[WARNING – This review contains SPOILERS.]
From the moment the first animation still was released, there were concerns about the Duck Tales revamp among die-hard Disney-philes. Naturally there were complaints about a revised art-style, more in keeping with modern animation aesthetics than the classic Carl Barks house-style. There were worries about the nephews being given distinctive voices and individual clothing designs. And doubtlessly in some dark corner of the Internet, someone groused about the decision to age-up Webbigail “Webby” Vanderquack to the same age as the nephews and give her a personality beyond “perpetually scared, sweet little girl”.
These complaints miss the point. The heart of the original Duck Tales series – and the comics that inspired them – is very much in evidence in the new series’ first episode. It is, appropriately enough, titled “Woo-oo!”, as you’ve likely had the theme song stuck in your head since opening this article.
The story is fairly basic, mirroring the plot points of the first episode of the original series. Donald Duck asks his Uncle Scrooge to keep an eye on his nephews for a few hours while he’s away at a job interview. The babysitting job (arranged entirely by Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. Beakley) coincides with Scrooge having a crisis of faith. He’s increasingly bored with the day-to-day management of his businesses and wonders if he still has it in him to live a life of adventure.
Hilarity ensues when the easily bored nephews, egged on by Mrs. Beakley’s granddaughter Webby, start exploring Scrooge’s mansion. The resulting shenanigans inspire Scrooge, who takes the kids (and his chauffeur/pilot, Launchpad McQuack) with him on a journey to find the lost city of Atlantis.
The new series has the same spirit of pulp adventure as the old comics and cartoons, even if everyone is carrying smart phones now. The writing is pitch-perfect, capturing the perfect mix of action and humor. I honestly laughed out loud and had to pause the episode during one exchange in which Scrooge asks Launchpad if he’s ever piloted a submarine before.
“I sunk a helicopter in a wave pool once. Same thing?”
Scrooge just sighs wistfully. “I’ve done more with less,” he replies optimistically.
The voice acting is top-notch across the board. Of particular note is Scrooge himself, voiced by David Tennant. Using his natural Scottish accent, Tennant proves a perfect bit of casting. After all, who better to play a far-traveling adventurer of indeterminately ancient age who solves mysteries and rewrites history than a former Doctor?
The decision to individualize the kids a bit more serves to strengthen the story, with Huey, Dewey and Louie now serving as a Freudian power trio. Huey – now the only Junior Woodchuck among the brothers – is the responsible, logical Superego. Dewey, who mirrors Scrooge’s devil-may-care attitude, is the irrepressible Id. And Louie is the scheming fixer Ego. Ironically, Webby – now an enthusiastic Scrooge McDuck fangirl – may be the most like Scrooge overall.
Another surprise lies within a subplot regarding Donald Duck’s secret past as Uncle Scrooge’s sidekick and a falling out between Uncle and Nephew that, in turn, hints at an answer to one of the biggest mysteries in the lore of the original comics. I’ll leave it for you to discover just what that mystery is, as Disney has put the first episode of the new series up on YouTube to be watched for free.
Duck Tales proves a worthy successor to the comics that inspired it as well as a fantastic adventure cartoon in its own right. Don’t worry about the changes or the different art style. There’s still race-cars, lasers and air-o-planes aplenty. If you’re a fan of Uncle Scrooge and the gang, this show will leave you shouting “Woo-oo!”