Created in 1947 by Carl Banks, Uncle Scrooge McDuck started in the comics as Donald’s uncle in Dell’s Four Color Comics, a story titled “Christmas On Bear Mountain”. Over time Scrooge was revealed to be an adventurer who made his wealth through hard work (his catchphrase is “tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties”) and good investments as well as the occasional treasure hunt. He would often go on adventures with Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Eventually he appeared in a short about proper money management, but his big break outside of the comics was Mickey’s Christmas Carol, where he played his namesake, Ebenezer Scrooge.
From there came Ducktales, a serious inspired by the Uncle $crooge comics. It was so well received that Disney’s TV division created a second series based on Chip and Dale, which eventually led to The Disney Afternoon, a show of lighthearted action shows, which included a re-airing of Adventures Of The Gummy Bears (people seem to forget that started on NBC’s Saturday Morning lineup), Tailspin (based on Disney’s version of The Jungle Book), and the Ducktales spinoff Darkwing Duck, about a Batman-esque crimefighter, even sharing original character Launchpad McQuack. The show also inspired one of Capcom’s most popular NES games, which was recently updated with HD graphics and an expanded storyline.
Over the weekend Disney XD debuted a brand new Ducktales. Frankly, few relaunches have managed to capture the spirit of the original, but this is still a beloved show and needed to tread carefully. It was teased with a series of shorts called Welcome To Duckberg, introducing the characters we’d see in the full show. Disney XD even played the two-part pilot, “Woo-hoo”, all day on Saturday. They really want to get this show an audience, but the question is whether or not it deserves it? Well, I wrote the review last night and even posted it to Patreon. Today however I came across Disney XD’s actual posting of the pilot to their YouTube channel. You may recall they did the same thing for Milo Murphy’s Law so I could make it a Saturday Night Showcase feature. But since we’re in the middle of the Voltronathon why not just edit the review and add it in now? There are minor spoilers in the review itself in case you decide to watch the episode later. Enjoy!
In the pilot, Donald Duck asks his Uncle Scrooge to babysit the nephews while he goes for a job interview, since the trio are still troublemakers, probably more so than the original series. Scrooge really isn’t into family bonding, and an opportunity to find the lost city of Atlantis just opened up. He wants to leave the boys in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs. Beakley, who would rather see him spend time with the boys. Meanwhile the boys meet Webby Vanderquack, Beakley’s granddaughter, who has nothing to do except track Scrooge’s career as an adventurer, which Donald used to accompany him on, so she is so happy to make friends with the nephews. Can the boys break through a heart more closed than his wallet and join in the search for Atlantis, and what does Scrooge’s arch rival have planned for Donald Duck?
As noted in my review of the intros this version is looking to be closer to the Uncle Scrooge comics that inspired the original. While the original show resembled classic Disney a bit more this show is pushing a bit more to Bank’s style, but still creating a look and feel all its own. It’s not a slave to any one version but does pay homage to what came before, from Easter Eggs in Scrooge’s “museum” to Donald swapping out his usual blues for the darker colors of the comic books, including his own. There are a few other references for Disney Afternoon fans beyond Ducktales. The inspiration is later in Scrooge’s evolution as a character since many of his early, less nasty perspectives. Whether or not he’s as big a skinflint as he was in the original cartoon has yet to be seen. Also, Donald will be making a stronger presence. In the first cartoon Donald had joined the Navy and only occasionally got drawn into Scrooge’s adventures. However Scrooge’s comic adventures spun off of Donald’s own comic tales so seeing him more involved is a better homage to the comics both shows were inspired by. He’s more of the adventurer of the comics but still vintage cartoon Donald Duck where it counts.
(That makes three shows right now featuring Donald; this one, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Mickey And The Roadster Racers, the last two being computer-generated shows on Disney Junior, the preschool channel and programming block.)
I rather like this take on Scrooge, an adventurer whose spirit for “trouble” is reawakened by the boys and Webby. Apparently he has a lot in common with them as Donald has to warn him to behave himself despite the trouble the boys caused that made him drop them off at the mansion to begin with. The big worry was how well David Tennant would perform as Scrooge, a role performed by Alan Young since Mickey’s Christmas Carol and right up to that recent game remake I mentioned. Young has been Scrooge for a lot of fans growing up. Luckily, Tennant (who actually is Scottish) was up to the task. He plays Scrooge with the wisdom of his years but someone who has lost his sense of adventure until the boys and the opportunity to visit Atlantis both presented themselves. Unlike the early days of the original series, the remake focuses more on adventuring than Scrooge’s greed, but we still get the swimming in his money as well as his other catchphrase “curse me kilts”, which is where Tennant waylaid any fears I had that he could pull this off. Odd way I know, but that’s when he clicked as Scrooge for me.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie never really stood out as being different from each other, outside of some minor personality difference. In this reboot, however, there are some big character acceleration. Huey is more practical and the only one to rely on the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook (in the previous version all three relied on the book quite often), even catching a Sasquatch in one of the shorts. Dewey has a more adventurous spirit and already was a fan of Scrooge before learning they were related. When Webby asks which triplet is “the evil one”, the other two immediately point to Louie, who shrugs it off like “yeah, pretty much me”. He’s easily the most laid back and the most irresponsible of the three, and considering Louie’s the one to blow up Donald’s houseboat at one point that’s saying something. They’re all surprised to learn Scrooge is their uncle and Donald used to be an adventurer, but what fascinates me is hinting that we may learn something about their mother (the Disney wiki goes with Della but she’s also been named Dumbella and Thelma at various points). What happened to the triplets’ parents has been a running gag with fans but maybe we’ll get some answers as to where she went. Maybe we’ll even get a name for their father finally?
Probably the biggest change is to the original Ducktales cast. Duckworth is sadly out altogether. Mrs. Beakley is already working here, when she was just hired in the original, but now alone. She takes on a few of Duckworth’s roles and has a stronger personality closer to Duckworth’s, but not as posh. She’s strict but you can tell she cares. Launchpad…is still Launchpad. I have to give credit to Beck Bennet. While he does sound similar to Launchpad’s original VA, Terry Mcgovern, he makes the character his own and plays him perfectly. I may even end up liking him better by the time the series is done.
The hugest alteration is Webbigail Vanderquack. She’s been aged up a bit to be the same age as the nephews. While the original was key to Scrooge’s moral growth (Scrooge being protective of the girl), loving to a fault, and able to make friends with animals, new Webby is a sheltered child who wants to see the world. She’s studied Scrooge and Donald’s adventures as well as numerous legends partly because she has nothing better to do since Mrs. Beakley keeps her safe in the house. Her reaction to Webby sneaking off to join the journey helps Donald accept the boys being around Scrooge as well. I may be in some minority but I loved the original Webby. She was cute without being sickening, was able to at least partly keep up with the boys as the series went on, and had a huge part in melting Scrooge’s heart, earning the right to call him Uncle even though she isn’t related. I was a little worried going into the show since new Webby comes off as a hyperactive fangirl, but she’s actually rather interesting and she has her own potential character arc as she’s never been in a position to make a lot of friends but knows a lot about Scrooge’s adventures and is essential in stopping one of their first threats. I like her and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with her, but I’m going to miss little Webbigail.
The main baddie of this one is Flintheart Glumgold. In this version Glumgold is still superrich but earned his wealth dishonestly and trying to be as cheap as possible. It’s like he absorbed all of Scrooge’s early negative qualities from previous incarnations. Also for some reason he’s obsessed with his Scottish ancestry, seeming to be as looking to appear more Scottish than Scrooge as he does wanting to be richer. Also for some reason they made him real fat. Flintheart previous has been depicted with a similar build to Scrooge. Still, he should make a good recurring villain.
Overall I liked the rebooted Ducktales. While lacking the visual polish of the original the writing is strong and the characters good. More importantly, the spirit of the original cartoon as well as stronger inspiration from the comics combine to a proper update of the show and the characters. I’m looking forward to the series proper when it debuts in September, and recommend checking it out.