Episode: 302 "Quack Pack!” 4/4/20
Starring: Donald Duck, Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Della Duck, Webby Vanderquack, Louie Duck, Launchpad McQuack, and Mrs. Beakley
Costarring: Johnny Ottoman and Randy Ottoman
Featuring: Gene the Genie/Knox Quackington
Guest Starring: Goofy
Introducing: The Crash Happies
Setting: Callie Baba’s Tomb and Duckburg (McDuck Manor)
“The veil of reality is disintegrating and no one else seems to notice!,” squawks an increasingly frustrated Huey. Seemingly out of nowhere, the McDuck family’s otherwise mundane life of treasure hunts, mystical shadow wars, and lunar invasions has devolved into a zany sitcom compete with hackneyed catchphrases, whimsical interstitials, and even a live studio audience. DuckTales, a show whose success and charm derives from subverting tropes while winking knowingly at its audience, is now “trapped in a paranormal TV prison” rife with banalities and cliches called Quack Pack! While Huey is the first to notice, he’s hardly the one responsible for creating this cornball, 1990s hellscape.
What makes both DuckTales and the McDucks so special is that they’re not “normal.” They “go on adventures, travel the world, and defy danger.” But Donald is still suffering from the trauma of Della’s disappearance even though they’ve since been reunited. He’s not quite ready for adventuring and can’t abide while his family’s globetrotting leaves them so vulnerable to “getting hurt, captured, or lost.” This is why Donald, in the throes of a scorpion induced panic attack as he and his family search for the Magic Lamp of Collie Baba, wishes they “could just have normal family problems” But unbeknownst to Donald, his arm is rubbing against said magic lamp while making his plea.
Enter Gene the Genie from DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (1990) fame who is making his series debut. He’s the one who has conjured this “mystical prison.” But it also exists through the guise of Donald’s subconscious and it’s telling that the main focus of the “episode” is having a family portrait taken. Donald has an idealized vision of what normalcy is (including his pitch perfect voice from “The Shadow War” (S1, E23/24)) and wants a picture perfect version of it hanging on his wall, frozen forever in posterity.
But Donald’s wish brings forth another familiar figure; one who plays the part of the best friend he never knew he’s always had - kooky neighbour and professional photographer, Goofy. Even when his family can’t get through to him, Goofy does so by imparting some saccharine sweet, sitcommy platitudes - the best photos being the ones that “aren’t all staged and purty” and that “every family has their own normal.” With that, Donald is convinced to undo his wish and uses his last one on a framed family photo of him and the rest of the McDucks in the midst of a violent brawl with the “horrible flesh faced monsters.”
This is DuckTales’ first truly gimmicky, high-concept episode and they flat out nail it. What’s crazy though is that even among all the wacky sitcom stuff, it still manages to fit into the larger narrative of the season (the lamp is on Finch’s Missing Mystery list) while also connecting it to DuckTales lore through Gene and deftly incorporating a Disney legend like Goofy. It is a little disappointing that we went back to the “Donald doesn’t like adventuring” well but if Goofy, of all people, is what gets him past it and he is a ready-and-willing adventurer going forward, I’m all for it.
Quack Pack (1996) is an actual, real-life animated series from the Disney Afternoon lineup featuring a teenaged Huey, Dewey, and Louie living with their Uncle Donald. The show is notable for being the first to give the nephews their own distinct personalities - Hubert being the leader, Deuteronomy as the prankster, and Louis into comics and sports.
During Quack Pack’s opening credits, we get our first look at Launchpad’s band, The Crash Happies. It’s a three-piece rock band with LP on the saxophone, a male drummer, a female guitarist, and a female singer.
Scrooge, Donald, LP, and Beakley are wearing their outfits/colour schemes from DuckTales ‘87.
Gene’s first disguise is Knox Quackington, a photographer and “observer of life” who “traveled the globe, uncovering mankind’s deepest secrets.”
There are a few clues foreshadowing Gene’s involvement in the sitcom ruse; including Dewey using his catchphrase of “shabooey!,” the network that Quack Pack is airing on being called the “Baba Network,” and the kid in the Pep commercial is evocative of Gene’s “real boy” persona from DuckTales The Movie.
Gene mentions he’s been in the lamp since 1990 - the year that DuckTales the Movie premiered. At one point, he’s also seen playing Pogs which was a popular game from the ‘90s.
Dewey’s and Louie’s portrait attire of boater hats and long tail bowties are reminiscent of outfits the nephews wore in the classic animated short, “Mr. Duck Steps Out” (1940).
Adding to Quack Pack’s network television motif, a lower third/snipe appears as a promotional graphic for Ottoman Empire.
Goofy’s appearance incorporates details and characters from his Disney Afternoon show, Goof Troop (1992) as well as its follow-up movie, A Goofy Movie (1995):
While fighting off the angry mob of audience members, the McDucks strike a pose evocative of the famed superhero formation from The Avengers (2012).
The scene from Callie Baba’s Tomb is strikingly similar to that from DuckTales the Movie - right down to the large basket holding the lamp along with the “scabrous scorpion scoundrels.” The main difference is the characters involved - Donald and Beakley (and of course, Della) weren’t on the treasure hunt in the movie while they’re present in the show. Meanwhile, Goofy’s inclusion is just a product of Gene’s magic.
Among the Goofy-themed merchandise Gene touts is a Spoonerville license plate reading “A-HYUCK,” a computer, a lava lamp, a pez dispenser, and a moped.