Hello and welcome to a new column focusing on the 2017 DuckTales revival!
Before we get into the review, I want to go over a little of my history with DuckTales. Namely, that I have absolutely no history with this series or these characters. Despite living only a few hours from Disney World, I was never a Disney kid. I was too young to catch the Disney Afternoon block when the show first aired. I’ve also never read a Duck comic before, though hopefully writing these reviews will get me to finally read that Carl Barks volume that’s been sitting on my shelf.
Even given all of that, my love for humorous action/adventure cartoons and the peculiar voice cast attracted me to the show. So it’s with full excitement that I say, let’s dig into the story of The Doctor and his three scrappy nephews, Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec, Abed from Community, and… Bobby Moynihan.
1. Nostalgia for Something I’d Never Experienced Before.
Having gone in blind, I was pretty surprised at how nostalgic this felt. There’s a deep sense of joy throughout the whole episode, of childlike wonder and fun. Just listen to that theme song (which, it turns out, is actually a re-recorded version of the original theme). From the first minute, you’re thrown into a world equal parts modern and classic, combining a modern sense of humor with timeless storytelling strategies. Even if you’re like me and have never seen the original DuckTales, have no fear: everybody’s invited to this ride.
For those keeping track, I wrote in a review a few months ago that I don’t really like adventure stories. Well, I’ve since realized that isn’t completely true. For me, there’s a good way to do adventure, where everything starts at the characters and builds out from there, and a bad way to do it, where characters go from one place to the next for no reason other than the wow factor. DuckTales does it the good way.
And it’s a blast! With proper introductions, intertwining story threads, and actions rooted in the people (ducks?) we’ve invested in, this is the kind of adventure that connects with you and then pulls you along through the ride. The directors know when to throw in a visual gag and when to let the details in the body expressions tell the story, and they know how to get you to share in a sense of awe. The music also follows suit, being suitably regal or madcap when needed. The team knows exactly what they want to do here, and they execute it marvelously!
3. The Cast.
Since this is the first episode, let’s talk a little about the cast. As mentioned before the first thought, the four primary leads are all fairly well known to fans of cult tv shows. Others in the cast come from live-action comedy backgrounds, including another SNL member, Beck Bennett, as Launchpad McQuack, and Kate Micucci, who seems to pop up in a lot of alternative comedy shows, as Webby Vanderquack.
I find it interesting that Disney chose to cast primarily live-action stars rather than look at the voice-acting pool, but all of the casting honestly works. The triplets all sound similar yet retain their own vocal personality quirks, and all other characters sound natural in their roles. Nobody had much trouble adapting to the voice-acting process. The only problem I had with the voice cast was that I could only understand every tenth word Donald Duck said, but apparently that voice actor has been the only voice of the character since 1985, so that point’s probably moot.
4. The Crew.
Over on the crew, our showrunners are Matt Youngberg, who worked on Transformers Animated and the 2005 Teen Titans show, and Francisco Angones, who came over directly from Wander Over Yonder and previously worked on the live-action sitcom Men At Work. You can see bits of each of these influences in the show, from the character-focused adventure of Youngberg’s filmography to the quick jokes and gags of Angones’s.
This episode’s directors came over from one of my personal favorite recent cartoons, Gravity Falls, and we get some of that show’s trademark exciting, well-paced, humorous action scenes. Let’s hope DuckTales also picks up some of that show’s mythos and mystery and makes it into its own thing.Continued below
On a final note, Noelle Stevenson of “Lumberjanes” and “Nimona” fame is on the writing team! Always cool to see someone working in both comics and animation. At the very least, it justifies covering the show on a comics news site.
5. The Set-Up.
A lot of this episode was set-up. We spend a solid half of the hour-long premiere just learning who the characters are before the adventure starts, and it’s all completely necessary. Unfortunately, even after all of that, I had some trouble telling Huey, Louie, and Dewey apart — wait, the blue one is Jean-Ralphio, right? And he’s the extra-mischievous one, yeah? — though I assume others will have a much easier time with this if they have past experience with the characters. We get a full idea of who everyone is, why they are together, why they matter, and why we should care about their adventures. We also go on the inaugural adventure and end on a note with potential for a bigger story to unfold.
Essentially, this episode was exactly what we needed story-wise, and the tone, animation, and everything else inbetween supported it and built this world before our eyes. There’s still going to be a little more of a learning curve for me, but as it is, I know exactly what to expect in the future and I’m excited for the next episode. So as a first episode? Call this a success.
What did you think of the episode? Any nostalgic stories to share? How does this compare to the original? Sound off in the comments, and I’ll see you in a month for the next episode!