Back in 1987, Disney released an animated series based on the classic character of Scrooge McDuck. DuckTales proved to be a huge hit with kids (myself included), for it had a lot of whacky adventures. The cantankerous Uncle Scrooge and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, along with Webby, Launchpad and a host of other characters, would chase fortune and excitement across the world! It was a good show.
Like quite a few properties, Disney remade DuckTales a few years back. Disney’s record with remakes is a bit sketchy, and DuckTales is a beloved cartoon, so it is hardly surprising that some fans were apprehensive. What would become of the iconic theme song? How would the infamous characters be handled? Would this be a misfire, or would it be something wonderous?
Come 2017, the new show launched, and it is clear that it was both honouring its predecessor, and distinguishing itself from the original. From the moment the theme song started (remade into a modern, almost rock-song style), I knew I was going to enjoy the show. However, would I love it?
The answer, after just a few episodes, was an emphatic yes. Reboots can go badly wrong, but it’s clear the writers loved the original show, and wanted to pay their respects to it, whilst creating something new and unique. The reboot is funny, it is clever, it is filled with heart-felt moments, and the animation itself is silky-smooth. The casting choices were absolute genius too.
One of the biggest changes to DuckTales is how the triplets of Huey, Dewey and Louie are portrayed. In the original series, Russi Taylor (sadly now departed) played all three of them, plus Webby. It would be fair to say that the triplets did not have distinct personalities, and were very-much interchangeable. In the new show, they are all quite different (though their similarities are played upon for humorous effect on occasion), and they are all voiced by different actors. Dewey (Ben Schwartz) is the dare-devil adventuring extrovert, Huey (Danny Pudi) is the analytical, fact-driven introvert, and Louie (Bobby Moynihan) is the slightly cynical schemer. Their differences sometimes lead them to argue and fight, but they are fiercely loyal to one another.
Scrooge (David Tennant) is in some respects the same character he was in the original (where he was played by the dearly-departed Alan Young), but with more layers (due to the show’s more sophisticated story-telling). Tennant is perfect for this role, gradually unwrapping Scrooge’s heart and turning him from a miserly loner to a still-miserly-but-devoted-family-man over the course of the series.
Alongside the changes to the triplets, another character receives major changes – Webby Vanderquack was a quiet, very girly-girl in the original show. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but Webby was a very-underdeveloped character in the original. In the new show, she is a lover of mysteries, fascinated by the McDuck clan, and seeking her place in the world. Played by Kate Micucci (who brings an unmistakeable energy to the role), Webby virtually bounces off the walls with intensity, and provides some of the biggest laughs too.
A number of other characters from the original show returned to the reboot. Mrs Beakley was an older, doting nanny the first time around. Here, she is still Webby’s grandmother, but she is younger, and has a mysterious past as a spy. She also trains Webby in survival skills, and is ferociously protective of her young charge. Toks Olagundoye brings her to life, with a distinctive English accent.
Launchpad McQuack was the pilot for Scrooge in the original show, and he’s the pilot and driver in the new show. This time around, Launchpad tends to be more of a comic relief character, and he has a tendency to crash virtually every moving vehicle, but he has a heart of gold.
One of my favourite characters in the new show is the villainous-yet-stupid Flintheart Glomgold! Flintheart carries an historical grudge for Scrooge, regards Scrooge as his greatest enemy, and believes he is Scrooge’s greatest enemy. His schemes are usually dreadfully conceived, and they nearly always end in disaster, but he’s certainly tenacious!
There are many other great characters, and I can’t do them all justice in this post. We get to see Donald Duck as a fleshed out character, we are introduced to Della Duck (Donald’s sister, and the mother of the triplets). There are new versions of Gyro Gearloose and Gizmo Duck. We are even introduced to a new incarnation of Darkwing Duck! There is so much going on, yet the show never loses sight of the core characters, their adventures, or their development as a family.
At the risk of being controversial, I am going to say the the reboot is superior to the original. Yes, that’s right, I went there. There is a smoothness to the show, to the humour, the stories, and the style, that is unrivalled. Disney out-did themselves here, and created a show that does not dumb things down for kids, but rather, treats children watching the show with respect, with sophisticated threads and stories and ideas. Unfortunately Disney, as they so often do, cancelled the show after a short run of three seasons.
It seems Disney will often take shows that are proving to be popular and critically acclaimed, and then cut them off. Gravity Falls, Star vs The Forces of Evil, The Owl House, DuckTales… and that’s just within the last ten years. Gargoyles comes to mind, and funnily enough, Gargoyles is one of a number of shows that gets a cameo mention in the new DuckTales. Chip ‘n’ Dale, the previously-mentioned Darkwing Duck, Talespin, and others, all get little nods in this show.
In the end, I have to lament the loss of a series that could have easily gone on for a few more years. Why Disney end popular shows so quickly is something only they can answer, but I suppose it means that we are left with a show that bowed out on a high. That counts for something, but still, I would love to see more of it!