Episode 3: “The Great Dime Chase!” 9/23/17
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Louie Duck, Dewey Duck, Webby Vanderquack, Gyro Gearloose, Mrs. Quackfaster, and Lil Bulb
Costarring: Launchpad McQuack, Flintheart Glomgold, Bradford Buzzard, and Bentley Buzzard
Introducing: Johnny Ottoman and Randy Ottoman (on television)
Setting: Duckburg (McDuck Manor and the Money Bin)
Plot: When Scrooge decides to bring the kids to work, Louie manages to lose his Number One Dime. Meanwhile, Dewey and Webby investigate the whereabouts of Della Duck.
At its best, DuckTales is a time machine. Its story and characters pinball in, out, and through its past and towards its future all while firmly tethered to the present action at hand. In doing so, a sense of world and rich mythology has already been established that can take most shows multiple seasons to develop. This episode relies on that depth. First, amidst the crash and clamour of Little Bulb’s destructive romp, Louie bonds with Scrooge over the meaning of a hard day’s work through the history of his Number One Dime. Meanwhile, Dewey enlists Webby in embarking on “mysterious conspiracy quest,” untangling the whereabouts of his long lost mother, Della Duck. Then, there’s the looming presence of Gyro Gearloose whose ambiguous nature and questionable intentions foreshadow some unsettling and thrilling stories to come.
Vapid and lazy, Louie Duck is the antithesis of his Uncle’s profundity and work ethic. It’s this same drive and attention to detail that won’t let Scrooge stand idly by while Louie is content idling in front of the television all day. Despite his namesake’s origin, Scrooge isn’t wont to be some anonymous Dickensian benefactor, nay, he’s here to pass on sage advice and avuncular wisdom to his three nephews. Even feather-brained Louie can’t help but be affected by Scrooge’s nostalgic tale* of his days as a young shoeshine in Glasgow and how his Number One Dime became both the catalyst and symbol for his self-made fortune. And, even though Louie still tries to take the easy way out in employing Little Bulb to help find the lost coin, he still comes out the other end with a better understanding and appreciation for his Uncle Scrooge’s past and present.
It was teased at the end of the Pilot and it’s apparent now that the conspiracy of Della Duck and the Spear of Selene will be Season One’s through line and story arc. DuckTales is a show about globetrotting adventures and childhood mischief but the spine of all that action is the familial relationships between Scrooge, his family, and his employees. That’s why it’s so perplexing that Della isn’t in contact with her sons (all Donald has told them about her is that she’s “gone”) and, according to Webby, here mere existence is the subject of some sort of cover-up by Scrooge. Why is this, where is she, and what the duck is the Spear of Selene??? This is what Dewey intends to find out when he and Webby go searching for clues in Scrooge’s private library. Mrs. Quackfaster, the fastidious and cryptic archivist, definitely knows more than she lets on but to what end? And, what can Della’s secret room tell us about the circumstances of her disappearance and relationship with Scrooge and Donald? Perhaps, the best clue is the apology letter Della left Scrooge for absconding with the aforementioned Spear. Dewey, sensing that his mother may have even betrayed their uncle, is so rattled that he’s decided to keep their findings from his brothers until him and Webby can find more answers. From ours and Dewey’s perspective, there’s definitely more mystery than history in regards to Della Duck.
Gyro’s introduction should’ve been comfortable and familiar but instead plays out like a super villain’s origin story. In both comics and cartoons, Duckburg’s resident bumbling inventor has always been a paragon of goodness and humility. But here, Gyro is aggrieved and cocky – gone is the charming awkwardness. Instead, Scrooge’s Head of Research and Development barges through closed door meetings, announcing “shut up everyone, I’ve done something brilliant!” and needs notecards in order to interact with people lest his sneering contempt for others comes through. And, most troubling of all, his inventions have a history of running afoul and becoming a danger to those around them. Gyro does offer some resistance to these darker inclinations though and even implores with Little Bulb (and, perhaps, himself) to be good and not evil. But when innovation is overtaken by ambition, genius can corrupt and these seeds are planted when Gyro considers the power of he himself becoming the robot in Project Blatherskite***. It appears there may be a wolf in Scrooge’s henhouse and he’s a chicken.
There’s A LOT going on in this episode. Just from a timeline perspective, we visit Scrooge as a child, explore Della Duck’s past, and look towards the future with Gyro and (probably) Gizmoduck. With that, we get four storylines (Louie/Dime, Scrooge/the Board, Dewey/Della, Gyro/Gyro) seamlessly weaving in-and-out, all converging in the end – it’s quite the accomplishment for a “kids’ cartoon” about anthropomorphic birds. The groundwork is also laid for some actual serialization for the season to follow. We will have departures of nonsense and whimsy along the way but there’s no doubt that Scrooge, Donald, their nephews, and Webby are all set on a collision course for Della Duck and the Spear of Selene.
(*) The pastiche of oil paintings from the old country always does well to evoke a sense of said nostalgia.
(**) It’s fitting that Webby mentions mail with Della’s name on it coming to the house since, before this episode, Della’s (or, Dumbella’s) most noteworthy appearance in the non-comic Disney universe was a postcard she sent to Donald in the classic animated short Donald’s Nephews (1938) which features the first appearance of Huey, Dewey, and Louie and was written by Carl Barks.
(***) Gizmoduck is coming… it’s just a question of who will be donning the suit and whether its purpose will be good, evil, or something more complicated.
“Ottoman Empire” is a show about brothers who design ottomans. This is a parody of the reality television show Duck Dynasty where the family business is creating whistles that trick ducks into thinking you want to mate with them so you can shoot them dead.
Although barely a cameo, Launchpad makes his mark by crashing Mr. McD’s car while dropping them off at work.
NOT making an appearance is Huey. We’ve mentioned before the individualizing of the nephews but I don’t think there’s ever been an instance in any medium where one is missing while any are present. Dewey and Louie have already received much more screen time but I’m guessing Huey is due to star in a Junior Woodchuck-centric episode sometime soon.
I know that huge painting above Scrooge’s desk is in reference to something but I just can’t place it. It looks like some sort of famous piece of Art Deco Labour Propaganda.
We learn that swimming in Scrooge’s Money Bin isn’t just something anybody can do. It’s a skill Scrooge has developed by “building muscles and dexterity.” If Louie just dove in he’d crack his skull.
Scrooge’s Board of Directors is comprised of Bradford Buzzard, Bentley Buzzard, and a third unamed vulture. In the Uncle Scrooge comic books, he meets with a similar group of natty vultures but they are handling the estate of a deceased McDuck relative.
When Bradford mentions revenue being down in the International Markets, he references Dawson (Canada), Lillehammer (Norway), Eldoradao (Columbia) and Culebra (Puerto Rico). Each of these locations mean something in the Uncle Scrooge/Donald Duck/DuckTales universe. Dawson is the Klondike mining town where Scrooge struck it rich and met Goldie, the love of his life, in Uncle Scrooge’s and DuckTales’ “Back to the Klondike.” Lillehammer is the real life Norwegian city referenced in Donald Duck’s “From Duckburg to Lillehammer.” Culebra is from Uncle Scrooge’s “The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut.” Eldorado is from Uncle Scrooge’s "The Last Lord of Eldorado."
Like Gyro, Miss Quackfaster is a creation of Carl Barks and was Scrooge's secretary back in the comics. In original DuckTales, Scrooge's secretary was named Mrs. Featherby.
As revelatory as this episode is about Della and Gyro, it is equally as telling about Scrooge – particularly the treatment of his staff. He trusts his board (even though they want to fire Gyro and Quackfaster and shutdown the Money Bin), encourages Gyro, and values Quackfaster. He then gives an impassioned defense of his collection of “crackpots and weirdos” as assets to the company who “push innovation and creativity and spur this company ever forward!” Scrooge may be an old man but he’s also progressive and forward thinking.
Lil Bulb or Lil Helper (as he was known as before this current incarnation) has been Gyro’s invention-sidekick since his comic book appearances from the 50s.
Scrooge is spending $15 million in Magical Defense. Is this a reference to his old foe and obsessive-Number One Dime-stealer, Magica DeSpell???
On Gyro’s list of Good and Evil he has Armstrong and Robotica who were both robot creations of Gyro from the original DuckTales of which also gained sentience and turned on humanity.
“The Life and Times of Della Duck” is a play in the real life anthology of Uncle Scrooge stories called “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” by Don Rosa. Rosa expanded upon and documented Scrooge’s history based on Carl Barks’ source material.
All images of Della Duck depict her wearing pilot goggles and a leather bomber jacket. The large painting even depicts her posing on the wing of a plane. She must be some sort of Amelia Earhart-esque aviator and adventurer.