Friday, August 10, 2012

Silver Dollars: Ducktales at 25 - Part 2

My memories of watching Ducktales episodes continues with Premiere events/episodes/stuff:

There was a lot of merchandise with Ducktales characters in 1988, just a few months after the show premiered in 1987. McDonald's Happy Meal toys, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, a tie-in magazine with a comic strip. Then there was Gladstone Comics, which published the Ducktales comic book, which premiered with adaptations of two episodes in it's first two issues: "Armstrong" and "Jungle Duck". I was slowly being schooled on the history of Carl Barks and Disney comics by following letter columns, editorials and profiles of other series offered by the company. (Yes, it was named after Gladstone Gander, but it was almost named after Gus Goose) ;) . I had mentioned in the comments for Part 1 that the first Disney comic I saw was an issue of Uncle Scrooge in a grocery store; I started visiting the shops because the grocery stores would stock comics at random - they would just receive a bundle of comics from the distributor, maybe two or three copies of each, and that was that. My mom had mentioned seeing comic shops in  Manhattan, so I asked if we could visit them. I have no reason to believe she regrets starting the hobby off - I just don't think she would like to say so out loud: she'll blame Dad or my Grandpa, instead. That's a whole other blog entry.

But then there were the videocassettes: Fearless Forutne Hunter, Daredevil Ducks, High Flying Hero, Masked Marauders, etc... Two episodes per tape, for the price of $14.95. This seems like a rip now, as well as the laserdisk offering (4 episodes for a few dollars more), compared to how you could get a boxed DVD set of over 20 for the same price. I remember Disney also had "Gold Editions" - about an hours' worth of the classic short cartoons, compiled accoring to a theme, Like Donald's Bee Pictures - those were almost $100.00 in some places! What was the appeal? ... You got a perfect recording. Even the current VCR/DVD recorder combo units tend to be very clumsy on the VCR end, with each pause and stop noticable on playback. Plus, you can never tell what the TV signal is going to be - even now with pop-up ads and emergency broadcast "tests". Pfft.

Pathmark Halloween Commercial: One Year later (1988), Pathmark aired a commercial featuring Scrooge, Webby and the nephews preparing to go Trick-or-Treating. The ad was for a special sheet of stickers available only at Pathmark Supermarkets/Drugstores featuring the characters, which could be used as an alternative to handing out candy. I'm certain most people thought the way I did: get the stickers, get the stickers, get the stickers ... and the kiddies can have the marked-down Fruitzee Rolls.

 The stickers were interesting: Scrooge, Launchpad, Webby, the nephews, the Ducktales title logo...and introducing...Bubba the cave duck. This was the first time I saw him anywhere - when Ducktales magazine announced that he would appear as a new character, they did not include a picture of him. This sheet of stickers was it - it may be the only merchandise with him at all! His first appearance on TV was months later, too. Because the sticker had him standing alone, I had imagined he might be one of the tall brutish cave ducks that appeared in the "Dinosaur Ducks" episode - like it would be a sequel to that.

Time is Money (1988): A new 2 hour movie! This was great, but I don't remember it being promoted well. This was probably when I got into the habit of reading TV Guide. Fall Previews of new Saturday Morning Shows (Remember Saturday Morning programming?), listings of new schedules and occasional adverts for new Ducktales episodes (I had seen a half-page ad taken to promote "The Golden Fleecing" when it aired on a Monday afternoon, so that might have been what inspired this). Anyway, the point is, I found out about this just days before it aired, so I erased a tape of Daffy Duck cartoons. For many years, my recording of "Time is Money" was on a tape with the crude "Daffy Duck" scrawled on it.
So what did I think? I was surprised to see that Bubba was portrayed more like an adopted son of Scrooge's than a new pal for the gang. Scrooge's behavior was odd (although it's more in-character than we're used to seeing on the show) more like it was for the 1st 1/4 of  "Treasure of The Golden Suns" - only there it took about 15 minutes to change - here it took 2/3 of the movie! The best parts were the odd stuff - the laser pen, the bombastion pops, the shopping cart chase (which the crew must have liked, because the print ads for the new episodes had Scrooge perform a rescue riding a shopping cart with a helicopter blade attached  to it), the teleconference calls via computer (those old Apple2s could do so much more than an iPad in those days, couldn't they?) and the weird "I've got fish in my pockets" exchange, which made no sense to me when I first saw it - why bother with the banks in town when he has a wall safe at home (and THAT was a deleted scene which aired in the reruns of the film)?

The most remarkable thing about the memory of this event was that it aired on a Friday. I had been conditioned to expect new episodes the following Monday. That did happen, so I was left wondering if I had just seen the final episodes, which ended with "Scooge" building Jurassic Park in his backyard.

Speaking of which, did Michael Crichton's novel inspire what we just saw? That's a stretch, but who a popular sci-fi action film would inspire what came next...

Superducktales (1989): airing as a 2 hour film on NBC on a Sunday night as a special on the fading-fast Magical World of Disney, this seemed like confirmation that a little syndicated afternoon cartoon was a really big draw (when there's no internet, you end up trying to look for clues to a show's popularity beyond the schoolyard) . The Gizmoduck character name had not been announced, but the half-page ad was so obviously Robocop that it had to be "Roboduck", so of course they surprised us with that twist.
Right up until the premiere, they did not show Fenton Crackshell anywhere, so I wonder if they wanted us to think it was Donald under that armor. That would make sense - shift the paradigm back to Scrooge and Donald with HD& L, only this time, Donald has this new status quo following his for real stint in the navy. At the time, I was expecting to see Bubba in there. They went out of their way to establish him in the group and he's not there! I'm not sure if I thought they just imagined he wasn't there, but they don't mention that adventure at all, plus they were careful not to feature Glomgold, the main villain from that story.
Speaking of villains, Ma Beagle becomes the main villain of the series from here on, with June Foray's performance sounding more like Granni Gummi form The Gummi Bears . I guess it takes a certain kind of old woman to pull off schemes like that. Incidentally, they still have Gizmoduck's instruction manual, which appears to include schematics and data allowing for a pirate remote control to be built. The writers were probably wise to ignore this, since Gizmoduck eats up a lot of screen time as their puppet. Also, the focus on Scrooge protecting the money bin becomes a big part of the later episodes - it's all foreshadowed here. If I wasn't a fan of the show, I might be inclined to think the well had run dry!
In retrospect, the characters that own this are Fenton and Scrooge. Where did Fenton come from?  He's often regarded as a milquetoast Donald with a lisp like Daffy Duck. The suit reminds me of Howard the Duck, but Fenton was more excitable than Howard. If I can imagine a plot connection to a bestselling novel to the last special, I can imagine a character connection to a classic movie. I think Fenton was inspired by the character of Sam Lowry from Terry Gilliam's Brazil. You go watch that film and you'll see what I mean.
Oh, another tape got erased for this one. This one featured a TV special, Down and Out With Donald Duck, which got wiped because I needed the space (I had already learned not to record anything in EP or LP mode). It turns out that was rebroadcast in 1993 with the premiere of Bonkers because Donald had a cameo in that. If only they had rebroadcast Soccermania with the premiere of Goof Troop...

Part 3 will appear next week...

1 comment:

  1. For those of you new to Ducktales, here are my handy-dandy all-accessable spoiler-free summaries:

    Time is Money: Scrooge tries to claim ownership of an island repossesed by Flintheart Glomgold by using Gyro's time machine, the Millenium Shortcut. All does not work out as well as planned and the machine takes the group to Prehistoric times, where they meet Bubba the cave duck and his pet triceratops, Tootsie. Bubba and Tootsie stow away onboard the Shortcut and become involved in Scrooge's attempts to regain ownership of the island, which holds a massive diamond mine that could double his fortune.

    SuperDucktales: The Beagle Boys latest scheme to get Scrooge's money is to sneak into the city planner's office and alter the city's plan for a new elevated highway by rerouting it in the path of Scrooge's Money Bin. Scrooge enlists the help of a new accountant, Fenton Crackshell, to keep track of his fortune during the big move out of Duckburg. To help protect his fortune from the Beagle Boys, Gyro builds a super-powered armored suit for whoever Scrooge hires to guard the bin. Fenton inadvertently becomes Gizmoduck and winds up in over his head.