That’s right, you read the title correctly, after having to take a critical eye to The Defenders last week, today is all about one of the few reboots I’ve seen to make me this excited for a show: Ducktales (implied woohoo). If you haven’t watched the premiere yet, you can do so for free right now. On Youtube, at that, not on some obscure app you have to sign up for. Disney is betting hard on this show, they’re so sure you’ll come back for more that they’re giving the first one away for free. And after seeing the premiere… yeah, I get it. This thing is fucking good. Not just in the polished nostalgia way either, it’s a show that can legitimately stand on its own. But that doesn’t mean they don’t throw in a lot of Easter Eggs and nods at all the Ducktales history.
I will freely admit that Ducktales came along right when I was in the target demographic, and holy shit did I love it. Truth be told, I actually preferred Darkwing Duck more, but since I ended up being a superhero author some of that may have been genre bias. Still, the old Ducktales show was a lot of fun. Big stories, fun characters, loads of adventure. There were, however, weak spots. We didn’t really recognize them as much at the time, but as years have gone on and the overall quality/complexity of cartoons has increased (cough Gravity Falls cough) some parts of Classic Ducktales don’t look quite as rosy in hindsight. And Reboot Ducktales has tweaked pretty much all of those elements.
The first, biggest change that shines through is the triplets: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. In Classic Ducktales, they were essentially the same character with different colored shirts. There would be occasional minor differences, but for all intents and purposes, they were one character. Even storylines focused on their group as a whole, there are no episodes where Huey gets hooked on blow and pawns GizmoDuck’s shit for a fix. In Reboot Ducktales, they are clearly defined from the start as three individuals. The fact that they now have distinct voice actors (Dani Pudi, Ben Schwartz, and Bobby Moynihan) helps sell their unique personalities. Huey is more tightly wound, Louie is a slacker, and Dewey is… actually kind of a toned-down John Ralphio from Parks & Rec, which doesn’t seem like it should work but oddly does. Anyway, not only are the triplets unique, with their own interactions and voices, they’re also being treated as individuals. The premiere has a plot thread about Dewey learning to think more than 2 seconds ahead and not act on impulse. Not groundbreaking, I’ll grant you, but the mere fact that they were willing to give one triplet an arc opens up tons of new story-telling avenues for the Reboot to explore.
The next change Reboot Ducktales made: Webby. Her previous incarnation has aged… poorly, in most people’s esteem. She rarely got fun lines or played a big role in plots (outside of getting kidnapped) and was sort of treated like a tag-along. Reboot Webby is wildly different. I do have to pause for a minute and acknowledge that, as a lot of folks have pointed out, she does share similarities to Mabel from Gravity Falls. Grappling hooks, boundless enthusiasm, that sort of thing. That said, she also has her own characteristics as well: social anxiety, proclivity toward violence, fanatical obsession with the McDuck family. In the end, I think she stands on her own, but the comparisons to Gravity Falls are unavoidable, especially since some of the GF staff came to work on the new Ducktales. However, even if she was just a full-on duck version of Mabel it would still be a step-up from Classic Webby, and this incarnation is a lot of fun. She’s a character who’s been trained to deal with anything, but never actually been allowed out of the mansion. Knowledge without experience is a fun dynamic to play with, and they’ve already shown it’s a rich area for humor with just a few scenes.
Now on to what is arguably the biggest change of Reboot Ducktales: Donald Duck. The other changes were tweaks to existing dynamics in the show, but this is the insertion of a whole new character. New to the series, anyway, fans of the comics know that historically Donald plays a major part in the Ducktales world. Reboot Ducktales clearly wanted to go that route, as Donald isn’t shipping off to the navy this time; he’s staying with Scrooge and the triplets to go on adventures. Donald didn’t get a ton of screen time in the premiere, but what he had was solid. Really though, the most fascinating part of Donald being there is his relationship to Scrooge. In Classic Ducktales, Scrooge never really had anyone around to challenge him. I mean, villains, sure, but I’m talking on a personal level. Everyone was either a child or an employee, so Scrooge pretty much ran shit. Donald is different. Scrooge can’t fire him, he isn’t a kid, and most importantly: Donald knows Scrooge. He knows him very well, and is perfectly comfortable calling him on his shit. They showcase this with only a few lines in the first episode, setting up a great dynamic that could add a whole new dimension to the series.
Scrooge himself is much the same, more tweaked than overhauled. Since the previous voice actor passed away, David Tennant (yes, that David Tennant) has taken over the role and done as masterful of a job as anyone would expect from an actor of his caliber. They shifted Scrooge’s costume to more resemble his comic-book version, and gave him a bit more joyful enthusiasm for adventuring than he used to have, but all in all it’s the same Scrooge we know and love.
The last thing to talk about is the general tone of Reboot Ducktales. Aside from being more action-oriented with a stronger emphasis on quick, funny dialogue, Reboot Ducktales has also borrowed an element from modern cartoons: running mysteries. Spoiler Warning if you’ve somehow read this whole blog and still not gone to watch the show yet. Everyone lame gone? Good. So, the creators have said each season (It’s already been renewed for #2, told you Disney was betting hard on this) will have a running mystery plot that threads through the episodes. And at the end of the premiere, we got a teaser of what season one’s will probably be. Dewey, examining an old portrait of Scrooge and Donald on a pirate ship, fixes a torn corner to reveal one more person in the painting: the triplets’ mother. That is wild, because not even the comics have delved much into their parents (the dad is still a mystery, the mother we’ve seen largely through flashbacks, not interacting with her kids). It’s new ground that not even the most dedicated of Ducktales fans can predict, because we’re sailing in uncharted waters.
It’s a mystery that is an adventure for the fans, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the madcap antics of the new Ducktales. Woohoo!
P.S. If you want to see how deep the Reboot Ducktales went on adding nods to their history, R.K. Milholland (Creator of Somethingpositive.net) did an awesome analysis of Webby’s board, which someone compiled neatly here: https://storify.com/SR510/randy-on-the-duck-family-tree-aug-13-2017