Monday, August 14, 2017

Ducktales Day!

Short answer? It was good.

Long answer?

It turned out to be an excellent idea to broadcast the 2-part, one-hour pilot episode of the new Ducktales reboot series consecutively for 24 hours through all of Saturday, August 12. I questioned the decision when I first heard of it - why not air a marathon of the original 1980s Ducktales episodes for the remaining 23 hours, instead? Or just..ape Netflix's approach and spit out all the new episodes at once..or at the very least, how about five episodes? That would just add three more half-hours of programming to satisfy a lot of build-up...

Disney used to do the late-80s thru early-90s, beginning with The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh and continuing with the Disney Afternoon series, a "summer preview" of shows set to premiere in the Fall TV season on syndication would be broadcast on The Disney Channel as a privilege of sorts. And it was the first handful of episodes produced. Back in those days, that cable channel was regarded as a "premium cable channel", like HBO or Showtime, with shows and films broadcast with no commercial interruptions. I didn't get to check out The Disney Channel until it was downgraded to "family cable" bundles in the mid-90s, but the program format stayed the same...until around 1999/2000, when they began making room for commercial breaks..and that's when you realized the network wasn't going to be a good fit for programs like Avonlea. An acclaimed, period costume family drama series like that (it was the Downton Abbey of its day, in terms of popularity) airing on the Disney Channel would be unthinkable by the time you get to That's So Raven and Hannah Montana. But anyway, broadcasting this marathon turned out to be an excellent idea, for many reasons, chief among them was that you only needed to wait for the day it aired, not the time. You could watch it anytime.

I remember the original series was promoted in magazine ads and commercials, but you never saw Alan Young appear on Johnny Carson's show to talk about playing Scrooge McDuck the way David Tennant appeared on Stephen Colbert's show! The times have changed...although it's possible the ratings for the pilot on expanded cable channel DisneyXD might be similar to what the original series got in syndication, but then YouTube didn't exist in the 80s, and the grand gesture of DisneyXD offering a chance the view the pilot free and clear on their YouTube channel is a nice surprise, so if you haven't seen it, go see it. Then come back and read the rest of this post.

Aside from the new designs, the bigger distinction between old and new Ducktales is that a lot of the suspense came from the character relationships, with the big adventures being secondary. Donald and Scrooge had a falling out in the past and became estranged; it's hinted that the source of this tension is marked by the absence of Della Duck, Donald's sister and the mother of Huey, Dewey and Louie. This is a retcon, since the character was created to establish that Donald had nephews; we still don't know the name of HD&L's father; I like to joke that it's Howard from Marvel Comics' Howard The Duck, but that's kind-of nuts, even though he is an accuired Disney character, now. Besides, what was disclosed about the dad was that he was in the hospital - the victim of a cruel prank in which his sons planted a lit firecracker under his chair while he sat..presumably the kind of firecracker that sets off car alarms on July, yeah, it makes sense to rewrite history by having the ducklings solve a mystery..of where Della went. And their dad,  _________ Duck..if they have time.

It's because Donald Duck is a main character in this new incarnation of the series  (in the original series, it was established that he joined the navy and left his nephews in Scrooge's care, though he did appear as a guest-star in occasional episodes) that the show will get to take advantage of a character dynamic that was only seen in the comic books and build off it...I never thought we'd ever get to see that play out on the TV. I'm not sure if they've reconciled the Carl Barks comic book Donald with the animated Huey, Dewey and Louie fully - there's that business with Donald slowly burning his hands to keep Dewey from getting hurt by the Atlantean death-trap, which means we might be getting a lot of scenes of Donald enduring a lot of bumps and bruises while the nephews consequently register as shallow & basic by comparison. A similar thing occurred in the series Quack Pack... We'll see.

I prefer Scrooge having a blue coat over red, but if they print a coloring book based on the new designs, you can bet I'll opt for blue crayons on that coat, so that's no big deal.

...they do look like they're ready for a team-up with Bullwinkle and Huckleberry Hound, don't they? If that gold dragon were painted green, I could've name-dropped Beany and Cecil, one of those shows that's considered a classic, but has the darndest trouble with being accessible on home video or TV reruns. I consider Ducktales a nice cartoon, a modern classic...and aside the final batch of episodes, is available to watch on home video and iTunes. And I'm going off on tangents again...well, we did get a cameo from Daisuke Jigen (albeit in canine form..I think..hard to tell) riding ontop of Lupin the 3rd's yellow Fiat automobile..have any of you seen The Castle of Cagliostro? That's an excellent anime film featuring those two characters, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, so that cartoon is not hard to find.

I enjoyed this new episode. I really did. I just wish I didn't have to wait another month to see more. If you were regarding it in terms of fidelity to the original series, I would say it really captured the ethos of the original. If it was junk, it would have been obvious, but no. When it was over, my conclusion was that this show was made with love and respect for what came before, but also marking some new territory. I believe it's something that is all the better for coming back now. The old show was good. The new show will also be good. That's Ducktales. Ducktales IS back.