Episode: 205 "Storkules in Duckburg!" 11/17/18
Starring: Louie Duck, Storkules, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Huey Duck, and Webby Vanderquack
Costarring: Dewey Duck and Roxanne Featherly
Featuring: The Harpies
Appearances by: Big Time Beagle, Officer Cabrera, Johnny (of Ottoman Empire fame), Mark Beaks, Flintheart Glomgold, and Emily Quackfaster
Setting: Duckburg (McDuck Manor, Donald's Boat, Funso's Fun Zone)
Plot: Louie attempts to get his business up and running while Storkules moves into Donald’s houseboat.
Louie Duck’s character development is born of intrigue and nuance. While sharing his Uncle Scrooge’s ambition and proclivity for wealth, he lacks the substance and work ethic that makes his “idol”* so successful. Louie’s prior lament of “more treasure and less hunting” is illustrative of his penchant for cutting corners and fuels his uncanny ability to manipulate people and situations to his favour. In a spiritual sequel to “The Most Dangerous Game… Night!,”** the episode delivers upon the tease of Louie Incorporated*** while also revisiting Louie’s promising, yet troubling potential.
In following Scrooge’s business advice of “finding a problem and offering a solution,” Louie creates Harp-B-Gone**** (a subsidiary of Louie Inc.) to quash Duckburg’s recent Harpy infestation.***** However, Louie is less interested in eliminating the problem as he is in controlling and exploiting it. Once Storkules****** and co. effectively eradicate the Harpies, Louie is presented with a new challenge: how does one offer a solution once the problem is solved?
Harp-B-Gone proves to be an effective business and aptly follows Scrooge’s axiom but its demand has a shelf life and its success juices the proverbial orange (or lemon) dry. This, along with Louie’s over enthusiasm for marketing and merchandising, is indicative of his short sightedness and overemphasis on prosperity over viability. Now desperate and in a panic to save his company, Louie sets out to release the Harpies******* from their closet containment unit (so he can re-catch them) before Donald ends up accidentally doing the deed himself.
This behaviour begs the question: is Louie good or bad? As employees of Louie Inc., Webby and Huey have grown frustrated and even intimate that Louie is, indeed, “the problem” that needs solving. Louie’s complicated nature isn’t a new idea. All the way back in the show’s Pilot, Huey and Dewey even refer to Louie as “the evil one.” The clues are there. In a lot of ways, Louie cuts a more similar figure to Duckburg’s rogues’ gallery of diabolical schemers like a Flintheart Glomgold or a Mark Beaks than he does his self-proclaimed idol and uncle, Scrooge McDuck.
Will Louie follow the Harpies’ lead and “channel (his) passion into something positive for society” or is he bound for a life of super villainy? It’s almost certainly the former. DuckTales isn’t really going to actualize Louie's "evil" but subtly flirting with the idea is an awful lot of fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if this episode is the farthest it goes to that end either. Louie wants to be good, he just gets a little carried away and myopic in disregarding the necessary steps in his pursuit for money.
(*) Evolutionary links between the nephews and their relatives have been made. Dewey takes after Della, Huey is similar to Fethry, and Louie with Scrooge.
(**) Or, maybe even the third leg of an unofficial trilogy that starts all the way back with S1,E3’s “The Great Dime Chase” where each episode includes Scrooge attempting to impress upon Louie the finer points of success and work ethic.
(***) In a season bereft of continuity and story arcs, Louie Inc. is our closest thing to a S2 throughline (so far).
(****) Similar to how S1’s “The Beagle Birthday Massacre!” parodies The Warriors, this episode (specifically Harp-B-Gone) does the same with Ghostbusters (particularly with the montage).
(*****) A byproduct of Storkules’ lute playing which agitated his father, Zeus, prompting him to rain a hail of Harpies on his merriment which then followed him to Duckburg once he was banished from Macedonia.
(******) In his second appearance after S1’s “The Spear of Selene,” Storkules establishes himself as more than just a one-off character.
(*******) The Harpies made their first appearance in the Carl Barks’ comic, “The Golden Fleecing,” as well as the DuckTales ‘87 episode of the same name.
“Storkules in Duckburg” is in reference to the movie Hercules in New York (1970) which was Arnold Schwarzenegger's film debut.
Zeus banishes Storkules to Duckburg so he can learn how to be a "responsible adult" like Donald... wut?
Storkules compares him and Donald to Damon and Pythias whose legendary and fictional relationship is the idiomatic expression for “true friendship.”
Among Storkules’ luggage is a crate labeled “Donald Fan Art,” a giant jar of protein, and some free weights.
Mimicking Launchpad’s line of “family is the greatest adventure of all” is Louie’s empty decree that “family is the most important employees of all.”
Funso’s Fun Zone makes its second appearance after S1,E2’s “Daytrip of Doom.”
Again, Cape Suzette enters the story when Scrooge goes there to procure lemon trees for his lemonade business.
Dewey Dew-Night! proves to be more than just a one-off gag after making its second appearance since it’s debut in “The Day of the Only Child.” How amazing would an entire episode dedicated to a Dewey Dew-Night! show-within-a-show be?
Storkules saying "If I can't pay my rent, then I'm not a hero, I'm a zero" is a clear reference to the song “Zero to Hero” from Disney’s Animated Classic, Hercules (1997).
Episode: 204 "The Town Where Everyone was Nice!" 11/10/18
Starring: Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, Webby Vanderquack, and Louie Duck
Featuring: Jose Carioca, Panchito Pistoles, and the Drosera Occidendum
An Appearance by: Launchpad McQuack (arm only)
Plot: The McDuck family travels to remote Brazilian village to celebrate a flower festival and so Donald can reunite with his old, college band, The Three Caballeros.
DuckTales really sings when it takes vestiges from the past, reintroduces them through a modern lens, and then uses them as a foundation to build upon. Most commonly, the show mines much of its source material from decades of Uncle Scrooge comic books or, from its evolutionary link, DuckTales ‘87. Here, it dips its webbed toe into Disney’s cinematic universe, using the titular characters Jose Carioca* and Panchito Pistoles** (along with Donald Duck) from the 1944 package film,*** The Three Caballeros. In an episode full of deception and flat out pretending to be something you aren’t, we get an updated version of the Three Caballeros and look at the colourful, yet twisted nature of their relationship.
Instead of meeting Ze and Panchito through the happenstance of travel, Donald and his pals are now old college friends who once played in a band that practiced out of Scrooge’s garage.**** And, like a lot of old friends, they fall prey to an unhealthy streak of competitiveness. Instead of enjoying their reunion, each Caballero is exaggerating their relative successes in a senseless game of one-upmanship. Ze is masquerading as a travel consultant and global tastemaker, Panchito as an international pop sensation, and Donald as the heir to and future CEO of McDuck Enterprises (once Scrooge retires).
“A family man, a boat owner...” These are the two accomplishments that Donald can hang his floppy sailor cap on. Only, as a “family man,” his status has been somewhat usurped and made redundant by Scrooge who has given the nephews a home in a billionaire’s mansion while also frequently taking them on globetrotting treasure hunts. Meanwhile, his boat serves as a metaphor for Donald’s life: docked in his uncle’s pool before being destroyed… twice. It’s interesting that Donald’s lie or, as Huey rationalizes it: “improv theater,” has him shepherding Scrooge’s legacy when much of the underlying tension of the series derives from their complicated relationship. Donald’s stagnant and penny poor status stands in stark contrast to his uncle’s flashy and affluent avuncular stylings. Beyond his past life as an adventurer, is Donald more like Scrooge than we’ve been led to believe? Does he truly have ambitions of getting involved in the family business?
While Donald is projecting onto Scrooge’s success, Ze and Panchito, “grown up and successful” are seemingly playing out their own, youthful aspirations. Ze sees himself as a global influencer; a trendsetter whose unique sense of style and culture inspires millions around the world. Panchito is faux realizing his dream as a famous musician, touring the world and riding a wave of luxury and fame. However, like a lot of us with unrealized goals, they find themselves working adjacent to their desired profession like the moon orbiting the earth without ever entering its atmosphere. In reality, Ze is a flight attendant while Panchito makes a living performing at children's’ birthday parties.
Seeing old college buddies acts as a catalyst for this type of behaviour and only intensifies the insecurities of unrealized ambition. This is especially the case with Ze’s and Panchito’s impressions of Donald being “the cool one - always off on globetrotting adventures.” And, in turn, Donald feels the need to live up to what once was true, but is no longer his reality. Back in school, their enthusiasm and confidence in their futures were at their peak. Hence, the lies… admitting their respective shortcomings is painful and the prospect of being the only one of the three to not “make it” is too much for them to bear.
The Three Caballeros aren’t the only ones presenting an embellished and inauthentic image of themselves. Dewey has taken up the mantle of oversharing and curating his experiences through social media. For Dewey, an exotic vacation to Brazil with his family has turned into a “look-at-me, don’t-you-wish-you-had-my-life?” presentation for the consumption (and envy) of others. Webby brilliantly lampoons** this vapid “pics or it didn’t happen” culture. And, when Dewey proclaims, “I can’t wait to watch this when we get home.” Webby responds, “you can watch it! you’re right here!”
Less interesting and evocative of the human condition is the deception brought forth by the Drosera Occidendum.***** The creature isn’t impersonating townsfolk and fashioning multiple, body-snatching-like root puppets for reasons such as shame or for “likes.” Nay, it’s just hungry and wants to eat people… exhausting the town’s population, forcing it to host a bogus festival once a year to replenish its food source. Even more important, the carnivorous flower acts as a means/plot device for the Caballeros to reunite, come clean, perform, and… succeed. “Squawk, crow, quack... I got your back!”
(*) Ze (as he is known as in Brazil) is a Brazilian parrot who actually first appears in 1942’s Saludos Amigos and later in 1948’s Melody Time.
(**) Panchito is a Mexican rooster who made his debut in The Three Caballeros.
(***) Due to complications from World War II and with much of Disney’s workforce working on propaganda films, Disney released six package films from 1942 to 1949.
(****) With the Caballeros using Scrooge’s garage to practice, we can assume that their college was located in Duckburg.
(*****) In Latin, loosely translates to “carnivorous murder plant.”
As Jose is without his trademark cigar, Panchito is sans his pistoles (with cell phones in their place). #POLITICALCORRECTNESS
Donald’s fanny pack reads “PARTY FOUL.” A fantastic pun.
Dewey’s quirks can be blamed on Donald, who would often juggle the nephews eggs and accidentally dropped one.
Cassava is a wooded shrub native to South America and is heavily featured in Brazilian cuisine. Although, it’s not as popular, delicious, or world-renowned as macaroni and cheese from the kids’ menu.
Moqueca baiana is a Brazilian fish stew and includes a variety of salt water boneless fish like shark and swordfish.
Pastels are deep fried, half-circular pies that are most commonly filled with meats and cheeses.
Among the funniest scenes that DuckTales has to offer is the Caballeros breathlessly whistling inconspicuously to avoid paying the bil
The (fake) townsfolk who are theoretically native to Brazil are mustachioed penguins, flamingos, and a variety of parrots including toucans.
Panchito urging the band to “do it like we did in Acapulco” is in reference to the Acapulco beach scene in The Three Caballeros. They even perform “The Three Caballeros” song from the aforementioned movie. Panchito even plays Jose’s umbrella like a flute just like in the movie.
With only his arm briefly coming into view while flying the Sunchaser, it feels like we were cheated out of another off-screen Launchpad adventure.
Episode: 203 "The Ballad of Duke Baloney!" 11/3/18
Starring: Flintheart Glomgold, Louie Duck, Webbigail Vanderquack, and Scrooge McDuck
Costarring: Zan Owlson, Fisher, Mann, and Roxanne Featherly
Setting: Duckburg (the docks and McDuck Manor)
Plot: When Flintheart Glomgold reemerges with a case of amnesia, Webby and Louie attempt to get to the bottom of his newfound identity.
DuckTales has a dense flock of players and, with its episodes mostly focusing on Scrooge and his nephews (plus Webby), an origin story/study on one of the series’ tertiary characters, and a villain at that, is a welcome treat. Flintheart Glomgold has been self defined by his rival, Scrooge McDuck. But where does his cultivated and contrived identity as a warped version of Scrooge end and where does Duke Baloney* begin?
If you look back, Glomgold’s ambiguity has been hinted at throughout the series. A master of disguise, we’ve seen him as a humble delivery man, an unassuming pastry chef (both in S1/E7 “The Infernal Internship of Mark Beaks!”), Julius Caesar (S1/E13 “McMystery at McDuck Manor!,” and even Steven Spielberg (S1, E14 “Jaw$!”). This mere bit of play acting may seem innocuous but it also speaks to a pliability that borders on inauthenticity. For example, we learned all the way back in episode 7 (“The Infernal Internship of Mark Beaks!”) that even his beard is fake. The bread crumbs have been left for us to find and here it finally pays off.
Webby is onto something with her “reverse werewolf” theory. Glomgold is suffering from a case of reverse amnesia where his communion with the sea washes away his “phoney baloney” alter ego and returns him to his humbler origins as Duke Baloney. As Scrooge observes, Glomgold has “never been happier or more at peace” so there isn’t a rush to glom him back onto his less pleasant persona.
But what of his true identity? We learn that Duke Baloney isn’t a Scot at all but an Afrikaner** and, as a young boy, is a shoeshine much like Scrooge*** was. But that’s where the differences end. Baloney is ever much the scheming, stubborn, ne'er-do-well that Glomgold is. His encounter**** with Scrooge didn’t change his nature, it just shaped the focus of his obsessions. Once Baloney lifted Scrooge’s money clip, his goals crystallized much like the tip of his subterranean drill. His revenge on Scrooge isn’t as much about acquiring wealth and fame as it’s about embodying and literally replacing the richest duck in the world.
Sure, Duke Baloney may seem happier and more at peace but it’s never enough. He’s still diabolically drafting up half-cocked schemes and never feels so alive and vibrant than when he’s chasing Scrooge with an Ahab-like***** obsession. Glomgold may not be Scrooge’s biggest threat but he’s definitely the most ubiquitous******* and would probably waste away to nothing without his “white whale” ever looming, just out of reach, on the horizon. Baloney can change his accent, strap on a beard, and drape himself in all the plaid he wants, Glomgold is still the same as he ever was.
(*) Incidentally, the Duke of Baloni is a comic character created by Carl Barks who is Italian and the second richest duck in the world. His debut in 1953 predates Glomgold’s by three years.
(**) Glomgold, a creation of Barks’ in 1956, is from South Africa and even has a Money Bin located deep in the Sub-Saharan jungles. His heritage was changed in Ducktales ‘87 (as much is referenced to when it’s revealed that he showed up in Duckburg during the ‘80s) due to the country’s problematic (racist) politics.
(***) We also learn that Scrooge is AT LEAST 40-or-so years older than Flinty. While Scrooge is old, Glomgold may be faking his age as well.
(****) Scrooge DOES stiff young Baloney. Afterall, the fee is $1 and Scrooge’s bit on “self-reliance” does read a bit self-indulgent and hollow.
(*****) I knew that beard looked familiar.
(******) Appearing in a whopping 9(!) of the show’s first 26 episodes - by far, the most of any villain or anyone not employed by or related to Scrooge.
The episode takes place four months after the events of “The Shadow War” (S1/E24).
This is the first time Dewey is completely absent from an episode.
Scrooge mentions the Rain Queen of Balobedu which is the real life title for the matrilineal ruler of the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
Louie nails it when he calls Haikus “vague garbage that structurally makes no sense.”
Cheapskate Scrooge attempts to downgrade Zan Owlson’s Dimes for Ducklings charity to Nickels for Newborns and Pennies for Pipsqueaks.
Speaking of Owlson, it will be interesting to see if she will continue to be a corporate thorn in Glomgold’s side or if both her and her “community is the greatest treasure of all” mentality has gone the way of the dodo.
Also, Owlson graduated Mouseton University which is the town that Mickey Mouse inhabits in the Mickey Mouse comic-verse.
Glomgold’s dream sequence is amazing both in terms of animation and storytelling. The tone is delightfully ominous and creepy.
The shot of Scrooge and Glomgold scurrying up an ancient pillar, attempting to retrieve a golden lamp is straight out of the opening sequence from DuckTales ‘87.
Could Scrooge’s and Glomgold’s wager be a season long arc or is this just a one-off gag?
“Don’t interrupt me unless something exciting happens...” Dewey’s lament to Huey after being pulled from the shower to observe a tree stump’s vascular cambium could be seen as meta commentary for an episode devoid of any substantive plot or character development. Even so, there’s still plenty for the boys to glean from their “needlessly dangerous adventure” with the forgotten-but-not-gone Fethry.
Huey and his cousin Fethry* appear to be kindred spirits. They both share a fascination with science, they each wear red caps, and also know the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook like the back of their feathers. While it’s true that Huey can sometimes rub his brothers the wrong way with his fastidiousness, they still remain close and appreciate each other’s company. Meanwhile, Donald wants nothing to do with his “cuckoo bananas” cousin where Scrooge has literally marooned him to his out-of-date and rundown underwater sea lab. Then we get the reveal that Fethry isn’t even a scientist, he’s just the lab’s custodian!
This really may be the darkest episode thus far. Sure, learning the fate of Della Duck in “The Last Flight of the Sunchaser” was sad but the shared grief and despair also speak to a deep sense of love and humanity. Fethry receives no such consideration. He’s been merely discarded and forgotten by Scrooge like so many of society’s oddballs and half-wits. With little to no interaction with the McDucks and Ducks, Fethry has been left to make various creatures of the deep his family, including a jar of krill. And, while he was a weirdo to begin with, the isolation and varying degrees of artificial air pressure have taken him to the brink of insanity.
On the surface, this plays like a Huey episode - and it is. But it’s Dewey who stands to gain the most. Like Scrooge and Donald with Fethry, Dewey can grow weary of Huey’s fits of oppressive myopia. However, Dewey takes to heart Fethry’s metaphorical and cautionary words regarding MItzy; “just because she’s a little different, doesn’t make her bad.” Going forward, it will be Dewey’s responsibility to keep Huey in the fold - no matter how annoying he gets. He won’t let him spin off his axis and get distracted to the point that he squanders his potential by becoming less than what he’s meant for. Thanks to Fethry, Dewey will succeed where Scrooge and Donald have failed.
(*) Fethry first appeared in the Italian comic Topolino in 1964 (hence the year the sea lab was built). He didn’t appear in American comics until 1966 but was much more popular in Brazil. This was his first on-screen appearance.
Scrooge’s phone lines include a Money Bin phone, a Cape Suzette radio, a Great Written phone, and a tin can for Fethry.
The Cape Suzette old timey looking radio matches the 1940s motif of TaleSpin. With a CS reference seemingly every other episode, you’d think we’ll eventually get an episode there, right?
Great Written and the William Drakespeare bust is a call back to the DuckTales ‘87 episode “Much Ado About Scrooge.”
This is the second time Launchpad has had an off camera adventure with a former flame. In Macaw (“The House of the Lucky Gander!”) it was Ziya, who had issues with the local crime family. And, here it’s Oceanika who seems to be some sort of mermaid.
The “dewfish” is actually a real fish. It’s an eel-tailed freshwater catfish.
Junior Woodchuck Rule #2: All Junior Woodchucks must be open to the unknown in their quest for truth.
Episode: 201 "The Most Dangerous Game… Night!" 10/20/18
Starring: Louie Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, and Webbigail Vanderquack
Costarring: Gyro Gearloose, Bentina Beakley, Launchpad McQuack, Duckworth, and the Gyropuddlians
Setting: Central America and Duckburg (McDuck Manor)
Plot: Tired of adventuring, Louie cons Scrooge into hosting a game night.
As the episode hopscotches from one plot line to the next,* the one constant is Louie and his disruptive neurosis. Louie, the quirky layabout, hasn’t ingratiated himself into as many plots** as the needy Dewey or the over enthusiastic Huey. Here, “the green one” gets some much needed attention and encouragement from his Uncle Scrooge.
Louie has grown weary from all the McDuck family adventuring. A fan of gold,*** Louie complains that he was expecting “more treasure and less hunting.” He’s more inclined to stay home all day, watching another Ottoman Empire marathon while downing cans of Pep. Is Louie just another spoiled member of Generation Z who wants the juice without the squeeze or is there something deeper at play here?
Before we get to that, let’s recognize what Louie does best: conning people. Sure, as Louie laments, Huey is the brains, Webby is the fist, and Dewey is the guts but Louie possesses that special brand of manipulation and savvy that eludes most pre-teens. When Louie is hell bent on staying home in lieu of embarking on another treasure hunt, he cons poor Huey into thinking his status as a Junior Woodchuck is unraveling due to some loose threads and shoddy needlework. Louie then uses Huey’s meltdown to trick Scrooge into staying in for a family game night.
Back to Louie’s true motivation; sure, he’s “lovably lazy” but this isn’t merely about getting money for nothin’ and chicks for free. And, yes, his first instinct will always lean towards maxin’ and relaxin’ at McDuck Manor but what’s truly eating at Louie isn’t either of these things. He’s still a bit shell shocked from the reveal behind the tragic disappearance of his mother, Della Duck. It’s easy to see why too. Della met her “end” when she adventured a little too hard and one time too many. This is what Louie fears. Not only is he worried about the inherent dangers of adventuring but what the effects of such can do to the family dynamic. Like Huey’s sash of merit badges, Louie can see the thread and how little it’s hanging on by.
As Scrooge recognizes, Louie “judges every angle.” While Huey, Dewey, and Webby are all taken by the thrill of the hunt and the reward of the spoils, Louie sees beyond all that… and so does Scrooge. That’s why, instead of punishing Louie for shrinking down the family and putting them at war with the Gyropuddlians, he uses this as an opportunity to encourage him. Sure, Louie causes the conflict but he also gets them out of it. Scrooge is “sharper than the sharpies” and sees a lot of himself in Louie. That’s why he gives him the Idol of Cibola as his metaphorical Number One Dime. And, in turn, Louie creates “Louie Inc.: Adventure is Our Business.”
(*) Starting with a Raiders of the Lost Ark parody, then a family game night, and finally a battle against a clan of Gyropuddlians.
(**) His most prominent role to this point was in The Great Dime Chase! (S1, E3) where Scrooge attempts to impress upon him the value of work ethic. Louie has had his moments but they are fewer than that of Dewey, Webby, and even Huey.
(***) Louie reveals in The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck! (S1, E21) that he knows about gold and follows that up with the hilarious sequence in The Shadow War! (S1, E22/23) when he’s reluctant to give up the Golden Khopesh of Tothra.
For Season Two, the opening sequence has a few changes:
With the Raiders of the Lost Ark parody, it’s worth reiterating the connection between DuckTales and Indiana Jones. While it’s true that DuckTales ‘87 probably never would’ve happened without the Indiana Jones franchise. Indiana Jones was also heavily influenced by Carl Barks’ series of Uncle Scrooge comic books. It’s well documented how much Barks and Scrooge inspired George Lucas. For example, the famed sequence of Jones taking an idol from a pedestal which trips the rolling boulder first occurred in the Uncle Scrooge comic, “Seven Cities of Cibola.”
Speaking of which, the gold statue Scrooge pilfers from the temple is called the Idol of Cibola. In real life, “Cibola” is one of the Seven Cities of Gold - a popular 16th century myth that claimed there were settlements of gold found throughout the New Mexico Territory.
Scrooge’s rustic Cibola outfit is the same one he sports in The Golden Lagoon of White Agony Plains! (S1, E15).
Dewey and Webby’s new bond centered around theme songs is fantastic. It’s nice to see that the relationship they built in Season One wasn’t just about finding Della.
Duckworth can be seen hanging the painting of Scrooge, Donald, and Della fighting a crew of pirates aboard a ship. This is the same painting Dewey and Webby came across all the way back in the pilot that began their search for Della.
“Team Uncle” delivers the funniest moment of the episode when Donald and Scrooge try to impersonate a mermanticore during charades.
In Scroogeopoly, there’s a space called Dawson (the real life Canadian outpost where the fictional Scrooge meets Goldie) as well as Barks’ Place (an homage to both Carl Barks and Park Place from Monopoly).
Gyro’s micro-phone along with the conflict with the Gyropuddlians felt half-baked and misplaced. It was an odd and involved plot device to get the character from point B to point C.
I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get any clear indication of what this season’s arc will be. Could the hidden map found in the idol come into play?
Episode: 122 "The Last Crash of the Sunchaser!" 8/11/18
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Dewey Duck, Huey Duck, Louie Duck, Launchpad McQuack, Bentina Beakley, and Webbigail Vanderquack
Costarring: Donald Duck and Duckworth
Setting: Duckburg (McDuck Manor) and the Sunchaser
Plot: Marooned on the peak of a mountain, the McDuck family is forced to reckon with their painful past while the Sunchaser teeters toward a catastrophic crash.
This is it! This is the episode where we can unequivocally say that THIS is our best version of DuckTales. For it to leave me as emotionally wrecked as it did (and, I’m a VERY manly adult man… who also blogs about cartoons) means that the show established stakes early on that built throughout the season and then BOOM – gut punch delivered.
The clues were there all along too. The series opens with Scrooge in an almost reclusive state where he’s been out of limelight for some time. He’s clearly depressed and had even stopped adventuring. He is also estranged from his nephew, Donald, where we are led to believe an unspeakable event caused the rift. It’s been so long since they’ve spoken to each other that Scrooge has never even met his great-nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
Then, at the Pilot’s end, Dewey and Webby discover an old painting with his mother, Della Duck, in it. This begins the season long arc of solving the mystery of Della’s disappearance. Little by little, we learn more. Dewey and Webby discover an old note left by Della telling Scrooge that she’s “sorry” for taking the Spear of Selene. What is the Spear of Selene? At first, we are led to believe that it’s an artifact of some sort, with Dewey and Webby even going so far as to meet the actual goddess, Selene, to inquire with her.
Then there’s Donald who has been moping about all season – jobless and living on a broken boat in a swimming pool (still refusing to live in McDuck Manor). We learn that he’s quit adventuring because, as he puts it, “someone always gets hurt.” Obviously, he’s talking about Della, but he’s also referring to himself. Him, Scrooge, and Della were a globetrotting’-treasure-huntin’ team but, more importantly, they were a family. Whatever happened is so catastrophic that Della is still gone while Donald and Scrooge are still unable to reconcile whatever it is that occurred. All we know is that Donald seems to have more of a problem with Scrooge than the other way around.
Scrooge is back though. He’s adventuring again thanks to his nephews and Webby reinvigorating him, rescuing him from his doldrums. But all is not okay. The seed that was planted all the way back when Della first disappeared, has now grown into a gnarled and tangled knot that is slowly choking the life out of the high they are currently riding. The past MUST be dealt with and that time is now… trapped in the Sunchaser, teetering in the clouds, on the most precarious peak that ever peaked, and in the hands of the most accident-prone pilot who’s ever piloted. And, just like the Sunchaser itself, the McDuck family is crashing down to reality.
The episode opens with the gang* all a twitter, they’re headed to Monacrow** for a youth symposium called E.X.C.E.S.S (the EXtreme Consumer and Electronics Science Symposium) while Scrooge plans to search nearby for the Maltese MacGuffin.*** Scrooge even gleefully admits to Beakley how revitalized and vital he feels having the kids in his life. In fact, this is the most excited we’ve ever seen Scrooge when he cries out “to our greatest adventure yet!” Sure, this has all the makings of having the rug pulled out from under us (as we will soon find out) but life is, in fact, the greatest adventure and this is what life is – it’s heartbreak, it’s anger, it’s regret. And, it’s the best of us who push through the “Dismal Downs” of life to come out the other end, all bright-eyed and bushy-feathered, ready for the ups and downs of whatever the next adventure may bring us.
But these are the doldrums, the lowest of lows. Dewey finally confronts Scrooge about the Spear of Selene and Scrooge comes clean. We learn that ten-years-ago Scrooge recklessly emboldened Della’s dreams of exploring outer space while Donald steadfastly implored against it,**** mostly due to his sister currently waiting on three eggs to hatch (Huey, Dewey, and Louie). However, Della takes matters into her own wings, rashly absconding with the Spear of Selene, the rocket ship Scrooge was building for her in secret. Already hurtling through space, Della encounters a cosmic storm but Scrooge encourages her to push through… ultimately leading to her disappearance and his and Donald’s estrangement.
The damage from this reveal is truly heartbreaking. The Duck Boys have completely turned on Scrooge, blaming him for Della’s fate. Scrooge handles it poorly too. He gets defensive, declaring that the whole lot of them are ungrateful and “nothing but trouble.” He even lashes out at Webby, harshly reminding her that she isn’t family. Even a scolding from Beakley doesn’t snap him out of his self-destructive pity party. With Donald and the boys moving out of McDuck Manor and Beakley, Webby, and Duckworth(!) taking an extended vacation, Scrooge is left to stew over his failures, revealing that he nearly emptied his Money Bin, building a fleet of ships to find Della.
Again, we keep mentioning it but it’s the very foundation that the series is built upon: DuckTales is about family. It’s a running theme that whenever the McDucks act outside the family as individuals is when they get into trouble. Scrooge built the Spear of Selene… alone. Della ventured out into space… alone. Scrooge efforts to find Della… alone. Dewey tries to solve the mystery… kinda alone (with Webby but sans his brothers). And, now, Scrooge is left to stew over his heartbreak and self-pity… alone. He’s only left with Beakley’s lasting words of “I hope you’re happy” echoing through his mind… with him resolutely and tearfully responding “I am.”*****
As amazing as Scrooge is, he’s not going to fix this one on his own. He already tried that and failed miserably. It’s going to take a full, extended McDuck family effort. To find Della it’s going to take Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Beakley, and even Launchpad. They’d do well to use the super powers of Gizmoduck and primordial Duckworth as well. And… I wouldn’t be surprised if a rehabilitated and fully restored Lena adds a magical hand to the proceedings. We know Magica’s return is looming and will serve as the climactic capper to the season but the return of Della is the dramatic stroke the entire series hinges on.
(*) It’s fitting that Donald stayed behind to fix his damaged boat. All season (as well as ten-years-ago) Donald has been then one firmly grounded in reality and acting responsibly. While Scrooge has been able to temporarily get past his heartbreak, Donald has not.
(**) Monacrow is a “foul” stand-in for real life locale, Monaco.
(***) This is a winking nod to the literary device known as a “macguffin.” Just as their whole trip is, a macguffin is a means to trigger the plot. In fact, the Maltese Falcon is the macguffin to its eponymous story.
(****) Eschewing safety in favour of adventure is, perhaps, both Scrooge’s greatest strength and weakness. His confidence in nothing bad ever happening also falls into that category. It’s even a point of contention between him and Beakley in this very episode. It’s also what spurred Scrooge in helping Della realize her dream of going to space.
(*****) That shot of Scrooge slumped over in his chair, with gritted beak is an ode to the image of him from his very first appearance in the Donald Duck comic, "Christmas on Bear Mountain." This is also a reminder that Scrooge is, in fact, a "Scrooge." At his worst, he's a cantankerous and miserly curmudgeon.
While getting excited for E.X.C.E.S.S., Huey, Webby, and Launchpad evoke the show’s theme song with their recital of “racers,” “lasers,” “aeroplanes?”
Beakley talking about “maxing and relaxing” is taken from the lyrics of the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire – another show where a kid goes to live with his rich uncle.
The Sunchaser’s in-flight entertainment is the credits from Darkwing Duck on a loop.
I yada, yada’d over most of the shenanigans that occurred in the Sunchaser. It’s mainly necessary filler, threaded with blatant foreshadowing, before getting to the tragic reveal at episode’s end.
HOWEVER, the point where Huey pleads with Dewey to come back, saying “our family is amazing, we’re enough, let it go!” is brutal, especially considering Dewey immediately tosses the walkie talkie off the plane thereafter.