Episode: 317 "The First Adventure!” 11/16/20
Starring: Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, Della Duck, Bradford Buzzard, and Black Heron
Costarring: Mrs. Beakley, Ludwig Von Drake, Duckworth
Introducing: Captain Yellow Beak
Setting: London (S.H.U.S.H. Headquarters), Duckburg (The Money Bin), and Phantom Island
Before moving forward with the ever escalating clash between F.O.W.L. and the Greatest Adventure Family of All Time, we take a trip down memory lane to see the opposing sides’ respective origin stories. Even more interesting though, is how the two groups’ leaders, Scrooge McDuck and Bradford Buzzard, each inadvertently play roles in both creating and strengthening their rivals’ standing. It’s that symbiotic hero/villain relationship that heightens the conflict and propels the story towards its inevitable endpoint.
It’s hard to believe but Scrooge McDuck wasn’t always the fun-loving adventure seeker who relishes the chase for fortune more than the mythical baubles he’s procured along the way. For the overwhelming majority of his life, he was a solo act who characterized his globetrotting with all the soullessness of “corporate conquests” and “business trips.” This would all change though when his nephew and niece, Donald and Della, tag along on his search for the Binding Papyrus. Then, in much the same way Huey, Dewey, and Louie reinvigorate him from his doldrums (due to his role in Della’s disappearance) in the show’s pilot “Woo-hoo!” (S1, E1), Donald and Della first energize him here through the simple notion of seeing and embracing the “fun” of it all. Now that Scrooge has shed the role of “grouchy uncle” and embraced his avuncular responsibilities, he has decided to forego the day-to-day business of running McDuck Enterprises to “spend more time adventuring with (his) heirs.”
While it’s easy to get caught up in the swashbuckling antics of our heroes amidst the blustery bombast of declarations like “I’m Scrooge McDuck. As long as adventure courses through my veins, no villain can best me!” It’s Bradford Buzzard’s beginnings that prove most compelling as he ultimately vultures the meat of the story (as one does) while managing to “best” Scrooge McDuck. We’ve gotten inklings of Bradford’s nature and motivations in the past but nothing quite so revelatory as this. Back in the swingin’ 60s, Bradford was a mop topped, pencil pushing S.H.U.S.H. accountant with a penchant for delusions of grandeur and “kooky bad-guy stuff.” It’s when his hand wringing over the chaotic, money draining nature of S.H.U.S.H.’s many escapades is met with such contempt and derision by his boss, Ludwig Von Drake, that he ultimately spins off from his “world-saving organization” and creates “a world-stealing one.”
It’s after Bradford establishes F.O.W.L. alongside notorious super-villain, Black Heron, that his purpose becomes less clear and more fraught. Bradford has always had an uneasy relationship with the unadulterated fiendishness he’s been forced to collaborate with. Bradford’s vision is much more nuanced. Yes, he wants to “efficiently rule the world from the shadows with an iron fist” but he legitimately sees himself as a necessary saviour who brings balance and order. And now, while they provide the muscle for his outfit, Bradford seems to spend just as much energy attempting to keep his reckless foot soldiers at bay than anything else. Bradford’s no villain, he constantly reminds Heron, he’s an “undercover counteragent.” However, it’s starting to feel like these types of declarations are made more to convince himself than anything else.
Which brings us back to Scrooge and family… in “Let’s Get Dangerous!” (S3, E12), Bradford reveals that the biggest threat to him achieving his goal of reigning in the world’s chaos is the McDuck family’s constant adventuring. Yet, who provides the opposition to Scrooge in his quest for the Binding Papyrus resulting in the very “fun” that creates the Greatest Adventure Family of All Time? It’s Bradford himself - he creates the chaos! Then, in turn, it’s his reckless behaviour in using the Papyrus to wipe the ducks’ memory of his role in the affair that makes it possible for him to become CFO of McDuck Enterprises. This moment, whether he likes it or not, is when Bradford finally embraces his inner villainy. He can patronize and scold his ne’er-do-well lackeys all he wants; the chaos Bradford breeds is the very same chaos he seeks to eliminate.
We know that the 1960s flashback scene takes place before the events in “From the Confidential Case Files of Agent 22!” (S1, E18) by virtue of the fact that F.O.W.L. doesn’t exist yet and Black Heron still has a non-robotic right arm.
Back in the 60s, Ludwig Von Drake is seen solving a Rubik’s cube which wouldn’t be invented until the 1970s. Could it be that Ludwig is a time traveler or do we just chalk it up to the DuckTales timeline not exactly jibing with our own?
Though not explicitly stated, the main story probably takes place in the early 90s - roughly the same time period (albeit, a bit earlier) as when we first met young Donald and Della in “Last Christmas” (S2, E6).
During Scrooge’s morning rundown, Duckworth notes a brief trip to mystical Tralla La to visit their bottle cap plants. The mythical land first appeared in 1954 as the title of a story from Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge series of comic books. It also was the subject of the DT ’87 episode, “The Land of Tralla La.” Tralla La is a utopia, of sorts, deep within the Himalayas where money doesn’t exist. However, during Scrooge’s visit, he disposes of his bottle caps from his medication which, in turn, are seen as rare treasures and become the basis of Tralla La’s first monetary system.
Duckworth also mentions a routine security check at Falcon Island. We learned from “The Richest Duck in the World!” (S2, E23) that the island is where Scrooge has imprisoned the Bombie - a creature that is cursed to hunt down whoever holds the title of Richest Person in the World.
The handwritten note that Scrooge’s sister, Hortense, sends with Donald and Della mirrors the note that Della sent when she asked Donald to watch Huey, Dewey, and Louie from the one-page comic strip, “Donald’s Nephews” (1956) - right down to the line about lighting firecrackers under their father’s chair.
Della references Scrooge’s “crazy fun adventures” from the past such as “The Colossus of the Nile” (1996) and The “Treasure of the Ten Avatars” (1996), which are both issues from the Uncle Scrooge Adventures series of comic books.
Duckworth giving Donald and Della a sack of marbles is a callback to Scrooge’s same offering to the nephews in “Woo-oo” (S1, E1).
Beakley, now Director 22, has received a promotion or two in the thirty years since her days as an agent in S.H.U.S.H.
Captain Yellow Beak first appeared in Carl Barks’ very first duck comic as well as Donald’s first American book, “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold” (1942).
For all of Scrooge’s many accomplishments and skills, you’d think he’d at least know how to pilot a plane. Or, at the very least, he should present a more viable option in performing an emergency landing than an early adolescent Della - even with her video game, flight simulator experience.
While exploring Phantom Island, Scrooge regales Donald and Della with the story about his hunt for “The Treasure of the Golden Sun.” Of course, he’s giving them the plot points from DT ‘87’s five-part-pilot, of the same name. He even mentions the villain, El Capitan, and the Wakka River (called the Wakka-Wakka River in the original story). What’s curious though is that Scrooge says it was all for naught - “no gold, no treasure, didn’t even get a souvenir.” However, we’ve seen one of the giant golden discs from the Temple of the Golden Sun multiple times; first stashed away in Scrooge’s garage and now on display in the Adventures Wing of the Duckburg Museum as seen in “Treasure of the Found Lamp” (S2, E8).
We first saw the Von Drake Action Cane PPK in the aforementioned “From the Confidential Case Files of Agent 22!”
In order to save Donald and Della from Heron, Scrooge quickly writes on the Papyrus “...be lost once more until the rightful heir of Scrooge McDuck can find your final resting place.” I don’t mean to belabour the point from last week but, once again, the idea of Scrooge’s mortality is once again in play. This will also surely play into this season’s endgame with Donald, Della, and the kids having to find the Papyrus to save Scrooge from whatever dastardly pinfeathered plan F.O.W.L. has in store for him.