Ever since Disney was quick to note that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the mega-hit Ducktales TV series, it's still unclear how they plan to celebrate...complete the DVD box sets with a Volume 4? Announce new episodes in production? Have Selena Gomez, Debby Ryan and Brenda Song jump out of a cake in bikinis at Disney World?
I was watching Marilu Henner in an interview, recently. She was promoting Unforgettable, which starred Poppey Montgomery and aired on CBS. It's been cancelled, but it was inspired by Henner's ability to recall her whole life with no gaps - she remembers what happened on any date and time of her life in the past and present.
So.. in honor of Ducktales 25th anniversary, I thought I would try to recall the first week that it aired on television and my reactions/comments. It's all so very potted...
September 1987 - Friday: "The Treasure of The Golden Suns" premieres in prime-time as a 2-hour film. I had no idea. The ad in TV Guide for that week was not specific - it just had an image of Scrooge and Huey, Dewey & Louie hiding in a bush, with some new character (Launchpad McQuack) hovering above in a neat little helicopter offering a rope ladder. A large spear is resting on a palm tree behind Scrooge and the boys - presumably the ducks are fleeing from a jungle ambush (does this remind me of Raiders of The Lost Ark? No, it reminds me of Sport Goofy: Soccermania, a TV special that had aired on NBC months before and featured Scrooge, Huey, Dewey & Louie - I had been watching it over and over in the VCR since then).
Bullet points from that time:
1. Donald's cameo: "Why isn't he in this more? he wasn't in Soccermania, either."), Donald's re-appearance in the third act ("This is great! Maybe he'll be in more episodes."), then the realization that this is really about Scrooge, who used to be Ebenezer Scrooge, but is now Scrooge McDuck. (I had not read the comic books). "Scrooge does a lot of cool things."
2. The Beagle boys are redesigned with individual personalities, but still play the same role as stooge-villains, like they did in Soccermania. I love that chase through the candy factory.
3. New characters: Glomgold ("Looks like an evil uncle of Scrooge's"), Gyro ("Interesting"), Launchpad ("Funny guy, kind of like Indiana Jones. It sounds like they'll announce his arrival when he shows up.") Mrs. Beakley and Webby ("Characters for the girls watching. Mrs. Beakley must know Donald if she can tell the nephews apart. Webby looks like Daisy Duck in Disney Babies."), El Capitain ("He's awesome! He must be coming back again! He's the biggest bad guy here!").
4. The City of Gold (viewed in silence with total awe...there were no cartoons on television at the time offering visuals like that. If you were not interested, you must have been some form of deadwood, really).
5. The announcement at the end that this was the start of a new series airing on weekday afternoons, starting Monday: ( "Mom! I need ten blank videotapes to record this!")
Final Thought: Without next week's TV Guide, I had no idea there would be more. During the weekend I suddenly lost interest in Thundercats, Voltron, Transformers, The Smurfs, Yogi's Treasure Hunt and any other series I had been watching...for a while, anyway. ;)
September 1987 - The Following Monday: "Send In The Clones" airs. Magica DeSpell makes her entrance and is just one more great reason to keep watching - they didn't drop the ball after the premiere, though it seems like it won't all be about lost treasures and stuff. We get to see the nephews room (actually, the design of the attic was cooler - says me in the present-day). We get more of the Beagle Boys. Act 3 is great. My Mom "gets" the Webra Walters/Barbara Walters joke and o.k.'s me putting off homework for a half-hour so I can watch this show - it has proven that it is not childish junk.
Tuesday: "Sphinx For The Memories"
Donald's back as special guest-star. This is really his episode. Since it became clear that Scrooge is the star, then in retrospect I think that if they had Scrooge tag-along with Donald, then things wouldn't seem so disconnected after the crazy pace of yesterday's episode (I'm translating my past-thoughts using my present-day brain).
As I had observed earlier, Launchpad appears in this episode with an introduction, as we watch him put out a forest fire. Later, he gets to do some awesome Talespin-ish flying with his biplane, The Joyrider. But the character who owns this episode (aside from a neat bit where Scrooge uses gold nuggets to play Checkers) is Armstrong the robot. The design is very much like Barks, or psuedo-Barks, with the light bulb nose and square jaw. You've got to wonder what set the 'bot off and made him go Dalek Emperor/Cybermen on everybody - perhaps it wasn't the toy robot but the fact that Scrooge was using him as cheap labor. "When do I get my hot cocoa break. you old tightwad? I must take over the world so that I can make time to have my own breaks - ha,ha,ha...ha,ha,ha...mek,mek." And Gyro didn't learn...the GICU2 from SuperDucktales is Armstrong 2.0. Armstrong's antics anticipate Gizmoduck's gizmos and gadgets, so you got to wonder, why didn't they expect him to get out of control, too?
Thursday: "Magica's Shadow War"
There was something of a "13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo"-ring to this one, but I like these characters, better. Magica owns this episode, plus Scrooge gets a good moment when he breaks down the door and wears the moose head. (Years later, I learned that the writers for this episode had originally conceived it as an episode of "The Real Ghostbusters" but then tailored it for Ducktales, instead. It works very well. Does this mean the money bin was supposed to be the GB's firehouse?)
Friday: "Master of The Djinni"
Glomgold's back - Scrooge should really think hard about posing with treasure maps in a photo op. After meeting the Genie and race down the mountain, the pace slows down too much. I don't think it recovers, but Shewebbazad is very cute. It's still worth watching for Act One, anyway.
The Following Monday: "Hotel Strangeduck"
This is more like Monday's episode - fast paced and wild. I'd rank this one very high on the Top 10. Is Ludwig Von Strangeduck related to Ludwig Von Drake? Fredericka Von Strangeduck (along with Webra Walters) continued to pop-up here and there in cameos, or at least their character designs did, even in a few Darkwing Duck episodes.
What an uneven, yet delightful week and a half that was! A wacky witch, a crazy robot, mummies, a haunted hotel, a clone saga, a shadow war, invisible men, hot furry lady ducks..a distillation of things we now use to describe the series to people under 20 who are occupied with the adventures of talking kitchen sponges...and there was more, much more! I hadn't even discovered the comics, yet!