporting thing he does doesn't seem to have any realistic explanation).  Steelbeak decides that HE can pretend to be a superhero-training-guy ("Steelbeak Cluck") and get CG to work for him, helping out with FOWL's diabolic scheme to create a giant, remote-controlled, bouncy rubber ball of destruction (the "FOWL ball").  Various things occur and CG's back with the good guys, and they're able to use the dancing thing to their advantage to win, which is pretty clever.

I like Comet Guy, in spite of my previous caveat about the uncontrollable-dancing gimmick.  My favorite part is the bit where he hammers three eggmen in a row into the ground (""You can't make an omelet without pounding the living daylights out of a few eggs!").  I gather he only reappears once, but more woulda been better, I say.  Certainly, he would've made a better Justice Duck than that flippin' dinosaur whose name I forget and refuse to look up.

Stray Observations

-OF COURSE there's a giant pencil sharpener at the pencil factory!  What would you expect?

-"Launchpad--tell him I'm me!"  "Gee, I dunno DW--they ALL look like you!"

"'Gasp!'  I've been duped!"

-I wonder if they ever meant to unveil those shadowy FOWL High Command people at any point.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Six: "Cleanliness Is Next to Badliness"

 Not quite sure why, but I do find the word "badliness" to be intrinsically funny.

Weird opening where Steelbeak is explaining to this woman (a HUMAN woman) sitting on his lap why he hasn't been seeing her lately ('cause he's busy with evil-executive stuff, apparently).  Meanwhile, she just sits there stock-still so you think she's some kinda doll.  And then when FOWL contacts him, he quickly drops her through a trapdoor.  I feel like there's a lotta weird psychosexual stuff here just waiting to be unpacked.

Anyway, the shadowy FOWL leaders want him to rob some banks because they're running low on cash.  Steelbeak, considering himself a criminal mastermind, isn't keen on doing something so plebian, but he's intimidated into it.  So he enlists the help of Ammonia Pine, the evil cleaning-lady from some earlier episode or other.

Meanwhile, Gosalyn has the great idea that there should be a Darkwing fan club.  Accordingly, when he goes out to investigate this mysterious bank robbery, she brings some kids out to watch him do his thing.  This is all pretty silly, but sort of amusing, I suppose.

Steelbeak and Ammonia make a theoretically interesting team, but it ultimately gets a little unpleasant: she's into him, and he just acts like a dick about it.  If you ask me, it would be way funnier if the affection was to some degree mutual.

DW gets all full of himself with the fan club thing, but ultimately, with some help from Honker and Gosalyn, he prevails, in the sense that Steelbeak gets beaten up.  In more to-the-point categories, however, he doesn't prevail at all: I must note the most amusing thing about this episode, which is that FOWL totally achieves all its goals, or close enough: sure, Steelbeak and Ammonia were going to rob one last bank, but the FOWL boss makes it clear that the previous robberies had already resulted in sufficient profit to return to normal levels of criminal activity.  Steelbeak getting thwomped doesn't change that.  The writers really took their eyes off the ball here.

Still, not a terrible episode, and we get a longer and more interesting look at Steelbeak than we normally do.

Stray Observations

-"Now try to imagine that Launchpad here is a witless, brainless thug!"

-"I always knew you were a big chicken, Steelbeak!"

"Darkwing Duck does not know the meaning of the word 'defeat'!"  "I know who's getting a dictionary for his birthday!"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Four: "When Aliens Collide"

Hokay, we're back.  The exact reasons for the recent silence hereabouts are a bit convoluted, but let me just say this: refusing to release almost half the episodes of Darkwing Duck on DVD or providing any other way to legally access them and then staging a major crackdown on their availability on youtube and such like?  Pretty serious dick move, jackasses.

But suffice it to say that I believe I've sorted everything out now, so regular updates will resume.

And unfortunately, they resume with an episode that I found none too exciting.  It takes as a theme, or subtheme, the question of whether or not Drake is being overprotective of Gosalyn and whether he should trust her more; a perfectly reasonable thing to want to address, but the episode does it in a really half-assed way, as in the open in which he's kvetching because she made him take her and Honker to a "rock concert"--that's right, a generic "rock concert."  "You always think you know what's best for me," she complains.  "You've gotta start trusting me sooner or later."  But this is all in reference to something really trivial that, when you come right down to it, has nothing at all to do with growing up.  Sheesh.

Sigh…so the idea is that a mute purple alien thingie with a bow tie crashes its spaceship.  It indicates that it wants the bow tie removed, but it transpires that it's really evil and stuff and wants to blow up the universe, and the tie is an inhibitor preventing it from using its real power.  And our heroes, with the help of an interstellar cop, stop it from doing so.  And the question of "trust" is just kind of left awkwardly hanging.

Not impressed, DW people.  You need to step up your game.

Stray Observations

-Yeah, and how 'bout this: there's a machine to remove the bow tie, but Gosalyn needs to know what button to push to activate it.  "Quick, Honk!" she exclaims.  "What's your favorite color?"  'Cause Honker's smart and stuff so naturally his favorite color would be the right color for this particular task and COME ON, don't DO this; crud like this is worthy of the worst of Ducktales.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Three: "Aduckyphobia"

A good example of how you can make a title seem, in retrospect, like complete gibberish: presumably, this episode is named after the 1990 film Arachnophobia.  But sticking "ducky" in the title in place of "rachno" completely severs the relationship to spiders, leaving anyone not up on their middling horror movies completely in the dark.  "Aducky?"  So it's the fear of…an absence of ducks?  Wuh?  Well, I guess we're all probably experiencing that to an extent as we wait for a new Disney publisher to emerge.

I'd kinda forgotten about Moliarty.  Well, not literally; I may at some point have vaguely thought, huh--I wonder if that mole guy's ever gonna make a reappearance.  But his initial appearance didn't make much of an impression, and honestly, I didn't really remember what he was like.  Well, now he's back.  Hurray?  Sure; why not.  Though here, at least, he's really nothing more than a generic dick who wants to destroy surface life just 'cause of some kind of molecentrism.  He's messing around with radiation 'cause he's after a rare mineral called "canardium" to power his evil machine, and a spider gets mutated and grows to be giant.  I thought it also mutated to have a human face, but as we later learn, all spiders of that species are like that.  Weird.  Anyway, he's really childlike and sweet but also quite dumb and easily manipulated, so Moliarty enlists his aid.  When he bites DW (for which he is immediately contrite), the latter grows two extra pairs of arms and decides that his new superhero identity will be "Arachnoduck." 

And that's about that.  Moliarty, like, loses and stuff.  And that's about it, really.  Nothing too spectacular, although I really do like the giant spider.  If they had wanted Moliarty to feature more prominently in the show, they really should've done more to make his character distinctive.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season ?????, Episode Nine: "Battle of the Brainteasers"

Same explanation for this out-of-order episode as for "Calm a Chameleon!"  We will be returning to normal next time.

Honker witnesses a meteor crash, but no one is willing to listen to him until he tells Gosalyn.  It turns out that, big surprise, it's aliens.  They're these three alien, um, hats, that hop on people's heads to control them, sort of like the handlingers in Perdido Street Station.  Their names are Flarg, Barada, and Nikto.  Um, shouldn't that first one be "Klaatu?"  Well, we learn at the end of the episode that that's the name of the leader of the hat people.  But I don't know why they wouldn't use the name for the guy who's part of the trio.

I won't say these guys are particularly compelling villains, but this is still a cool episode because the day is saved entirely by Gosalyn and then a little by Honker at the end.  Drake spends the whole episode first playing videogames and then possessed by a hat; during the latter segment, he's wearing the Darkwing costume for unclear reasons, but he never does any Darkwing things, which is a first for the show.  And it builds up some pretty good Body-Snatchers type tension as Gosalyn tries desperately to avoid being assimilated.

Stray Observations

"I thought your hat was an alien!"  "No--it was made right here in town!"

-Also, Honker is able to stand up to Tank, which is nice.  And his family's reactions when the hat controlling him goes on TV to announce their imminent takeover of the world is relatively priceless: "And he's usually so shy!  To think our little Honker could soon be ruling the planet!  Looks like you might have to give him the bigger bedroom, dear!"

-Oh, an' also, we see the return (or perhaps first appearance? I'm all mixed up) of "Whiffle Boy," the videogame from Quackerjack's debut.  Whoo?

Darkwing Duck, Season Mystery, Episode Eight: "Calm a Chameleon"

There is no particular reason to be watching this episode out of order--I just didn't want to bother switching discs, is all.

Gotta love that title, anyway.  I'm not saying it's a work of genius or anything, but it's a sort of cute, somewhat clever pop-culture reference of a sort that you simply would not have seen in Ducktales.

The idea is that there's this shape-changing witch called The Chameleon.  Her main goal is to steal special ink so she can counterfeit money, which seems like a pretty low-ambition scheme, really.  Oh, and also, there's a companion plot where Honker's feeling picked on so he reads a book that DW apparently wrote in his spare time about being assertive.  This makes him instantly turn into Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

The Chameleon is really named Camille.  Her story, as she explains it, is that in school she was beautiful, but everyone nonetheless picked on her for unexplained reasons.  She wanted to blend in--like the chameleon!--so she managed to do some sort of DNA-related thing to make her into a human chameleon.  Now, she actually looks pretty cool in her regular form, I grant you, but she's pretty thin as a villain.  It's never made clear why "desire to fit in" mutated into "desire to commit crimes," and she never really becomes anything more than the "changes forms" conceit.  Maybe if they had made her a recurring character, they could have developed her better.  Although given that our heroes defeat her simply by turning up the heat, it appears that she would have been done in anyway on the first really hot day to come along.

Stray Observations

-She may be able to look like anyone, but she always has this hissing voice that gives her away.  But when DW goes "hold it Launchpad--there's something funny about your voice!" it's just so instantly obvious that his IQ is going to momentarily dip by ~fifty points and he's not going to have figured out the truth.  I feel like you should strive to avoid this kind of predictability, guys.

-"If I was a fiend named The Chameleon, what would I do?"  If you WERE a fiend, dammit.  Superheroes need to be on top of the subjunctive mood.

-"DW, you really oughta schedule your chase sequences to avoid rush hour."

Darkwing Duck, Season Two Hundred Eighty Two Thousand, Episode Five: "Slaves to Fashion"

Well, the initial idea is that Gosalyn is kicking Honker's and Tank's asses at soccer, and seeing this, Drake allows himself to be convinced that Gosalyn is insufficiently lady-like and should therefore be made to serve as a "hostess" at this school charity function to girl her up.  I must say, while this plotline is interesting in theory, in practice it's just way too programmatic.  I mean, what do you think is going to happen?  If you said "Gosalyn is utterly hostile to behaving in an even slightly 'lady-like' fashion," then congratulations: you've watched at least one episode of Darkwing Duck, or at least heard of it.  I'm not saying that Gosalyn should start acting contrary to character, but if you're going to have a plot like this, use it to do something interesting; reveal some new wrinkle.  Otherwise, what's the point?

Ahem.  Anyway.  So the problem is, Tuskernini, whom I've never found to be a very interesting villain, has this hypno-gas that makes people act like what they're dressed as.  Or else just makes them do what Tuskernini says.  Or both.  It's never made very clear.  He wants to use this scheme to rob the charity and stuff.  Gadzooks!

So at the dance, there's a baffling bit where Gosalyn is hanging around chatting with these three boys and acting exaggeratedly girly about it to…annoy Drake, apparently.  Only it's not at all clear why this is meant to be something that would annoy him.  I guess the boys are disreputable or something?  I would not describe this as the result of good writing.  Then, everyone starts getting hit with the gas, resulting in hijinx.  I do like the fact that Drake is dressed as Darkwing (causing nobody to notice anything suspicious, of course), and it's a real philosophical conundrum when he gets hit with the gas: now he acts like DW?  More so?  What does it mean to be made to behave "more" in the manner of your alter-ego that's for all intents and purposes exactly the same as you?  Hmm.

And there's an entertaining conclusion where Tuskernini, DW, and LP have all been hit by the gas and rapidly go through a whole bunch of different costumes and behaviors.  And then Drake learns that he should accept Gosalyn as she is.  So good for him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Two: "Double Darkwings"

Take a tall drink from a jar, act so gay-o
War is over, Johnny's back, back on the bayou

Jambalaya Jake's witchdoctor grandmother makes a zombification powder for him to use on Darkwing.  Great plan--but things go wrong because LP is dressed in a DW costume to learn to be a more effective "decoy," and, naturally, he gets hit with the potion instead, giving Jake the bright idea of making him commit crimes to frame the real DW.

Hmm.  I'm sort of ambivalent about Jake.  He is fairly entertaining to watch, I'll admit, but there's something about him that just makes him seem a little out-of-place to me.  It's probably in large part the fact that while all the other villains are, you know, special in some way, he's really just a short guy with no discernible superpowers.  I feel like I either want to sympathize on some level with a supervillain, or else find them so impressively badass/evil that I don't care.  Jake sort of falls between the cracks in that regard.

Anyway, grandma wants Jake to cough up ten thousand dollars for this powder, and she shows up at a very inopportune moment to demand the money; when he can't pay, she de-zombifies LP so the heroes can kick his ass.  Geez, granny, you've gotta give him some time.  It really doesn't seem reasonable to me to expect the money before he's had time to deal with the resident superhero.  What you have to ask yourself is: do you actually want that ten thousand dollars, or don't you?  If you do, you're going to have to learn to exercise some patience.

Nice ending, in which our heroes make Jake and Gumbo dress in the DW costumes to frame them for the crimes that they had framed DW for.  I like how thoroughly dimwitted the TV reporter is.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episodes Twenty & Twenty-One: "Just Us Justice Ducks"

I've enjoyed most of these Marvel superhero movies that have been released over the last few years (the exception being Iron Man 2, about which the less said the better), but I'm still having a hard time conceptualizing how the upcoming Avengers movie can actually be good.  'Cause seriously, dude, you're trying to cram a half dozen-odd unconnected heroes together and give them all time to shine in the space of a two hour movie?  It's difficult to see how this can possibly be anything but really overstuffed and ungainly.

At any rate, perhaps "Just Us Justice Ducks" (love the title, if nothing else) can provide us with a preview, since here, in the space of forty-two-odd minutes, it's Darkwing and Gizmoduck and Morgana and Neptunia and Stegmutt versus Negaduck and Megavolt and Quackerjack and Bushroot and Liquidator.  Whew.  Honestly, it seems kind of pointless to take the time to put together whole teams like this without ever using them again--doing it just for the sake of the thing, because it's a superhero convention--but what the hell: let's see how if fares on its own terms.

So DW has a date with Morgana, but before that can happen, he has to deal with Megavolt being villainous.  And what's this?  There's Quackerjack being villainous, too!  Actually, the two of them are pretty funny together; I could deal with more of that.  Throughout the course of the first episode, the various heroes and villains are introduced, more or less awkwardly, and DW, being a lone-hero type, drives them all off.  Will he learn the True Value of Teamwork?!?

YES!  The second episode deals with having so many heroes and villains by more or less compartmentalizing them: in the first half, it's Neptunia versus Liquidator, Morgana versus Bushroot, Stegmutt versus Quackerjack, and Gizmoduck versus Megavolt.  In each case, the villain gets the upper hand, and Negaduck is going to drain their powers and incidentally kill them until DW shows up.  Then, they each pretty much smash the shit out of a villain in such a way that it's hard to know why they had so much trouble in the first place.  For all this talk of "teamwork," there really isn't all that much of it--they basically each just do their thing.

So okay.  That's that, I guess.  Not terrible, but there's a certain feeling of anticlimax, like we were building up to this whole big thing and now…well, the thing happened!  Back to the ol' grind!  I'm actually kind of looking forward to that, though; novelty notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine how this was ever going to be a really great episode, having to divide its attention so many ways.

Stray Observations

-I must admit, Negaduck is a pretty magnetic villain here, much better than in that "super-speed aging" thing.  It's never made clear why all the other guys are following him, though.  They're all different levels of bad, and they're all basically anarchists, so this seems like a doubtful notion.  Bushroot in particular is only very nominally a villain; it's hard to really swallow the idea of him getting all excited about fucking shit up in the same way as, say, Quackerjack.

-Man, Stegmutt is surely the worst character this show has come up with yet.  Jeez Louise.  On the other hand, I'm a li'l bummed that we won't be seeing more of Neptunia.  You can see why we won't, though.  "Neptunia," Gizmoduck sez, "your command of the creatures of the sea will be of great help!"  Is he being sarcastic, or what?  Is this a thinly veiled poke at the widely-noted impracticality of Aquaman's powers?

-"Bullsh….no no no no don't say the B word!"  Really?  This show can do that?

-"Morgana!  You have a mystical hideout-finding power, maybe perhaps?"

-"Flowers!  Flowers for Negaduck!"  "I hate flowers!"  "Did I say flowers?  I mean, uh…skulls!  Skulls for Negaduck!"  "Ah…I'll be right there."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Six: "Dry Hard"

The idea is that there's this here heat wave, so this owner of a bottled-water company who talks like a game-show host, Bud Flud, decides that the only logical step is to poison all the other brands of water so that people will have no choice but to buy his stuff--though I'd think the real competitor, which he doesn't do anything with, would be tap water.  What I like about ol' Bud is that he has these giant-water-bottles-with-women's-legs following him about singing jingles, like those terrifying giant packs of cigarettes in those old commercials.  And when he's poisoning the water, he's accompanied by poison-water bottles, as why the heck wouldn't he be?

So Darkwing catches him in the act, and he falls in a tank of poisoned water (which seems to have become some sort of corrosive, acid-like thing) and dies.  It's quite gruesome for a show like this, really.  "All the better!" Darkwing cheerfully remarks, "cases are so much easier when the bad guy offs himself like that!"  This strikes me as awfully callous.

Anyway, big surprise, he's not dead for good--he returns as a guy made of water.  Also, he can psychically control water apparently, though this isn't exactly spelt out.  And he's changed his name to Liquidator, which seems like it would be bad for brand-recognition, given that he's still trying to sell water, albeit in a rather more coercive manner.  Ultimately, he makes all the water hard (and yellow, for some reason) so he can charge people for the regular kind.  But Darkwing foils him by pouring cement on him and making him into a statue, which is also rather more unpleasant than the fates most villains meet.

As I said, what I really like about Liquidator is the rotating cast of women in appropriate costumes that he has singing fifties-style jingles for him.  That's funny.  But I'm kind of assuming he won't have those in future episodes, which…well, we'll see if they can give him something else to make him stand out.

Stray Observation

-There's a great part where the bay is turning hard, and a fish is stuck on the surface and baffled by the proceedings.  Later, we see the same fish who, having decided to turn lemons into lemonade, is sitting on the water with an umbrella, shades, and a fruity drink.  That's my kinda fish.

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty: "Ghoul of My Dreams"

It turns out that Morgana, with the help of an evil little gremlin called Nodoff that rules (I guess?) the dream world, is putting people to sleep and getting them to give her their stuff (eg, a rich pig thinks he's a baseball pitcher and hurls his gold bricks out the window for her bats to catch in a net). It's time for Darkwing to come to the rescue, and also feel ambivalent due to his attraction to her!

I like Morgana a lot, as I may have mentioned, though here she has a disappointingly banal, if somewhat funny, motive: "And now, with the city asleep, I'll finally be able to steal enough money to pay off my student loans!" Nobody said becoming a horror queen was cheap. I also like her bats, Eek and Squeak, and her grumpy spider. They're endearingly expressive.

Thing is, I'm really not sure how this whole dream-world thing is supposed to work. Okay, Morgana's using dust she gets from Nodoff to put people to sleep. But…is this just normal sleep, or is it some sorta special sleep? There's never any indication that waking people from it is particularly hard, but in that case, why go into the dreamworld after Morgana when she's put to sleep, as opposed to just waking her up? How is this a good plan to rob a whole city? And how does just tossing Nodoff back into the dream world somehow apparently get rid of him for good, given that this is his kingdom? Confusion is mine.

Oh, and then at the end, the whole thing was a dream. SRSLY?

Stray Observation

-"We're investigating a crime spree, and you're the prime seduction, uh, SUSPECT."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Awkshee-Boo, Episode Seven: "Tiff of the Titans"

So FOWL eggmen break into a military establishment to steal a special secret weapon thingie, but lying in wait to stop them, it's--Gizmoduck? Yeah, I imagine that would've blown yer mind if you didn't know in advance that Fenton was making an appearance. Which you already would have, since the episodes were run in such an eccentric order. Man, you really fucked that chicken, Disney. Nonetheless and at any rate, here he is. I won't deny that part of my motive for wanting to see this show in the first place was the promise of the odd Gizmoduck cameo, so I was looking forward to this to an extent--although as I watched the show, I came to realize that he's much less necessary here than he was in Ducktales. In that show, he represented a new--and very welcome--element, but here, he's actually not all that different from Darkwing himself, and thus, while I'm still glad to see him, he seems a little superfluous. Also, in this episode at least, he seems much more obnoxious than he was in Ducktales, immediately making huge presumptions on Drake's hospitality without permission.

Anyway, Fenton heads to St. Canard to serve as a guard for this here weapon before it's unveiled to the public; Steelbeak wants him and DW to be enemies so he can get away with stealing it, so he tries to get something like that going. The best part in the episode, probably, is when they see a crime on TV and both start mouthing the same furtive-disguised-superhero-type dialogue. Then, they dash off to combat Steelbeak and learn to work together and shit, in spite of their initial animosity towards each other. Drake and Fenton, who still don't know one another's secret identities, still hate each other, however.

An okay episode, although as I said, not quite as thrilling as I would have thought it would be before watching any of the show.

Stray Observations

-Steelbeak bites DW's gas gun in half, which as far as I can remember is the first time that the steel-ness of his beak has actually played a part in an episode.

-According to the Darkwing Duck wiki, "Gizmoduck, unlike Darkwing Duck, is a popular and well-liked hero. Because of this Darkwing Duck sees him as a rival of sorts." I don't get it--are we supposed to think that everyone hates Darkwing? If so, the show does a remarkably poor job of getting this across.

-So Gosalyn and Honker are watching "Nightmare on Pelican Island," some sort of Gilligan's Island/Nightmare on Elm Street mash-up? Sure, I'd pay to see that.

Darkwing Duck, Season Grr-Baah, Episode Six: "Something Fishy"

Pollution! All around! Sometimes up! And sometimes...down! But always...around!

Drake, LP, and Gosalyn go to the beach, but oh shit, there's litter. This was from when we had that crazy-ass fad of caring whether we destroy the entire earth, so it evinces concern about these things--though it makes the common error of conflating mere littering with more heavy-duty pollution. In any case, Drake is completely blasé about all this, which seems odd, but Gosalyn's all for wreaking bloody vengeance on the perpetrators. Literally: "Sorry, dad, but you can't use kid gloves on these polluters; you gotta fight to draw blood!" Good words to live by; I just wish we had some people in congress who thought that way.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there's a sardonic, diminutive fish-woman named Neputunia who commands aquatic life and wants to fuck our shit up by flooding St. Canard. She's an appealing character, and it is to be mourned that apparently she only appears here and in the two-parter, though I suppose given her very specific situation, there's only so much you can do with her. She does end up flooding the city, and it's actually kind of bizarre; it's apparently deserted, as we see no indication that anyone's panicking or trying to escape or anything.

Yadda yadda, the day is saved, as Launchpad convinces her with very little effort that flooding the city is bad and stuff because good people live there too. Hard to see this as being much of a solution, though, since there's no indication the pollution won't nonetheless continue.

Stray Observations

-"Next time I get a day off, we're spending it in a library!" 'Day off,' eh? The plot thickens.

-"Danger, Launchpad, is my middle name!" "Yeah? Oh, funny, us being in a situation like this and me just now finding out what your middle name is!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Five: "Jurassic Jumble"

Watching a few more episodes out of order here, so's we'll have all the necessary background when we do the big two-part episode.  In this installment, there's a bipedal pteranodon named Dr. Fossil, who, with the help of his lackey, Smegmutt, is getting together a plan to turn people into dinosaurs and wipe out humanity, by…hmm.  Okay, the exact mechanics here are unclear to say the least, but suffice it to say: that's his plan.  Can Darkwing thwart him???

Smegmutt is a good guy.  He's strong but child-like, possibly somewhat mentally disabled.  I don't find him all that appealing, but per the internet, he doesn't appear very often, so I guess that's okay.  But here's the question: is he supposed to be a former human?  And if so, why doesn't he get turned back at the end, along with all the other transformed dinosaurs?  And how about Dr. Fossil, who is definitely a transformed human?  And why is he on this big dinosaur-rights trip if he's not actually a dinosaur?  The show tries to lampshade the question by having Honker ask it and Fossil getting all offended, but it's really pretty nonsensical, and it just goes to show what I've said a few times before: the fact that your show has a very elastic reality should not be seen as a license to not put any thought into what you're doing 'cause what the hell.


Stray Observation

-Hey, Honker has a very Junior-Woodchucks-esque handbook.  Is he a member?  He oughta be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Nineteen: "Days of Blunder"

Look, a movie called Days of Thunder was released roughly contemporaneously with this show, and that's reason enough for the title. Let's not go around asking dumb questions about whether or not it has any actual relevance whatsoever to the episode.

The idea here is that Quackerjack tricks Darkwing into thinking he's going to commit crimes so as to make a fool of him when he tries to stop these nonexistent acts of larceny; then, when his confidence is down, he poses as a psychiatrist and convinces him that the life of a crimefighter is not for him. Then the real crime spree begins, until DW can get his head back on straight.

In the previous entry, I complained that Quackerjack seemed kind of pointless; just a less-distinctive version of Megavolt. This episode is a big improvement, however; it does a good job of making him into a distinct character. For one--though whether this will be a recurring motif, I don't know--he demonstrates an ability to psychologically manipulate DW, which something ability that no other villain has evinced thusfar. Also, he comes across as a genuine psychopath: Megavolt may be crazy and amoral, but you don't get the impression that he's necessarily evil per se, whereas it's possible to imagine Quackerjack murdering you just for teh lulz, probably while making a terrible pun. He's about as scary as a villain on a show like this is likely to be, and if the writers are able to maintain this level of intensity in future appearances, he's definitely one to look out for.

Stray Observations

-One of Darkwing's more memorable indignities when the wrestler that he's going up against in a charity match makes him into a balloon-animal giraffe.

-"This is Dan Gander outside First National Bank, where the rubber chicken crisis has just entered its tenth incredibly tedious hour."

-I know this is Disney-world, where really obvious disguises are the norm, but the fact that the psychiatrist's half-red-half-purple face doesn't raise any alarm bells really takes this trope to a new level.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Nine: "Whiffle While You Work"

Watching another episode out of order, because this introduces the Quackerjack villain, who appears in the next chronological episode. Got it? Okay.

He's a deranged jester. He wants revenge of some sort because this videogame called Whiffle Boy drove his toy company out of business. Wait a minute--one videogame drove him out of business? No doubt the videogame industry has had some negative effect on sales of more traditional toys, but this still doesn't make a great deal of sense.

…but whatever. It happened, and it made him crazy, evidently. He's kind of menacing-looking for sure, but I have to say, his derangement seems like kinda weak sauce compared to Megavolt.

Anyway, this here Whiffle Boy game is one of those weird cartoon looks-nothing-like-any-videogame-that's-ever-been-produced-in-any-era things (and it plays with a 2600-type joystick, to further confuse the issue). The same sort of thing that appeared in Ducktales from time to time. It's some sort of platformish thing where you fight weasels. It's not at all clear to me how something so seemingly mundane could be so popular that random cops talk it up and that it has its own championships, let alone that it drove a company out of business. Nonetheless, both Gosalyn and Drake are obsessed with it, and they'e both entered a competition (along with exactly no one else, it appears). Naturally, they have interpersonal tension, along with the predicted Quackerjack-related tension. There's one somewhat unfortunate bit where Drake orders her not to participate, and she threatens to reveal his Secret Identity. I feel like that's a bridge too far; the sort of thing that really can't be part of their arguments if we're supposed to accept that they really love each other. Blah.

Anyway, DW gets sucked into the videogame along with Crackerjack, and the usual sort of hijinx ensue, and that's about that.

Stray Observations

-"Discuss the President you admire most and why. George Washington! He invented the dollar bill; THAT'S history!"

-"My gloves! I can't play without my power gloves!" I love the power glove. It's so bad.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Eighteen: "You Sweat Your Life"

Sweat my youth away, with the rules we have to play...

In this here episode, DW and LP catch these two crooks, a big dog and little dog, robbing a museum. Transpires they're working for an old guy named "Jock Newbody" who runs a health club and is looking to obtain a feather from "a true and pure hero." Also, the hero has to be a bird, apparently. DW goes to investigate, but his plan is complicated when Herb and Binkie Muddlefoot insist on coming along.

This episode had its amusing moments, but it also had more than its share of "guh? huh? wuh?" moments. Like, if Drake's supposed to be undercover, why does he appear in full DW costume almost immediately after getting to the club? And shouldn't Jock have an actual evil scheme of some sort beyond "I want to be young. Also, I'm going to kill you, just 'cause?" And we're really supposed to believe that Herb remains blissfully unaware of DW's true identity after they've been welded together at the wrists? And how come they magically come unattached as soon as they fall into the elixir? And I thought you had to drink it to de-age, not just fall in it?

I can attribute some of this to the plain ol' nature of the show, I suppose, but it just keeps piling up, and ultimately it made for a somewhat unsatisfactory viewing experience for me. I did like DW and Herb having to work together, though, unsurprisingly, this was rather underdeveloped. And Binkie plays almost no role.

At any rate, I think my thesis that quality of villain directly correlates with quality of episode has yet to be disproven. And Jock ain't much of a villain.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Eleventy Billion, Episode Four: "Fungus Amongus"

Darkwing's got a girl-friend! Darkwing's got a girl-friend!

Well…only in a kind of notional sense at this time, but this remains a cool episode that adds a new dimension to the show. The idea is that someone--or something!--is stealing pizza toppings around the city. "The only toppings that haven't been grabbed are green peppers and mushrooms," Darkwing asserts, which suggests both that there are a LOT of toppings that were stolen off-stage, and that he has an encyclopedic list of every topping ever in his head. Well, that's superheroes for you.

Anyway, it seems a sinister horror-movie-ish cabal known as "Macawber Mushrooms Unlimited" is responsible for this deviltry, and there's a nice segment with DW exploring the house, complete with a physics-defying Escher-type room. And then, the head of the board, Morgana Macawber herself--a kind of Vampira (or Morticia Addams)-type--shows up. I like the way she glides rather than walking.

There's a convoluted and improbable plot involving the pizza thing, of course, but the main thing is the Darkwing/Morgana dynamic, which is surprisingly sexy for a show of this type. She's cool, she knows badass magic, and I very much like the fact that she isn't exactly reformed at the end--though we'll see how that plays out down the line.

In addition to just liking the idea, it seems to me that the writing on this episode was just more memorable than usual--I found myself jotting down a fair few lines as I watched. The show's never been exactly bad so far, but it has had some uninspired moments. Episodes like this represent the sort of thing it should be going for every time.

Stray Observations

-"You've got more fungus on your little finger than most people have in their whole heads!"

-"Perhaps we could get together again sometime! I could share facts about spores and slime molds!" "Ah, I'd like that! Sort of."

-"There is no market for grub and cockroach pizza!"

"Gee, DW--sorry about your girlfriend being a fiendish bloodsucking creature from the netherworld."

"Oh, Darkwing--if you insist on having principles, our relationship is doomed!"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Seventeen: "Bearskin Thug"

An oddly-structured episode, this. The first third concerns Drake's efforts to get ready for a camping trip in spite of the extremely recalcitrant Gosalyn's resistance. The second third is them out there in the woods engaging in various low-level hijinks. There's a giant killer bear around that's scared off all the rangers, but that doesn't really feel like a central conflict or anything. Then, the Muddlefoots (seriously, I have to force myself not to write "Waddlefoots." This may be because Gosalyn's original last name was Waddlemeyer, but really now, how long should a minor thing like that be sticking in my head…?) show up, for no particular reason. And then, finally, Steelbeak and a few FOWL agents show up out of nowhere with a fiendish(?) plan to hide missiles in trees. Drake doesn't turn into Darkwing until the last three minutes of the episode.

It's kind of jumbled, really. I kind of prefer the earlier bits, where it's just a bunch of slapsticky dicking around (though the opportunity to say anything interesting about Drake and Gosalyn's relationship is pretty much squandered). The entire bit with Steelbeak feels extremely rushed and perfunctory, as well it might when it only has five or six minutes to play out from start to finish, and I cannot help but note that DW never actually foils their plot, per se.

The episode has its moments, sure, but I think there's a danger here of writers using the fact that the show is so much more malleable than Ducktales as an excuse not to bother building even minimally cohesive stories, which is not to the viewer's benefit.

Stray Observations

-I think this is the first Launchpad-less episode.

"Let's see…bear…trees…Steelbeak…Gosalyn…nuclear missiles…more trees…"