DuckTales is back! Ever since Disney XD announced it was reviving the beloved series from the ’80s/’90s, fans have been eagerly anticipating the premiere. Would it be any good? And if it was, would it be able to live up to its predecessor? Or would it just end up being another halfhearted attempt at reviving a nostalgic franchise?
I have always been a fan of Disney’s core characters, especially the ducks. Donald is my favorite of all the original Disney gang, and I cherished the rare moments that I got to watch the original DuckTales. (Even though Donald wasn’t usually there.)
It probably sounds like a cliché, but when I was growing up my family literally had five channels. I never got to watch shows like DuckTales on a regular basis, unless I was visiting my grandparents or my uncle. On those occasions, I almost always chose to watch the Disney Channel, and I loved DuckTales, especially DuckTales the Movie: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp, which my uncle taped for me on an old VHS. My brothers and I watched that thing so many times.
So, while I never saw enough of the show to have “Grown up with it,” like many kids of the ’80s and ’90s, it was still a show that I have fond memories of, enough so that I was very excited when I heard that they were planning a revival of the series.
The new series premiered on August 12th, for 24 hours straight, Disney XD aired the hour-long premiere episode of the new DuckTales series, 24 times in a row. While I’m still not entirely sure why they felt the need to completely take over the schedule with this new show, it at least shows their faith in it and, from what I’ve seen so far, they have no reason not to have faith in the show.
I really don’t have any criticisms of the show so far, so let me just get right into what I loved about it! First and foremost, the art style. This show just looks so good! The animation and the comic book designs, right down to the halftone dot colorations they’ve used for many of the background elements, just give this show such a unique and special feeling, very different than pretty much everything else on TV.
The art style is not the only comic book-inspired part of this show. The stories themselves will take their inspiration, not just from the original series, but from old Disney comics and graphic novels! Not many people in the U.S. know this but comics based on the ‘Disney Ducks’ universe are still extremely popular in Europe, and stories by artists like Carl Barks and Don Rosa are what laid the groundwork for the original DuckTales series.
Personally I love that they are going back to the comic book roots of the Duck family, and these popular, imaginative stories from the past should be an excellent source of material and inspiration.
The next thing that I love about this series is the voice cast. I know that there were a lot of angry voices when it was announced that this series would be bringing in a completely new cast for these iconic characters, but personally I have no problem with this, especially considering the amazing talent that they managed to get! They even got the 10th Doctor himself, David Tennant, an actual Scotsman who won’t have to put on a fake accent, to play Scrooge McDuck! I was blown away when they announced this, and after that, no one else would have even mattered to me, except, it turns out, the rest of the cast is great as well!
We have Danny Pudi as Huey, Ben Schwartz as Dewey, Bobby Moynihan as Louie, Kate Micucci as Webby Vanderquack, Beck Bennett as Launchpad McQuack, Toks Olagundoye as Mrs. Beakley, and of course Tony Anselmo as Donald Duck. That’s one character I’m glad they didn’t recast, because a lot of people can do Donald Duck impressions, but no one can pull off the voice as well as he can.
One of the best things, if not the best thing about the series, beyond the art and the cast, is the writing. As good as the art is, as good as the cast is, if the writing didn’t hold up, all the Doctor Who actors and vintage comic inspired artwork in the world couldn’t save it. But so far the writing is so good! The jokes are hilarious and the action/adventure scenes are the perfect mix of exciting and funny!
And on the subject of the writing, unlike in the old series, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are all being written as individual characters! Maybe it was just me, but I never remembered them as individuals. They were basically all the same character copy & pasted three times and given different shirts to wear. As a kid I had no idea which sibling was which, and even as an adult I still wouldn’t have been able to tell you, until this new show. Huey, in red, is now a by-the-book rules follower, while Dewey, in blue, is an attention starved middle-child, and Louie, in green, is a kind of lazy, self-confessed, ‘evil triplet.’ In the best way possible, of course.
The nephews aren’t the only characters getting a revamp for the show, I just love what they’ve done with Webby and Mrs. Beakley. They took two slightly dull characters and basically gave them every trait that almost all my favorite characters have. I have always had a soft spot for little old ladies with attitude, and Mrs. Beakley has attitude to spare, but not in an obnoxious way. She has a very calm, understated way of approaching people and situations that just tells you that she is not the kind of person to be trifled with. And Webby is now sort of a mix of Dipper and Mable from Gravity Falls, but with even more energy. I’ve only seen the first episode, but she’s already shaping up to be my favorite character.
And speaking of Gravity Falls, DuckTales may turn out to be a great replacement for the show. Gravity Falls was probably my all-time favorite cartoon. It had humor, adventure, mystery, an amazing cast, excellent writing, and it was a show for kids and adults, without feeling too much like a kids show, or throwing in too much adult content. It was a perfect blending of everything I love in storytelling, and if DuckTales continues to be as good as this first episode was, it could very well end up being my new favorite cartoon. I don’t think it can ever fully fill the Mystery Shack sized hole in my heart, but it could come close.
Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about this first episode! There was a lot here to discuss!
As the show opens, we learn that Donald Duck lives in a houseboat with his three nephews, and he’s currently looking for a job. There is no explanation of why he is acting as their guardian, but it’s something I personally have wondered about for years. Donald is on his way to a job interview, but the boys’ antics are stalling him, so he is forced to bring them to his Uncle’s place. The reaction from the boys leads us to believe that they’ve never even met Uncle Scrooge, and a line later on tells us it’s been about ten years since Donald has seen Scrooge himself. This is also something that is not explained.
Donald only talked to Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. Beakly, about leaving the kids, so when he arrives at the same time as Scrooge, there are some heated words exchanged. Whatever happened ten years ago was obviously not good. Donald eventually leaves the boys with Scrooge and Mrs. Beakly, and heads to his job interview, but Scrooge is less than thrilled about being stuck with these three kids.
After they pester him one too many times, he leaves them in an empty room with a bag of marbles to amuse themselves. This does not sit well with the three boys who decide to explore instead, but are swiftly captured by Webby, Mrs. Beakly’s granddaughter who freaks out when she discovers who they are. According to her, Scrooge, as well as Donald, which the boys refuse to believe, were two of the greatest adventurers to have ever lived. She has made it her all-consuming hobby to research Scrooge’s life and adventures, and she decides to make the triplets her new best friends.
Meanwhile Scrooge has been shaken by the sudden reappearance of his family. The kids’ comments about how he “Used to be a big deal,” seem to have gotten to him, and he decides to go out and have himself a new adventure. He has seen a news article that matches a prophecy about the path to Atlantis, and decides to set out to find it.
As Scrooge plans his trip, the children are crawling through his vents on their way to a secret wing full of ancient artifacts. When they get there, Louie starts laying claim to everything, while Dewey doesn’t believe any of it is real. Especially not the giant picture of Donald fighting pirates at Scrooge’s side.
As the kids explore, they unwittingly release three ancient evils, a ghost pirate, a living sword, and the headless man-horse, all of which immediately team up against them. Fortunately for the children, Scrooge appears just in time to wow them with his derring-do, and defeats all of them. Unfortunately, in the scuffle, a fourth evil is unleashed, a giant gold hunting dragon who immediately sets off for Scrooge’s money bin.
Scrooge grabs the dragon’s tail, ordering the kids to go back to their rooms as he’s is dragged out of the house. Of course they don’t listen, and end up following his in a plane piloted by Scrooge’s inept limo driver, Launchpad McQuack. They save Scrooge and all work together to to stop the dragon. After the whole ordeal is over, Scrooge tells the kids how much fun he had, and decides right then and there to bring all the kids with him on his expedition to Atlantis.
While the kids and Scrooge were having their adventure, Donald meanwhile has managed to staple himself to the wall at his job interview. But that does not seem to detract the boss, who hires him anyway, not as the accountant he hoped to be, but as a sailor.
Unbeknownst to Donald his new boss is Flintheart Glomgold, one of Scrooge’s sworn enemies, and he needs Donald to help him get to Atlantis. There’s supposedly a massive treasure there, and he has hired a crew to help him get it. Side note, his crew all have amazing names. My favorite would have to be Gabby McStabberson.
On their way to Atlantis aboard Scrooge’s submarine, Dewey is desperate for some acknowledgment from his uncle, but Scrooge doesn’t even seem to know his name. When he sees that Scrooge’s map has them going ‘the long way’ he makes some adjustments to the route while Launchpad, who is steering the sub, isn’t looking. Unfortunately, Scrooge had the map marked that way so as to avoid several monsters, all of which they meet anyway.
After escaping the monsters, they decide to go to the surface and stop for a bathroom break at a seemingly unmanned ship. However, the ship is actually manned by Glomgold and his crew, all of whom are below deck, watching them on security cameras. Donald is horrified to see his nephews out at sea, but tries not to let on, as Glomgold decides that they are now going to just follow Scrooge and steal the treasure from him.
When they finally arrive at Atlantis, poor Donald gets the worst from both sides, as he’s tries to save his family from Glomgold’s crew, while at the same time dealing with all the booby traps that Dewey is thoughtlessly setting off, as he runs ahead of his family.
When the jig is finally up, Glomgold makes off with a giant ruby, thought to be the famous Jewel of Atlantis, and throws Donald into the treasure room with Scrooge and Dewey before setting off a trap to flood the room. As the water rises, they realize that the real Jewel of Atlantis is actually the giant crystal attached to the top of the chamber, and when it’s within reach they pull it out, releasing the trap, which empties the room.
When the three of them escape, they find the rest of their family locked in combat with Glomgold’s lackeys while Glomgold himself is nowhere to be seen. In the melee, he’d managed to make his way back to his own sub, so he could blow up the city. He left his crew there as a distraction, and obviously doesn’t care that they’ll die with Scrooge and his family. Left with no other choice, Glomgold’s crew asks for a ride, and they all make it out in Scrooge’s submarine, just in the nick of time.
Back in Duckburg, they arrive just in time to interrupt Glomgold’s press conference about his discovery. Scrooge reveals that he has the real Jewel of Atlantis, and that it’s an efficient, clean source of energy that is capable of powering Duckburg for the next 50 years. They he tells Glomgold that his jewel is cursed, and he is immediately dragged into the ocean by the tentacle of a giant sea monster.
Donald and Scrooge begin to reconcile, and Donald seems to agree to let the boys visit Scrooge every once in a while, but as he talks, behind them we see Donald’s houseboat explode in a ball of fire. Apparently Dewey had left the engine on before they’d left. Scrooge tells Donald that he may have several rooms that he could spare, and Donald smiles wearily, while the boys all cheer.
Back at the mansion, Donald and Launchpad are moving what’s left of the houseboat into the pool in the yard, while the boys play inside. As Dewey cleans up the garage, he looks back at the painting of Scrooge and Donald, and notices that a corner is torn and folded, obscuring part of the image. He lifts is up to reveal a third duck fighting alongside his uncles. He looks in amazement and whispers, “Mom?”
This episode was SO good! Especially due to the fact that it is obvious that they are leaning into a bit of the serialized format that some of the other recent Disney XD cartoons have had. GravityFalls, Star vs the Forces of Evil, and even Wander Over Yonder to some degree in its second season, all have had some element of of an overarching narrative, and that has really helped to set these shows above a lot of other recent Disney animation. There’s nothing wrong with self-contained stories, I grew up watching the old Disney cartoons, Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, and so many others, none of which had anything consistent from one episode to the next, but I find myself so much more engaged with a show when I am actively trying to figure out what is going on and where the show is going.
With the introduction of mysteries like, who was the triplets’ mother? What happened to their parents? What happened between Donald and Scrooge? And even, why did Scrooge give up on adventuring for so long? (And bonus question not brought up in the show, where are Webby’s parents?) All of these are elements that I can’t wait to see explored in depth, and I love that they have saved them for later. As much as I want answers now, I really hope they string us along at least for a little while, maybe we’ll even get some kind of an epic season finale.
Back when I did Gravity Falls reviews for the site, I always finished my reviews with a few of my favorite quotes. I kind of miss doing that, so I thought I’d bring it back for this review.
“This is because some children made fun of you, isn’t it?” – Mrs. Beakley
“I should have been more specifiiic!!!” – Captain Peghook
“A head! I’m no longer a freak! Thank you!” – Headless Man-Horse
“You kids are nothing but trouble! Curse me kilts, have I missed trouble!” – Scrooge McDuck
“Nope, pretty boring. We napped, rubbed ointment on our joints, old people stuff. Woops 3 PM, time for dinner, byeee!!!” – Louie
Scrooge: “Your new job is with my sworn enemy!?”
Donald: “I can’t keep track of all your sworn enemies!”
“That bauble? It’s nice, but it’s obviously super cursed.” – Scrooge
“HE thinks he’s SO rich, and SO Scottish! Well I’m Wearn’ a kilt, McDuck! A Kiiilt!!!” – Flintheart Glomgold
This episode was everything I hoped it would be and more. It stayed true to the spirit of the original show, while taking it in a brand new direction that I can’t wait to see more of. The characters have all been tweaked and changed here and there, but unlike a lot of other reboots, this was definitely for the better! I love the new personalities, and I love their new designs. So far this show is shaping up to be a new classic, and I can’t wait for the next episode!
What did you think of the premiere of DuckTales? Were you a fan of the original series? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Update: 8/7/17 3:55pm PST: Disney released the entire pilot online on the Disney XD YouTube Channel. If you haven’t, check it out below!
Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his Podcast and YouTube channel, where he reviews animation, movies, TV, or whatever else his guests feel like talking about. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @jonjnorth.