We’ve all seen the new trailer for Disney XD’s Ducktales reboot but have we all obsessively pored over it frame-by-frame to fully decipher what exactly is going on here? How is it different from the original? How is the same? How is it better? How is it worse? I’m here to tell you all that and more!
To really understand Ducktales, we have to go back to 1947 when Disney comic book artist and writer, Carl Barks, first created Scrooge McDuck as a recurring character in the Donald Duck comic book series. Scrooge’s popularity would soon grow to the point that in 1952 he was spun-off into his own eponymous series called Uncle Scrooge. Unlike most classic Disney characters, Scrooge’s beginnings are in comics and not animation.
The Uncle Scrooge comic book series would become Disney’s most popular title and is still going today. Carl Barks’ creative genius didn’t merely influence Ducktales, he was also a huge inspiration for one, George Lucas, and his series of Indiana Jones movies. And, it’s not just the general globetrotting, procurer of ancient artifacts and treasures type of adventuring that links the two, it gets even more specific than that. For example, did you know that the iconic opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Ark is a direct homage to Carl Barks? That’s right! A version of the boulder scene first appeared in 1954’s Uncle Scrooge #7: The Seven Cities of Cibola. One could also make the connection between Scrooge’s Scottish ancestry and Indy’s himself with the revelation and casting of Sean Connery as the elder Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Lucas would even write the forward to Uncle Scrooge McDuck – His Life and Times, a 1981 collection of Barks’ Scrooge comics, where he talks about the impact Barks had on him as a child and the “cinematic” nature of his stories.
Back to the trailer… no doubt the 1987 series took its cues from Barks but it looks as though the Disney XD version is doubling down on those efforts. For instance, Scrooge is back to his red frock coat from the comics in lieu of his blue from the 80s cartoon. The portraits in Scrooge’s mansion are a direct homage to the various Duck-inspired oil paintings Barks produced. Scrooge’s famous mantra from the comics: “I’m tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties” also makes an appearance – of which was never said in the 80s series but I could be mistaken. Donald’s colour scheme of a black sailor suit and white Fauntleroy cap is taken from the comics as well. The original Ducktales would use storylines straight from the comics so it will be interesting to see how much more or less the XD version takes from Barks in terms of plotting.
I really like the 2D Flash style of animation used here. When the series was first announced, I was worried that it would look like that cheap computer animation used in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I was delighted to see that it looked very similar to the new Mickey Mouse series of cartoons as well as having a very comic-booky feel to it. The characters all look great along with the Duckburg skyline but the one thing that stuck in my craw was the design of Scrooge’s Money Bin. I can appreciate the effort but that top-heavy, tiny-dollar-sign look will have to grow on me. Although, its location at the end of a bridge, atop a rocky island is pretty rad.
“You used to be a big deal. Whatever happened to you?” I have to admit, this line gave me chills. What’s up with Scrooge? Did he suffer some kind of fall from grace (yet, his silhouette does appear on billboard in the Duckburg skyline)? The coin-line in his Money Bin does look a little on the low side. Did you notice the newspaper headline – “SCROOGE HANGS UP HIS SPATS AFTER…” - AFTER WHAT??? It feels like they are setting up a How Stella Got Her Groove Back like comeback story jump-started by the nephews’ arrival. At the beginning of the 80s series, Scrooge was a cold-hearted miser who had no interest in his nephews but he was still at the height of his power, wealth and adventuring. This feels and looks a little different – Scrooge is at a low point.
This one is tough. Alan Young, the longtime voice of Scrooge from 1974 through 2016, passed away in May of last year. He is as much of a part of Scrooge as his top hat and spats. So, it was jarring to hear a noticeably different voice. However, I feel we are in good hands with David Tennant of Dr. Who, Broadchurch and Jessica Jones fame providing that indelible Scottish brogue. This is one of those things that will have to grow on us though.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie
Dating back to their start in animated shorts, the nephews were always completely identical and indistinguishable from each other (save from the different colours of their sweaters and caps). Their voice, look and personality were one and the same – they were basically just one, mischievous monolithic duck split into three. Here, the ducks all appear a little older but also have different personalities and clothing. This is reminiscent of the short-lived 1996 animated series Quack Pack where the boys were teenagers with unique personalities. Although not yet teenagers, the XD nephews do appear to be clearly older than their 80s incarnation.
The one nephew whose personality stands out in the trailer is Louie’s. His brothers both identify him as “the evil triplet.” Louie is also the one who bluntly (and rudely) asks Scrooge “What happened to you?” Louie may not be “evil” but he is definitely the quirky one or oddball of the trio.
Webbigail “Webby” Vanderquack
Webby’s evolution may be an even bigger (and more important one) than that of the nephews. No more is the meek and whiny girly girl from the 80s – now, we get a spunky and confident fan girl who knows more about the nephews’ famous family than they would care to. It’s awesome to see a more progressive take on a young, female character than the doll toting, tag-a-long that she was in the 80s (yet, a version of her Quaky-Patch doll can be seen in the trailer but I find it hard to believe that this Webby would be as attached to it). Her background and connection to Scrooge seems to be similar to that of the original with the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss it appearance of Mrs. Beakley – Webby’s grandmother, Scrooge’s housekeeper/nanny to the boys.
Just like with the original, Donald is passing off guardianship of his nephews to Scrooge. We will see if it’s because of his joining the navy like it was in the 80s. Webby also provides some context to his character in referencing Donald Duck as “one of the most daring adventurers of all time!” Donald definitely didn’t garner or elicit that kind of respect or intrigue in the original series. Whether or not Donald is a mere recurring character like he was in the original series or a bigger part of the main cast remains to be seen.
Launchpad McQuack! My favourite Ducktales character and one of my favourite Disney characters of all time is back! His design is a little different and he has a new voice actor but everything else looks and feels appropriately identical to his original character. I was a little disappointed by the dearth of recognizable villains in the trailer. They had a quick montage of baddies but they all look to be new characters (which is fine). You can catch a short and tiny glimpse of a fat Flintheart Glomgold from behind though. And, although not appearing in the trailer, Gyro Gearloose, Magica De Spell, Duckworth, Gladstone Gander and the Beagle Boys have all been CONFIRMED for the XD series.
Contingent upon my ambition, interest/quality of the series, I may write frequent, if not, episodic reviews of the series.