Sunday, August 13, 2017

New Ducktales, Season One, Episode One: "Woo-oo!"

Chris Barat, thou shouldst be living at this hour. All New Ducktales reviews are dedicated to your memory.

My thoughts on this are extremely scattered. I don't know that I can provide a coherent critique. That said, THIS:

Now...there's just no use quibbling here; from this image, you can see how much the producers care about cramming obscure duck lore and history into this show (if anyone wants to speculate in comments as to what some of the more obscure stuff means, feel free). My initial fear was that it would kinda look like a copy of a copy--ie, Original Ducktales (OD) is based, sort of, on Barks; New Ducktales (ND) is based mainly on...OD. That's not nearly as interesting to me! But this shows that they really, really care, and regardless of the execution, they have to get a shitload of points for that. Right. So. I have various opinions and observations about the episode, so I will share them in scattershot form.

-By the end of the episode, it had become slightly less jarring that HDL talk like regular adults. But...only slightly. I dunno. I don't think I'm ever going to be totally sold on this. Also--and this is my biggest problem with the show as a whole--their sort of breezy, bantery, millenial-irony-ish dialogue...well, it's not exactly bad or poorly executed. It's just that...well, maybe I've just watched too many MCU movies, but I feel like it's a bit played out; a bit creatively fatigued. I mean, I guess I shouldn't complain too much; we can't forget how utterly fucking dreadful the writing in the original show could be. Maybe it just needs to find its groove a bit. Whatever. It's fine, I guess. Although I really must note that they very clearly refer to their uncles as uncle. Someone needs to have a quiet word with the voice actors about that.  As Joe Torvicia notes, the same thing appears in the first ND comic.  Surprisingly sloppy, given how careful they're trying to be to honor the duck legacy.

-Also re HDL, unlike OD, ND makes a very clear point of giving them the traditional nomenclature--Huey Red, Dewey, Blue, Louie green. I know they're trying to give them at least somewhat distinct personalities, but I think it's gonna take a few episodes for this to really coalesce.

-Webby: even though the above complaint re dialogue also applies to her, she's a <i>whole</i> fucking lot better than you could ever fuckin' have imagined based on the original. Again, this does illustrate the amount of care that went into the whole thing: the producers realized that Webby was an awful, condescending sop to a putative female audience, and they made damn sure they would not make that mistake again. She's a much stronger character, and the episode is refreshingly devoid of any of the boy/girl fight stuff in OD. I like.

-Donald: I'll be thrilled if he takes a bigger role in this series, as seems likely. I do have a pretty big complaint, though, which seems like a small thing but isn't: if he's gonna be around a lot and do a lot of talking, they should really make his voice clearer. I mean, maybe you are so acclimated to Donaldspeak that it's totally lucid to you, but I sure ain't and it sure ain't to me. Yeah, it's similar to how he sounded in the old cartoons, but in those, he didn't talk that much, and it wasn't really important to fully understand most of what he said. In those same vintage shorts, HDL talked more or less the same as Donald did; wisely, the producers of OD realized that this wasn't really tenable in a show that relied on them talking a lot and being understood, and so we got the pretty-good compromise we did. I'm not saying Donald's voice needs to be quite that clear, but I really wish it were a bit clearer.

-Glomgold: He sure is short and round. Given how much care they've taken to provide bait for classic comics fans, I'm almost surprised they didn't let him go back to being South African. Just "almost," though. It would obviously be a pretty hard sell; even if you assume for the sake of argument that the apartheid associations are no longer an issue, how do you indicate "South African" to a wide American audience via quick short-hand? Not too easy. Also, I'll admit it's kinda funny that the two characters vying for a surprisingly specific title both just happen to be Scottish. In either case, though, the character's pretty bland and doesn't make much of an impression beyond "generic baddie."

-Mrs. Beakley: They're clearly trying to toughen her up in the manner of Webby, but she doesn't do much to establish herself as a character here. I don't think her name is even used. Hmmm.

-Launchpad: Pretty much perfect, I must say. The only question is whether the show will remember that in the early days of OD, Launchpad had hidden depths, or if they'll just stick with his sole character trait being "dumb." That would be a bit disappointing.

-Scrooge: is the big one, of course. But honestly, I don't have that much to say. They begin with a sort of light riffing on "The Richest Duck in the World," where he's seeing Donald for the first time in a long time and HDL for the first time ever, only the explanation is pretty light: "Family is nothing but trouble." Okay! I dunno; he seems basically fine.

-There's not that much point in talking about the plot, I think; it feels more like a proof-of-concept--here's the kind of thing we're going to do!--than a fleshed-out thing in itself. The Atlantean ruins are certainly more thought-out than most of what you'd've seen in OD, though.

-Characters we're looking forward to seeing: Fenton, Magica, Daisy (probably?), Goldie (probably?), Gyro, Gladstone, Von Drake (HOPEFULLY!!! SERIOUSLY GUYS PLEASE DO THIS I WANT IT SO BADLY), Cinnamon Teal (GREAT IDEA!!!), the Phantom Blot (likewise!), Bubba.

-Character whose return I'm vaguely curious about but really don't care much about either way: Duckworth.

-C' didn't think I was <i>serious</i> about that Bubba thing, do you? Let's hope the producers realize that NO ONE LIKES BUBBA and let his long retirement continue unabated. I'll accept a one-shot appearance if they MUST, but that's all.

-Given how concerned they are that we know that they know the comics, one can easily imagine a surprise appearance by someone like Rockerduck or Brigitta.

-And speaking of Daisy, as much as it pains everyone to hear Quack Pack mentioned, the one good thing about it was Daisy, so it would be cool to see that version of the character. As we all know, Donald and Daisy's relationship is often fraught in ways rife with dubious gender politics, so it would be REAL nice if they did this right.

-Oh, THE ART STYLE. Well, it's a clear artistic choice. I do find the ducklings' rectangular heads a little peculiar, but they're doing them, and I could certainly grow to like it very much.

-Yeah, so that's that. I kind of wish the kids were more kiddish, but that is my only major complaint...a big one, admittedly, but I'll definitely keep watching. SOMEONE has to keep an eye on these people! If they play their cards right, they will definitely have a superior show to OD.

-Oh yeah, and that ending. I dunno, people. I know how eager you are to polish your duckfan bona fides, but don't you think teasing Della RIGHT THE HELL THERE in the first episode is a bit precipitous? Also, let's face it, as much as I basically liked this episode...I don't think you've quite earned that yet. Let's wait 'til we've seen if you can keep this up.

-Donald has a smartphone; Scrooge has an old clamshell thing (and I'm not quite sure what that thing Webby has is). I can't tell if this was a conscious choice or not. You'd think having a high-tech phone would be essential for Scrooge's business, but this may be one of those penny-wise-pound-foolish things.

-"Family truly is the greatest adventure of all OH NO THE GROUND"

"Even a basic death trap still has the word 'death' in the title."