Welcome back to The A.V. Club’s official Ducktales reviews! Considering the myriad ways Disney aired “Woo-oo”—on the Disney XD Channel, on the app, on Youtube—by now you have to have seen the first episode, probably more than once. Hell, you’re probably sick of it by now. Well, finally we’re at the point where we’ll be getting new episodes at a fairly regular clip, although we’ll be getting a bunch of airings of these two back-to-back episodes of “Daytrip Of Doom” and “The Great Dime Caper!” as well. Not only will they also be available on the app, but Disney XD will be airing it several times today. To make a long story short, it’s Disney’s method of mimicking Netflix’s “always available” model while also staying true to the typical format of cable network airings of repeats. But it’s good to get back into the Ducktales game, and I look forward to playing along with everyone.
One of the concerns I made in my last review is of Webbigail. A semi-toddler in the original cartoon, Webby has been changed into an aggressive, high-energy figure that threatened to undermine her inherent femininity; that is, she’s been re-imagined as just “one of the boys.” And, in some ways, she has. “Daytrip of Doom” smartly addresses this change early on, mostly by exploring how this new-Webby will be utilized in the series. She may be the master of Nerf-based war-games, but she’s not accustomed to simply “hanging out.” When the nephews decided to head to Fun Zone, Webby automatically assumes they’re going without her. It’s a small but notable moment, signaling not only how isolated Webby has been all her life, but how she structures her assumptions around just not being brought along. The episode pushing that melancholic beat a little bit more would’ve been nice, but bringing the excitable Webby along has its own charms.
There’s a limit to those charms, though, as Huey, Dewey, and Louie soon learn. Webby is a kid in a candy store in the outside world, her bright-eyed reactions to being on a public bus hilarious as they are purposely annoying (I pretty much lost it when she turned the page on the book that passenger was reading). Of course, they get kicked off the bus, and while the nephews play it cool, it’s clear they’re fairly annoyed at their tagalong’s unpredictable curiosity. I do like that 1) the boys don’t blame anything on Webby being a girl, “unwise” to the ways of a boys’ world, or 2) never really get directly mad at her. They know she’s new. They may have lost their “in’s” with her novice behavior (no more free drinks, high scores, actual access to Fun Zone), but they are patient with her (Louie expresses the most concern and exasperation with her, but Louie also lost the most, so I guess it’s understandable).
This episode also introduces the Beagle Boys and Ma Beagle, perennials to the comics and the original show. They don’t quite make the impression you might expect - even Ma Beagle’s entry, as badass as it seemed, ended up being downplayed by how easily she’s caught - but at this point it’s good just go enough to get that broad impression of them. This also gives Webby the opportunity to exercise her skills and save the day, right after a bit of self-aware catharsis about her not being “normal.” It’s a somewhat predictable beat, but there’s a quiet honesty to it. Having the support of the nephews behind her makes all the difference in the world, and gives the scene a bit of an emotional punch.
The B-story consists of an escalating conflict between Donald and Mrs. Beakley, doubling as both the show’s wackiest set-piece and a maybe-growing relationship between the two. Ducktales so far has been using Donald basically to perform classic cartoon antics, and I think it’s good to take a moment to appreciate just how well they’re done. Donald is the perfect character to filter the show’s most absurd (and dangerous) sequences, but it’s also remarkable how well the show grounds Donald’s protectiveness of his boys. He becomes a manic machine of anger when battling the beagle boys to get to his nephews, impressing Mrs. Beakley after a day of witnessing his idiocy and his (in)ability to take care of himself). It’s an impression that leads to the nanny admitting to Donald she’s a spy, with such a casualness that it’s tricky to determine whether she was kidding or not.
I debated long and hard on what grade to give “Daytrip of Doom.” It’s a hilarious episode for sure, and if I was sure that Ducktales was going to be just a comic showcase, I’d give it a fairly higher grade. But there are moments and narrative beats that suggest something more emotional, deeper, adventurous, and richer later on. I don’t know if this episode is table-setting (that Mrs. Beakley is a spy could be something deeper, or just a cartoonish character trait) either in terms of long-term narratives or animation sensibilities. So I’m being cautious with my B grade, despite enjoying it immensely, while also hoping it really sinks its teeth into more adventurous tales and/or dramatic rhythms. I love how they’re taking the time to introduce various characters, beats, and concepts, but most people don’t have the same patience the nephews had with Webby.
- In general, I’ll be trying not to compare this new series to the old one (unless there are specific references). My grades and my reviews will not (to the best of my abilities) reflect on the old show.
- If you’re wondering where Character Actress Margo Martindale disappeared to in Bojack Horseman, she apparently got the job voicing Ma Beagle. Keep up that character work, Martindale!
- Ma Beagle implies that she knows Mrs. Beakley beyond their meeting in this episode. We may learn that Mrs. Beakley is a spy, but the revelation doesn’t go beyond that. Spy for what, exactly?
- Scrooge not being involved very little in this episode is amusing but disappointing in some ways. I like that the show is biding its time to pulling cranky ol’ Scrooge into the emotional, familial orbit of his nephews, but he’s such an outsized character that having so little of him in the second episode feels like a loss. Apparently he has the ability to turn water into gold coins, so there’s that.
- Due to the weird scheduling, and the lack of a screener, the review for “The Great Dime Chase!” will be arriving tomorrow.