Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Apocryphal Scrooge McDuck, Part 2

As you can tell by the gap between installments, Scrooge McDuck's career as a character in children's books is pretty slight. Adaptations of Mickey's Christmas Carol notwithstanding, the bulk of his appearances beyond Scrooge and The Magic Fish are a series of cameos in various stories featuring the Disney stock company. He appears in two of the three books I'm covering in this post.

Mickey Mouse and The Marvelous Smell Machine was printed in 1979 and reprinted as Mickey Mouse Scratch and Sniff Book in 1990. The author and illustrator are uncredited. The plot, in one sentence,  involves Gyro Gearloose's latest invention: a deodorizing/air freshening "smell machine" that he gives to Mickey Mouse without telling him how to turn it off, so the machine creates havoc by generating random odors that cannot be controlled. Complicating matters is Goofy, who, thinking the device was intended as a donation to an antique fair, sells it to Scrooge, who apparently wasn't bothered by the clouds of pepper scent created by the machine but is highly perturbed when it spreads smoke fumes on the cash in his money bin and firefighters soak the greenbacks in water by mistake.

The drawback to "Scratch and Sniff" books is that there's clearly a limited palette to the fragrance labels available: lavender, clover, black pepper, smoke, mothballs and candied apple to name a few. I also recall popcorn, strawberries and honey fragrances,  but as the years go by...only smoke and pepper last the longest. None of these odors are particularly foul - in fact, the only time I recall an attempt at "air fouling" was the "Air Fouler" packed with the first issue of the Ren and Stimpy comic book. Anyway, these are classic Disney characters and they're supposed to be above that sort of funky thing, so this is moot.

For me, the real highlight of the book wasn't really the scratching and sniffing, but the detailed pen & ink artwork. The story is set in motion by "Gay Nineties Day" (I kid you not) an event within the unspecified town (it's implied that this story is set within Main Street at Disneyland or Walt Disney World and that Main Street is a town itself) where everyone is dressed in the style of the "Nifty" 1890s.  So the book has the illusion of being a period piece,  allowing the artist to draw Mickey and the gang in elaborate garb and not their standard outfits. I think the same artist worked on The Haunted House, a book where Mickey,  Donald and Pluto explore a deserted old house inhabited by a bank robber disguised as a ghost. Both were published around the same time.

Scrooge is not a bit player in Donald's Attic Adventure, but as with the last book, he does seem to have limits as a character in this sort of thing. He's a fully-realized, complete character;  you could do a story where he teaches kids about money, as they did in the cartoon, Scrooge McDuck and Money, or a story where he explores a cave and teaches you about precious stones and metals (they never did, to my knowledge)...but how would he fit in a story about his nephew searching the attic for stuff to sell at a yard sale? The author, Cindy West, answers that question by presenting Scrooge as a yard sale expert of sorts, not really helping Donald get rid of anything, but taking a fancy to a garish, oversize robe (who could that have possibly belonged to?), watching a parrot escape from being neglected in a cage in the attic (if the coloring of the plumage had been all green, he could've been the 'Pixelated Parrot' from Carl Barks' story) and join in on the street parade wearing (I'll hazard a guess) Goofy's nightrobe. Since this was published in 1990, he's in his Ducktales coat, too, which is actually a refreshing improvement over the bizarre color patterns attributed to his coat over the years. I always preferred this blue-with-red-collar frock coat over the Santa Claus red one with the grey collar, which has become uniform in the comics (when he appears in the Disney parks, it's in his blue coat as well). I guess Daisy Duck is wearing her Totally Minnie outfit - people forget the early-1990s still had some outrageous fashions hungover from the late-1980s,  as witnessed by TV shows like Saved By The Bell , Full House and Step By Step.

I included Huey, Dewey and Louie's Campfire Surprise because it was the first children's book I'd ever seen that was clearly illustrated with a computer. I thought it had a 3-D look to it when I first read it, but it's actually the use of computer coloring and shading, as well as the clock display and the font of the numbers showing the almost resembled animation cels.

I have a BIG  book (literally and figuratively) waiting in the wings for the next installment. It's so big...I'll need to set up a stand to take pictures of it's cover and the pages!

To be continued....and enjoy the gallery!

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