“The Golden Armory Of Cornelius Coot!” is essentially the kind of fun, straight-forward adventure story that any iteration of DuckTales could pull out of its tailfeathers in a heartbeat. There’s secret tunnels, creepy spiders, mine cart chases (sort of), dangerous enemies lurking, hidden “treasure,” and revelations about said hidden treasure. It’s exciting and a little silly, a bit self-aware (that mine cart “chase”), and ultimately satisfying. It’s propped up by a hilarious B-story, involving Della trying to stay calm while dealing with Launchpad’s aerial ignorance. And it has the quiet depth of a young girl desperately trying to live up to the sheer adventure prowess of her own personal idol. So why does this episode feel... off?
To be clear, I actually really liked this episode in the broadest strokes. The animation, in particular, was especially stellar in the details. The moment where Della temporary freaks out on the plane, her eyes literally distorting in different shapes, was a highlight; Webby’s eccentric excitability and hyperactive movements were another. The main story was solid: again, having Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby all together to play off each other pays dividends, and even if the triplets’ lack of enthusiasm in the adventure kills the energy a bit (even from Dewey???), the rapport is still strong. I have a soft spot for adventure tales that don’t end in treasure-treasure, but end with key revelations about the folklore or legend involved (yes, I’m a fan of the Uncharted series), so Coot popping all his corn to simulate “shots from all sides” is cartoonishly clever, by which I mean it’s clever and can only make sense in a cartoon. And the Launchpad/Della story was pretty funny, sold by expert facial animations, wild gesticulations, and over-the-top reactions. It has all the elements of a solid, pumping episode the likes of which DuckTales is perfectly suited for delivering.
So why do I feel less than gung-ho about this episode? Something feels messy about it. Not messy enough to derail the episode, but messy enough that they’re glaring. Take for instance the beginning when Ma Beagle kidnaps the host to force her to tell them where the treasure is. Off screen, in the back, something happens, and the host is back. What happened? It looks like the host was able to fend off the beagle family with ease, a classic joke The Simpsons did here. But it was really unclear, and it didn’t really make sense (nothing implied the host was a great fighter, it happens too far in the background to register comedically, the beagle family don’t reference this at all afterwards, the irony of losing this fight after Ma kicks Big Time out the gang for past failures is completely lost). It seemed to imply then that the host was also secretly part of the grand mystery of Cornelius Coot, but she never shows up again. I’ve watched this scene a few times and it just doesn’t click, and it feels undercooked.
I know it’s coming off nit-picky to harp on one gag, but it feels emblematic of a few other oddities throughout “The Golden Armory Of Cornelius Coot!” Louie asks at one point if Webby seems “more Webby” than usual, and the other brothers agree, but I had to ask myself: did she? The underlying thematic point the episode aims for is worthwhile: Webby feels unworthy compared to Della’s exploits and accomplishments when she was her age, and no doubt eyeballing Della’s journal filled her with a sense of discouragement. Della conveniently sweeping in to save everyone only adds to her disappointment. Webby always admired Della, so the emotional beats of this work well enough, especially the final heart-to-heart the two have at the end. But, again, it feels off somehow. I don’t know if the episode needed to weave Webby’s desperation a bit more frequently or hit some of those beats harder, because honestly Webby didn’t seem “more” Webby, not until the end at least.
Again, none of these issues derail things too much, they just kind of seem as if they could have been given another pass during the storyboarding process. The mine cart chase “uphill” is funny on paper, but watching it is a bit of a drag. Big Time becoming one with the spiders is so woefully dumb that it’s kind of funny, but it also comes off like they weren’t sure what else to do with him. There are some specific moments where the timing and pacing seemed to not quite gel, or like they were stretched out a bit to pad for time: longer close-ups, frames sitting on a shot a beat or two longer than necessary, maybe too much Webby jumping around excitedly for a couple extra seconds. This review is coming off a bit harsher than I intend–again, this is a fine, fun episode, the kind of one-off that DuckTales is literally built for. It’s more or less the technical and aesthetic hiccups that keep it from being that perfect adventure.
- I meant to mention/ask this about yesterday’s episode: “Killmotor Hill” is the hill upon which the Money Bin was bit. What that has to do with Lena’s dreams/nightmares though, I’ve yet to figure out.
- I caught this while doing a bit of research, and I just want to roll my eyes to be honest. Of all the cliches to avoid, that’s the one you decide on? The mine cart chase was arguably the best animated sequence in the original show, so passing on the opportunity mimic it is a mistake. Seriously, if you can find it out there, watch it.
- Another small thing was the bit concerning the smoke that emerged in the cockpit of the Sunchaser. Launchpad said he uses gum to vent the hoses, but the part that Della places on that specific component looked like it was perfect for venting? I mean we’re assuming Della knows what’s she doing, so even making that specific plot point/gag occur was a bit forced. I get, like, that the Sunchaser is so messed up at this point that Launchpad would be the only person who knew about its weirder, funkier quirks, but it doesn’t play that way. (I put this one in the stay observations because it’s particularly nit-picky.)