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"DuckTales": Methinks Scrooge Is Secretly an MLB General Manager

by on January 2, 2007

Way back when I was a kid, there were a few cartoons I adored. G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Chip N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers were the main three, but DuckTales was up there too. Today, of the first three, only G.I. Joe still entertains me. But DuckTales proves to still have its moments.

The series’ central character is Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the world, who spends his time adventuring and swimming in his money bin. But his life is upended when Donald Duck joins the Navy and dumps his three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, onto Scrooge. The two sides initially dislike each other, but when the Beagle Boys try to steal a model boat that holds a treasure map, they team up and learn to trust each other. With the crash-prone Launchpad McQuack, nanny Mrs. Beakley, uber-trusting Webby, and faithful butler Duckworth by their side, Scrooge and the boys scour the globe for treasure while beating out rivals and enemies.

The best episodes on this set are the multi-parters. Both the five-part pilot “Treasure of the Golden Suns” and the four-part “Catch as Cash Can” show DuckTales at its best: they focus on character rather than adventure, and the characters (especially Scrooge and Launchpad) have great chemistry together. Both also feature an episode that stars Donald, which is always a plus. These stories easily make the set worth buying, but there are a handful of other great episodes, such as “Scroogerello,” “Double-O-Duck,” and “Merit-Time Adventure.”

Unfortunately, even the best character moments are spoiled by the adventuring/action scenes, which really drag the series down. Many of the plots are rather plain (especially by today’s standards) and too many of the travel episodes are weak. “Back Out in the Outback” is a snore, as are “The Golden Fleecing” and “Raiders of the Lost Harp.” There’s also a regrettable tendency to introduce new animal species, and when this happens—as in “Treasure of the Golden Suns, Part 4,” “Catch As Cash Can, Part 3,” and “Duckworth’s Revolt—the repeatedly hits the same low point.

The visuals are also a mixed bag. Some episodes, like the five-part pilot, have fluid and bouncy animation that’s never obtrusive, but most of the others use the more limited style of the late 80s. But some episodes have a zoomed-in quality and degraded visuals. That was another product of the times, but it’s not improved by the lackadaisical restoration job Disney has done on this release. There are color fades, dirt, scratches, color washes, and visual problems that typically plague series made twenty years ago. If you have a regular television, these problems likely won’t faze you, as it’ll look like it did on TV long ago. But if you have an LCD/plasma television, watch out.

The audio also has its problems. The actual voice talent is excellent (as always when it comes to Disney cartoons), with Alan Young a particular standout as Scrooge McDuck. But the entire series is in mono, and a few episodes, with their fuzzy files, sound like they were taken off a worn-out VHS tape.

Extras are limited: trailers on the first disc. The packaging is also mediocre. I’m glad to see them using thinpacks, the cover art is just odd. The screenshots have obviously been digitally restored, but most of them are taken either from episodes from Volume 1, or from the movie Treasure of the Golden Lamp. How hard could it have been to get some screens from episodes that actually appear on this set? Even the menus are messed up, with Disc 3’s menu featuring art based off an episode on Disc 2.

Overall, if you are a DuckTales fanatic, this set is for you. It also might be a good set to use as a babysitter. For everyone else, it’s a toss-up. As awesome as the multi-parters are, it’s a hard series to marathon through, and not all of it holds up well.

Episodes on DuckTales Volume 2:
Treasure of the Golden Suns: Parts 1-5
Back to the Klondike
Horse Scents
Scrooge’s Pet
Catch as Cash Can: Parts 1-4
Merit-time Adventure
The Golden Fleecing
Ducks of the West
Time Teasers
Back Out in the Outback
Raiders of the Lost Harp
The Right Duck
Luck O’ the Ducks
Duckworth’s Revolt
Magica’s Magic Mirror / Take Me Out of the Ballgame

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