In about 15 minutes, five-year-old me will meet 35-year-old me. I think we’re going to get along swimmingly…
INITIAL THOUGHTS (to be updated as I form more initial thoughts):
These two premiere episodes answered most of my “concerns” (and I use that word loosely) about a new version of DuckTales. While the show echoes classic DT and the Barks/Rosa stories, it stands on its own and is developing these characters in its own unique direction. And they’re doing it without sacrificing the essence of who these characters are at their core.
For example, all of the elements of the new Mrs. Beakley were present in the classic Mrs. Beakley and vice versa. She could be daring in classic DT (see the first season episodes “Maid of the Myth” and “Cold Duck” as examples). However, classic DT chose to emphasize the grandmotherly aspect of Beakley more than the adventurous side because that aspect of her character better-suited the needs of the series, and DT 2017 is taking the opposite approach because an adventurous Beakley suits its needs better. Yet both are valid because it’s still the same character.
Same for Webby. The Webby we see in this show was present in the old show. Contrary to what some of the reviewers have been saying, Webby went on many adventures and was incredibly brave and daring in classic DT. She now has the opportunity to develop that aspect of her character in this new series even further. As for the nephews, they’re only a few shades different from Russi Taylor’s take on the nephews, and this is to be expected, because they’re being played as older–more adolescent than pre-adolescent.
In other words, the comparisons that the entertainment media have been making regarding classic DT vs. new DT are rather ludicrous now that I’ve seen the show for myself. As Frank Angones told us time and time again, every creative choice they’ve made has a story-based motivation behind it. And these creative choices were necessary to set this show apart from its predecessors and counterparts, both on screen and in print. The good news? These choices work.
The stand-out character for me in the premiere was Donald. I’ve never seen this version of Donald on-screen before. Tony Anselmo really rose to the challenge of playing shades of Donald that he may never have been asked to play before, one that actually seems rooted in the Carl Barks 10-pagers that focused on Donald as parent and Everyman.
Understand: I love everything that Donald has ever been in. I’m a huge fan of the shorts, the Navy Donald from classic DT, “Quack Pack” Donald, etc. But Barks’ Donald is my favorite, especially when he’s exploring Donald’s humanity. The character is never more intriguing. I’ve been waiting for years to see the Barks Donald brought to 2D life.
I see where they’re going with the theme of family. It’s remarkable, because Disney has always presented a progressive idea of family. In the comics, however, Donald is the steady adult in the boys’ lives. At the end of the premiere, Scrooge and Donald basically agree to co-parent the lads. That’s a step beyond what we’ve seen before. I look forward to seeing how this arrangement develops and how Scrooge impacts each nephew individually. Louie obviously needs to be taught about honesty and hard work. Huey has to be taught how to use his knowledge astutely. And Dewey could use a few lessons in curtailing his adventurous impulses.
Glomgold is hilarious. Keith Ferguson carries on Hal Smith’s characterization in classic DT nicely while giving it a fun twist. This Glomgold seems as if he’s stepped right out of our world of celebrity (and political) CEOs.
Finally, I’m relieved that they balance the adventure and the comedy evenly. I was concerned too much of an emphasis would be placed on humor. The Ducks, whether on TV or in the comics, have always used humor organically. It’s the sly side remark, the throwaway gag, etc. The humor aids and abets the plot; it doesn’t get in its way. These two episodes continued that approach.
A sentimental note: DuckTales was the first TV show I loved, and in some ways, it’s the only TV show I’ve ever loved to the point that I can watch it on repeat. Most shows I’m cool with only seeing once and moving on. Not classic DT. I’ve seen each episode dozens of times, if not hundreds. It’s been present in my life for 30 years. That show (and the radio series “Adventures in Odyssey”) opened up my world to some of the greatest storytelling in history. I discovered Carl Barks, classic television, some of the greatest actors ever, history/literature/science, etc., not because of school but because talking Ducks and those who made them talk cared enough to create stories and characters that were interesting and intelligent and exciting.
As for DT 2017, when the premiere episodes finished this morning, I felt the same way I did back in 1987. I wanted to see more. And I wanted to watch these two episodes again and again (thanks to the Disney marketing machine, I can). That, to me, is the greatest sign of success for DT 2017.
I hope there are five-year-olds watching this premiere today whose worlds are about to be opened to some of the best characters and stories they’ll ever encounter in their lives…