Preliminary Review: DuckTales (2017)

The rebooted action of a beloved classic gets put to the critic’s test.

Ducks, ducks and more ducks…I had no idea that my next piece would be about Disney’s clan of the birds after Daffy Duck’s character piece, but here we are, kicking off September at the time of this writing with a special preliminary review. Yes, one season is finally in  the books for the highly-anticipated reboot of DuckTales, and it’s my pleasure to finally put some numbers and analysis on this bad boy. Let’s take a dive in like Scrooge does with his money bin!

The Lowdown:

Show: DuckTales (2017)

Studio/network/years aired: Disney Television Animation, Disney X.D./Channel, 2017-

AniB’s thoughts: A year or so ago, I sat down and watched with great interest the pilot for this reboot of the beloved 90’s classic. That specific first impression can be found here. Recently though, the first season of this ‘toon wrapped up and so, the time has finally come for the first review of the show at hand, and I must say- it acquitted itself well.

I suppose any DuckTales conversation worth its salt starts with Scrooge McDuck, the famous Scottish adventurer of fame and (very, very, very) great fortune. Returning more to his comic roots in terms of design, Scrooge’s miserly pallor is lifted in the opening act of the season, and the bold, famous duck of legend is back in full here. He doesn’t appear in every episode, but he does in most and when he’s center stage, he frankly steals the show. With the death of long-time Scrooge VA Alan Young prior to the show’s debut, it’s David Tennant- better known as one of the Dr. Who’s- who steps admirably into the void left here, and truthfully does some great work as the Scottish spitfire.

One of the most prominent moves in the adaptation was the decision to overhaul Webby Vanderquack’s character and personality entirely. While both this version and the original 1989 show saw a kind girl wishing to be the “fourth triplet” with Huey, Dewey and Louie, the current incarnation has some incredible martial arts and spy training, courtesy of her grandma (more on Mrs. Beakley in a bit) but also some social aloofness and naivete stemming from her sheltered upbringing. She’s energetic and tends to get overexcited about things that catch her interest, particularly the life and history of Scrooge, who she idolizes. It’s my opinion this version of the character is equal parts charming and cute, but not too annoying, and it works.

Another welcome change was the inclusion of Donald Duck as a major supporting character in this iteration of DuckTales. In an eye for detail, Donald is regaled in his classic comics sailor’s outfit, but is also true to the most classic iterations of the character- bombastic but also highly caring of his family and friends (particularly his nephews, who he is the legal guardian of in this series.) Cast as the one-time close member of Scrooge McDuck’s entourage who accompanied him on his globe-trotting adventure, the two became estranged after a certain key incident, which incidentally thawed itself out in the pilot episode.

A number of other cast members and places prominent in the original series return as well, from a Mrs. Beakley who’s a sultry British ex-spy/super maid in this outing, to Launchpad McQuack, who remains fairly faithful to his original iterations, though perhaps a tad more dimwitted than before. Of course, this also includes Scrooge’s old rogues gallery, from the ever-vengeful Flintheart Glomgold, to the bumbling antics of the Beagle Boys.

Overall, DuckTales was always going to be evaluated largely by not only its art style (which is simply eye-catching with that comic feel), but how it decided to approach these beloved characters in a new way, and overall, it’s not a bad re-framing of the universe with a more modern polish. The more timeless characters are as you’d remember them, though the triplets got a bit of an overhaul that’s notable as well (though using all my thoughts on the characters before the character section of grading would be a waste, wouldn’t it?) Additionally, the show features a nice overarching plot and mystery that no doubt got some influence from the creative team, a number of whom previously worked on Gravity Falls, and like the latter, the show has both an episodic and story arc hybrid sort of episode style going on, with a clear forward time progression. Finally, I will say the finale was a solid cap to the built-up events of the next season and a fine way to wrap up a number of outstanding questions while keeping perhaps the biggest one perfectly intact. As the theme song goes, “life is like a hurricane here in Duckberg.” It most certainly is, and it will be one of the more intriguing questions of 2019 as to where this series goes.


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D animation, computer animated. The style of this show is done in a way that emulates classic Scrooge comics a bit, right down to the key character designs, and this influence can also be notably felt in the revamped opening for the show. It’s a style that feel different enough from the original show to feel aesthetically unique, but pleasing, but similar enough that it’s unmistakably DuckTales. A fine job all around. 5/5 points.

Characterization: The thoughts above already encapsulated a wide variety of observations on the main cast of this show, with one major exception: the triplets.

The forever gripe about Huey, Dewey and Louie had been the difficulty in differentiating them as individuals. They also all had the “Donald Duck” voice treatment in most of their iterations, meaning it was often hard to complete understand what they were saying. In a bold, but not completely unexpected move, the creative team decided to overhaul the trio a bit and give them a) design makeovers, b) actual separate voice actors, c) more defined individual personalities, and d) both a strong sense of individuality but also unbreakable brotherhood.

So, to recap: Dewey is the headstrong adventurer of the three, though lacking in common sense at times. He’s the blue t-shirt. Huey is the one who retains the classic outfit with the hat in red, and in this iteration is the smart, nerdy duck. He’s well organized and believes in facts and data, order and planning- and especially if it’s in the Junior Woodchuck manual. Finally, Louie is the cool cat, in the green hoodie and with an appreciation for the finest things in life. He’s got his Uncle Scrooge’s penchant for treasure and the riches of the world, and he’s got a bit of a clever con-man inside him too. Sometimes, the trio can be their own worst enemies, but oftentimes, they make the best team that can overcome any obstacle.

While the story and show isn’t done being written yet, the reimagined DuckTales cast has been not only satisfactory, but rather well-implemented with a charm all their own. The writers do appreciate some references now and again to the original series, so keep your eyes open for the details!

4.5/5 points.

Story: Hybrid of episodic and overarching plot storytelling. As noted initially, this takes some cues from Gravity Falls in all likelihood, especially with the mystery elements, but some credit should also go to the original DuckTales, which occassionally had some mini-arcs on some of Scrooge’s outings, perhaps none more notable or memorable than the feature-length film that was the original’s pilot (and worth 5 episodes!) Within this show though, it’s a nice blend that keeps dramatic tension up nicely while furthering character development all the time, and episodes have good attention to detail of past events and prior happenings as well. Intriguing setup is in place for season 2. 4.25/5 points.

Themes: This show’s about family and the relationships people make, aside from all the adventuring, spelunking and various other (mis)adventures. It’s got a real emotional core in there though, and deals with some pretty complicated stuff within that simple premise, from the strains of being siblings to the dreams and desires of an only child to be part of that, to even an old duck’s regrets and misunderstandings causing very real pain. Don’t be fooled- this show even with its humor and the network(s) it airs on has some real weight in the characters themselves, especially when you key in on the details. It will be fascinating to see how this continues to unfold. 4/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: From the revived classic theme song, to the fast-paced action of the show, and the family-friendly presentation, it makes a good impression in this department. Some of the technology references though could get a bit dated as time goes on, but that’s a minor gripe. 4.75/5 points.

Overall: 22.5/25(90%): This may seem like a bit of a high grade for one season of a show with huge expectations, but it was a genuinely enjoyable watch that had a lot to like in its initial relaunch. It’s not a perfect show- nothing is- but it captures the essence of DuckTales supremely well and is a great show in its own right thus far, no strings attached. It’s worth checking it out sometime!

 

10 Thoughts: Week of June 18th

Now presenting live: a week of heroes and villains, plus some other animation musings.

It’s Hero Week unofficially here at AniB Productions- between the highly anticipated debut of Incredibles 2 this past Friday and the current arc in My Hero Academia, it’s hard for it to be anything else.

 

1.This week’s thoughts came a week late, thanks to the comprehensive Incredibles review that was posted last Monday instead. Before jumping into the highly anticipated sequel  this past weekend, it was worth a look back into its predecessor, which was an absolutely terrific film. Check out the review here if you haven’t!

 

2. Naturally, Incredibles 2 was a Day 1 viewing for me, and it lived up to the hype, which was impressive considering how good the original film actually is. While I don’t intend for this week’s 10 Thoughts to turn into a shilling column for The Incredibles franchise, here’s a link to that review as well.

 

3. One more Incredibles thought: It was an almost surreal experience to finally revisit that universe after all that time and anticipation, and while the true measuring stick for the sequel will be against its illustrious predecessor, this film will be the clubhouse leader for Best Animated Film of the Year, particularly at the Academy, where the revised rules as of last year made it far harder for foreign films to win at the expense of critics who often don’t take animated fare that seriously unless they specialize in the field. Much as I enjoy Pixar films and The Incredibles in any capacity, this is a change that feels for the worst- and in its first year of implementation resulted in The Boss Baby and Ferdinand getting nominations, which simply felt off.

 

4. Alright, I suppose it’s time to talk about My Hero Academia again, isn’t it? The series’ biggest fight to date in the anime finally occurred, and for those of you keeping up with the series, you’ll be well aware of the stakes that were involved in this one…which was translated pretty nicely from the manga.

 

5. I’m sure the followers of My Hero Academia also want more details on my thoughts of the fight that are spoilery for everyone else, so skip down to #7 if you haven’t seen or followed the series.

 

6. All For One is one scary dude with a terrifying Quirk that makes his options virtually limitless in a fight. Chances are that his abilities to augment Quirks was the inspiration for the Noumu program he’d spawned, given that the creatures are known for being essentially organic meatheads of stacked combat Quirks with enhanced physicals acrost the board.

What you really came to ask about though, was my thoughts on All Might’s final battle against his archenemy. It is in a word, symbolic. It’s not just that All Might throws the final embers of One For All in his body into defeating All For One, but it’s also the proverbial passing of the torch to Midoriya at last. Izuku is now truly the wielder of One For All, and the weight of that finally hits him as he gets All Might’s victory message… More importantly, it is a total changing of the guard. All For One is probably headed to a max-security outfit where he’ll no longer be in the picture, while All Might is no more as a hero, meaning Izuku and Shigaraki- who was teleported out of the battlefield against his will- now represent the new generation. (For the sake of knowing the manga, I’m just going to keep it to anime spoilers that I discuss here, but I’ll say this much: don’t expect things to slow down.)

 

 

7. Don’t look up if you want to avoid spoilers! It was definitely a fitting arrangement to have events go down the way they did in My Hero Academia and Incredibles 2 releasing in back to back days, which made for a vividly entertaining weekend in animation.

 

8. In non-hero week related stuff, the request to write a piece on “a anime harem of my choice” was quite entertaining, partially because it was so unexpected, but I do thank The Luminous Mongoose again for the nomination to do so. I think it embodied something important about life though: sometimes, when you write something outside of your usual routine, you grow from it, and even get rejuvenated to some extent as well. So it was a fun exercise!

 

9. Heard from a friend that Disney’s DuckTales reboot has had some more character developments, including a Gyro Gearloose that in their words, “is much meaner.” I’ve yet to sit down and really dig into the series, but I am intrigued, and last year even wrote an initial impressions piece based on the very entertaining pilot.

 

10. Since the success of the past character piece featuring Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom, I’ve been hard at work on a new one, which hopefully I’ll release sometime this week. There’s also a few other ideas in the works going forward, so every day and week will continue to bring surprises!


I hope everyone has a great week, and feedback is always appreciated! If there’s any animation show, character, movie, or even episode you might want me to take a look at, let me know!

First Impressions: DuckTales (2017 reboot)

An audacious re-start for a beloved 90’s franchise.

Hey guys,

If you’re a big fan of Western animation, chances are you had heard of the upcoming DuckTales reboot on Disney X.D. for a while now. Various teasers were dropped in the months leading up to the premiere, including confirmation of the famous theme song making the transition from the 90’s to 2017 with a bit of a refresher, and about 10 days ago from this writing (August 12, 2017), the premiere episode aired, launching what will probably be one of Disney’s biggest animated shows going forward in its reincarnated form.

So it’s been a while since I talked about Western animation, but the premiere of DuckTales was something to be anticipated, considering its status as one of Disney Television’s greatest properties, animated or otherwise, of all time. The bar was naturally high as a result, but the first thing to be expected (and was delivered) was that the show was not a 1:1 reboot based on the first episode. The animation style, for one, hearkens back to the comic book days of Scrooge decades ago, as does his outfit, and his nephews- Huey, Dewey, and Louie- received both design and personality overhauls. Webby Vanderquack in particular seemed to receive the greatest overhaul of anyone in the cast; while she retains her honest personality and desire to be associated with the boys, she’s been re-cast as an adventrous, outgoing girl with a load of hidden skills.

One of the more notable changes as well appears to be the increased role Donald Duck will have in this version of DuckTales. In the original show, Donald was mostly a minor side character who ceded guardianship of his nephews over to Scrooge while he served in the Navy; here he retains his role as guardian and the boys’ uncle, but is also in line to be a big part of the cast. It’s actually a thrilling move in the sense that it’s been far too long since Donald Duck had a starring role in what is anticipated to be a big-time show, and the dynamics of him interacting with his uncle should prove both enjoyable and perhaps even play into a larger story plot-points.

Speaking of the story, a good portion of the creative team here were the folks who worked on Gravity Falls. If anything, there should be a retention of the zany episodic adventures present in the original show (and that was pulled off with aplomb in the first episode), but also a seamless integration of larger story-arc elements. Details in the premiere support the idea of further development, but at the risk of spoiling major details, it’s definitely worth watching to see if one can get the same impression.

As for the episode itself, it’s a fantastic fusion of the new and old. In line with the idea that the reboot is definitely its own show, the plot has Scrooge’s great-nephews show up on his front gate when Donald is set to go off to a job interview, and mayhem ensues from there, introducing (or bringing back) the main cast of the show, including Launchpad McQuack, who already is hired as Scrooge’s catch-all pilot and chauffeur when we first see him, and Mrs. Beakley, his house maid, who seems a bit more tart than her original incarnation. The plot also sees the return of archrival Flintheart Glomgold, who gained quite a few pounds in his re-imagining, but retains his insatiable lust to surpass Scrooge as the world’s richest duck through any means.

To sum it all up, here’s what’s worth looking forward to off one episode:

  • Details: You can tell Gravity Falls had some influence on DuckTales here, as the same attention to detail and surroundings is perfect for a show thriving on mystery and adventure.

 

  • Characterization: As much beloved as the 90’s version of DuckTales was, the characters come off as somewhat flat roughly 30 years later, Scrooge aside (RIP Alan Young, you were terrific), and the comprehensive re-imagining of the nephews along with Webby suggests a much more dynamic character structure going forward, with plenty of room for character development, which already occurred in this one episode.

 

  • Animation: While the 1990’s original is noted for its heavy inspiration rooted in the style of the Disney Renaissance, the reboot has re-discovered its comic origins, and so the style is a hybrid between classic Disney 2-D productions and the windowed panels of a comic book. To start, it’s an aesthetic that works and matches the show going forward.

 

  • A great introduction for a younger generation: While the 90’s still doesn’t seem like that long ago, DuckTales in fact was from the late 1980’s and ended in 1990. Aside from a long-running series like The Simpsons, how many kids under the age of 10 realistically know about the nascent era of Disney Television and their animated shows? The general rule of thumb on reboots for a series is to wait about 10 years; a fresh compelling re-entry into the world of Duckburg is one worth doing, general time requirements aside.

 

Overall, the first real foray back into the re-imagined world of DuckTales is a successful outing, laying down the groundwork for what will hopefully join a short-list of “reboots done right.” It will be exciting to continue on back into the show as it develops, and should prove to be a great deal of fun when the first opportunity for a formal review arises.

(Finally..before you all ask, yes the money bin returns.)


Like what you see? Did you love the original DuckTales? Leave a comment!