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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iDuckTales/i teases its past and backstories, in both narrative and self-aware fashion
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I know that I mentioned I would try and avoid comparing this new DuckTales to the old show, but this comparison is warranted, at the very least for context: new-Gyro is quite different from old-Gyro. Old-Gyro was a brilliant goofball, a bumbling scientist that always had his heart in the right place, but could never fine-tune his inventions to the point that they’ve worked for the intended amount of time, or in the right way. New-Gyro is a bitter, frustrated genius who seems angry that no one in the world understands the importance of his intelligence. This gives me more pause than Webby’s change. The show is putting in the narrative ground work to define their new Webby in its own image, to enjoyable results more or less. Making Gyro into this… Rick-Sanchez-analogue feels less inspired, leaning on the darker impulses for the sake of it.

It’s part and parcel of DuckTales newer, darker take. It’s not really dark, though. It’s a bit more keen on pushing its audacious, nutty characters both into the realm of cartoonish insanity as well as the ugly and dangerous corners. Working with the people Scrooge work with will net you occasional strokes of profitable genius, but with the risks of the constant dangers of mayhem and death. That’s why Scrooge keeps his number one dime on himself at all times–he works with lunatics, and he’s no idiot. Scrooge himself is just as eccentrically bold as Gyro, Quackfaster and Launchpad: within a few days of meeting his nephews, he took them on a dangerous trip to Atlantis. He spends $15 million on magical defense and buys several barrels of silver polish. He has tons of money just laying around in a pool to swim in! Scrooge’s dedication to preserving his money bin’s/office’s ecosystem is weirdly sweet in a way though. There’s a family/loyalty vibe to it. The first cartoon and the comics implied that Scrooge mostly keep these people in his employ because they are cheap. DuckTales here implies the characters are on the same eccentric-mental level, so to speak.


“The Great Dime Chase!” separates the triplets into their own unique adventures, even going as far as to drop Huey completely. (Anyone else gets the sense the show’s struggling to find things for Huey to do? I find that weird for a lot of reasons.) Louie’s adventure starts off when Scrooge drags him to the office after catching him lazing around, forcing him to learn the value of a hard day’s work. The “hard day’s work” is really just Scrooge arguing with his board; I don’t really blame Louie for paying more attention to Li’l Bulb and wanting to peace out of there. I’m sort of struck how DuckTales seems to be more winking and more satirical towards Scrooge’s “work hard” ethos and the nature of his wealth being built upon hands-on diligence. Classic DuckTales would spend whole segments, even whole episodes, espousing the value of hard work for your riches keep. This iteration is a bit more skeptical, blowing through the number-one dime story with flashback handwave, and undercutting Scrooge’s dedication to labor with the Louie’s adventure.

But Louie’s objective is hard work, so to speak. Sure, it’s the product of a fairly straight-forward and cliched setup–lazy kid makes a mistake, tries to find lazy way to fix it, makes things worse, has to hustle like crazy to fix it all–but it’s more true to the action-adventurous spirit of the show. That action-adventure is structured more around humor over death-defying set-pieces, but the humor is solid enough, even if feels like nothing coheres into anything worthwhile long-term. Louie doesn’t seem like he took much to heart in from the entire situation (it would be odd to change his character so early in the show). Louie and Gyro don’t connect or team-up during their frantic battle with Li’l Bulb, who fused with some elaborately useless coin-counting machine and took the simple command of finding a coin to its extreme (avoiding sentient AI is the first lesson, but “clear search parameters and limits” is an obvious second). Nor does Louie and Scrooge bond, however fleetingly, over any thing that occurs (Scrooge is oblivious to the whole thing). The episode is just a fun, entertaining caper–and that’s fine, mind you–I’m just still trying to determine if there’s a clear direction to it all beyond that.


And a bigger point is made with teaming up Dewey and Webby, the B-story that’s also way more interesting. The two team up to find out more information about the nephews’ mother, Della Duck, by exploring Scrooge’s private library. It’s kind of a weird story, particularly how Quackfaster goes from cautious librarian to full-on psychotic protector of secrets, including swinging a sword at our small, feathered protagonists. It doesn’t make much sense (unless there’s more to Quackfaster than we know). After a series of “trials,” a secret room opens up, revealing a number of artifacts, and a note from Della apologize for taking the Staff of Selene. There’s more mystery here, and I’m looking forward to learning more–partly because of the mystery, but also because this seems to be where the richest dramatic and adventurous spirit is located. “The Great Dime Chase!” is fun, and the show is clearly stretching its legs a bit. I’m just eagerly waiting for the show to sink its teeth (beak?) into what it wants to do.

Stray observations

  • According to a few sources, this was supposed to be episode two, with “Daytrip of Doom” being episode three, but according to the Disney/ABC Press site, this is supposed to be episode five. I’m going to keep the order as is until I can get some more clarification.
  • Only half of the the theme song was played in this episode? I have a lot of questions: number one, how dare you?
  • 100% sure the very first joke they came up with during the reboot’s conception was the one about Dewey Decimal System having Dewey’s name. It’s a joke so obvious that I can’t help but admire they went for it anyway.
  • The fact that Dewey recognized Della in the painting implies that Della was around her kids long enough so that she could even be recognized. That in itself feels like a story worth learning about.
  • Gyro needing cards to talking to people reminds me of a bit from an episode of Doctor Who, another character who became mostly a curmudgeon genius. I’m pretty meh about it so far.
  • Speaking of which, it ends with Gyro burgeoning ideas about Gizmoduck I believe. Now that’s something to look forward to.

Contributor, The A.V. Club, with a clear preference for all things cartoons; check out his main blog at http://www.totalmediabridge.com.

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