Season 2, Episode 4: "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 bill.
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.