DUCKTALES is back...Woo-oo!

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Over the last few months, I’ve been doing quite a bit of coverage of Disney’s DUCKTALES relaunch.  I have to admit, a big part of me was very concerned that I was overhyping it to the point where there was no way I could enjoy it.  On Saturday, August 12th, they aired the premiere episode, “WOO-OO!” repeating it for 24 hours straight.  Probably a bit excessive, but I am here to review the episode itself, NOT the marketing strategy.

In the new DUCKTAKES, the episode starts with Donald Duck freaking out because he has a job interview and no babysitter available for his nephew.  With some concern, he ends up bringing them to stay with their great Uncle Scrooge.  Because of a falling out ten years ago between Donald and Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, and Louie didn’t even know that Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the world, was part of the family.  The boys try to get to know Scrooge, but Scrooge is a bit dismayed when they tell him “You used to be somebody!”  Scrooge locks them in a room to keep them out of his way.  They escape, with the help of Webby, the granddaughter of Scrooge’s bodyguard/maid/definitely-not-secretary Mrs Beakley.  

They end up heading into the a “secret wing” of the house (actually the garage).  There they find many artifacts of Scrooge’s past adventures, including proof that Donald isn’t the stick in the mud they thought him to be.  At one time, he was Scrooge’s partner in adventuring.  The kids accidentally unleash several evil forces, and with’s Scrooge’s help, they subdue them all.  Scrooge realizes how much he missed adventuring and invites the children with him to find Atlantis, going behind Donald and Mrs. Beakley’s back as both of them are very overprotective of their respective adopted children.

They find the Heart of Atlantis, and in the end, Donald and Beakley decide that the children are going to get into trouble anyway, so it is good that they have Scrooge to teach them how to get out of trouble.  The episode ends with Dewey finding out the reason behind the split between Donald and Scrooge.  Their mother also used to adventure with Scrooge and Donald, and something awful happened to her in their last adventure ten years ago.

If you go in expecting this to be an exact recreation of the DUCKTALES cartoon that aired in the last 80’s, you are going to be disappointed. The relaunch is very true to the original, but it also borrows heavily from Scrooge and Donald’s comic book adventures, and puts its own spin on the characters as well.  In the original cartoon, Donald was in the Navy and showed up very infrequently.  It is clear that Donald will have bigger role here. Also in the original, Webby’s role was annoying little sister.  Here she’s tough, smart, and a bit socially awkward.  

In the biggest change, Huey Dewey, and Louie each have their own separate voice actor and personality.   Huey is the goodie two shoes, Louie is the “evil” brother,  and Dewey wants to be a great adventurer.  In the original, the characters were basically interchangeable, with the same actress doing the voice of all three boys, plus Webby.  Here all four kids feel much more developed and individual.

The humor in the pilot was spot-on.  There were several great repeated bits likes Launchpad constantly chiming in “I’m a pilot!” to Glomgold’s attempts to declare himself better than Scrooge, even going to far as to declare that he was  “more Scottish than Scrooge.”  I also loved Louie going through Scrooge Manor tagging things that he wanted to inherit.  There were just several moments throughout the episode where I was genuinely laughing out loud.

I also loved the that all the characters felt very well developed.  When we find out in the end that something awful happened to Donald’s sister, it puts into perspective why he’s overprotective of the boys and why he has not spoken to Scrooge in so long.  And it was great to see the change in Scrooge from feeling washed up to being rejuvenated because of the kids’ desire to adventure like he used to.

It was also great that they dropped in several Easter Eggs.  We see artifacts from different old Ducktales episodes and Scrooge comics.  We also got references to some cities from other Disney Afternoon shows like St. Canard (DARKWING DUCK) and Cape Suzette (TAILSPIN).  At San Diego Comic Con, it was already revealed that Darkwing would appear in the series, so I am hoping that this is a sign that we will be getting a lot more surprises in the future.

I was a little concerned about the art style when I first saw it awhile back, but through the shorts and teasers, it really grew on me.  In the episode itself, it was even more apparent that this style was the perfect choice.  It really looks like the old comics in a lot of ways, which gives it a real clean look.  I am also happy that they didn’t try to make this a 3-D CGI cartoon, though it seems like animation studios may be getting away from that some on their TV cartoons.

And I was surprised that they used the word “kill” a few times in the episode.  Usually cartoons try to bend over backwards with euphemisms, but here they went with kill, which made the cartoon feel a lot more real to me.  It was a small thing, really, but that kind of attention to detail always gets credit from me.

As for the voice work.  David Tennant was perfect as Scrooge, and I loved Kate Micucci as Webby.  I am definitely not used to the boys sounding so “normal” (especially since long time voice actor Tony Anselmo is still doing the classic Donald voice) though I am hoping that will grow on me.  Launchpad’s voice was also hard to get used to for me. And Glomgold’s voice and character design weren’t really working for me at all. Which is a shame, because I thought some of his lines could have really stolen the episode, but I was turned off by the way he looked and sounded.

But these are very small concerns, and all in all, this was a terrific relaunch.  As someone who grew up on the originals, I loved it. And my kids enjoyed it too.  That took everything that made DUCKTALES special and enhanced it.  I am definitely curious to know more about what happened to Donald’s sister.  

You can watch “WOO-OO!” for free on the DISNEY XD app, and the series will officially be starting on September 23 with two new episodes.  CAN'T WAIT!

 
Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0