Episode 9: "The Impossible Summit of Mt. Neverrest!" 12/2/17
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Huey Duck, Launchpad McQuack, Louie Duck, Webbigail Vanderquack and Dewey Duck
Featuring: George Mallardy
Setting: Mt. Neverrest
Plot: Scrooge sets course, with his family in tow, to reach the peak of the unconquerable Mt. Neverrest.
Scrooge is chasing a ghost… and ends up finding a mustachioed corpse. Much like my obsession with comparing every darn thing to the version of DuckTales I grew up with, I fear my “ghost chasing” of the 80s is just me screaming into a well or beating a dead horse (more corpse talk). If Scrooge can let go and move on, then so can I.* So, let’s live in the present and appreciate one of the better episodes the series has given us thus far.**
Up to this point, Scrooge has played the role of “adult in the room” or “voice of reason” among unhinged goofballs like Donald Duck or Launchpad and literal children in his nephews and Webby. For the most part, he’s been wise, steady, and focused - basically playing the part of foil to the chaos around him. Aside from some petty behavior in “The Infernal Internship of Mark Beaks,” we haven’t seen a flawed Scrooge until now. Stemming from a humiliating episode of failure from his youth, we see Scrooge falling victim to a stubborn fit of vanity and pride where he can’t even distinguish between quitting and dying. Incidentally, it’s Huey, the responsible one, who cuts through the fog of Scrooge’s myopia in reminding him what’s important as both an explorer and as an uncle.
For reasons that remain unclear, Scrooge decides that Christmas is the best time to traverse the unconquerable Mount Neverrest (as in, its peak has NEVER been reached) with a bunch of kids. Already, Scrooge, who is known for his reason and logic, is betraying both. Louie is immediately hip to this and laments the missed opportunity of spending Christmas in a billionaire’s mansion, “following an old man up Mount Certain Doom,” and then checks out for good once learning that there is no treasure atop Neverrest’s peak.*** Meanwhile, Huey’s outlook is far more optimistic as he sees this as an opportunity for adventure… and earning his Junior Woodchuck Cartography Badge. These parallel goals receive an extra jolt of meaning once Scrooge reveals that he’s the Neverrest Ninny of lore who thwarted George Mallardy’s ascent to the peak.
Then, in an ironic turn, where Scrooge was once mocked mercilessly by Mallardy for his caution and safety, he’s now admonishing Huey for suggesting they turn back due to lack of supplies and mounting risks. It’s not until Scrooge is steps away from reaching the peak that he finally gives up the ghost when Huey appeals to his sensibilities as an explorer in invoking Junior Woodchuck Rule 727, “Sometimes the bravest thing an explorer can do is walk away.” But, really, it’s when Scrooge looks down and sees the faces of Huey, Dewey, and Webby staring up at him that he realizes his avuncular duty of keeping his family safe is what’s most important to him.
The reason this episode appealed to me so much is because of the way in which it tugs on the heart strings in a nuanced and non-cloying sort of way. The original series often relied on those Full House-esque, saccharine endings where Scrooge inevitably gathers his nephews in a warm embrace while espousing the virtues of family over the treasure he just lost – “Aye, family is the greatest treasure of all!” There were no hugs, cliched lines of sentimentality, or swells of cheesy music – it was all implied with plot and subtle looks between Scrooge and Huey.
Although this series has a decidedly modern bent to it where tongue-in-cheek humour and sarcasm rule the day, it’s nice to see they can still hit the emotional note every once in a while in a way that it’s both earned and welcomed. Plus, this is our first opportunity to see Scrooge and Huey bond after we’ve already seen Dewey and Louie receive the same attention in prior episodes.**** This Scrooge/Huey connection resonates the most though partly because it’s Scrooge who ends up learning the lesson.
(*) Except for those cases when homage is played and in this piece’s final paragraph where I just couldn’t help myself.
(**) Next to the Pilot, I’d say this is right up there with “The Great Dime Chase” as my favourites thus far.
(***) It’s this mix of practicality and weirdo quirkiness that makes Louie my fvaourite nephew.
(****) Scrooge and Dewey bond in the Alcatraz half of the Pilot while Louie does the same in “The Great Dime Chase.”
I didn’t speak on the B and C plots of Launchpad and Louie getting revenge on a conman or Dewey and Webby’s quest to sled down the entirety of Mt. Neverrest (which they actually achieved unlike the much ballyhooed goals of Scrooge) but that doesn’t mean they were any less fun (albeit, they were less interesting). Once again, Launchpad shone while at his dimwitted, slapsticky best where Webby’s wide-eyed innocence and lack of real-life experience made for a charming subplot in her own right.
Scrooge, apparently, has an old beef with Santa Claus. I’d like to see that story.
Scrooge calls Neverrest the “most prized of the Seven Summits.” In our world, the Seven Summits represent each continent and are as follows:
Everest, 29,000 ft (Nepal/China, Asia)
Aconcagua, 22,000 ft (Argentina, South America)
Denali, 20,000 ft (USA, North America
Kilimanjaro 19,000 ft (Tanzania, Africa)
Mont Elbrus 18,000 ft (Russia, Europe)
Vinson 16,000 ft (Antarctica)
Kosciuszko, 7,000 ft (Australia, Australia)
The little village at the base of Neverrest is a tourist trap featuring the alliterative tchotchkes cheese puffs, and churros.
I’m a sucker for old A-Frames and the Mt. Neverrest Motel is a beauty!
Up until this episode, Huey has been the least served nephew but here (along with everything I already wrote) he delivers the two best lines of the episode:
First, he asks the age-old question of many o’ personified, cartoon suns, “Why is the sun wearing sunglasses? Is he staring at a brighter sun???
Then, he sharply quacks back at a hysterical Scrooge, “No one has used the word ‘ninny’ in 75 years!
If this is the 75th anniversary of Mallardy making it the furthest up Neverrest than anyone, then Scrooge couldn’t have been much younger than 20… which makes him 95??? This also means he made his first million possibly just before or right at 20.
George Mallardy’s name is a play on Sir Edmund Hillary who, along with Tenzig Norgay, was the first to scale Mt. Everest’s peak in 1953.
Great throw away joke from Dewey when he can’t find a keychain with his name on it at one of the Neverrest gift shoppes.
Junior Woodchuck Rule #1118: A Woodchuck chief must always be honest with his crew.
Junior Woodchuck Rule #727: Sometimes the bravest thing an expolrer can do is walk away.
Despite it being an exotic locale, the denizens of Neverrest and its tourists looked like Duckburgs’ collection of ducks, dogs, and pigs with a few fancy beaked birds.
While charting Neverrest, Huey coined such colourful geographical points as “Murder Ridge,” “Death Peak,” “Chasm of Infinite Despair,” and “Bunny Rock.”
The wormholes, or “mystical, dimensional doorways that have been zapping them around the trail” act concurrently as both Deus ex Machina and Diablos ex Machina.
Among Dewey and Webby cheering for “certain death,” along with imagery of skeletons and moustachioed corpses, Launchpad offers his own thoughts on mortality in declaring that “IT will be by plane crash or not at all!”
When it comes to adventuring, surviving can be just as important and thrilling as conquering.