Review| DuckTales (2017)
30 years ago, Disney’s DuckTales was one of the most popular kid shows on television. The theme song was a rallying cry to millions of children who flocked home after school to watch the latest adventure of trillionaire adventurer Scrooge McDuck and his family. It was a very clever show with great writing, funny gags and a heaping helping of heart.
I was a big fan of DuckTales from the beginning. I still have that ear-worm of a song memorized three decades later. And I know that many people my age still carry fond memories of the show to this day. So it comes as no surprise that Disney decided to reboot DuckTales for the kids of those first fans. The nostalgia train has been bringing back many pop-culture staples lately, and grown millennials have been lapping them up.
This past weekend, Disney XD debuted the first two episodes of the refreshed DuckTales (though both episodes serve one continuous story). For the most part, this new version keeps the adventurous spirit of the original, and even adds some new ideas from both the show’s rich past as well as today’s culture.
DuckTales has always been about the interactions of a family, albeit an unconventional one. And the start of this version is based around a concept that many families learn over time: forgiveness of grudges.
SPOILERS – Woo-oo!
Stuff I Liked
I salute the crew at Disney Television Animation for reaching back into the 70-year legacy of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics by Carl Barks (the inspiration for the original DuckTales series) for the design esthetic for this new series. I love it. The graphic, sketchy style looks sharp and works fabulously for animation. It doesn’t look forced or gimmicky, but organic. I particularly enjoyed that the various paintings in Scrooge’s mansion emulate the graphic painting style of Carl Barks himself.
The title sequence sets of the comic styling with its clever use of panels:
The character redesigns were well done, for the most part – again, taking advantage of the comic-book style. Scrooge now looks more like the character in the comics with his red coat. I also like that the nephews look similar but distinct and have more discernible personalities.
One of the low points of the original DuckTales series was the omission of Donald Duck, aside from some guest appearances here and there. I never understood why that crew chose not to include Donald. Perhaps he was distracting because he was too well known and the show wasn’t going to be about him? In any event, I’m glad the 2017 team has brought Donald back as a permanent member of the adventurous main cast.
Lastly, some of the voice talent is absolutely wonderful. Beck Bennett nails Launchpad McQuack. He’s still the dense but well-meaning pilot we all know and love, and his new look works. And Kate Micucci brings a spunky new spin on Webby Vanderquack that I enjoyed.
As for Scrooge McDuck, I have to be honest and say that there’s no replacing the late Alan Young in the original series (as well as pretty much any project with Scrooge in it up until Young’s passing). He was perfect as the old skinflint and was the voice for the character for almost four decades – developing generations-spanning recognition. David Tennant is an exceptional substitute. He sounds different, but still maintains Scrooge’s dogged determination, excitability and sage-like demeanor. It’s indeed big shoes (or spats) to fill, and Tennant does a great job.
Stuff I Didn’t Like
Not all of the new voice talent is as great as the ones above. What was particularly grating were the voices of Huey, Dewey and Louie (Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz and Bobby Moynahan, respectively). All three actors are talented comedians, but they do not sound like ten-year-old boys. Their voices don’t match the diminutive bodies and it was really weird to watch. Disney should have got younger voices, or girls who could sound like boys (like original nephews’ voice Russi Taylor). The three were just not right, and a little annoying.
Probably the worst part of the new DuckTales was the reimagining of Mrs. Beakley. They made this supposed grandmother look like a dude in a grandma wig. Seriously. It’s awful. It looks like she can bench-press 600 pounds. Really?
Beakley’s voice compounds the strange transformation. It’s the opposite of the case of the nephews, in that Toks Olagundoye does not sound like an old woman. She’s too young. I didn’t mind Beakley having a sophisticated British accent and matching personality (and Olagundoye has a wonderful voice), but again, it doesn’t fit the character and took me right out of the show every time she appeared on screen.
Stuff to Ponder
The 1987 version of DuckTales was a well-written children’s show with substance. I just rewatched a few episodes to prepare of this review and it’s so amazing how many jokes went completely over my head that I’m sure my parents picked up on. It seemed like there was always a lesson to be learned between Scrooge and his nephews. Even complicated concepts for children like monetary inflation were gently inserted into episode narratives.
But the spiritual through-line for the original series, and this new reboot, has always been about family dynamics. Scrooge creates a family with his great-nephews, Webby and Mrs. Beakley – joined in this new series by Donald. The family loves each other, sacrifices for one another, and the children learn from their elders.
The pilot episodes for this new DuckTales dealt with something that all families know too well: forgiving grudges. Something unexplained happened between Scrooge and Donald ten years before the series started (which I hope they reveal as the series goes on, and is probably linked with Dewey’s revelation about the boys’ mother in the last few seconds of the episode), and the two ducks haven’t spoken in those ensuing years. Through the events of the show, Scrooge and Donald learn to work together and bury the proverbial hatchet.
It seems like every family has their share of deeply-held grudges. My family is full of them – and they are all about such petty things. Aunts won’t talk to cousins because of something the grandmother said 20 years ago, or something like that – it’s hard to keep track. The solution to grudges has always been forgiveness – choosing to let go of these acts of pride and spite, and get back to what families do, which is love each other.
In what was the most supreme act of forgiveness, God sacrificed His Son so that we could be a part of His family. He took on our transgressions against Him, and He had every reason to hold a grudge against us. After all, “the wage of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But He didn’t. He chose to forgive because He loves us. And that’s what we should do in our own families.
For this longtime fan, the 2017 reboot of DuckTales is off to an okay (re)start. It brings with it all the charm and excitement of the original series and adds some bits of today’s culture. Despite the strange casting choices of a few of the characters, I have enough interest to continue to tune in and see what adventures Scrooge and his family undertake as the series officially starts in September.
Like Scrooge and Donald, we should all learn to reconcile with those we are closest to. Grudges are terrible things that only hurt the person holding it – not the one to whom it’s directed. We have to learn to let go of such small, petty things. After all, God forgave us.