Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Silver Dollars - Ducktales at 25 Part 3

In our last episode, I talked about free stickers and erased video tapes. And now, back to our story...

Season 2 (1989): Now Ducktales was going to be on a different TV station in New York - PIX11, and it would be part of an hour-long block with a new show, Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers. I've got to admit that by this time, I had seen all the episodes from the first season at least three times and was watching other stuff. There was a clone of Double Dare called Fun House, which I found more entertaining because it had more of a pace to it (Double Dare tended to be show host Mark Summers motormouths play-by-play on updated versions of rounds of ring toss, frankly), but it was knocked out of PIX11's Fall schedule to make way for the new "DisneyHour". Who was going to complain? New Ducktales episodes? Not me!

But come September, I was willing to skip the Monday afternoon premiere in favor of watching an episode of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show, which had premiered a week earlier. Big Mistake. The episode of SMBSH that aired that day was a clunker, so I switched over to see what was happening on Ducktales. The were showing the "Tralla La" episode. I couldn't believe what I had missed out on! It's even more of a big deal now, because the episode has been censored - a key scene where Fenton creates a rescue flare by lighting up a bottle of Scrooge's nerve tonic was deleted from future broadcasts. If the episode is ever released on DVD, I wonder if they'll show it complete and uncut...
Anyway, the heck with Mario, I went right back to watching Ducktales. Among the notable episodes from that season:

Tralla La: Scrooge has a breakdown from too much business. The antidote is a stay at an exotic faraway land where money and greed do not exist - until he gets there and Fenton makes the discarded bottle caps from Scrooge's nerve tonic the new currency. It wasn't until I actually read the Carl Barks comic that inspired it that I understood why Scrooge specifically choose to act like a squirrel in his "fugue state". Nervous breakdowns are heavy subject matter for a weekday afternoon cartoon. As the years went by, characters plagued by stress and anxiety become recurring themes in most of the Disney Afternoon toons (Scrooge and his "worry room", Dale's inferiority crises in Rescue Rangers, Pete and his "stress level" in Goof Troop, Lucky Piquel and Sgt. Grating in Bonkers, even Darkwing Duck suffered from stress about his public image and paranoia about being usurped by anyone offering a helping hand).

Allowance Day: I included this one because the "convince-someone-else-that-today-is-payday-and-realize-that-the-whole-world-was-fooled-and-you-have-to-move-the-clouds-to-reveal-an-eclipse-of-the-sun" theme was also used in an episode of Talespin. I think it worked better on Talespin, due to the handily established Thembrians and their politics, but act 3 of this episode (with Scrooge and Fenton facing a firing squad - the one sequence that plays out better than it did on the Talespin episode) is terrific, the stuff of old Golden Age Superman comics.

The Big Flub: this episode, in which Fenton tries to get a promotion in one of Scrooge's other companies, only to wind up creating a marketing campaign for Gyro's helium-infused bubble gum prototype that makes people float into the air before and after they've chewed it, is very, very Barksian . I don't know if there's a speciffic story that inspired it, but it does seem like one of Donald's blunders.

The Masked Mallard: One of the few episodes in which Scrooge saves the day entirley on his own. I don't know if this was one possible inspiration for Darkwing Duck, but I'm inclined to think the inspiration for Scrooge's pogo cane in the Ducktales NES video game came from here. The plot: Scrooge thinks dressing up as a superhero will result in good PR. Obviously he's never read Spider-Man comics.

Scrooge's Last Adventure: another story in which a clunky 1980s computer outperforms anything we have on the market today and tomorrow, as well as a new feature for Scrooge's cane that Capcom forgot to add in the video game. The Plot: Scrooge thinks he's dying and Fenton suggests downloading his fortune into a computer. The problem is that Fenton doesn't know how to work a computer! so, obviously the best way to retrieve the data (or electric assets) is the enter the computer, TRONstyle and catch the dollar signs with butterfly nets while evading Moby Glitch. Again, we have another episode that was recycled into a Talespin story, though this time both work well on their own terms.

Metal Attraction: Gyro builds a robot maid, Robotica, who develops a crush on Gizmoduck. When Giz turns her down, she instantly decides it must be because he's overworked protecting the money bin and seems preoccupied with Fenton's girlfriend Gandra Dee for some mysterious reason, so she set both of them in range of a handy guided missile and prepares to launch. This episode is the only one where Bubba, Tootsie, Fenton and Gizmoduck appear, but not together, save for a "family photo" highlighted in one scene.

Blue Collar Scrooge: Scrooge plans to sell a skateboard factory to Donald Trumpcard (I love puns!) but then, oh, the irony, he skids on a motorized skateboard then drops him into a lake and hits him on the head. Now suffering from amneisia, he loses his looks and ...gets a job at the skateboard factory and organizes a strike! Oh, and he also gets freash and cozy with Fenton's mother, Ma Crackshell, while her son is away impersonating Scrooge. If anyone wants to see a less avuncular Scrooge, this is the one to watch.

The Bride Wore Stripes: Ma Beagle is at it again, this time posing as Scrooge's wife to fool the Justice of The Peace into thinking they are married and get his fortune. Yep, another screwball comedy episode, notable for featuring none of the new characters and only the season 1 cast. This epsiode was given heavy rotation during reruns - instead of seeing "My Mother, The Psychic" "Attack of The Metal Mites" or "New Gizmokids on The Block", we would get this one, like finding a penny on the sidewalk. It's very good, but it appeared all the time.

The Unbreakable Bin: Another Carl Barks tale gets tweaked, actually this borrows bits from two stories featuring Magica De Spell, ("Bye, Bye, Money Bin" and "The Unsafe Safe") her only appearance in the later episodes, but they made it count. Her late entrance in the second act is a neat surprise, since I had not read the comic at that time. It would have been neat if SHE had been the main villain in "SuperDucktales" instead of Ma Beagle. Sure, it's the same actress in both parts, but the characters have different bags of tricks.

Yuppy Ducks: again and again, stress, allergies, anxiety, being replaced, pests - these themes pop up a lot in the Disney shows over and over. Scrooge gets "loot lice", lice with Beagle Boy masks and has to sealed in a plastic bubble at the hospital. Huey, Dewey, Bubba (remember him?) & Louie take over running the business before everyone remembers this is a violation of child labor laws (technically, that only applies if they were being exploited, but they did come off pretty dumb, here - Fenton's not around this time, so they can't blame him). The best scenes are of Scrooge at the free clinic - holey moley, the writers did their research!

Ducky Mountain High: Glomgold was another villain that got the short end of the deal (though not as much as Magica), appearing only in a handful of episodes, but kind of, sort became the main villain in the hodge podge "3rd Season". Seeing him compete with Scrooge in a scheme to get a plot of land from old flame Glittering Goldie is a lot of fun. I would've loved to have seen a character like Brigitta MacBridge appear as a semi-regular on the show, because whenever the writers tackled screwball comedy, they did it very well. Brigitta was created by Romano Scarpa to even out the number of female characters available - she's like a "nice" Millionaira Vanderbucks (from "'til Nephews Do Us Part"), the tycoon Scrooge almost married in the season 1 finale.

The Duck Who Knew Too Much:  It's The Fenton Crackshell Show as Fenton pretends to be sick so he can go on vacation with his girlfriend and avoid an assignment from the boss - but whaddyaknow, the assignment was to go to the same be he's having his vacation! Is this a Jetsons episode? More spy high jinks, plus there's a giant mechanical Praying Mantis (I guess Jon Peters produced this episode). This is one of several episodes where Fenton saves the day without the Gizmoduck suit, though he conveniently forgets in time for another episode in which he does it again. The highlight: Scrooge gets some screen time with Gandra Dee...waitaminute, doesn't she work for him too?

My Mother, The Psychic: Fenton and his mother deserved a spinoff - maybe that was the forerunner to Johnny Bravo? Fredericka Von Strangeduck appears in a cameo as the star of a daytime soap opera playing "Erica" (draw your own conclusions on what this is referring to) and gets psychic powers from a jolt on her TV. I think this was inspired by the urban legend about the couch potato who died of a heart attack while watching TV, but as he was being lifted onto a gurney, his hand smacked the TV screen and broke the glass. He was electrocuted and revived by his TV set! Anyway, Glomgold gets to play Goldfinger, only his mansion gets to be OddJob by hurling giant discus into space (what on Earth could that have been built for before this episode?).

Part 4 will be up soon - feel free to practice your Golf swing with a Pogo Stick while you wait...

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