Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Who’s the richest character in movies or film, you ask? Tony Stark? Bruce Wayne? Tywin Lannister?

Pish. The wealthiest guy in fictiondom isn’t a guy at all. He’s a duck.

Scrooge McDuck has been swimming in cash since 1947 and uses it mainly to … well, make more money. Designer jeans just ain’t his thing.

But Scrooge is surprisingly spry for his age. And while most multi-bazillionaires tend to pay other people to have adventures for them (or, at least, so I assume), Scrooge has been known to gallivant in a few himself. A little fowl play, as it were.

Getting a Little Goofy

While McDuck’s escapades have been chronicled in comic books for decades, he really came into his own on Disney Channel’s DuckTales, which ran in the late 1980s. On that show, Scrooge was accompanied by his grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie; and he was chauffeured by his loyal-but-daft driver/pilot, Launchpad McQuack. During their four years on the air, Scrooge and company discovered untold Mayan treasures, battled countless animated ne’er-do-wells and rescued Scrooge’s lucky dime more times than you can shake a Scottish walking stick at. It was, truth be told, pretty delightful.

Scrooge apparently tired of the attention and withdrew from Disney’s constant gaze in 1990 (an example perhaps a few other famous telegenic families could learn from). But in an age in which everything from American Idol to The X-Files has gotten reboots, Disney apparently made Scrooge an offer he couldn’t, in good conscience, refuse.

So, after a rumored decade-long estrangement from his combustible nephew, Donald, Scrooge is back—still with Huey, Dewey and Louie in tow, still with the intrepid Launchpad on Scrooge’s dole and still with adventures aplenty to undertake, this time on Disney XD.

Pretty Wacky, All Quacky

It’s all the rage these days to take something we loved a generation ago and turn it darker and grittier. “You know what Superman’s missing?” Someone will say. “Brooding angst!

Fortunately, that is not the case with Disney’s new DuckTales.

Sure, the animation feels more contemporary (though wisely Disney steered clear of rendering the characters in 3-D). Some new characters, including the precocious-but-capable female Webby Vanderquack, have arrived on the scene. And the adventures are, perhaps, even more wacky than they were back in the day.

But the show’s innocent fun is still fully engaged, and it’s perhaps as much fun for parents to watch as for the intended audience. While Disney’s live-action sitcoms can trigger the occasional eye-roll or weary groan from older viewers, DuckTales is both whimsical and witty. And, of course, it still possesses one of the catchiest theme songs in television history.

It wouldn’t be a Plugged In review without a caveat or two, of course, and we have a couple words of mild caution here. The attitudes we see are not ones you’d necessarily want young fans emulating. Scrooge can be selfish and angry. His head scientist, Gyro, sometimes leans toward the “mad” variety. And when Launchpad insists, “A true hero thinks with his gut or not at all,” well, a wise parent would likely countermand that philosophy.

Still, in an era where some of television’s most popular cartoons take place in a dystopian wastelands or star foul-mouthed nihilists, DuckTales is a delightful echo of yesteryear that feels both relevant and welcome today.

Episode Reviews

DuckTales: May 11, 2018 “Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!”

Launchpad (despite having been Scrooge’s chauffer for years) officially receives his driver’s license and expects all the praise and high-fives due such an achievement. But when Scrooge and his posse learn that inventor Mark Beaks has invented a new, supposedly foolproof, car-driving robot, Launchpad feels that celebration may become a wake for his driving career.

Scrooge is ready to buy a fleet of robots. But Scrooge’s head scientist, Gyro, is skeptical. “A self-driving robot car would turn evil like that,” he says, snapping his fingers. And so, of course, it does. While chauffeuring Scrooge, Dewey and Mark around, the robot puts the car into “luduckrous mode” in an apparent attempt to kill them all. We see animated characters in peril, and one passenger gets flung from the car (but is saved via a very improbable circumstance).

Launchpad crashes several vehicles in an effort to prove how much “safer” and more efficient he is than the robot. He rescues everyone by (as his hero, Darkwing Duck, says) “getting dangerous.” “I tried playing it safe, my friend,” Launchpad brags. “It didn’t work.” We see a series of ill-advised automotive maneuvers that should never be emulated by anyone. Ever. (But they work.)

Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera, Gyro’s much-maligned intern, keeps his office in a toilet stall, and he sits on said toilet when entertaining guests. He mentions that he sometimes “vomits” ideas up. Scrooge exclaims, “What the blazes?” An Iron Man-like character squirts oil out of compartments placed in what would be the suit’s rear, leading to a rather (ahem) cheeky visual. Gyro sometimes verbally demeans his assistant and orders another assistant to dispose of a few folks sneaking around his office “violently.”

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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