Mirrored from the Ducktales 2017 thread in the Feathery Society forum in 2021. Posts by djnyr.

I come to bury Ducktales 2017, not to praise it. Now that the show has run its course, I want to put together my thoughts on just why it didn't work.


#1. The Kids

A. Literalistic Demographic Targeting

This first problem, I'm sure, is less the fault of Angones' crew than of corporate executives. Still, it's a major flaw. The focus on the kids as the point-of-view characters in the majority of the episodes, and the shoehorning of Webby or a Nephew even into most of the episodes that supposedly focused on an adult character, screams of nervous executives thinking "this is a Kid Show, Targeted to Kids and thus the Kids have to be front-and-center as much as possible."

This problem was compounded by the in-your-face "Personalities" given to Webby and the Nephews, which mandated that when they were on stage, they had to be hogging as much of the spotlight as possible. This isn't a problem in the comics, where Huey, Dewey and Louie are almost always around but are much lower-keyed personalities who don't get in the way of Donald or Scrooge. Original Ducktales, although it definitely placed more emphasis on the Nephews than the comics did, also didn't have this problem, since its HD&L were likewise personalities that didn't have to be at the center of things all the time.

Original Ducktales was also not afraid to leave HD&L partially or entirely out of some episodes, in order to focus more closely on characters like Scrooge, Launchpad, or Fenton. For example, it's instructive to compare "Double-O Duck" from the original show and "You Only Crash Twice" from the new show; both are Bond spoofs with Launchpad McQuack, but the earlier show trusts Launchpad to carry the entire episode himself, with no kids in sight and the only other regular (Scrooge) putting in cameo appearances at the beginning and end. The newer episode sticks Dewey into the action and makes him as prominent as McQuack. The idea that kids only ever want to see other kids doing stuff is typical literalistic marketing-executive thinking, but the entire history of children's entertainment proves otherwise; kids of earlier generations were as likely, in fact more likely, to identify with Batman and not Robin, or with Dick Tracy, not Junior.

I submit that part of the reason that so many viewers, even those who liked this show, wound up feeling like they wanted a lot more of certain characters (especially Donald) is because the focus on the kid characters sucked all the oxygen away from the adult characters, making most of them feel like extras or guest stars with the kids as the only real regulars.

B. Obnoxiously One-Note Personalities

The focus on the Kids, of course, might not have been as destructive as it was if the showrunners had not given each kid annoying and/or abrasive, and highly reductive, "character traits." Dewey's show-boating narcissism was the worst offender, but Louie's hustler persona was just as irritating in its own way. Huey's "personality" was less overtly offensive, but still off-putting, since it was built entirely on an utterly false stereotype--i.e., the idea that Boy Scout types are naïve, boring, uptight, and incurious, with no real sense of fun or adventure. This is a ridiculous caricature, largely created by nerdy couch potatoes who think access to a Smartphone and a GPS makes them lords of all history and geography.

As to Webby, I actually liked the idea, in the pilot, of making her a sort of amateur historian of Scrooge and Donald's exploits; there's the germ of a good idea of having a stranger making Huey, Dewey and Louie see their family in a new light and fully appreciate them for the first time. I also saw no problem in having her be a socially awkward but well-read kid obsessed with the arcane and the fantastic, although doing so makes the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook somewhat redundant. However, these potentially workable traits were Flanderized almost immediately, by making her unhealthily obsessed with Scrooge and turning her social awkwardness into embarrassing, hyperactive, violent craziness. Making her into an unbelievably superpowered Pixie Ninja was also a dreadful idea, as was the final blow of establishing that she was a clone with no real family background of her own and literally dependent on Scrooge for her entire existence.

The original Webby may have been too sweet and perfect at times, but she was likable and low-key, and was recognizably childlike; the same was true of the Nephews on Original Ducktales; the writers sometimes tried too hard to make them seem like "real kids" (bad homework scores, video games, etc.), but they were still identifiable as kids. None of the kids on New Ducktales ever come off as recognizable children; if the idea was to make them relatable to actual kid audiences, I think the writers failed completely (at least, I hope that there are no kids out there who actually identify with these versions of the characters).

Ultimately, the "kids" really came off as twenty-something adults--and not just because of the adult voice actors; it's also the way the kids were written. The adult-ification of the kids had a particularly creepy effect where Webby was concerned; she came off as the kind of unhealthy fantasy typically conjured by male nerds of the Joss Whedon variety ("Gosh, wouldn't it be neat if there was a cute girl who was even more socially clueless than I am, who was aggressively affectionate, who had no pesky family around, who wasn't interested in Dumb Girl Stuff, and who was into the type of Cool Nerd Stuff that I like").

The kids' personalities, in addition to being annoying and poorly conceived, were also shriekingly flat and one-note. Each kid's every line or action had to reflect their "personality" with a degree of consistency that you'd never actually find in a real human being. This owes something to Rosa, who is also obsessed with a inhuman level of character "consistency," and of course something to the Simpsons, which gave the term "Flanderization" to the pop-culture vocabulary. However, it has nothing in common with Barks' comics, which allowed the Ducks (as GeoX likes to put it) to "contain multitudes," or even with Original Ducktales, which never pigeon-holed its characters as rigorously as New Ducktales does.


"I agree with you that Huey's personality is not so much directly annoying as it is meta-annoying; it's annoying that this is the way they see scouts. That's ignorant and an insult to scouts in general and to Junior Woodchucks in particular. How could you be a Barks fan and think that Junior Woodchucks lack a sense of adventure?"

That's a good point, and a good example of another problem with this show that I want to talk about later, at further length--i.e., that the showrunners, if they were familiar with Barks at all, never engaged with the ideas in his work in the way an intelligent adapter should; instead, they regularly replaced his ideas and characters with predictable modern nerd-culture clichés (in this case, "Scouts = dull and unimaginative"). Something similar happened with Gyro; instead of trying to understand and replicate his actual personality from the comics, they simply defaulted immediately to the cliché of "wacky scientist = rude, arrogant and socially oblivious."

"re: Steelbeak. I already said that if they needed to give Heron a foil while also using a DWD villain they should've just used someone other than Steelbeak. Like Cement Head. Steelbeak's whole thing was that he was an omni Bond villain parody, he could throw a punch when he needed to but in plenty cases he was the one who planned out the episode's schemes. Making him just a thug who's ridiculously foolish misses the joke."

That's another good example of Angones and company defaulting to clichés instead of engaging with the original source; in Steelbeak's case, their thinking obviously was "Big guy with scary prosthetic = mindless thug"--ignoring the fact that the entertaining thing about Steelbeak was that he didn't fall neatly into any villainous stock category; he had a henchman's accent and build, but a mastermind's suave mannerisms and mocking sense of humor. Again, I'll have more to say on the clichéd default settings later.

"Apparently, Angones claimed that the idea was meant to be that Steelbeak was just raw and inexperienced. Problem is that's...not what came off in the actual episode/s. I don't know if there was miscommunication or Angones just making stuff up to cover himself once called out."

Oh, I definitely think it's Angones making stuff up, just like how he turned to a couple of panels of Gyro being mildly cranky or upset (in, I think, "Gladstone's Terrible Secret" and "The Talking Dog") in order to justify his destruction of that character, or how he jumped through hoops to explain why, after all the fanfare about the need to cast an ethnically "appropriate" Don Karnage, he cast a British actress as Magica DeSpell ("I didn't want her to sound like an evil pizza chef"), when he could have just admitted "Look, I wanted to capitalize on Dr. Who, OK?"


#2. The Grown-Ups

A. Super Scrooge

As with the relentless focus on the kids, I suspect that this show's deemphasis of Scrooge's acquisitive tendencies in order to push him as a Super Adventurer was partly driven by executive concerns, in this case worries about the optics of a hero whose primary motivation is getting rich(er). However, I think some of the blame for this has to go to the Angones crew's immersion in superhero clichés and their undiscriminating borrowing from Rosa's work. Angones and company took the preternaturally strong and daring Scrooge of some of Rosa's Life and Times stories and, under the influence of superhero culture, upped his power levels even more, and gave him a most unappealing admiration of his own awesomeness and a corresponding smug contempt for his adversaries; they even appropriated the "Because I'm Batman!" meme for him in the White Agony Plains episode--appropriately enough, since by the time he's organizing a motley band to oppose an invasion from the Moon, or leading an assault on the secret based of a world-wide terrorist organization, he's essentially become Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark (I would not have been surprised to hear him yell "Avengers Assemble" during the strategy meeting in the Moonvasion episode). The Billionaire Superhero take on the character was also underscored by the way the writers made sure to have all the show's "big" villains ultimately face off with Scrooge, since, well, that's what supervillains have to do when the resident superhero is around--even where they really had no history with him (like Lunaris) or were not supposed to have any real personal grudge against him (like Bradford).

Needless to say, this take on Scrooge has nothing in common with the crochety, greedy, vulnerable, eccentric, and sometimes childish Scrooge of Barks' stories. Nor does it have much in common with the Scrooge of Original Ducktales, who was a little softer-edged than Barks' Scrooge but could also be quirky, rude, rapacious, whimsical, and childishly panicky. The only trait borrowed from Original Ducktales' Scrooge is his depiction as a family man--which is stressed even more strongly on New Ducktales than on Original Ducktales, which is rather ironic considering the cynical undercurrent of the new show and the more sentimental undercurrents of the old one. This Scrooge was essentially the father of Donald and Della before the Nephews ever entered his life; he's not a loner learning to live with kids for the first time, as he was presented on Original Ducktales, but someone who's already raised one family and essentially picks up where he left off with his younger family members. This depiction of Scrooge as lifelong paterfamilias, combined with the focus on his adventurousness, deemphasizes his greediness much more than Original Ducktales did. His main character "arc" is the conflict between his love of adventure and his love of his family, with "family" soppily winning out in the final ridiculous twist, which was as sentimental, if not more so, than anything in Original Ducktales, and a lot more cringe-inducing, because of the smirking and generally mocking tone of the show. Sentimentality can be off-putting even when its purveyor is sincere, but it's repulsive when it's forced on you by someone who clearly doesn't believe in the sentiments they're espousing.

While this Scrooge has nothing in common with Barks or Original Ducktales, he also differs from his obvious inspiration, Rosa's Scrooge, at some crucial points. Despite my mixed feelings about Rosa, he always conscientiously (sometimes repetitiously) stressed the idea that Scrooge is a flawed and rather tragic duck, with sins in his past and holes in his life that can't be filled. Angones and company jettison all the really melancholy and unsympathetic aspects of Rosa's Scrooge; this Scrooge, unlike Rosa's, hasn't lost his parents, and is still in touch with his sister (yes, the showrunners try to create "conflict" with these family members, but it's merely hackneyed father-son-antagonism clichés and rote slapstick sibling rivalry--there's nothing here with the weight of the thirty-year rift and eventual reunion between Scrooge and Matilda, and through her the rest of the McDucks, in "Letter from Home).

Likewise, every time the Angones bunch try to show us dark secrets in Scrooge's past, they're absurdly weak tea compared to Scrooge's behavior in Chapter Eleven of Rosa's Life and Times. The Della revelation simply doesn't work at all; it made absolutely no sense for everyone to blame Scrooge for merely building a rocketship that Della subsequently stole for the solo flight on which she vanished. A much more dramatically sound approach would be to have had Della lost while accompanying Scrooge and Donald on a dangerous treasure hunt, or lost while on a mission assigned by Scrooge; that would have made Donald's hostility and the Kids' angry reactions somewhat more credible. As it was, the writers apparently couldn't bring themselves to cast Scrooge in a genuinely negative light, as Rosa would have, but they simultaneously tried to evoke Rosa-style pathos, making the whole first-season climax feel unearned on an emotional level.

The same is true of the "Life and Crimes of Scrooge McDuck" episode; all the vignettes during Scrooge's "trial" show Glomgold, Ma Beagle, and Magica as cartoonishly and completely evil, and make it clear that they would have been that way regardless of anything Scrooge ever did; the worst Scrooge is guilty of in his past interactions with them is rudeness and lack of concern for their problems--which, considering the fact that all of them tried to cheat and/or kill him or someone else, is entirely excusable. The attempts to evoke sympathy for Magica and Poe and depict Scrooge as being "mean" to them were particularly ludicrous, given the DeSpells' sadistic treatment of the peasants in the prior scene (particularly Magica's ghoulish suggestion about turning the peasants into turnips and eating them). Yet, somehow the writers wanted us to be deeply moved when Scrooge acknowledges these trivial offences, and apologizes for them to his rogues' gallery. Again, if the writers wanted a big uplifting redemption moment, they really needed to make Scrooge do something which required redemption--but they didn't want to go there.

In short, Angones and company took one of the most multifaceted characters in comic book history and turned him into a less interesting character type that's essentially become a modern standard-issue hero--the "willful and smugly egocentric but super-smart and super-courageous with a hidden softer side" type that's dominated most of the Marvel movies (Iron Man being the most prominent example). Michael Barrier once wrote to Barks that Uncle Scrooge in the 1960s stories had become "more the stock adventure hero," an assessment which I really don't think applies to any phase of Barks' Scrooge, but which applies in spades here.

B. Downbeat Donald

Donald's trademark voice admittedly makes him a tricky character to handle in animation based on the comics; original Ducktales dealt with this issue by keeping him as an occasional guest star, but the recent Three Caballeros show demonstrates that Donald can be the main protagonist in a more plot-heavy and dialogue-heavy series which combines aspects of his comics persona and animated persona. As GeoX pointed out elsewhere, vitality is the defining characteristic of Donald, whether in comics or animation. That wasn't the case in New Ducktales, where Donald was, bizarrely, turned into the least comic and most down-to-earth figure on the show, a harried, selfless straight man to a cast of selfish lunatics instead of an aggressive duck with a strong ego and his own flaws and ambitions.

As with the show's take on Scrooge, this owes something to Rosa, who in his later stories leaned too heavily on Donald-as-magnet-for-undeserved-disaster and as devoted parent (for instance, it really felt out of character for him, in Rosa's otherwise good "Three Caballeros Ride Again," to immediately declare his intention to use the treasure to put the Nephews through college, instead of engaging in a few flights of new-rich fantasy to match those of Panchito and Jose). However, Rosa kept Donald on stage so regularly that he also had opportunities to demonstrate his temper, his bluntness, and other aspects of his personality ("Hideous Space Varmints" is a good example). New Ducktales, by reducing Donald to essentially one of many recurring guest stars, guaranteed that we'd never get to see him become a fully-rounded character; the kids, or Scrooge, or the over-the-top villains, or other guest characters, are always there to steal his thunder. Even in episodes where he was nominally a focus character, like "Louie's Eleven," he's a hapless, easily discouraged and perplexed pawn, with Louie, and later Daisy, taking most of the initiative away from him.

The continual emphasis on the incomprehensibility of Donald's voice was also a very bad idea; beyond a few "what'd he say?" jokes, it was never stressed to this extent on Original Ducktales, and that show also never felt the need to give him an entirely different voice whenever it was necessary for him to be taken "seriously." For example, despite the jokes about the "Garbled One" in "Sphinx for the Memories," Donald was still allowed to use his "own" voice when he was possessed by the Pharaoh's ghost and gloating menacingly, and the ghost was allowed to speak in the same voice for the entirely serious, and even moving, climactic scene. Furthermore, the Caballeros show is evidence that Donald's voice does not really need to be commented on by the other characters at all, and that he can be comprehensible if his lines are written properly.

While on the subject of Donald's voice, I thought it was very telling that Tony Anselmo mentioned that the New Ducktales showrunners simply ignored his attempts to make sure that they gave Donald lines he could pronounce intelligibly; it speaks volumes for their low regard for the character, and the show provides ample evidence for the conclusion that anyone with such lack of interest in the original Disney Duck cannot adequately portray the other Disney Ducks. When Bradford refers to Donald in the finale as Scrooge's "most trusted ally" it took me a minute to realize who he meant, since Donald always felt like the outsider among this show's circle of characters, not an integral or even very noticeable member of Scrooge's team.


"I'd like to argue, somewhat foolishly, that adventuring isn't actually one of Scrooge's primary motivations. Think of how many stories there are where treasure is not the objective, or where the Ducks get rolled into an adventure through some other reason. Think of how many Barks stories start with Scrooge suffering from an ailment, collecting an old debt, worrying about the safety of his money, or trying to make a bit of cash in a creative fashion. Angones seems to have gotten the idea, partly inspired by Rosa, that Scrooge is all about adventure all the time. And what's this with all these mythical adversaries? Those are used only sparingly in the comics, but ever since Legend of the Three Caballeros, Duckburg seems full of them."

I completely agree that Barks' Scrooge isn't really an "adventurer" at all, except by necessity; treasure-hunt stories are only a fraction of Barks' overall output, and Scrooge's goal in those stories is always profit, for the sake of which he endures risk, but not without qualms and grumbling; he's even shown as willing to abandon the hunt entirely when things appear to be getting too dangerous (as in "The Flying Dutchman" or "Treasure of Marco Polo"). Also, even in many of the treasure-hunt stories, Scrooge doesn't set out to hunt treasure, but rather stumbles across it in the course of more mundane business activities--for example, "Seven Cities of Cibola," where he's trying to get started in the arrowhead business when he stumbles on the Cibola trail, or "King Solomon's Mines", where he gets wind of the treasure while in the course of an inspection of his world-wide businesses.

As you point out, Barks' long stories are just as likely to focus on Scrooge defending his fortune against the Beagles and shysters like Chisel McSue or Soapy Slick, protecting Old Number 1 from Magica, or competing with Glomgold and other business rivals; in fact, on a pure percentage basis, Barks did many, many more "Scrooge defends his turf" stories than "Scrooge goes on a treasure hunt" stories. It's telling how few of these stories Rosa did; "Cash Flow," "A Matter of Some Gravity," "Forget It" and "A Little Something Special" are the only examples I can think of among Rosa's long stories, and of those four, "Special" is really more about celebrating Scrooge's past and his universe than about his battle to protect his money or his dime.

Rosa, despite his engineer's rigidity, is a romantic at heart, and the idea of Scrooge as daring treasure-hunter obviously appeals to him much more than the idea of Scrooge as harried but dogged tycoon fighting to hold on to his fortune. I recall him stating that he couldn't write for a character whose sole motivation was money, and that it was his take on Scrooge--that he only values his money because it's a memento of his personal grit and glory--which allowed him to write about Scrooge at all. Original Ducktales, obviously inspired by the success of the Indiana Jones movies, also emphasized the treasure-hunting aspect of the Barks world at the expense of other aspects. New Ducktales, however, has gone either farther than Rosa or Original Ducktales, in stressing that Scrooge goes after treasure simply because it allows him to have adventures, sort of like hikers who use geocaching to structure their outdoor hikes. Despite occasional jokes about his cheapness and greed, you never get the impression that New Ducktales' Scrooge gives a second thought to the monetary value of the treasures he tracks down.

I plan to talk about the mythical adversaries in depth later in my dissection, but I also agree they're ridiculously overused, both on New Ducktales and in Three Caballeros (which is mainly why, despite its general superiority to New Ducktales, I'm not crazy about that show either).

"Donald's treatment also calls back to his characterization in the old shorts except there he's far more unpleasant of a character. Mean spirited humor as a rule works if the sufferer is a bastard who brings enough of it on himself."

Right, and that's a problem I have both with this show and a lot of Rosa's later stories; in the classic cartoons, and in Barks' stories, Donald almost always does something selfish, mischevious, or hubristic to justify getting a smackdown from the Comics Gods; although his character wasn't given that much depth in Original Ducktales, there also there was at least a bit of cosmic logic to the hardships he encountered in some episodes--in "Sphinx for the Memories," he's longing to be a big shot and gets his wish in the worst way, and in "All Ducks on Deck" his bragging stories to the Nephews come back to bite him when the boys try to help him live up to those stories. However, in some Rosa stories (like "The Dutchman's Secret," "Treasure of the Ten Avatars," and especially "Escape from Forbidden Valley") and in New Ducktales, he takes continual abuse without doing anything at all to deserve it, which to me is just not good story construction. To make matters worse, the Donald of New Ducktales very rarely even gets mad about his abuse, and seems to accept it as his lot, aside from a few occasional bouts of exasperated quacking; we never get to see him engage in the outrageous but cathartic retaliation that Barks' Donald resorts to if pushed too far (the best example being "Donald the Milkman").


#2.--The Grown-Ups.

C. The Della Nobody Wanted

I've already expounded at great length on the problem with Della on this show. The problem, in essence, breaks down into two parts, the first of which is that bringing in Della disrupts the quasi-parental dynamic between Donald and the Nephews which has existed as long as the Nephews themselves have. As soon as the boys' mother comes on the scene, that dynamic is changed utterly and a major aspect of Donald's character and the Nephews' character is eliminated. By bringing in Della as quickly as they did, the Angones crew showed that they had no real understanding of either Donald or the Nephews, despite their insincerely sentimental focus on Donald-as-parent. This is one Duck issue I entirely agree with Rosa on: Della can return in the future, but she can't enter the here-and-now without permanently disrupting the fabric of the Ducks' world.

That said, though Della was unfortunately fated to be a disrupting influence, she didn't have to be as poorly conceived and poorly written a character as Angones and company made her. I've already talked, in my section on Scrooge, about how the efforts to "blame" him for Della getting lost in space didn't make any logical sense; the equally bizarre flip side of that situation is the comparative lack of blame which attaches to Della, who was really entirely responsible for her own loss--she had absolutely no reason, other than sociopathic levels of egoism, narcissism, and overconfidence, to zoom off in the Spear of Selene. Really, how is she any different from a teenager who steals his dad's car keys, goes joy-riding, and gets in a wreck? If anything, she's worse than that, because she was joy-riding in a spaceship, not just a car, and because she left behind three unhatched children, who, for all she knew, could have grown up as orphans if Donald hadn't decided to devote his life to them.

When she comes back, she still clearly hasn't learned everything, and has merely switched gears from trying to be a Totally Awesome Pilot to a Totally Awesome Mom, trying to impose her own ambitions and ideas on children she's never known. As Alquacksey, myself, and others have pointed out, the fact that Della is allowed to immediately assume the parental role she never had, with little resentment from the Nephews (except when the writers decide it's time to manufacture a single-episode conflict) and none at all from Donald, rings utterly false. I spent the first four months of my law career, and a good deal of my internship before that, working in family law, and believe me, I've seen families that split up over much less dramatic incidents than this.

I obviously wouldn't want the Ducks' world to descend into realistically unpleasant family dysfunction, but then the writers shouldn't set up such grandiose Family Drama and expect us to take it seriously when its implications are too unpleasant for them to touch. As with so much else on this show, the writers are trying to have it both ways and failing miserably; we can either take Della seriously as a character and be repelled by her, or we can regard her as an allegedly comic kook not meant to be taken seriously--but not both.

The last-episode "revelation" with Bradford sneeringly revealing that he told Della about the Spear of Selene was also ludicrous, if Angones and company thought it somehow made Bradford responsible for her loss; to recur to the joy-riding teenager analogy, if someone tells a teenager that his dad left his car out in the driveway, that doesn't absolve the teenager of stealing it. If anything, the fact that Bradford was apparently certain that Della was so crazy that she'd drive off in the rocketship as soon as she heard about it indicates that her selfish recklessness was so ingrained and so well-known that Bradford was able to rely on it as a factor in his plans.

As I said before, in my debate on Della with Duckhuefan, I never want to see this version of Della again, and I sincerely hope it doesn't become the accepted version of the character simply by default of being the only version to appear in animation.

D. Misfire on the Launchpad

Most of the Original Ducktales generation (myself included), regard Launchpad McQuack as by far the best original character to come out of that show, and the most worthy to become a permanent part of the Duck-comic pantheon. Even those who are less than enthusiastic about Original Ducktales, like GeoX and Rosa himself, have an appreciation for Launchpad (Rosa even once said that he'd have used McQuack in a story if he'd only been part of his childhood comics-reading).

While Donald could have been slotted in to some of the Original Ducktales episodes which simply had Launchpad tagging along with Scrooge and the Nephews, the character's solo or starring episodes were built around his unique character and would not have worked as well with anyone else. Episodes like "Hero for Hire," "Top Duck," "Armstrong," "Where No Duck Has Gone Before" and "Double-O Duck" did a great job of establishing Launchpad as a character who believes he's a classic all-around Adventure Hero, dresses the part, and attempts to act the part, while being largely unaware of his own boundless clumsiness and cluelessness, which makes him come off as absurd even when he thinks he's being cool (his intro scene in "Three Ducks of the Condor," when he strikes a heroic pose for the camera, unaware that his scarf is on fire, is a perfect example of this). However, the real key to his personality is that, despite his clumsiness and cluelessness, his belief in the heroic ideal and his sheer persistence in trying to behave like a hero helps him to win out, though rarely in the way that he (or anyone else) might expect.

You would think that, what with Launchpad originating in animation, Angones and company might have done a better job with him than they did with the original comics characters, but no such luck. They began by making him a walking "Har har, he's so dumb" joke; the original Launchpad was not exactly bright, but his dimness achieved its comedic effect from being juxtaposed with his heroic pretensions, and wasn't solely a joke in itself. He wasn't even an established pilot in the first episode, unlike his first appearance in Original Ducktales--just a chauffeur and wannabe pilot, which, along with his costume change, further undercut the comic contrast from the original show--i.e., that such a goofball looked like a classic adventure hero and worked in a classic adventure hero job.

I will admit that the writers apparently took note of the fan complaints as the show progressed and tried--rather heavy-handedly at times--to give Launchpad a little more depth, but the decision to make him an obsessive devotee of the Darkwing Duck TV show more or less prevented him from fully recapturing his parodic hero traits from Original Ducktales; his hero-worship of Darkwing didn't allow much room for heroic posturing of his own. In fairness, this isn't entirely the fault of Angones' crew; Launchpad on the original Darkwing Duck show had already been transformed into a rather different character than he was on Original Ducktales--on Darkwing, he was quite content to be a sidekick and served more as a laid-back humorous counterpoint to Darkwing's would-be superhero act; it was a funny dynamic, but it obscured Launchpad's own original function as a spoof of action heroes.

The big Heartfelt (TM) scene in the final episode, with all the characters giving Launchpad a pep talk to get him to take on Steelbeak, was a particularly heavy-handed scene; I appreciate the idea of giving him a chance to shine, but it still somewhat misjudged the character; in effect, it played out like Launchpad needed to be convinced, for the first time, that he could be a hero, instead of just a sidekick. The Launchpad of "Hero for Hire" or "Armstrong" had crises of confidence when he questioned his heroism, but there it was a question of renewing faith in himself, not acquiring faith in himself for the first time.

Frankly, Angones and company missed a golden opportunity to resolve the differences between the Original Ducktales and Darkwing Duck versions of Launchpad; I would have tried to show that Launchpad, overawed by Darkwing and Gizmoduck's superhero exploits, had started to think that a low-tech hero like himself was obsolete and resign himself to being a sidekick, only to realize at a climactic moment that his brand of heroism was needed as well--but such an arc would have required the New Ducktales crew to engage in some deeper analysis instead of skimming along the surface of the characters, something they were consistently unwilling or unable to do.


"Then we have Launchpad.

He's probably one of the show's worst characters. For one, he's just an unnecessary presence in a show with such a bloated cast - his original role of filling in for Donald is no longer necessary. He's not needed as the pilot because Della is back. He doesn't really have any of what made him likeable - in Ducktales or Darkwing Duck - so he doesn't really bring anything to the table.

Honestly, his entire character feels like a meme from the 2000s - his entire character for the most part is "lolsorandomandquirky" humour, which really isn't funny. He gets the occasional laugh here and there, but most of his jokes are cringe-inducing. Then there's his stupidity - look, Launchpad was never the brightest bulb in the socket in either show. Still, he wasn't what he is in this show. In all honesty, his character is a little disturbing - he's barely functional, especially in the earlier episodes. He latches onto a small child as his best friend. He's constantly unable to understand the most basic of instructions or explanations... it all feels like something where the character has some sort of vague disorder or mental health issue. "

Adding to your thoughts a little, and voicing a few additional thoughts of my own on Launchpad...as with the kids and their "character traits," or the reduction of Kit Cloudkicker to a "a bear who cloud-kicks", Launchpad on New Ducktales was a victim of the Angones strategy of defining characters' personalities around a single characteristic--in Launchpad's case, "dumb." Flanderization is an overused term, but this show is replete with it; I sometimes think the Flanderization phenomenon is caused in part by the dominance of meme humor, where everything is dependent on being able to recognize a character and/or a situation in a single glance for a quick laugh. Whatever the cause, being dumb wasn't what made the original Launchpad funny and appealing; it was his being cheerfully oblivious and catastrophically careless and a genuine "world-famous pilot, adventurer and derring-doer" (to quote Scrooge's introduction of him in "Armstrong") at the same time.

Apparently that degree of duality in a character is too much for Angones and company to handle. Instead, they effectively took Launchpad and other multi-faceted characters and divided their character traits between them and other characters, as if he wanted to make sure that each character had one (but just one!) "character trait". This resulted not only in Flanderization but in cast bloat as well. As you observe, Della stole a significant portion of Launchpad's personality (the daredevil recklessness and even aspects of his costume), though without capturing any of his appeal; Scrooge, by becoming a swashbuckling Super Adventurer, also stole a lot of Launchpad's raison d'etre, as did Dewey with his own swashbuckling pretensions.

Something similar happened with Donald; Della supplanted him as the Nephews' primary and sometimes irritable guardian; Louie took over the scheming aspects of his personality, and Dewey his egotistical side, leaving him with little function. As I'll discuss later, when I cover guest/supporting characters, it felt like a lot of Gyro's personality also got handed off to Fenton (which also turned Fenton into a different character in the process).


#2.--The Grown-Ups.

E. "Mrs. Beakley, we're needed"...to do what exactly?

I decided to treat the "Main Cast" as the characters who climb atop (and crash into) the logo in the credit sequence, and to split that cast into the Kids and the Grown-Ups. Thus, this will be the last "Grown-Ups" sub-section, and I'll move into the recurring supporting cast (Gyro, Fenton, Darkwing, etc.) next.

That said, I find it hard to really think of Mrs. Beakley as "Main Cast;" like the other main cast members, her "character traits" are pretty rudimentary, and being that sternness and secretiveness are among them, she's not as flamboyantly noticeable as most of the other "stars" of the show. That makes her much less in-your-face obnoxious than any of the Kids, but there's still fairly little justification for her presence; in the original series, there was a simple logic to Mrs. Beakley's presence, as it made perfect sense that a busy duck like Scrooge would bring in a governess to help him handle the Nephews. She was hardly a very memorable character on Original Ducktales, but the dynamic between her and the boys wasn't bad, and was never too one-sided--they could play pranks on her, but she could also calmly get the better of them. On this show, the Nephews have first one, then two, parental figures present, so Beakley has little interaction with them and instead winds up being almost totally defined by her relationship with Webby and Scrooge.

The Beakley-Webby relationship, even before the utterly ridiculous last-episode revelation of Beakley and Webby's backstory, makes very little sense; Mrs. B. is played up as a grim, no-nonsense figure, strict and protective in her dealings with her "granddaughter," but she's willing to let Webby gallivant around the world with an insane risk-taker like Scrooge? The last-episode revelation makes, in retrospect, Beakley's attitude even more inexplicable; she abandoned her work with SHUSH (despite being evidently their best agent) and moved in at Scrooge's mansion so she could protect Webby full-time, and is so devoted to keeping a secret that might hurt Webby that she knocks out her "trusted ally" Scrooge rather than share the secret with him---but was fine in the earlier seasons with having Webby adventure out in the open where FOWL could get at her? As with Donald supposedly being overprotective of the Nephews but letting them go off on excursions with Scrooge, Beakley's rigid devotion to taking care of Webby was a dynamic that was never maintained consistently and only trotted out when Big Drama and Dark Secrets were required.

As for the Beakley-Scrooge relationship, giving Scrooge an aide-de-camp unafraid to humorously or exasperatedly tell him off isn't a bad idea; Original Beakley herself would act as Scrooge's conscience at times on Original Ducktales (although Donald already filled it in Barks' comics, making me again question the necessity of New Beakley when Donald is present). However, the idea of that aide-de-camp being an ever-present former colleague with whom Scrooge shares a colorful past undermines both Rosa's quasi-tragic loner take on McDuck and Barks' quirkily antisocial version of the character. Having that shared past be in a spy agency makes things much worse, however; not only is the idea of Scrooge-as-spy antithetical to the character (which even fans of this show have admitted), but defining Mrs. Beakley first and foremost through the shopworn and unrealistic clichés of the James Bond/Man From UNCLE/Avengers spy fantasies (seriously, she's basically a retired and much grimmer knock-off of Mrs. Peel of Avengers fame) ensured that she would never really develop a personality beyond "serious, British-accented, and kickass".

In short, the writers removed one of Beakley's reasons for being here in the first place (her relationship with the Nephews), made an embarrassing and illogical hash of her other prime reason for being present (her relationship with Webby), and could only create a third reason for adding her to the cast (her shared past with Scrooge) by violently wrenching Scrooge's character out of shape and forever pinning Beakley's character to a compendium of superficial tropes.


"All in all, I guess what I want to say is that the show's attitude towards the neurodivergent, those with varying conditions and those who suffer from certain psychological issues comes across, to me, as extremely disrespectful. Because the show presents itself as being inclusive and progressive, this treatment feels more upsetting and insulting than it normally would. It feels as though the show reinforces certain ableist thought processes, and the fact that it's so widely praised for being progressive... it's very invalidating. I pretty much never see this addressed, and between my own personal developments and the fact that this is a place where I feel comfortable being honest about myself and my opinions, I felt that it was finally the time to do so. That's just about it - a very long rant, but one that's been rattling around in my head for a long time now.

I hope that my thoughts have been clear enough, and that my discussions on issues that I don't have quite as much personal familiarity with were handled properly. If anything that I've said is inaccurate, please don't hesitate to let me know!"

Having spent a good part of my adult life being compared to Sheldon myself, I know where you're coming from, and sympathize. "Weird nerds" are still considered OK to mock in popular culture--and, ironically, it's "nerdy" types like Angones' crew who are most likely to engage in that mockery; their thinking seems to be, "yeah, I'm nerdy, but at least I'm not crazy like those weirdos over there!" Also, I think this is part and parcel of the biggest, most overarching problem with the show--it wants to get kudos for being sensitive and heartfelt, but it can't hide its nasty, mocking, cynical sense of humor for very long.


#3.--Recurring Supporting Players.

A. Losing Gearloose.

The treatment of Gyro on this series, as I've mentioned before, is one of the preeminent examples of how Angones and company simply couldn't be bothered to actually engage with their source material, and instead chose to riff on it superficially or overlay it with clichés drawn from other sources. Both in the show itself and in his online comments, Angones chose to hark repeatedly on the absurdly reductive notion that Gyro's inventions all "turn evil" or otherwise fail, and used that notion as the basis of his angry, frustrated version of "Gyro"--or, more precisely, as a justification for throwing out the original character and defaulting to the pop-culture cliché of the rude, bad-tempered, antisocial, and arrogant "mad scientist."

As with Launchpad and Louie, the Angones crew obviously took note of the outcry arising from his mischaracterization of Gyro, and toned down the character's abrasiveness slightly after the first season, but New Gyro remained unpleasantly irritable and full of himself throughout the run of the show--particularly in the "Astro B.O.Y.D." episode, where the writers emphasized his jerkiness relentlessly, then appeared to think that a few minutes of manufactured sentiment at the end of the episode made up for it (it didn't). New Gyro never for one minute resembled the humble, good-natured, easygoing Gyro of the comics or Original Ducktales, and in fact, was such a comprehensive reversal of Original Gyro, that he came off (as Matilda has observed elsewhere) like a Mirror Universe version of the real character.

Angones also didn't even have the honesty to admit, "We gave this character a personality diametrically opposed to his original personality" and instead tried to suggest that his version of Gyro was still inspired by the comics. Although I still wouldn't enjoy the show, I'd have a little more respect for its creators if they'd simply take responsibility for their own bad decisions instead of pretending that they had a plan in mind to bring their work into line with the source material.

The even more frustrating thing about New Gyro is that there was a character on this show (namely, Fenton) who was more or less given Gyro's real personality--cheerful and enthusiastic, but bumbling and fallible inventor. This was more or less officially acknowledged in the "Astro B.O.Y.D." episode, where Young Gyro acts more like his real self, and where Gyro refuses to acknowledge the resemblance of his younger self to Fenton but simultaneously acknowledges it by mellowing towards Fenton. Giving Gyro a new personality is bad enough, but shoehorning Gyro into a stereotypical "crabby boss versus well-meaning but fumbling employee" relationship and having him bully a new character who has appropriated his old personality is adding insult to injury.

B. Who is Gizmoduck--and why should we care?

That brings us to Fenton himself. I'll admit upfront that, while I know the character has many stalwart fans, I never entirely accepted the presence of Fenton/Gizmoduck in Original Ducktales. Part of this is purely personal, and a question of timing; I was a devoted Ducktales watcher during the show's first season, then lost touch with it for a time when my family made a cross-country move. When I reengaged with the series and caught up with the second-season episodes, my reaction to Fenton was "who is this new character who's hogging the spotlight from the regulars? I tuned in to see Scrooge and the Nephews, not him." I also remember thinking that he looked too much like Donald, which in turn made me wonder why we didn't get to see Donald any more in the second season, and in turn made me more resentful of Fenton.

I can enjoy Fenton more these days, but I still think that, unlike Launchpad, Webby, and the other first-season new characters on Original Ducktales, he rarely works unobtrusively as a part of an ensemble; his hyperactive personality, his superhero secret identity, and the fact that he brought in his own supporting cast (his mother and Gandra Dee) usually required him to be front-and-center in many of his episodes, and often reduced the original stars to foils or onlookers. I think he was a better fit on Darkwing Duck, where his earnest but over-the-top superheroics made him a great frenemy for Darkwing.

Spotlight-hogger or not, Original Fenton was certainly funny, and a good reversal/spoof on the Superman trope of "stalwart superhero posing as everyday nebbish"--Fenton really is an everyday nebbish who poses as a stalwart superhero, and whose knowledge and control of his own superpowers is less than comprehensive. This aspect of the character was obscured in New Ducktales, by making him a scientist instead of an accountant; New Fenton (as Alquacksey previously observed) did not simply stumble onto the Gizmosuit, but assisted in its development and has at least some idea of how to run it. Now, he's no longer a completely unqualified superhero doing his best to learn on the job while maintain an exaggerated pose, but a fledgling supergenius who learns to channel his brilliancy into heroic derring-do, which is a more conventional and less amusing take on the character, and weakens what GeoX called the "Everyduck" aspect of the character.

The original character's egoism was also more or less removed (and given to poor Gyro), while his original insecurity was played more sympathetically, as opposed to the more or less entirely comic take on the original series. Overall, while Original Fenton/Gizmoduck was clearly a superhero parody, New Fenton/Gizmoduck came off as a superhero-fan's wish fulfillment fantasy--unsurprisingly, since the creators of this show were obviously much more enamored of superhero tropes than of Duck tropes. Thus, one of the most manic and broadly cartoony characters from Original Ducktales became one of the more positive and blander characters on New Ducktales. In a way, that's a relief, since it made him more or less inoffensive, as opposed to too many other New Ducktales characters--but it also raised the question of why, exactly, he was necessary in a show that was already overcrowded with characters in general and with superheroes or quasi-superheroes in particular.


"Speaking of Fenton, his whole characterization seems designed around being inoffensive as possible once they casted Lin Manuel. They made his mother a cop instead of a trailer park dweller and made him lose any conniving or social climbing elements. This impacts how his persona as Gizmoduck is shown since he's neither being a gloryhound or insufferably righteous in DT17.

Even as a stand-in for Donald, I find Original Fenton interesting since it's clear that his gloryhound social climbing roots in his underprivileged background. They removed that for just making him into Gyro."

Building off of your comment, I strongly suspect that the decision to make Fenton Latino factored into the elimination of the glory-seeking, social-climbing aspects of the original character, which left him with no flaws more serious than awkwardness and naivete. I get that Angones wanted to have a purely positive and heroic Latino character, but, given that such was his goal, it wasn't a great idea to shoehorn Fenton, a character with a lot of well-defined flaws, into that role--since in doing so he sacrificed most of the traits that made Fenton funny and interesting in the first place.


#3.--Recurring Supporting Players.

C. I Was a Teenage Sorceress

Now we come to a character who, is, by and large, original to this show and not an ill-conceived re-imagining of a character from the comics or Original Ducktales--although she supposedly did originally begin as an adaptation of Minima DeSpell.

Lena's hairstyle will date as badly in a few years as Huey, Dewey and Louie's Quack Pack "look" dates badly now. However, there were traces of a good idea in the character at the beginning. Giving Magica a niece who's torn between loyalty to Magica and a friendship with Magica's enemies had some potential, and giving Lena this hidden emotional conflict also added an additional layer of characterization to keep her from seeming as obnoxiously cocky or one-dimensionally "cool" as some of the other characters.

However, the showrunners' fixation on amping up the series' supernatural elements, while simultaneously treating them as a routine and unremarkable part of the show's universe, really sabotaged Lena; just as it wasn't enough for them to have Magica be (as in the comics) a scheming mortal Duck with incomplete magical knowledge, it also wasn't enough for them to have Lena be a (comparatively) normal teenager with some family knowledge of magic. Instead, she had to be an artificial magical construct, i.e. a sentient shadow given a teenager's form and, somehow, a teenager's personality.

After springing this high-concept magical surprise on the audience, Angones then, predictably, couldn't follow through on its implications; there was no real attempt to portray what it might be like for a supposed magical creation to adjust to being human, since that would have meant Angones would have had to try to take a supernatural gimmick seriously. Instead, she was quickly and conveniently handed a barely-sketched new family and just became one of the gang, albeit with magical powers, and contributed little more to the show than yet more cast bloat.

Lena's magical powers, in a universe where the supernatural was less pervasive, could have allowed her to be an interesting and useful recurring ally for the Ducks in their more fantastical adventures--but since fantastical happenings were completely run-of-the-mill events on this show, her magic abilities barely registered. Like Fenton, she essentially became yet another superhero in a superhero-infested world, and was lost in the shuffle. Really, it's depressing how Angones and his crew seemed unable to think outside the superhero box; in Lena's case, they basically mixed the Scarlet Witch (troubled former quasi-villain with awesome powers she needs to master) with Shang Chi and Mister Miracle (good guys who break away from an Evil Mentor in order to Use Their Powers For Good--Nolan's first Batman movie also used this idea).


"Lena also puts me in mind of Nadia Van Dyne aka The Unstoppable Wasp, because Nadia is said to have been "raised" since early childhood in the Red Room Soviet spy-training facility, which is to say, she wasn't humanly raised at all--and yet is an apparently normally functioning teenager (she has significant traumatic memories, but is able to banish them by optimism and sheer will). True, Nadia, unlike Lena, at least *is* a human teenager...but she couldn't possibly be the character she is portrayed as being, given her backstory. Same goes for Lena. You can't become a human being without growing up in human society from babyhood through childhood. And if Lena is, essentially, a magical AI programmed to enact human female adolescence, then how is she going to become an adult? Is she even going to physically age? How real is her body? As you say, the creators did not take their own supernatural gimmick at all seriously.

I realize we're talking characters who are anthropomorphic ducks, of course, but for purposes of characterization they are supposed to be human, and we're supposed to be able to accept them as such. The show already made it hard for me to do that due to the magically extended life spans of Scrooge, Goldie, and Scrooge's parents. The revelation that a character I had come to care about was not actually human, and yet I was supposed to accept her as human going forward...that was definitely a bridge too far."

I intend to do a separate post just on this subject, but in passing, I'll remark that this show laid on the careless, flippant supernaturalism so thickly that, even if so many of the characters weren't already obnoxious or ill-conceived, they would have been extremely unrelatable, what with all the matter-of-fact supernatural origins, supernatural life extensions, competitions with the gods, and so forth. Characters who accept such things as a matter of course, with no fear, confusion, or awe, are simply not recognizably human.


#3.--Recurring Supporting Players.

D. The Relatives

It's rather telling that Angones and his crew transferred Gladstone Gander to the screen much more faithfully than they did Gyro, the Nephews, or Scrooge; he was already narcissistic, shallow, and flippant, so they didn't really need to change him to fit the tone of the show. He's actually rather more benign on the show than in Barks' comics, though; he's insufferably smug, selfish, and lucky, but lacks the nasty, bullying side of Barks' Gladstone. This Gladstone is bemusedly indifferent to the sufferings of Donald; Barks' Gladstone took positive glee in rubbing his triumphs in Donald's face. This Gladstone also feels more social than the Barks version--when he's acting the "cool uncle" role for the benefit of the Nephews, for example--while the comics Gladstone is utterly indifferent to what his family thinks of him. To be fair, most post-Barks authors (and Original Ducktales) have softened Gladstone as well, so Angones really wasn't radically departing from any precedents here.

Fethry, with his whacky obsessiveness, was also easily carried into Angones' world with no radical alterations--but, as I said when his showcase episode aired, his presence was utterly pointless in that world, since everyone else was as whacky and obsessed as he was. The comics Fethry's raison d'etre is being weirdly unconventional, but it's impossible to be unconventional when unconventionality is conventional. I remember some disappointment being expressed on this board that Fethry didn't have any meaningful interactions with Donald on New Ducktales, but it would have been pointless redundancy if they had, since their comics dynamic--Fethry dragging the hapless Donald into ridiculous or uncomfortable situations--was already being used for Donald's relationship with Scrooge, the Nephews, Della, and all the show's other characters.

Scrooge's family didn't fare as well as Gladstone and Fethry (to put it mildly). The immortality business with Fergus and Downy, just like the "Lena is a sentient shadow" business, was tossed off without even a token acknowledgment of its horrific implications; if they'd wanted to have Scrooge-Fergus interactions, they could have used flashbacks, or, if they had to, had Fergus pop up as a ghost (I guess they felt that wasn't an option after they had already arbitrarily ghosted Duckworth). Once they exploded any relatability or believability in order to bring Scrooge's parents on board, they didn't do anything interesting with them, either, and simply (once again) defaulted to clichés instead of engaging with the source. Rosa's versions of Scrooge's parents were lightly sketched, but rank among his most successful original creations; they were entirely believable poor but "decent" (as the Scots would put it) 19th-century Scottish working folk. Fergus' dignity, family pride, and high valuation of hard work, and Downy's overburdened but kindly and capable motherliness (Rosa's art did more to establish her character than the dialogue itself did) both rang true for characters in their time and place. I think Rosa's sense of history rarely served him better than it did here; his Fergus and Downy could have fit right into one of the so-called "kaleyard" novels from the Victorian era (i.e., bittersweet slice-of-life stories about Scotland's rural or working-class population).

New Ducktales' versions of Scrooge's parents, by contrast, came off as 21st-century middle-class American sitcom characters, with an overlay of overbaked Scottish accents. This Fergus was a standard grumpy and disapproving father, while Downy was a standard incorrigibly good-natured mom, and both characters were deprived of the touches of pathos and tragedy that Rosa lent them. The manufactured Family Drama (TM) of the TV Scrooge-Fergus relationship did nothing to remedy the lack of real pathos; as with so much else on the show, Angones tried to have it both ways, having Scrooge and Fergus literally growl at each other throughout much of the "Secrets of Castle McDuck" episode, and thus putting their relationship on as broadly cartoony a basis as possible--only to subsequently ask us to take the characters seriously and attempting to ram a misjudged Heartfelt Moment down our throats.

Matilda also was a sheer sitcom trope masquerading as a character, the spunky-and-randomly-whacky Kid Sister (a pet emu? Really?) who engages in goofy feuds with her Big Brother. I'm one of those who wishes that Rosa had been able to use Hortense in "A Letter from Home" as well as Matilda, and thus I regard that story as a little incomplete, but there's no denying that it presents a genuinely moving conclusion to Rosa's long Scrooge biographical saga, and that the conflict between Matilda and Scrooge feels genuinely "earned," based on Scrooge's real past wrongs. Since Angones and company couldn't bring themselves to give Scrooge any real character flaws or treat the superficial "flaws" they gave him at all seriously, there's no real reason for Scrooge and Matilda to be at odds, other than to manufacture alleged drama and humor, and the obvious belief on the part of the showrunners that, well, that's the way brothers and sisters have to act, because Pop Culture Clichés say so.


"djnyr, did you leave Ludwig out intentionally? Or is that a story for another time?"

I had been going to include Ludwig among the relatives, until I remembered that he's apparently not supposed to be related to Donald or Scrooge on this show. I plan to cover him, Goldie, Jose, Panchito, Daisy, and other non-relative recurring characters, in the last segment of this Part 3.


#3.--Recurring Supporting Players.

E. A Coat of (O’)Gilt Paint Doesn’t Make Something Gold(ie)

Angones’ version of Goldie rivals Angones’ Gyro for maddening wrong-headedness and laziness. The writers ostentatiously inserted her Rosa-created last name into the show, in another of their “See, comics fans, we know our stuff” moves—and then proceeded to ignore the comics.

Instead of building off of Barks’ version of the character, Rosa’s version, or even the Original Ducktales version, Angones and company simply defaulted to the cliché of the “shady adventuress who acts as both adversary and potential love interest.” Examples of this type include recent screen versions of Irene Adler, Vash from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and (going much further back) the character of Burma from Terry and the Pirates. The Countess Rosakoff from Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories is a comedic variation on this type. However, Catwoman is the best-known example, and clearly who the showrunners were thinking of; in fact, Angones explicitly stated (to Entertainment Weekly) that this Goldie was the Catwoman to Scrooge’s Batman, one of the most blatant examples of how he invariably transposes the Ducks’ world into a superhero world.

Angones’ cramming of Goldie into the Catwoman box was not only another example of lazily ignoring the source material in favor of borrowings from other sources, but was also a badly executed implementation of those borrowings. If the “shady adventuress” is going to be a recurring character whom we’re supposed to like, and if we’re going to sympathize with the hero’s fondness for her, then she should actually be likable—i.e., roguish, but with some redeeming characteristics.

Angones’ version of Goldie has no redeeming characteristics; her selfishness, greediness, and untrustworthiness are so gleefully played up for (alleged) laughs that her scattered “redemptive” moments ring utterly false. Apparently, Angones and company simply thought that looking attractive and making wisecracks makes a character automatically attractive, and thus didn’t bother to actually try and install some actual redeeming characteristics in their version of Goldie. And no, her bond with Louie doesn’t count; their relationship came off as the less than inspiring one of criminal mentor and criminal protégé, not the timeworn but sturdy “shady oldster and honest youngster” bond used to humanize scoundrels in adventure fiction at least as far back as Long John Silver.

The treatment of Goldie also provides a good example of Angones simply making things up in order to excuse his bad decisions, while adopting a trendy progressive pose at the same time (as with the voice casting for Magica and Don Karnage). In Goldie's case, Angones made a remark about how he had to change the character because Goldie in the comics was basically defined as pining for Scrooge. This is complete baloney when it comes to Barks’ original hard-bitten, down-to-earth Goldie, who never clearly shows any romantic interest in Scrooge at all; Rosa plays up the love angle much more, but his Goldie is hardly a pallid, yearning figure either—in Rosa, it’s virtually always Scrooge we see doing the pining.

Obviously, Angones made this ridiculous statement about Goldie to make it sound like he was being bold and modern and turning a docile love interest into a more active character. What he actually did was take a tough, crafty, grizzled, and believable Klondike dance-hall-girl-turned-prospector and change her into an effectively immortal and permanently youthful-looking character with superhuman combat skills—i.e., a shallow and unbelievable stereotype that’s become a much more prevalent cliché than the passive stereotype that Angones pretends he’s reacting against.

F. Old Friends from the Classic Era

Daisy, of all characters, wound up feeling like a breath of fresh air on this show, although she was very underused, even more so than Donald. I wonder if Angones was barred from messing with her as much as he did with Gyro and the Nephews because she’s still considered one of the A-list Disney cartoon characters; like Donald, she got to retain her official voice actor (instead of some trendy celebrity) and her established design, which indicates an extra level of “protection” from higher-ups.

Anyway, Daisy felt like a breath of fresh air partly because she wasn’t a reckless lunatic of an “adventurer” or a “humorously” eccentric monomaniac, but rather an ordinary person with an actual real-world job. Making her a party planner was actually an intelligent modern variation on her well-established clubwoman/society-organizer preoccupations from Barks’ comics, and felt entirely in character, as did her bossiness and hot temper—which, however, was tempered with some actual warmth towards Donald; she didn’t come across as selfish and arbitrary towards him as she often did in Barks.

I may be in danger of overrating this Daisy simply because she was one of the few characters who was recognizable as a version of her comics counterpart, and because she wasn’t aggressively obnoxious. Still, I consider her one of the few bright spots on this show; I would rather have seen several episodes of sitcom hijinks involving this Daisy and a less depressed version of Donald than have watched the faux adventures of Scrooge and the kids.

I suspect that Jose and Panchito, as characters from a classic Disney feature, were similarly spared from radical and wrong-headed “reimagining.” Like Daisy, both were refreshingly “normal” but underused, although in their case, especially Panchito’s, being comparatively normal didn’t feel entirely in character. There’s something off when guest-starring characters from one of the wackiest and most anarchic Disney features come off as fairly down-to-earth.

Also, Jose and Panchito’s personalities were not really defined very strongly; they were more or less interchangeable, with the chief defining traits being “Latin and enthusiastic.” To be fair, this has always been an issue with these characters (at least in English-language media; I know Jose at least has been developed much more in Brazil), but I think their appearances in their original movie and in the comics show germs of distinctive personalities that could have been developed to very enjoyable effect by more creative and imaginative showrunners.

Jose should be the brains of the Caballeros--the smooth-talking likable con man and charmer of the ladies; Panchito should be the heart of the group--the cheerful, naïve, reckless, but brave and honorable swashbuckler; Donald, in turn, should provide down-to-earth exasperation and nervousness but balance it with sturdy common sense and pragmatic courage. The recent Three Caballeros series came close to this vision of the trio at time, much closer than New Ducktales ever did; the bit in “Nazca Racing” with the giant spider (Jose tries to sweet-talk it until an impatient Donald quacks “Kill it! Kill it with fire!” after which Jose deadpans “He’s not with us”) was a great example of how I’ve always pictured these characters playing off each other in adventurous situations. The luchador stuff with Panchito in that show also felt entirely in character for him.

Of course, Angones and company did nothing with these embryonic character traits; the first Caballeros episode was essentially a rehash of the old sitcom chestnut of “Character lies to old acquaintance about his success until he finds out the acquaintance is lying too”, while the second one turned them into the MacGuffins in a caper spoof; a much better approach would be to have had them execute the “caper” themselves instead of being passive pawns of Louie, which would have allowed their personalities to be developed much more thoroughly—but that would have meant sidelining the insufferable Nephews and Webby for most of an episode, which Angones was painfully reluctant to do.

Ludwig, the show’s other notable classic-Disney-era guest character, got to keep his real voice, but was shoehorned into a much less character-appropriate role, to put it mildly. Angones’ reasoning here appears to have been “Ludwig debuted in the sixties—the world-wide spy organization trope is a sixties thing—let’s make Ludwig the head of SHUSH”—which represents a complete disregard of Von Drake’s character.

Ludwig as an analogue of “Q” from the Bond films—maybe that’s not an inconceivable fit, but Ludwig as “M”? There’s no way that this eccentric, oblivious and cheerfully egotistical lecturer would run an international bureaucracy—at least, not capably and responsibly, as he appears to do here. It felt bizarrely out of character for Ludwig to be trying to get Scrooge and Beakley behave responsibly, rather than having them being the ones trying to get him to get his head out of the clouds. I’ll admit, it was a joy to hear Ludwig calling Bradford “kookie” (one of his favorite words back in the old days), but, again, casting him as the sober voice of reason undermines his own whacky character (and also trivializes the supposed uber-villain Bradford by having his policy plans dismissed with such a cartoony put-down).

The Doomsday Vault episode, which seemed almost entirely disconnected from the Ludwig SHUSH episodes, made somewhat better use of the character, I’ll admit, by putting him back into his quirky expert/lecturer mold--although most of the humor there was in that episode was derived from repurposed dialogue from his debut in “An Adventure in Color,” not from anything original. In passing, I also find it a sad commentary on the modern zeitgeist that the 1960s Ludwig delivered humorous but occasionally educational lectures on the marvels of science, nature, and world geography, while the 2010s Ludwig is lecturing on how to escape a global apocalypse.

I have a few more recurring good guys I want to cover next, and then it will be on to the villains.


"Do you have a source on Angones' comment about needing to change Goldie? I recall a comment like that, but I haven't been able to find a specific comment between Twitter, Tumblr and scattered articles."

I went searching back through the dim, snark-infested forests of Angones' Tumblr page and found the Goldie comment:

Commenter: So I've seen some posts pointing out that on the comics it was actually Goldie pining after Scrooge instead of the other way around. What lead to the decision of Scrooge being the one pining after Goldie in the reboot?

Angones: To make her more of an active foil for our adventure show while displaying a new side of Scrooge. We wanted to be able to use Goldie as a character independent of Scrooge, which was hard when her whole MO is pining after Scrooge. In comics focusing entirely on Scrooge, that can work great because everything is viewed through Scrooge’s perspective. We didn’t want to have a character spend decades pining away in Dawson when she could be a fun adventure foil. For the purposes of the TV show, she can now interact in interesting ways with everyone instead of being defined by her relationship to one character.

Again, this comment (Goldie "Pining away in Dawson???" Scrooge's longing for Goldie "displaying a new side" of his character??? Hello, I have dozens of Rosa stories to introduce you to, Frank) betrays either staggering ignorance of the characters or sheer disingenuousness.

Also, while looking for this comment, I found another one confirming my guess about Angones' reasoning in making Ludwig the SHUSH director:

Angones: As for why we made Von Drake Director I’d SHUSH in he 60s, that always seemed like the heyday of the character, with his various (amazing) TV appearances and the like. So we thought it would be a fun nod to that.

As I theorized above, Angones' train of thought didn't extend beyond "Von Drake debuted in the sixties, so let's make him a 1960s-style spy chief."

Oh, and in regards to Mark Beaks, I'll cover him in depth when I get to the villains; I'm not sure why he's so wildly disliked (I don't particularly care for him, but he's no more obnoxious than most of the supposed "good" guys), other than, perhaps, the show's fanbase feels like it's "allowed" to hate him for being annoying, and can vent the irritation on him that should be spread around among the whole cast.


#3.--Recurring Supporting Players.

G. Employees and Others

Duckworth, on Original Ducktales, was usually a background character, but his drily sarcastic interchanges with Scrooge always added something extra to good episodes (like "Raiders of the Lost Harp") and were often the best part of weak episodes (like "Down and Out in Duckburg"). The trusty servant who skewers his employer's quirks with humorous and perceptive remarks is a time-tested and entertaining trope going back at least as far as Shakespeare, and I think that giving the notoriously quirky Scrooge a butler of this type is a good idea (although I'm not familiar with the character, I understand that the Italians apparently thought along similar lines and gave Scrooge a "regular" butler as well, Battista). "Duckworth's Revolt," his only starring turn on the original series, provided some interesting further insights into his relationship with Scrooge--establishing that he was proud of working for Scrooge, despite Scrooge's eccentricities, and that Scrooge had come to depend on him without fully realizing it. William Van Horn, interestingly, used Duckworth as a foil for Scrooge in his non-Ducktales story "Snore Losers", giving him some good lines at his boss's expense; I wish that more creators had carried Duckworth over into the regular comics and made further use of his entertaining dynamic with Scrooge.

Angones, of course, quite literally killed any chance of building on the established Scrooge/Duckworth dynamic by turning the butler into a ghost, which doomed him to being first and foremost a gimmick character and prevented him interacting normally with Scrooge or others. Like so much else on the show, having a ghost as a regular member of the household served to trivialize the supernatural; on a show where practically everyone is immortal, with little or no explanation, it also felt oddly cruel and arbitrary to have Duckworth be the only good guy who was really most sincerely dead. Angones' Tumbler "explanation" of why he made the decision to make the butler a ghost more or less confirms the arbitrariness of the whole thing:

Commenter: Where did the idea to make Duckworth a ghost come from? It’s wild, completely unnecessary, and I love it!

Angones: There was an early art exploration that was a family portrait that was nicely rendered but it all felt a little dated. Webby looked like a Bobby Soxer, Beakley was frumpy and confused, Duckworth was predictably stiff. I think the boys weren’t even wearing different colors; it was black shirts and matching red hats. It actually felt squishier and less vital than the original series. It was all very soft and nice and dramatically uninteresting. We knew that the focus of our series was that Scrooge was the world’s greatest adventurer and that he would have accumulated a series of bizarre and unique adventurous allies. Scrooge’s adventuring has had a massive impact on the world and the people around him. So we looked at that portrait and said “She’s a spy, he’s a ghost, she’s cute and deadly.” It all grew out organically from our version of Scrooge.

All I can say in response to that is, if the treatment of Duckworth (and Beakley, and Webby) on this show represents a form of organic growth, then it's the type of growth that needs a good dose of weedkiller. Duckworth could have been developed organically and interestingly, building on his traits of loyalty, sarcasm, and astuteness from the original series--but Angones couldn't be bothered with that, and instead decided (as he did with Beakley) to assign him a highly limited new identity in the name of being "unique" and "bizarre" (note to Angones: those words are not synonymous with "good" and "interesting").

Although Angones doesn't mention it in the above Tumblr post, the decision to make Miss Quackfaster violently insane was also obviously part and parcel of the wrongheaded "Scrooge should be surrounded with unique and bizarre wackos" idea that was the focus of Angones' series. Quackfaster didn't have a particularly well-established personality in the comics, but could have been developed much more interestingly and much less arbitrarily; essentially, Angones turned her into an Extreme! riff on the well-worn "nutty librarian" cliche.

I haven't much more to add on the other minor recurring characters. Fenton's mama, like Fenton himself, had her genuinely negative traits sanded off and became inoffensively bland and forgettable; the original character provided some darkly cynical humor at times, but that's all gone in the name of making her and Fenton positive role models.

Gandra got transformed from one stock type--the cute co-worker out of the nebbish's league--to another--the cute apparent villainess who has a star-crossed romance with the superhero. The new Gandra frankly felt more one-dimensional than the old one, who was allowed to be funny and relatable when she teamed with Fenton for comedy/espionage in "The Duck Who Knew Too Much." The new mad-scientist/spy/cyborg Gandra, like so many of the other characters on this show, felt like a pure comic-book fantasy figure. Making her a cyborg also continued the show's regrettable trend of making so many of its female characters nonhuman or otherwise alien in some way--"cute and deadly" clone Webby, shadow-creature Lena, immortal Goldie.

At least Violet wasn't a supernatural or science-fictional being, but she still felt more like a plot device than anything else, added to give Webby and Lena someone to talk to and to fill the "knowledgeable Woodchuck" function when necessary--which really only became necessary when Angones chose to remove Dewey and Louie from the Woodchucks and to depict Huey as somehow hampered and limited by his Woodchuckery.

Penumbra, like the other Moon characters, felt like she came in from another franchise; she was basically a much less interesting knock-off of Nebula from the Marvel movies (intense, dangerous spacewoman who starts on the villains' team but joins the good guys and whose humorlessness is used for comic contrast with the good guys' breeziness).

B.O.Y.D. also came straight from another universe, as Angones made explicit by presenting him as an Astro Boy homage; he ironically came off as more of a real kid than most of the supposed "kids" on this show (the voice actor helped a lot), but he didn't really add anything to the show; the attempt to give him and Gyro a Heartfelt (TM) arc felt painfully insincere, due to the generally mocking tone of this show and the nastiness of this Gyro in particular.


"That being said, on the topic of disrespect to characters... there's a serious implication that Duckworth went to Hell when he died.. . . When you piece it together, it just gets uncomfortable. What did Duckworth do to warrant being sent to Hell? Why is that a necessary implication to make for these characters?"

Honestly, I really liked Violet. . . You mention that she's used to fill the 'plot device'/'knowledgeable Woodchuck' role, which I can agree with. However, what stands out to me is that she's usually given a positive reception for it.

I agree about the truly upsetting implications of "Demonworth"; that's another example of Angones and company not bothering to take their supernaturalism at all seriously, and tossing off "jokes" (like the death-in-life doom of Scrooge's parents) that are really horrifying if we take them as seriously as the showrunners ask us to take the Heartfelt Moments.

Regarding Violet, I think the irksome thing about her, to me, is the fact that she's not mocked for being bookish, "nerdy", and a super-skilled Woodchuck, while Huey is continually mocked for it. It's fine that these traits, as you mention, are treated positively in Violet, but every time they are, it makes me irritated that the same traits are shown as annoying and uncool in Huey. This differing treatment of Violet and Huey is obviously partly attributable to Angones' usual eagerness to appear progressive, but also creates the distasteful impression that Angones is diminishing one of the comic-book characters in order to boost one of his own characters. Angones' partiality for his own creations is also very evident in his treatment of the bad guys--Lunaris and especially Bradford, who are allowed to be much more threatening than any of Scrooge's comic-book antagonists, with the partial exception of Magica (who was made too threatening in the first season, then turned into a joke in the remaining seasons).


#4.—The Villains

A. Second in Wealth but First in Ineptitude

Barks’ most fully-developed treatment of Flintheart Glomgold was in “The Money Champ.” Although I enjoy all three of the Barks Glomgold stories, the Glomgold in “Second-Richest Duck” is simply a duplicate of Scrooge (which is the main point of the story—watching Scrooge react to a spiritual double who’s every bit as eccentric, crafty and greedy as himself), while Flintheart in “So Far and No Safari” is basically a plot device. “Money Champ,” however, gives a fully-rounded portrait of Flinty as an interesting antagonist, one who’s definitely a villain but who is fleetingly aware that he’s doing wrong. “Money Champ” also demonstrates that there is a distinct but very thin line between Scrooge and Flinty; we see both of them presented with the same temptation, which McDuck wrestles with and overcomes but which Glomgold gives in to. Additionally, the Glomgold of “Money Champ” is presented as a truly formidable foe for Scrooge, equaling him in smarts and scrappiness--which, combined with his greater unscrupulousness, allows Glomgold to stay ahead of McDuck for much of the story, till Glomgold’s own villainy finally backfires on him.

Neither Original Ducktales nor Rosa ever gave Glomgold a moment of self-knowledge the way Barks did in “Money Champ,” but both of them built on the formidable qualities of Glomgold demonstrated in that story and stresed that he had much in common with Scrooge. The continual back-and-forth, tit-for-tat bickering of Scrooge and Glomgold in Original Ducktales episodes like “Masters of the Djinn,” “Robot Robbers,” and “Ducky Mountain High,” to name only three examples, is very much in the tone of Barks’ stories; the Original Ducktales Glomgold was also allowed to verbally bait Scrooge and frequently outfoxed him, something the Angones Glomgold would never be allowed to do. For all the criticisms of Original Ducktales’ Scottification of Glomgold and its relocating him to Duckburg, I think that show captured the basic essence of the Barks character quite faithfully—sly, sarcastic, ruthless, a full match for Scrooge, and much more similar to his rival in temperament than either of them would admit.

Rosa, for his part, did an excellent job of making Glomgold a full equal and truly threatening rival to Scrooge in stories like “Son of the Sun,” “Return to Plain Awful,” and “Island at the Edge of Time”. His rendition of the character in those tales felt like an entirely believable development of the Barks original. However, in “Terror of the Transvaal” Rosa somewhat lost his grip on Flinty, due in part to the increasing emphasis, in his later work, on the Sheer Awesomeness of Scrooge and the corresponding diminishment of all his antagonists; the Glomgold of that story is reduced to a pathetic, cowardly, buffoonish sneak-thief who only gives Scrooge momentary trouble because Scrooge is too naïve. Rosa’s last full use of the character, in “The Last Lord of El Dorado” is better in that it gives Flinty some genuinely competent moments, but he still spends too much of the story enmeshed in slapstick and silly disguises and is treated far too contemptuously by Scrooge.

Another problem with “Transvaal” is that it backdates Scrooge and Flinty’s enmity to the days when both of them were poor and implies that Glomgold was motivated to become a “somebody” because of his personal envy and hatred of Scrooge (Rosa, as we know, wanted to more explicitly show that Scrooge “created” Glomgold in a flashback in “Son of the Sun.”) The whole idea of the hero and villain “creating” each other has become such a cliché that I much prefer the Barks concept of the two characters developing entirely independently of each other and ultimately clashing simply because of who they are, not because they have a shared history. I always get the impression that Rosa’s Glomgold wants to become the World’s Richest Duck in order to beat Scrooge--while Barks’ Glomgold wants to beat Scrooge in order to become the World’s Richest Duck.

Unfortunately, Angones and company, in handling Flinty, ignored Barks, ignored Original Ducktales (except for the character’s design), and ignored the earlier Rosa Glomgold tales. Instead, they appear to have drawn primarily on late Rosa as a starting-point for their Glomgold (if they consulted the comics at all)—providing their own version of the “Scrooge created Glomgold” idea, then taking Glomgold’s envy and hatred of Scrooge and Flanderizing it into stalkerish monomania, with the idea that he deliberately copies everything about his arch-nemesis. They also took Glomgold’s sporadic fallibility and frustration from the later Rosa stories and turned it into perpetual, blustering, oblivious idiocy, far beyond even the character’s lowest moments in “Transvaal” or “El Dorado.”

Defining Glomgold as solely motivated by a desire to defeat McDuck, not as a hard-driving Alpha Tycoon in his own right, is limiting enough, but making him utterly idiotic and incompetent in his efforts to best Scrooge is much worse. I can’t understand why no one in the New Ducktales team was able to realize that making the hero’s arch-enemy a fumbling idiot does not make the hero look cooler. Angones and his writers seemed to be having a competition to see how pathetically obsessed and ridiculous they could make Glomgold—beating the “joke” of his egoism and ineptitude to death, while laughing hysterically at their own humor, and self-indulgently bringing episodes to a screeching halt for long, pointless riffs on this theme.

I think “87-Cent Solution,” with Glomgold’s antics at the funeral and his later licking of Scrooge’s belongings, was the cringe-inducing low point of Angones’ unfunny love affair with his one-joke version of Glomgold, but there’s a great deal to choose from—other examples including Flinty’s slide presentation in “Moonvasion”, his self-defeating ravings at the beginning of “Doomsday Vault,” and his romance-comics style recounting of his meeting with Goldie in “White Agony Plains.” Even the character’s redesign was obviously intended to crudely ram home the joke of his inferiority and ineptitude; why else would they have taken pains to make him both chunkier and shorter than Scrooge?

Of course, as always with this show’s characters, Angones tried to have it both ways with Glomgold, using the “Duke Baloney” episode to show a repressed sympathetic side to the character and trying to demonstrate that Scrooge inadvertently contributed to his going astray. However, by this point the writers had forfeited all right to have Glomgold taken serious, having firmly established their supposedly tragic villain as a one-dimensional cartoon.

As I’ve said before, the single panel in “Money Champ” where Glomgold is recalling his mother’s fondest hopes gives more depth and tragedy to the character than all the faux nightmare-sequence dramatics of “Duke Baloney.” There should always be a feeling with Glomgold that, “there but for the grace of God” goes Scrooge. Not only is it impossible to feel that Angones’ Scrooge could conceivably fall from grace and become Angones’ Glomgold; it’s also impossible to believe that any human being (or Duck equivalent) could ever fall into the absurd evildoing that Angones’ Glomgold indulges in.


"Admittedly, however, I did find his antics to be hilarious, if I'm honest. A large part of that is my own sense of humour - I love 'stupid humour'. The kind that's reliant on being sheer, bizarre nonsense; it's outlandish and barely makes any sense. Or the kind of jokes that rely on unbelievable stupidity or moon logic from the characters involved. As you can imagine, that gave Duke plenty of points for me. Plus, like I mentioned above, his character comes across as sincere in-universe; unlike the constant snarky quips or sarcasm, most of the jokes around him are raw, unbridled lunacy. Of course, it says a lot about the show when my praise for a villain is that the humour around him is more sincere than that around the protagonists, but I digress. Most of the scenes you mentioned being cringe-inducing low points were honestly great for me - mainly because, again, they have the show embrace its mean-spirited nature, rather than piling on thick layers of shallow sentiment. Him being so totally absorbed in his own world is endearing to me - he has this vaguely discernible internal logic that makes sense to him, and that's all that matters to him. Plus, I actually like his bizarre, over-the-top nature; I can definitely understand it coming across as too much, but the sheer lengths he goes to to do things his way is something that tends to get laughs out of me. I suppose that a lot of it boils down to personal preference, though - him being a deranged, over-the-top lunatic is funny to me."

I can actually conceive of a setting in which I too would have found this version of "Glomgold" entertaining--the cartoons of Jay Ward, for example, where nothing is supposed to be taken seriously, or the original Darwking Duck series, which had a very off-the-wall sense of humor. However, in a show which presents itself as a supposed adventure series with genuine Stakes (TM), having the hero's most frequent recurring nemesis be an insane buffoon simply deflates any possibility of taking the adventure seriously. Glomgold is hardly the only deflating element in the show or even the most offensive, but he's one of the most ostentatious, shattering any fleeting sense of reality as soon as he appears and repeatedly stopping the story dead to engage in over-the-top shenanigans. Also, I just find it rather unpleasant that Glomgold is so relentlessly mocked for his pathetic, delusional ineptitude; repeatedly pounding on the the joke of "Har har, this guy thinks he's hot stuff but he's such a loser" is distasteful to me; again, his fat-little-duck redesign seems deliberately intended to ram home the point of his epic lameness, and rather gives the lie to Angones' slimming of Burger in the name of sensitivity.

As to casting an American as Flinty's voice, I think it's pretty clear that Angones wanted Craig Ferguson to essentially reprise his Lord Hater role, just as he wanted Catherine Tate to re-team with David Tennant, and was happy to jettison his proclaimed devotion to ethnically appropriate casting for the sake of exploiting those actors' prior work.


#4.—The Villains

B. The New Face of Magica De Spell

Barks’ first version of Magica, in “The Midas Touch”, was cool, reserved, and crafty, always one step ahead of the Ducks and given to talking in a formal, rather poetic, slightly archaic idiom that seemed appropriate to her Continental origins and mystic profession (“Naught stands between me and my perfect amulet now save time and distance!” “Ah, Vesuvius! Your breath is hot tonight!”) This initial version soon gave way to a sorceress who was much more manic, irritable and slangy (cf. “Isle of Golden Geese”: “Oh gilly, golly, gee! Hang the strategy! We’re going ashore with all hands snatching!”).

Although he quickly developed Magica into a more comic figure, Barks still retained touches of her original cool menace and evocative command of language, nimbly balancing the sinister aspect of her powers with comedic touches. Magica’s long introductory sequence in “For Old Dime’s Sake,” when she demonstrates her new wand, is a beautiful example of this balancing act, with ominous artwork and dialogue like “In the ruined temples of Boreas, Juno, and the Furies, I scrounged secrets that tell me those gods were more likely live sorcerers than figments of ancient dreams!” giving a nicely eerie tone to the story, which is leavened but not dissipated by more humorous and colloquial lines like “From outer space I summon the boogermen of the universe!”

Although Original Ducktales never adequately defined just why Magica wanted Scrooge’s dime (in “Send in the Clones,” she rants about ruling the world, but in “Dime Enough for Luck,” she talks specifically about gaining control of all the money in the world), that show maintained, albeit without Barks’ level of skill, an appropriate balance between Powerful Magica and Funny Magica. The aforementioned “Send in the Clones” is a good an example as any; there, she’s dramatically conjuring in a visually impressive and eerie lair at one moment, then engaging in slapstick mistaken-identity shenanigans with the Nephews and the Beagles the next. Although I know many fans object to June Foray’s use of her East European “Natasha Fatale” accent for the character, rather than an Italian one, Foray’s energetic voice work also did a good job of conveying both Magica’s sinister side and her excitable, manic qualities.

All this is by way of prologue to my main problem with the New Ducktales Magica—i.e., that Angones and company completely failed to achieve Barks’ carefully balanced sinister/humorous take on Magica, and instead made her at once too evil and too ridiculous. New Magica is no longer a sly mortal student of the black arts out to snaffle Old Number One in order to achieve the very human goal of getting rich; she’s now a bloodthirsty immortal witch whose primary motivation (like every other villain on this show) is a murderous vendetta against Scrooge. Once again, Angones simply overwrote the comic-book character with a superhero/pop-culture cliché, in this case the Dark Enchanter/Enchantress imprisoned for years who returns to take revenge on her imprisoner and/or his descendants.

Angones, in building on the Evil Enchantress trope, also made Magica a gleeful mass-murderer--whose murderousness was most incongruously played for laughs, in yet another example of how this show attempts to joke its way around genuinely disturbing ideas that should either be given serious treatment or left alone. Her rants about destroying all of Scrooge’s loved ones in the first season and her callous and brutal treatment of Lena are bad enough, but the glimpses of her “backstory” are even worse—her annihilation of the Blot’s village, the clearly implied slaughter of its inhabitants, and her arbitrary and apparently irreversible transformations of the villagers into animals in the flashback sequence in “Life and Crimes of Scrooge McDuck” (not to mention her suggestion about turning those villagers into turnips and eating them).

It’s possible to have a villain threaten or even attempt horrible things and still play that villain for laughs (as Gottfredson so often did with Pete, and as Jymn Magon did with Don Karnage), but when a villain is shown to have actually done things as objectively horrifying as Magica is shown to have done here, it becomes much more difficult to laugh at the same villain. This is another case of Angones trying to have it both ways; his Magica is a sadistic tyrant, on a level with C. S. Lewis’ Empress Jadis or Maleficient from Sleeping Beauty, but he also tries to make scenes like her cruelty to the villagers “funny,” and even tries to make us feel sorry for her over the loss of her less maniacal but equally evil brother. What GeoX called the “psychotic kill-em-all” depiction of Magica also undermines some bits that are even genuinely funny, like the depowered Magica’s attempt to play magician at Funso’s in “GlomTales", which is promptly followed by reemphasizing her desire to slaughter Scrooge’s family.

Although I intend to deal with the show’s voice-acting at greater length in a separate post, I should add that I actually had no objection per se to Magica’s British accent on this show, just as Foray’s “Natasha” accent for Magica never really bothered me--particularly since neither of the TV versions of the character were ever actually identified as Italian; Magica should be tied to the Old World, due to the arcane nature of her profession, but I don't think being specifically Italian is as central to her character as, for example, being specifically Brazilian is to Jose Carioca's character (Barks, in "Isle of Golden Geese," even had her living in Duckburg itself). I think the main reason Barks made her Italian, and not some other European nationality, was simply (1) because he wanted to use Mount Vesuvius as her home base and (2) because he wanted her to be sultrily attractive, and Italian actresses like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollabrigida were regarded as the epitome of sultry attractiveness in America at the time of the "Midas Touch."

All that said, I still must criticize Angones for the hypocrisy of his Anglicization of Magica; as I and others have pointed out, he made a big deal out of getting ethnically appropriate actors for other roles (which led to the unforgivable jettisoning of Jim Cummings’ inimitable Don Karnage), but abandoned his professed devotion to authentic accents in order to exploit the Dr. Who connection between Tate and David Tennant. Regardless of her accent, Catherine Tate, like Foray before her, is a good actress who's able to be both amusing and intimidating, and is much better at purely vocal acting than most of the American celebrities on New Ducktales. The real problem with New Magica is not Tate's accent or acting, but the writing, which takes a great comical antagonist and turns her into a monster while simultaneously expecting us to find her comically entertaining.


"I actually find his insanity respectable in a way because he keeps going, despite all of the mockery?

Like, he's hammered down constantly as this idiotic failure, but he never gives up - he keeps going for Scrooge's fortune, he's always able to blow off the insults, he always comes back with a more bizarre scheme... Hell, if I'm honest, he feels like more of a hero than the actual supposed heroes. His character is more genuine and, in all honesty, he earned some wins - 'Glomtales', in particular, was a case where he absolutely deserved to win, and his loss was a complete cop-out. Again, I'm aware that this isn't how we're supposed to interpret the character - he was made to be mocked, like you've said. It's just that I, personally, like his character because the writing of the show ends up making him more compelling than most of the actual protagonists to me.


That being said, you're spot on about June Foray - though her accent is completely incorrect as far as the character goes, her delivery is just so perfect for what the character is that I can look past it. Again, though, there may be hints of nostalgic bias in that.


They have her as a serious villain figure, but... I just can't take her seriously. Like, in 'Jaw$', lines like "Dental hygiene can wait!" or "Could you please try to care about our centuries-old blood feud?" take away from that."

I can totally understand why'd you'd feel like rooting for Glomgold on this show, just because of his persistence in the face of the smug contempt of the "good guys" and the relentless mockery of the showrunners themselves--which is another count in the indictment of the show; when people are starting to feel sorry for your villain in his conflicts with the protagonists, you're doing something wrong.

I also share your fondness for June Foray's Magica, and I don't think it's just nostalgic bias talking; the woman was the greatest female voice actor of all time, and correct accent or not, Original Ducktales was very fortunate to have her onboard (it's also neat to remember that she began her Disney career way back in the early 1950s voicing another witch who featured in a Barks comic--she was Witch Hazel in the "Trick or Treat" cartoon).

Regarding New Magica's snarky one-liners--I probably should have said more about them in my prior post; they're another good example of how Angones simply can't succeed even on his own superhero-comic terms. If you must have a murderous, uber-powerful, immortal Evil Enchantress character, she should maintain some semblance of aloofness and dignity, and not descend to mortal-style wisecracks and absurd pop-culture allusions ("I am the one who fools"--which is a "Breaking Bad" reference). If Angones wanted to go with a humanly talkative Magica, he could have simply stuck closer to the original comics.


#4.—The Villains

C. The Beagle Boys! The Terribly Mishandled Beagle Boys!

Barks used the Beagles as Scrooge’s antagonists more often than he did any other villains—but post-Barks writers have rarely used them as effectively as Barks did; many later creators, from Rosa on down, tended to default to a depiction of the Beagles as dull-witted, luckless, perennial incompetents, as opposed to the impish, cunning and swaggering burglars portrayed by Barks. I think Western’s innumerable Lockman/Strobl stories “starring” the Beagles as inept comic protagonists are largely to blame for diminishing Barks’ much more capable and formidable characters.

The Original Ducktales Beagles partook of some of the typical post-Barks Beagle ineptitude, but mostly in the show’s more jokey second phase (the 35-episode Fenton/Bubba era). The first-season Ducktales Beagles, though presented comically, were actually allowed to give Scrooge a run for his money on numerous occasions, and old McDuck was regularly shown to be genuinely afraid of them. The Original Ducktales Beagles have also been frequently pilloried for their individualized personalities—but the personalities of the core trio of Beagles on Original Ducktales all embodied aspects of Barks’ Beagles, so they never really felt “wrong” to me despite being different from the comics versions. Bigtime (at least in the first season) had the Beagles’ craftiness and cocky, eternally confident swagger; Bouncer provided the bullying and thuggish side of the Beagles, and Burger evoked the childlike and eccentric qualities of the Beagles in general and the prune-loving Barks Beagle in particular. As Matilda has pointed out elsewhere in this thread, if Angones had done something similar with his individualized Nephews—splitting off aspects of their established unified personality into new individualized personalities—his depiction of HD&L might not have been such a disaster.

So, I don’t blame Angones for failing to make his Beagles at all formidable (there’s a lot of precedent for that in the comics, unlike some of his other depictions of comics characters), or for retaining the Bigtime/Bouncer/Burger trio. However, there’s still plenty of blame to assign in his handling of the Beagles. First, by making Ma Beagle the leader of the gang in virtually every episode, he lost the nicely varied Beagle lineups of Original Ducktales’ first season—sometimes Ma would be in charge, sometimes Bigtime, sometimes Bankjob. Instead, he imitated the less interesting dynamic from Original Ducktales’ second season, in which Ma was almost always front-and-center in Beagle episodes and the Boys were essentially her backup act.

Angones not only overused Ma; he mishandled her. The joke of the character on the original series was that she could switch on a dime from cooingly sweet old lady to bellowing gang boss (the joke was greatly aided by June Foray’s wonderful vocal range). Her habit of making cakes and other delicacies with weaponry baked into them effectively summed up her humorously incongruous personality. Angones’ Ma Beagle, on the other hand, is more consistently bad-tempered and nasty, and a lot less funny. Angones pontificated about how he wanted to contrast Ma’s treatment of her boys with Scrooge’s treatment of his family, because “it’s all about family”—but, aside from the fact that this Scrooge, for all Angones’ sentimentalizing, is hardly a paragon of parenting, this Ma’s continually negative treatment of the other Beagles is much less entertaining than the older show’s dynamic; Ma on Original Ducktales would intimidate her offspring and abandon them occasionally when it was a question of saving her own skin, but she also had some misplaced family pride and a sort of endearingly warped devotion to being a “good” criminal mom that made her more amusing than Angones’ newer and more abusive version.

Regarding the principal supporting Beagles, I admit that I did get some laughs out of the Bigtime/Bouncer dynamic in “Day of the Only Child,” although it had no resemblance to any previous permutation of the Beagles—the teaming of a inept but mean and persistent schemer with a powerful, slow-witted, but not really malicious cohort made me think more of Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear than anything else. That said, this Bigtime was far too stupid and incompetent to even be comparable as a threat to the original version of the character, let alone to a Barks Beagle.

As for Burger…the new version is a weird and pointless figure whose only discernible trait—communicating in mutters—is an imitation of Don Karnage’s crew member Gibber from the original Talespin, and who serves no real purpose other than to scream “Look how progressive we are.” Angones pompously declared that the original version of the character encouraged “bullying” and was “wrong,” but Burger on Original Ducktales was never once mocked for being overweight; the humor of the character came from his child-like combination of cheerfully unashamed greed and cheerfully off-the-wall enthusiasm. He was easily the most lovable of the Original Ducktales Beagles, and was never mean-spiritedly mocked by the writers or the other characters in the way Angones and his crew mocked Glomgold (who, as I’ve mentioned, was obviously made overweight as a further visual indication of his “loser” status) or Doofus.

Giving the Beagle clan a personal vendetta against Scrooge was also a terrible idea (as it was with Magica and Glomgold), although consistent with Angones’ overarching approach of making Scrooge into Batman and giving him a rogue’s gallery filled with self-created enemies. The world’s biggest criminal gang and the world’s richest duck are natural enemies by virtue of who they are, and the Beagleburg backstory was entirely unnecessary. I have to wonder if Angones didn’t get the idea from Rosa’s Blackheart Beagle telling Scrooge “I was boss of this burg till you showed up and ruined things” in “A Little Something Special.”

I thought that Rosa’s attempted to retcon Blackheart into Scrooge’s arch-enemy and the former “boss” of Duckburg was a little forced and not really supported by Rosa’s own “Life and Times”, but at least Rosa milked the notion for all it was worth, dramatically speaking, in “Special.” Angones, on the other hand, did next to nothing with his Scrooge/Beagle vendetta or the Beagleburg idea; the Beagles spend most their time trying to kidnap the kids and rarely interact with Scrooge at all, and they never manage to temporarily take back the city or seriously imperil it. They come off as minor nuisances and even less of a threat than most of the other inept villains on the show.

The Beagles also come off as even more pathetic than, say, Glomgold or Mark Beaks, because of Angones’ distasteful decision to transform them into “redneck/hillbilly” types who are so stereotyped that they actually live in a junkyard/trailer park. This not only made it impossible to believe that these Beagles pose any threat to Scrooge, but also gave an off-putting element of what I can only call socio-economic snobbery to the characters’ relationship. So a billionaire effectively dispossessed a family of less wealthy/educated folks and forced them into the slums? That’s OK, they were all stupid criminal losers anyway and deserved what they got. This treatment of the Beagles is uncomfortably similar to and supportive of the financial/professional class’s attitude towards the blue-collar working class, in the Rust Belt (where I hail from) and elsewhere. It’s also ironic in view of Angones’ ostentatious devotion to being progressive; as with the treatment of “weird nerds” previously discussed on this thread, his sensitivity to stereotypes is highly trendy and selective.

Greater exposure for the other Beagle branches shown in “Beagle Birthday Massacre” could have taken the unpleasant edge off the depiction of the primary New Beagles as “trailer trash” by showing that the broader clan covered a much broader spectrum of regional and socioeconomic types, but those other Beagles wound up being essentially one-time jokes (which is at least preferable to the “core” Beagles in this show, who wound up as unwelcome recurring jokes.)


"As for Ma being abusive... eh.

I totally agree that it's a problematic element of the character, but I think it's part and parcel with the mean-spirited nature in the show.

As you say, Scrooge isn't a great parental figure (And, for the record, neither is Della). Honestly, maybe it's just because the Beagles were so unmemorable in this show, but I don't honestly remember her saying anything that stood out as being much worse than what the Duck family would say to each other. It's the whole 'designated villain' issue - it's only bad when the bad guys do it, whereas the show will bend over backwards to explain why it's okay when the good guys do it.

. . .

The Beagle Boys are probably the show's most prominent example of this nasty attitude - the 'trailer trash' stereotype in full force, and there's no attempt whatsoever to show them as real people beneath it all.

Even Glomgold gets that.


These two points of yours link up with the point I was trying to make about Ma's attitude towards her family in this show--maybe "contemptuous" would be a better word than abusive--but whatever you call it, it contributes to the dehumanizing approach to the Beagles. I was thinking, in particular, of how Ma immediately wishes for "better kids" when she gets ahold of the lamp in the "Treasure of the Found Lamp" episode. The bit seems designed to drive home the mean-spirited idea that the Beagles are so worthless than even their own mom can't stand them (and that Ma is so vile that she would happily replace her own family). And yet, as you point out, how different is this from, say, Della's "I have no family" line?


#4.—The Villains

D. The Billionaire Bad Guys Club

As an American, my exposure to John D. Rockerduck has been limited compared to that of many of the other members of this forum, but I know enough about the character to admit that Angones’ screen version captured some surface qualities of the comics version’s personality—-more so than his depictions of Glomgold, Magica, and the Beagles did. The animated Rockerduck, like the comics Rockerduck, is exuberantly conceited, fond of high living, and enjoys flaunting his wealth. However, the essence of the character is still missing.

Rockerduck, like all the other comics-derived villains depicted on this show, isn’t allowed to be a true rival to Super Scrooge, even though “rivalry” is pretty much the single word that best defines the essence of the McDuck-Rockerduck relationship in the comics. The comical petty squabbling and bouts of one-upmanship between Scrooge and John D., which marked Rockerduck’s brief original appearance in “Boat Buster” and have been the hallmark of their interactions in comics ever since, is absent here—since this Scrooge isn’t allowed to ever really be one-upped by anyone or feel challenged enough to descend to childish bickering.

This Rockerduck is only a threat to Scrooge in “The Outlaw Scrooge McDuck” because he has more money than Scrooge at this point in time, and because the people he manipulates—the “weathered, sunburned” townsfolk of Gumption—are mindless idiots (more "hillbilly/redneck" steroetyping, incidentally). In his subsequent appearances, he’s only nominally dangerous because of his (inexplicable) FOWL affiliations; there’s never even a suggestion that he’s a worthy personal rival for Scrooge in the financial arena (his dialogue in “Sword of Swanstantine” even goes out of its way to indicate that his wealth was inherited, to dispel the idea that he could be at all equal to Scrooge when it comes to making money).

The comics John D., by contrast, is a formidable tycoon in his own right despite (and sometimes because of) the fact that he’s much more willing to spend money than Scrooge is. The character works best when he’s depicted as someone who threatens and irritates Scrooge both because he’s a serious competitor and because his flashy lifestyle is an affront to McDuck’s outrageously frugal and reclusive lifestyle. Since the New Ducktales Scrooge cannot be seriously threatened or irritated, and since the showboating New Ducktales Scrooge is flashy himself, this dynamic is lost, and all we’re left with is another weak villain who’s out of Scrooge’s league-- a foppish, preening poseur who’s reduced to cringing on the ground in fear after a few seconds’ worth of pummeling by Scrooge, and who is utterly dependent (sometimes to a literally infantile extent) on his butler/henchman.

The whole “Frankenjeeves” business, incidentally, was offputtingly weird and disturbing, like so much else on this series; the idea that “Jeeves” was forced to become, apparently, an undead zombie/robot/monster in order to keep on taking care of the life-extended Rockerduck for eternity is yet another example of an idea that should either be played for horror or dropped, not used as a “humorous” toss-off.

Rockerduck’s function as the more ostentatious counterpoint to Scrooge was also usurped before he even made his appearance, due to the introduction of Mark Beaks. I like the idea of Beaks a lot more than I like the actual execution of the idea. If Barks was still writing today, I’m sure he would have done a story pitting Scrooge against a modern tech billionaire like Beaks; Zuckerberg, Gates, and their ilk are ripe for satire, and Barks was no slouch at satire. However, Barks would have played on the differences between Beaks’ tech-assisted, marketing-driven success and Scrooge’s tougher, less glitzy, and more personal way of making his fortune, and would probably have had Scrooge undergo a few crises of concern as to whether he was a “has-been,” before finally winning out. Angones, on the other hand, barely has Scrooge and Beaks interact at all, even though the ultra-modern billionaire would seem to be an ideal foil for the old-fashioned billionaire.

Instead, Beaks was used primarily as an antagonist for Fenton/Gizmoduck, making him essentially Lex Luthor—only without any of Luthor’s intimidating qualities. I would have preferred the character to be presented as an obnoxious but non-villainous foil for Scrooge, but since Angones decided to designate him as a “villain”, he should have at least tried to make him a legitimate threat. This could have been done without sacrificing the character’s humorous aspects--just make him a genuinely competent businessman and scientist (instead of a lazy fraud and pilferer of other people’s work), and have him genuinely interested in acquiring and wielding power through technology (instead of just obsessed with gaining power in order to generate “buzz”). Humor could still have been mined out of his flippancy and his desire for social media “likes,” but he would have come off as a more worthy antagonist and a much less one-dimensional character.

It’s quite true that Beaks, unlike some of the supposedly “likable” characters who failed to be likable, succeeded at what he was supposed to do—i.e., be obnoxious, and to provide a vehicle for some fairly obvious spoofery of modern billionaires. However, so much more could have been done with the character—whether as a satiric rival or a villain—that I don’t think Angones deserves any great praise for his handling of Beaks.


"djnyr, quick clarification question: why does the fact that Beaks is set against Fenton make him analogous to Lex Luthor?"

I should have made my train of thought clearer there: New Fenton, as I mentioned when I discussed him in this series, was made much more of a conventional superhero and less of a superhero spoof. Giving him a recurring archenemy was part of the superhero-izing process. Beaks, as an unscrupulous billionaire who covets the superhero's powers and reputation and wants to control and/or destroy the hero, is extremely reminiscent of the Lex Luthor depicted on Superman: The Animated Series and the Justice League animated series--and, given Angones' penchant for imitating the Batman animated series from the same production crew, I'm pretty positive that he was thinking of the animated television version of Luthor when he made Beaks Gizmoduck's prime opponent. I also suspect he was inspired by Jesse Eisenberg's Luthor in Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman, who, like Beaks, was a variation on the young, irreverent tech-billionaire trope (right down to the casting of Eisenberg, who of course played Zuckerberg), and who was much more talkative, undignified and "nerdy" than Clancy Brown's television Luthor.

"Regarding Rockerduck being inexplicably tied to FOWL- it's just clocked to me, I'm pretty sure in the Boom/Joe Books Darkwing Duck sequel comics, there WAS a plot point at one point that Rockerduck was financing FOWL, or at least some villain. Wonder if the staff just had happened to read that. "

Good catch; I read that Darkwing comic a while back, but had forgotten Rockerduck was lurking in silhouette there (James Silvani loves to include those cameos). The way the panel is drawn and worded, it's a little unclear whether Rockerduck, Glomgold, and FOWL (represented by Steelbeak) are each independently funding Dean Tightbill (the read-headed bad guy) or whether the three "investors" are supposed to be working together, but I can see how it might have given Angones the idea to put Rockerduck in FOWL. Still, there's a big difference between bankrolling a spy organization and being an active agent, as Rockerduck absurdly is in New Ducktales. Just like Scrooge being an agent for SHUSH, it felt contrived and unbelievable to have a billionaire--someone who's used to being in control and giving orders--putting himself at the disposal of a spy organization. It really felt like Angones didn't know what to do with Rockerduck after his introductory episode, so he stuck him in FOWL as an afterthought--where he hardly did enough to justify the pains taken to have him survive into the present day.

"Personally, I really enjoyed Beaks - even if he was mishandled in some places.

Like you say, he could have been a very interesting rival to Scrooge - he's probably the single most dangerous villain on the show on a personal level.

With his technology, he could do so much damage to Scrooge. He could destroy Scrooge's reputation with a few clicks. He could use his social media presence to pressure Scrooge into partnering with him on his projects - and make Scrooge look like the bad guy if he doesn't. Plus, with the amount of information that he's privy to, he could probably find out some of Scrooge's deeply personal secrets if he cared to.

Yes, that's what I would have liked to have seen more of with Beaks. The character wouldn't even have had to be a villain, just an obnoxious rival whose dynamic with Scrooge is similar to Donald's dynamic with Gladstone. I can picture Barks doing hilarious things (and engaging in some telling satire) with an antagonist who uses social media and other technology to embarrass and annoy Scrooge. Of course, that dynamic would only work with Barks' more harried, eccentrically naïve, and irritable Scrooge, not the unflappable all-knowing Scrooge of this series.


#4.—The Villains

E. The Loony Lunar General

Lunaris, like Penumbra, basically felt like he came in from another franchise--any number of superhero franchises, really; the grim, ruthless, cunning interplanetary military tyrant is a well-worn comic-book type. He echoed Thanos, Ronan (of Guardians of the Galaxy), and Zod at different moments, but he especially had a lot in common with Darkseid, as depicted on the 1990s Superman animated series (as noted with Scrooge/Batman, Goldie/Catwoman, and Beaks/Luthor, Angones is particularly fond of imitating Bruce Timm's several DC animated series). Lunaris, of course, was not scarily murderous like Darkseid, but they have too many points in common to overlook. Both characters were fond of striking a dramatic brooding-but-military pose, standing stiffly with their arms folded behind them; both characters rule over a population that misguidedly reveres them, and, most tellingly, both characters staged an all-out invasion of earth to bring the second seasons of their respective shows to a big multi-part climax, after being teased as a lurking off-planet threat in prior episodes.

Angones obviously took Lunaris much more seriously as a villain than any of the comics-derived bad guys, probably because he was his own original creation; rushing through the "Glomtales" villain teamup in the space of a single episode, then making "Moonvasion" the big second-season finale, felt like the showrunners saying "Let's clear these clowns out of the way so our way cooler character can take over." The same was true, of course, of Bradford and FOWL in the last season--the classic comics villains were reduced to literally mindless punching bags for the heroes in the FOWL arena, while Scrooge had his big showdown with Bradford. That said, Lunaris did come off as a more consistent and coherent villain than Bradford did; his vengeful/power-hungry motivations, banal and cliched as they were, were not all over the map in the way Bradford's evil schemes were.

Being consistent didn't make Lunaris interesting, however; again, he was simply a one-note, standard-issue Space Tyrant from Superheroville. Having Lunaris and Scrooge square off as opposite numbers in the Moonvasion finale was also contrived even by the standards of the superhero stuff that Angones was imitating; on the aforementioned Superman show, Superman and Darkseid clashed with each other on occasions before Darkseid's big climactic invasion, and in any case it made sense that Darkseid would be fixated on defeating an all-powerful good guy like Kal-El. Having Lunaris fixate on Scrooge as his primary antagonist, when he had never even met him before coming to Earth, only made narrative sense if you accept Scrooge as a planetary champion on the level of Superman himself. The fact that Angones thought that such a stock superhero-comic type needed to be imported into the Ducks' world in order to give Scrooge a worthy challenge shows how badly he and his production crew misunderstood both Scrooge and his comic-book universe.


"For one, having him be wary of earth was an interesting idea - stuff like his fearful reaction to the slap bracelet. It could easily have been developed in a way that his fear of the unknown was what led to the invasion, rather than the "We're better than them!" mindset. Rather than him being evil all along, it would have been interesting to have Della and Donald accidentally do things that make him more wary and suspicious of Earth; they could even bring Scrooge up in these contexts, which might actually make sense of Lunaris considering him to be a serious threat. He might, over time with Della, come to the conclusion that he's right to fear earth - with so many things being weaponized, the frequent warring... seeing as Della was able to reach the moon and was able to adapt, he could think "It's only a matter of time before the more hostile ones come for us!" and decide to get them before they got him.

Having him be evil all along, and manipulating everyone... it takes away a lot from his character. I get that they were going for a twist/fake-out, but they put too much sincerity in his kindness before that. They have him constantly explaining to Penumbra that Della isn't to be feared, and that the earth isn't something to be feared... and then he explains to her that his actual plan was to manipulate the Moonlanders by using Della as a scapegoat. It's so framed around the 'twist' that his actions really don't make much sense. Why is he so insistent that Penumbra trust Della, only to then tell her that he was manipulating everyone? His excuse of getting her to move there didn't make much sense because, again, he was so insistent on Penumbra being a friend to Della - if he failed, there was no point in doing that. If he succeeded, he shouldn't then expect that she'll happily invade Earth."

Since Frozen, twist villains have become almost a cliché in Disney animation--which is not a good trend, since it calls for a delicate balancing act that many writers can't really pull off; even Agatha Christie in her prime wasn't always able to make her murderer reveals credible. If you make the twist villain's likable traits too convincing, the reveal will be hard to accept, while if you try to foreshadow the twist by hinting at the character's sinister side, you run the risk of making the "twist" so predictable that it becomes pointless. I think the showrunners fell into both traps with Lunaris; his dialogue came off as convincingly wise and kindly, making his sharp turn into evildoing feel jarringly arbitrary, but at the same time his militaristic appearance, forceful gestures, and commanding voice are all so evocative of the Evil Space Tyrant stereotype that they telegraph his "hidden" evilness and make his turn as predictable as jarring. Frankly, twist villains in general and the secretly corrupt authority figure in particular have become so hackneyed in popular culture that it would really have been much more of a twist to have his character not turn out to be evil.

As to Lunaris being motivated by fear of Earthlings' warlike nature instead of more banal ambitions of conquest, that's definitely an idea that a more Barks-based show might have gone with. I can see Barks, in one of his more darkly cynical moods, doing a good story in which the Ducks go to outer space and the flaws and foibles of Donald (if it's a ten-pager) or Scrooge (if it's a long adventure story) make such a negative impression on the people of some other planet that they decide to invade Earth in self-defense. After all, Barks, in his few space-alien stories ("Island in the Sky," "Micro-Ducks," and the later "Officer for a Day") liked to use human interactions with space aliens as a means of commenting on human shortcomings, much as C. S. Lewis did in Out of the Silent Planet or H.G. Wells in First Men in the Moon.

Angones eschews any attempt at commentary on humanity with his Moon plot thread, and instead opts for a standard Space Invasion, since that's what's typically used as a Big Climactic Event in superhero movies and TV shows. Such invasions can be entertaining enough if handled with proper panache, but, as Aldwayne points out, since Angones depicted virtually all of the Moonlanders as good-natured and hapless figures indistinguishable from Earthlings, he couldn't even manage to make the "Moonvasion" seem like an actual superhero-comic-style threat/event. There's nothing really dramatic or climactic about being invaded by sitcom suburbanites, no matter how grim and sinister their leader is.


#4.—The Villains

F. Blotted Out

The Phantom Blot has no one established persona; the original Gottfredson Blot was a cool, calculating and murderous master spy-for-hire. The Western Publishing Blot of the 1960s was a gloating master criminal ("Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!") with ambitious but somewhat unrealistic and cartoony master plans, a sort of kiddie version of contemporaneous non-Disney comic-book supervillains. The Blot of Martina and Scarpa's "Blot's Double Mystery" was a frighteningly vindictive killer with no other motive than revenge who felt the most like a logical development of the Gottfredson Blot; Byron Erickson has done a good job in carrying on the vengeance-driven Blot in his occasional Mickey stories for Egmont. The Blot on Original Ducktales was an over-the-top supervillain (essentially a development of the Western Publishing Blot); the Blot of modern Italian comics is also a supervillain, but (from what I've seen) can vary widely, from comically conceited and over-theatrical (Cavazzano's "Sound-Blot Plot") to intimidatingly serious and powerful (Casty's "Darkenblot" saga).

The New Ducktales Blot has nothing in common with any of these past depictions of the Blot. Angones claimed that "Our version of the Blot is a new character that takes bits from the original Mickey nemesis, Shadow Blot from Epic Mickey, and Blot from the original DuckTales." The only part of that sentence that's accurate is "Our version of the Blot is a new character"--and, unfortunately, he's not a very interesting or well-constructed one. The New Ducktales Blot isn't out for money (unlike the original character) and isn't out for power (unlike most later versions of the character). It's ironic that, in a show crammed with superhero/supervillain takes on other comics characters, he isn't depicted as a would-be world-conquering supervillain, even though in his case there is actually some precedent for such a depiction. Instead, Angones basically chose to define the new version of the character by a play on words--someone on Tumblr asked Angones if this new Blot was still called the Phantom Blot, and Angones replied "Yes, but because he seeks to blot out phantoms."

True, the New Ducktales Blot is out for revenge, like the Martina/Scarpa/Erickson Blot--but not for twisted, villainous revenge on Mickey, who of course isn't a cast member here. Instead, his vengefulness is tragically motivated by Magica's murder of his family--but this backstory is hurriedly tossed off and wins him less sympathy from the showrunners than the mass-murdering Magica's "tragic" transformation of Poe does. His confrontation with Magica is played largely for laughs, and despite his having a genuine wrong to avenge, we're apparently supposed to regard him as just as bad as Magica--or worse, because he doesn't make "funny" remarks the way Magica does, and since the real unforgivable sin on this show is taking anything too seriously. They have to have him try to kill Lena in order to stack our sympathies against him--but even that doesn't remove the bad taste of having the good guys prevent him from destroying Magica, since Magica herself has been just as nasty to Lena in the past.

Angones has made it clear that he came up with the unpleasant Blot/Magica backstory not because he really wanted to explore its dark and unsettling implications, but because he thought it would be fun to have the characters' two voice actors play off of each other; when asked on Tumblr why he cast Giancarlo Esposito as the Blot, he explained "I was excited to use his still, theatrical menace as a counterpoint to Magica’s chatty unhinged nature." I've beat this point into the ground by now, but it bears repeating yet again: If you are going to use grim and/or horrifying plot points--like the Blot being a survivor of a magically destroyed village--you need to take them seriously; otherwise, there was no point in introducing them in the first place.

In the same Tumblr post, Angones also demonstrated yet again how his work fails even on his own stated terms. Regarding the Blot, he stated that "We loved the notion of treating him a little like the Terminator: menacing and unstoppable." Yes, so unstoppable that he's first thwarted by three little girls and then later by the squabbling, sitcomish McDuck clan and their freakin' emu; so menacing that he's paired with a comedic, constantly babbling sidekick. This Blot is too bombastic and humorless, and has too dark of a backstory, to be amusing, but he's too ineffectual to be menacing, leaving him a truly pointless misfire of a character. When he was first introduced, as a FOWL agent, at the end of Season 2, I remember noting that having the Blot be a spy at least looped back to his Gottfredson roots, but also reflecting that the show would mishandle him as a character somehow. I had no idea they would mishandle him up as badly as they did, however--particularly since they cast a voice actor who, though a celebrity from another Disney property, actually could have done a good suave and sardonic take on the character if he hadn't been instructed to be so relentlessly and humorlessly hammy. They even messed up his wonderfully simple and striking visual design (which has been justifiably praised by generations of cartoonists) in order to give him that clunky, obviously Thanos-inspired magic-destroying glove.

If the showrunners were bound and determined to use the Blot, a much better idea would have been to make him a sort of espionage consultant, a master spy hired by FOWL for really big jobs, much the same way that Darkwing on the original Darkwing Duck show was periodically brought in as a freelancer by SHUSH. Failing that, they could have at least harked back to later Blot comics and to Original Ducktales and made him an ambitious high-tech supervillain out to rule the world. Instead, he became a one-note vengeance-driven monomaniac with no ambitions beyond destroying "magic." This version was so entirely disconnected from any prior version of the Blot, and so poorly developed in his own right, that about the only positive thing I can say about him is that at least they didn't make him an archenemy for Scrooge, unlike most of the other Big Villains.

G. Destroying Doofus

Alquackskey has already analyzed the many, many problems with this show’s horribly wrong-headed villainous version of Doofus much more thoroughly than I could, but I still want to add some additional thoughts. The Doofus of Original Ducktales really should have been given a better character name (how about “Rufus,” or “Buford” or “Herbert”? Something that had a somewhat comic sound to it but wasn’t as on-the-nose and unimaginative as “Doofus”). However, the original character wasn’t the mere “walking fat joke” that he’s sometimes been described as; he served an important function as a sidekick for Launchpad, someone to cheer him on while also providing him with an occasional reality check. He also was allowed to be resourceful at times in quirky ways; his bonding with the dolphins in “Aqua Ducks”, for example, was genuinely endearing.

Pete Fernbaugh, on his now-defunct “Caught at the Crossroads” blog, pinpointed the key characteristics of Original Doofus perfectly, by quoting Sancho Panza’s introductory song from the Man of La Mancha musical—“I’ll tell all the world, proudly, that I’m his squire—I’m his friend.” This Quixote/Panza relationship between Launchpad and Doofus is what should have built on in any reboot in order to clearly establish Doofus as much more than a questionably-named joke character. His friendship with Huey, Dewey and Louie and his Woodchuck membership also provided traits that a reboot could have built on to good effect—have him be more eccentric, befuddled and timid than the Nephews, but also capable of surprising moments of outside-the-box inspiration.

So, did Angones and company look at the original Doofus, analyze what worked and what didn’t about the original character, and then discuss ways of building on that and improving it? No, that would have required them to actually engage with their supposed source material, which, as we’ve repeatedly seen, Angones couldn’t be bothered to do. Instead, they simply decided that they were going to, in effect, punish him for the fact that they disliked him on the original series. To quote Angones:

In that Twilight Zone ep, part of what made Anthony so scary is that he seems so innocent and enthusiastic until he turns. We thought that would be an interesting way to use what we knew of Doofus and come at it from a new angle. We also settled on Doofus because he was the one character on original DuckTales that we just did not like as kids. For all the great stuff in that show, it did not have the best record with fat shaming, especially when it came to kids. There are whole episodes that hinge on Doofus’ love of pie getting in the way of saving the day. And he was impossibly clumsy to boot. We’d already changed up some other characters to get away from that idea (Beakley as a badass, for example), so we knew we wanted to strip out that element. And trust me, before we made the change, I did a deep dive on the internet to make sure that there wasn’t some passionate “Cult of Doofus” fandom that would be devastated by a change to their favorite character in all of fiction. I literally only found a couple of drawings of him falling down and kissing a hamburger.

First off, the line about “whole episodes” being hinging on Doofus’ love of food preventing the good guys from saving the day is sheer misrepresentation; Doofus’ eating habits on the original series were either used for throwaway gags or were used to comically help save the day—like his peanut butter becoming the key instrument of Gyro’s escape plan in “Aqua Ducks” or his spelling out a message to Launchpad with pancake syrup in “Hero for Hire.” This is another example of Angones simply making stuff up in order to flaunt his progressiveness and sensitivity, as with his “Goldie pining for Scrooge” nonsense.

Furthermore, even if Angones’ description of Original Doofus was accurate, he fails to explain why in the WAK he tried to “improve” on a character that he felt was mishandled by making him ten times worse—i.e., by changing him from a clumsy and gluttonous but lovably naïve and good-natured sidekick into an irredeemable, outrageously “creepy”, and off-putting sociopath; even his phonily sentimental reconciliation scene with Louie in “Life and Crimes” takes pains to have Louie preface his forgiveness by referring to Doofus as a “monster.” Angones on his Tumblr even tries to “humorously” imply, repeatedly, that Doofus is some kind of unspeakably horrifying pervert:

Commenter: I still can't figure out what in the world Doofus Drake was gonna use the umbrella and the walnuts for??????

Angones: Legally not even allowed to type it in the State of California.

Commenter: What was Doofus Drake going to do with those Walnuts and the Umbrella?

Angones: Unspeakable acts not suitable for television.

Commenter: So what WERE the walnuts and umbrella for?

Angones: Unspeakable things.

The depiction of Doofus on the show, and the disgusting Tumblr “jokes”, don’t come off as “how can we fix this character”, but rather as “how can we utterly dehumanize, demean, and destroy this character as revenge for his offense to our childhood sensibilities.” The fact that, as Alquackskey has pointed out so eloquently, so many of the “weird” and “creepy” aspects of this Doofus are so uncomfortably similar to real-life neurodivergent issues is a particularly clear indicator that Angones, despite his pontification, wasn’t concerned with “getting away from” traits of Original Doofus that he found offensive, but rather unfunnily and despicably mocking the character for his own warped amusement ("Let's see how much more of a weirdo/loser I can make this weirdo/loser"). This last Tumblr quote is graphic evidence of his self-indulgent fondness for his own terrible creation:

Commenter: Is there any character in Ducktales 2017 you love to hate besides Doofus Drake?

Angones: Oh I love 2017 Doofus. I also don’t know what’s good for me.

Sigh. You also don’t know what’s good for character development or story construction, Mr. Angones.


#4.—The Villains

F. Blotted Out

H. “It is I, Don Karnage, speaking to you without my voice.”

I hesitated on whether to cover Don Karnage later, under “Disney Afternoon crossover characters”, but I decided to include him with the other recurring villains, since he was treated as Dewey’s own personal recurring archenemy, and made numerous appearances both before and after the “official” Talespin crossover episode in the last season. The “Dewey’s archenemy” business is as good a starting point as any for explaining just why this version of Karnage was a failure, both in comparison to the original version and on his own terms. Simply put, like most of the villains on this show who weren’t created by Angones himself, this version of Karnage couldn’t be taken seriously as a menace, even a comic menace. New Don Karnage’s completely unembarrassed and unselfconscious vendetta against Dewey served to cement the character as a bizarrely oblivious man-child—much like how New Launchpad’s completely unembarrassed and unselfconscious devotion to Dewey as his best friend cemented him as a bizarrely oblivious man-child. It was not a coincidence, I think, that Karnage was depicted as the villains’ equivalent of Launchpad in the “Glomtales” episode.

The design and modus operandi of New Don Karnage and his crew also helped to make them worthless as credible villains, as well as making them less funny than the original versions. The pirate crew of the original Talespin series had a delightfully motley and scruffy look to their outfits and to their weaponry; they looked like what they were supposed to be, a gang of seedy but tough 1930s-style aviators. Part of the humor of the pirates’ interactions in the original series came from the contrast between the snappily-uniformed Karnage’s theatrically genteel pretensions and the thuggish unpretentiousness of his crew. This joke was of course lost by having the air pirates in New Ducktales ape the look of actual 18th-century seagoing pirates (bandanas, pirate hats, peglegs, eyepatches, old-time peacoats, etc.), making all of the air pirates seem just as theatrical as Karnage himself. More seriously, their nautical-piratical roleplaying made them seem like a bunch of childish poseurs engaging in overelaborate games instead of actual criminals (the “sky sharks” were particularly embarrassing). The individualized traits of the original show’s pirate crew—Dump Truck’s cheerful slow-wittedness, Mad Dog’s irritability and nervousness, Gibber’s wily mumbling—are all missing too, turning them into a basically interchangeable chorus with no function other than to serve as foils and musical backups for Karnage.

Worst of all, by having Karnage’s band rely on pseudo-Gilbert-and-Sullivan musical numbers as their primary weapon, rather than the firepower seen on the original series, Angones made it utterly impossible to accept them and their airship as an actual threat. In making “song-and-dance man” (to quote Steelbeak) the sum of Karnage’s persona, he also entirely missed the point of the terrific little “We Are Pirates” song from the Talespin pilot. That number was the TV equivalent of a Disney feature’s “villain song”—i.e., it used music to illustrate the bad guy’s personality and explain his scheme, like “The Elegant Captain Hook,” “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind,” or “Be Prepared.” It wasn’t intended to establish musical performing as one of Karnage’s defining traits, as Angones appeared to think.

New Don Karnage would have been a disappointment as a villain in any event, but he’s even more disappointing in view of how much fun the original character was. I would rank Jymn Magon’s original Karnage right alongside Gottfredson’s Pete as a great, multi-faceted humorous villain; the character was flamboyantly theatrical, outrageously conceited, and comically quick-tempered, but also sarcastically humorous and genuinely cunning. He could be ruthlessly cold-blooded, but also showed a sense of honor at times, and always seemed more than a little crazy (but hated to be called crazy), in an entertainingly unpredictable way.

Angones emphasized theatricality and conceit in his depiction of Karnage (hammering on these traits in his usual Flanderizing style), but captured none of the crafty, sinister, honorable, or deranged qualities of the original character. He also decided to make absent-minded obliviousness a new major trait of Karnage, epitomized by his smug but brainlessly overconfident default facial expression—it’s very telling to contrast screen grabs of the new Karnage’s expressions with the more crafty and sinister expressions of the old one; you can immediately see the differing approaches to the character in the images alone.

Angones’ most damaging move of all in regards to Karnage, however, was in choosing to literalistically pigeonhole Karnage as Hispanic/Latino and, as a result, jettisoning Jim Cummings as the character’s voice in the name of ethnic accuracy. Although Magon and the original Talespin animators deserve credit for Karnage’s conception and development, Cummings was the key to the original Karnage’s success, being largely responsible for creating his unique and hilarious speech patterns. As Cummings explained more than once, Karnage’s accent was a mixture—Spanish and Cuban, with several touches of French (like his frequent “ ‘Allo!” for “Hello”) and occasionally Italian. It wasn’t one recognizable national accent, but rather the character’s own unique idiom, much like Pete’s dialect in the Gottfredson comic strips combined New York tough-guy speak, sailor jargon, and Western outlaw lingo into the villain’s own personal patois. The recasting of Cummings resulted in the loss of this idiom, and with it all the entertainingly eccentric dialogue that Cummings delivered so amusingly in episode after episode of the original Talespin (there’s a reason why there are multiple highlight videos of Don Karnage’s best moments on Youtube).

So, in summation, New Don Karnage was deprived of his original personality, his original crew, his original pirating methods, his original design, his original accent, and his original voice actor, leaving nothing but a one-dimensional, narcissistic, dull-witted, fancy-dressed clown. Angones claimed after the fact that this Karnage was a “descendant” of the real version, but like his “Steelbeak is learning; he’ll get more formidable” claims, this felt like an after-the-fact justification of his utter disregard of the original version of the character. Besides, even if this Karnage was really conceived as a “descendant” of the original, then an effort should have been made to either make him a worthy representative of all the key qualities of his “ancestor” or establish him as a different but equally entertaining character in his own right. This Karnage was neither; instead, he came off as what he was, a sketchy knock-off by people who really weren’t interested in the character they were adapting and were only anxious to capitalize on that character’s considerable fan-following by hurrying a superficial new version onto the screen.

I. FOWL Play

Steelbeak and the FOWL High Command, like Don Karnage, were imports from another show, but were used so often and so thoroughly forced into the role of the Ducks' antagonists that, like Karnage, they should be covered here, along with the FOWL heavies original to this show. Also, as with their handling of Karnage and his gang, the Angones crew in their handling of FOWL showed that they really weren't any more interested in doing justice to the Disney Afternoon characters than they were to comic-book characters like Gyro, Goldie, and the Nephews.

Steelbeak in particular provides a strong clue to the real extent of Angones' knowledge and understanding of the Disney Afternoon characters. Original Steelbeak, as I and others have pointed out on this thread many times before, was a truly one-of-a-kind villain--a combination of a Bond mastermind (the high-living lifestyle), a Bond henchman (the brawniness and the steel beak), and Bugs Bunny (the wisecracking, street-smart Noo Yawk tough-guy voice and the unflappably flippant attitude). He was one of Darkwing's most entertaining foes, and his refusal to take anything or anybody seriously was a perfect counterpoint to Darkwing's overdramatic self-importance. We saw nothing of this Steelbeak on Angones' show; New Steelbeak's characterization began and ended at "big, mean, loudmouthed and stupid;" Angones' thinking here appears to have been "big guy with dangerous metal prosthetic = mindless goon." Without his flippancy, his slickness, and his smarts--and without any real opportunity to interact with Darkwing--there was nothing left of the original character, and nothing to make him any more interesting than any other run-of-the-mill dumb thug.

I think Angones realized that he goofed up badly with Steelbeak, but as always he couldn't admit to his bad decisions, and kept insisting that he had a plan for the character. This insistence was, frankly, not credible; read the following quotes, from Angones' Tumblr, and tell me if they accord with the Steelbeak actually seen in this series:

Commenter: what led to the idea of revamping Steelbeak's villainous personality as well as recasting him with Jason Mantzoukas?

Angones: We liked the idea of young Steelbeak just starting out at FOWL (Heron mentioned she just busted him out of a St Canard prison and clearly gave him that beak) full of unearned confidence. This was great especially as a counterpoint to LP in this episode, who has zero confidence in his abilities; it was a lot of fun to pit a novice hero that doesn’t believe he can be a spy with a novice Bond villain who thinks he’s ready to be in charge even though he’s not. We talked a lot about young Steelbeak being somewhere between Bond in “Casino Royale” and Kevin Kline in “A Fish Called Wanda”; all deadly skills, rough edges, and ego. This isn’t the last you’ll see of Steelbeak as he gets more capable, and more dangerous.

Angones here appears to be trying to pretend that New Steelbeak is depicted a promising rookie villain who will develop naturally into a top bad guy in time. What we see is a sub-humanly and incorrigibly dumb thug who finally has to zap himself with an artificial intelligence ray in order to gain "smarts"--but who really doesn't progress beyond a loudmouthed bully even after the supposed brain boost.

Another of Angones' Tumblr commenters summed up the massive Steelbeak misfire, with questionable punctuation but unquestionable accuracy:

Commenter: as a small request frank for Steelbeak , please dont make him dumb...look we darkwing duck fans loves SB because he was a funny suave, smooth talking, sarcastic, calm, collected criminal mastermind. i know you want to make ducktales 2017 appealing to the audience which you did 100% also Jason Mantzoukas is a great choice to play. but honesty you really goofed when you made him dumber honesty you really did not understand the character my request is that we want to see him get smarter.

Angones: I know how we’re using the character and I humbly disagree.

Angones' "Showrunner knows best" pose notwithstanding, the commenter is quite right about Angones not understanding the things that made the character entertaining in the first place.

Black Heron usurped a good deal of Steelbeak's functions as FOWL's sly top agent, but wasn't a fraction as unique or interesting as Original Steelbeak was--she was effectively a hammy, one-dimensional supervillain with no motivation or identity beyond gleefully reveling in over-the-top EEEEEEEEEVIL. April Winchell, a genuine voice actress instead of an out-of-place celebrity, at least did a good job of giving her plenty of cartoony gusto, but she couldn't do anything to overcome the flat and generic presentation of the character. Her dynamic with Bradford--he insists he's engaging in villainy only for good motives, while she embraces villainy for its own sake--could possibly have been used to interesting effect, but this supposed ideological conflict was played at too broad and silly a level to be taken seriously--even its eventual conclusion (with Heron's death at Bradford's hands) was played for laughs. She would have been fine as a one-shot Darkwing Duck villain, but as a long-time adversary of Scrooge she was fatally lacking in depth or gravitas.

Before moving on from Black Heron, I should give a dishonorable mention to her proteges, May and June; by the time of the show finale, Angones and company had insulted, belittled, and misunderstood so many good characters that I didn't think I could be any more irritated with the show than I was, but wrenching two of Daisy's nieces completely out of context and turning them into villainous products of FOWL experiments (not to mention the reveal that the third member of the trio, April, was really "Webby") really rubbed me the wrong way. This had nothing to do with any prior aspect of the characters, and was unsettling and distasteful in its own right--not only in making Webby/April, May, and June clones created in a lab instead of normal little girls, but also in showing that May and June apparently grew up in a secret FOWL base with Black Heron as their only parent-figure; once again, Angones and company tossed off a really unpleasant idea without bothering to think it through.

I'm also cynical enough to suspect that this handling of April, May and June was partly motivated by the desire to indulge in a bit of sniping at the showrunners of "Legend of the Three Caballeros," which Angones disingenuously tried to disparage before it was released and which used the three girls as regular characters--I can just hear Angones and company thinking, "Well, they beat us to the punch with adapting these obscure characters to the cartoons, so let's come up with our own wildly different and completely jarring take on the same characters--that will make everybody forget those upstarts' depiction of April, May and June."

As for FOWL's High Command, Alquackskey has already made the excellent point that bringing FOWL's leaders "out of the shadows" and having them get defeated by Scrooge and the Kids effectively negates the reason for their existence in the first place. The FOWL High Command on Darkwing Duck was a constant in that show's universe, always on hand to provide a new plan for Steelbeak to execute, but never to be captured or unmasked or have all their schemes and motives exposed. Giving the FOWL leadership in the person of Bradford a name, backstory, and motivation not only destroyed the menacing aspect of FOWL's shadowiness, but also destroyed the amusingly whacky aspects of the organization--in keeping with the Darkwing universe's more wild and cartoony nature, the FOWL schemes on that show were typically bizarre and outrageous spoofs on the type of plans that SPECTRE, HYDRA, or THRUSH would have come up with in more "serious" franchises--like the scheme to make the world stop spinning in "Trading Faces" or the creation of a giant rubber ball to smash St. Canard in "Smarter than a Speeding Bullet."

Angones, on the other hand, asked us to take FOWL and its plans seriously--effectively turning a spoof of HYDRA and its ilk into HYDRA itself, or at least a kid-friendly facsimile thereof, just as he turned Gizmoduck from a parody superhero into a conventional superhero. However, even while expecting the audience to regard Bradford and FOWL as a grand climactic menace, Angones couldn't stop himself from undermining his own uber-villain. As I stated previously, Bradford was presented as a villain along the lines of Thanos in the MCU or Ras Al Ghul from the Batman animated series--a ruthless villain who believes that he's committing his evil deeds in order to save the world. There are no bad guys like this in the Ducks' world that I'm aware of, and if handled right, Bradford could have been genuinely interesting. However, to really succeed as a "twisted idealist" villain, Bradford would have had to be presented as passionate, brooding and grimly self-possessed; instead, he was stuffy, smug, and snappish, a small-minded businessman/bureaucrat and not a driven ideologue.

It wasn't just Bradford's personality that deprived him of gravitas; his goal of making Scrooge and everyone else stop "adventuring" in order to make the world dull, safe and predictable lacked the tragic, frightening grandeur that a twisted-idealist villain's master plan should have. Having his goal be motivated not by a misplaced and fanatical devotion to "order" and instead be due to childhood trauma arising from unwanted childhood adventures served to strip his scheme of what little impressiveness it had left.

All that said, Angones wasn't even able to make Bradford stick to his own established personality and stated goals--by the finale, he's turned into a stereotypical Supervillain who's completely consumed by a desire to personally defeat and injure the Superhero (Scrooge), who gleefully murders his own accomplices, and who reneges on his "deal" with Scrooge by attempting to murder Donald for no obvious reason other than Sheer Evilness, while engaging in the maniacal laughter which he previously snapped at his followers for engaging in. I quoted C. S. Lewis in this connection earlier, and will do so again: "Many a promising bad character has been spoiled by the addition of an inappropriate vice." Bradford the conniving, risk-averse schemer wasn't all that promising of a character, but he at least was more distinctive than Bradford the ranting, murderous supervillain, who felt like an entirely different person.

With Bradford, I ultimately got the impression that Angones belatedly realized that he had turned all of Scrooge's original arch-enemies into jokes, and decided to awkwardly cram all their characteristics into a single character in order to provide an Epic Boss Fight for the show finale, with lots of generic supervillain traits thrown in for good measure. Like Glomgold, Bradford's a rival businessman who wants to personally beat Scrooge; like the Beagles, he controls a vast criminal organization; like Magica, he's possessed of arcane magical lore; there was nothing that Bradford and his version of FOWL brought to the table that couldn't have been brought by a team-up of more comics-accurate versions of Scrooge's comic-book rogues' gallery--other than the supervillain shenanigans, which wouldn't have fit the comics characters--but which also didn't really fit Bradford, as presented throughout most of the show.

That concludes my overview of the Villains; my plan now is to cover the Disney Afternoon crossover characters and a few additional miscellaneous guest stars from the cartoons and comics, then discuss the show's depictions of the supernatural in depth. After that, I plan to talk about its animation style and voice acting, and add concluding thoughts.


"Again, I wonder if there was miscommunication on Steelbeak or Antigone and Co. just botched him. Perhaps they did have a pitch for Steelbeak like Angones claimed, but the ones responsible for the episode just missed it and went with the "big dudes are dim thugs."

As for Don Karnage, did Angones believe that he was intended to be a Mexican with Indigenous ancestry? Nothing about him besides his accent pointed to him being "Latino" (and as pointed he peppered his speech with words from a diversity of languages)."

The whole boondoggle regarding New Don Karnage's ethnicity is, in part, an embarrassing example of how North Americans think of all Latin American (in fact, all Spanish-speaking) nationalities as interchangeable, despite significant linguistic, ethnic, and cultural differences throughout Central and South America. Jim Cummings referred to Karnage's accent as partly "Spanish" and partly "Cuban", and specifically mentioned being influenced by the 1950s sitcom character Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, who was played by Desi Arnaz, an actor born into an upper-class Cuban family. The Cuban and Spanish accents are distinct from each other, and each is also distinct from a Mexican accent. Think about how British English and United States English differ from each other, and how widely regional accents differ within the US, and you'll realize that the dialects in Spain and in the various countries of Latin America do not all sound the same. Nevertheless, Angones assigned Karnage a Mexican voice actor, apparently in the belief that there is a single "Latino" ethnicity and identity that covers the entire Spanish-speaking world. There was no need for him to ignore the fact that Karnage really has no one defined national or ethnic identity, but since he was determined to do so, he should have found a Cuban or Spanish voice actor if he was so committed to "authenticity"--there's a lot more support for Karnage being Cuban than there is for his being Mexican, and it's embarassing that Angones obviously thought that the two nationalities are interchangeable.

Of course, all of these embarrassing efforts to make Don Karnage more "authentic" wouldn't have been necessary if Angones had simply gone with Jim Cummings' original take on the character--i.e., that his whacky accent is part of his general over-theatrical persona and can't be pinned down to any one place, region, or country. In the same interview where Cummings talks about the Spanish and Cuban influences on Karnage and references Ricky Ricardo, he also mentioned that there was a French influence on his accent as well, and additionally talked about how his characterization was influenced in part by the Russian actor Yul Brynner. The fixation on pinning down a character like Karnage to a specific nationality/ethnicity is one of several examples of how Angones, despite his general refusal to take his various sci-fi and supernatural gimmicks seriously, could get irritatingly obsessed with bringing "logic" to bear on whimsical and humorous aspects of the characters that didn't need to be "explained" or literalized (like his attempt to explain how Scrooge, a Klondike sourdough, was still alive in 2017).

Incidentally, the Cummings interview segment regarding Don Karnage (part of a long interview in Disney Comics' short-lived Talespin title) is reproduced below; somebody should have asked Angones to read this before charging ahead with his wrong-headed take on Don Karnage (after all, Cummings was a key figure in the creation and development of the character--if I'd been rebooting Karnage, I'd have wanted to see what one of his creators had to say):


"I didn't watch Season 3, so I'm confused about how Bradford Buzzard went from minor background character to main antagonist of "the entire show". Was it as forced as it sounds? And what happened to the other two vultures?"

Yes, it was as forced as it sounds. In summary, in the last scene of the second season, they revealed Bradford and the other two vultures as the three FOWL High Command leaders always shown in silhouette in Darkwing Duck. They then used FOWL in general and Bradford in particular as the recurring menace throughout Season 3, using numerous flashbacks and other "revelations" to insert Bradford into the past of Scrooge and the other Ducks at key points, and to show that FOWL had infiltrated both Scrooge's business empire and SHUSH (just like HYDRA infiltrating SHIELD in The Winter Soldier). The episode "The First Adventure" had Bradford clashing with Scrooge and with child-Donald and child-Della on their supposed very first adventure as a family (the episode then used a magical thingumabob to explain why the Ducks had no memory of the encounter). Bradford was revealed to have been behind Black Heron, from the first-season "Confidential Casefiles of Agent 22" episode; they used other flashbacks to show him as a member of SHUSH back in the 1960s, proposing to Ludwig that SHUSH take over the world and run it for its own good and having his suggestion rejected, then forming an alliance with Black Heron to "steal the world" from SHUSH and dubbing their organization FOWL; it was later shown that he had been holding Ludwig prisoner for decades.

In the biggest and most ridiculous "reveal," we found that Bradford had "created" Webby (codename "April") and then May and June via cloning technology, in an attempt to retrieve a magical papyrus that he expected to be able to use to defeat Scrooge once and for all; Beakley's rescue of the infant Webby from a FOWL lab was shown to be the reason she had gone into seclusion with Scrooge for years. Bradford also gloated to Scrooge about having been the one who told Della the rocketship was ready, resulting in her loss in space, and it was even implied that he had killed Duckworth (he flashes a slide of Scrooge mourning for Duckworth on the screen as he talks about how he "tried to isolate" Scrooge). In the quest to cram Bradford into every aspect of the Ducks' lives, Angones even revealed him as the grandson of the original founder of the Woodchucks ("Isabella Finch"), and the first Junior Woodchuck in history, in order to allow him to temporarily mislead Huey. To ram home the point that Bradford was Scrooge's true archenemy and the "biggest" villain on the show, they had FOWL brainwash Glomgold, Magica and the Beagles in order to use as mindless minions in a gladiatorial combat with the good guys; Bradford was also shown as being the man behind the Blot, Rockerduck, Gandra Dee, and Taurus Bulba. Even Don Karnage wound up working as his henchman for the finale.

All of this "It was Bradford all along" business reminded me of how the recent Bond films, after lucking into the reacquisition of the Blofeld character (who had belonged to another producer for years), then tried to retcon him into the previous Daniel Craig Bond movies by having him proclaim that he had been the "author of [Bond's] pain" the whole time. It also recalled the out-of-left-field resurrection of Palpatine in the new Star Wars sequel trilogy, which came off as a desperation move to woo back fans of the original trilogy who were disappointed by The Last Jedi. As with the contrived Blofeld and Palpatine revelations, there was no sense with Bradford that this had been the creators' plan all the time, but rather that they were scrambling to retroactively insert their uber-villain into the timeline and build him up into a mega-threat in time for the grand finale. All this boosting of Bradford as the Biggest Villain Ever, in addition to seeming contrived, was continually undermined by the petty, small-minded way he was presented--his "backstory" was that he hated adventuring but was forced into it by his grandmother, and that as a result he had determined to take over the world in order to eliminate adventure and unpredictability. Having made that his motivation, however, and established him as a cautious schemer who liked to work behind the scenes, Angones couldn't even stick to that characterization, and turned him into a superpowered warrior (via the magical "Sword of Swanstantine") who engaged in a lengthy physical combat with Scrooge for the series climax, and who then gleefully tried to murder Donald for no other reason than to hurt Scrooge, after achieving his own stated goal of ending Scrooge's adventuring.

As for your question about the other two buzzards, they were casually murdered by Bradford by being pushed into a black hole/vortex (along with Black Heron) after Scrooge pointed out that Bradford would need to eliminate FOWL as well if he wanted to end adventuring and unpredictability. It seemed to be implied they had been Bradford's clones and not his brothers, but this was left unclear, and it was never exactly explained why Bradford needed them around in the first place (other than to provide two other shadowy figures to match up with the FOWL silhouettes from Darkwing Duck).

I don't know if there is an official term for the villainous equivalent of a "Mary Sue," but Bradford definitely was one--he was presented as the Most Dangerous, Most Intelligent, and Most Evil villain in the entire show, and the effort to make him the sum of all foulness turned him into an entirely unbelievable, forced, and incoherent character.

"I'm getting tired of reading how the DT17 crew keeps framing their decisions in relation to the past. Is it so bad PR to say "we liked this character they way they were, but we wanted something a little different". If you an entirely different crew, why would you keep measuring up your show to the original? Just tell your own story.

Case in point: Don Karnage. They had Jim Cummings on the show, but they cast somebody else for the role. Fine, I get that. But then why not just say you wanted to create your own take on the character without explicit refence to the original?"

This is something I mean to devote a longer post to, but the showrunners effectively trapped themselves through their reliance on what I'll call Nostalgia Bait--i.e., exploiting a built-in fanbase for the characters from the comics and from the Disney Afternoon. To do that, they had to keep up the fiction that their takes on these characters were somehow of a piece with the original takes, even though there was often little to no similarity. Hence you see Angones jumping through hoops to unconvincingly claim that his Steelbeak is a younger version of the original character, that his Don Karnage is a descendant of the original one, or that his take on Gyro is supported by some of the original comics. It not only shows a cynical desire to cash in on nostalgia, but also a complete lack of confidence in the showrunners' own work--they clearly felt, with justification, that their stories and characterizations really couldn't stand on their own and had to be propped up through invocations of old goodwill.


#5.—Disney Afternoon Guest Stars

A. The Trouble With This D.W.

Darkwing/Drake Mallard was the only one of the Disney Afternoon heroes to be used as a semi-recurring cast member on New Ducktales—not surprisingly, since Angones has repeatedly stressed his great admiration for the original Darkwing show. I can believe that Angones was more fond of Darkwing than of Ducktales or Talespin, since it was much looser and wackier in its plotting and characterizations than those shows were, and since it was built entirely around superhero tropes. However, based on what we saw of Darkwing and his universe in New Ducktales, I doubt that Angones’ enthusiasm for Darkwing extended beyond “hey, remember that funny superhero cartoon show when I was a kid?” For example, I don’t think he could have come up with the version of Steelbeak that he did if he had been a Darkwing devotee of the caliber of say, Aaron Sparrow or the late Christopher Barat.

Steelbeak wasn’t the only aspect of the Darkwing universe that was mishandled by the Angones crew; broadly speaking, the universe itself was mishandled. In making Darkwing Duck a show-within-the-show, Angones was obviously trying to tap into the nostalgia of the real Darkwing show’s many fans, who he doubtless expected to identify with New Drake and New Launchpad’s fanatical fondness for the show’s counterpart. However, Angones apparently expected to simultaneously exploit nostalgia for the original Darkwing series while changing most of the things that made that series work.

One of the best running jokes of the original series was Drake Mallard’s insistence on taking his own self-created and over-dramatic superhero identity absolutely seriously and his exasperation when others failed to find his dramatics as awesome as he did. His resentment of rival superhero Gizmoduck was an aspect of this image-consciousness, as was his insistence on appearing properly cool and dramatic at all times, even when doing so actually inconvenienced him (as when his various “I am the terror that flaps in the night” intros delayed him long enough for the villains to shoot at him or clobber him).

New Drake, on the other hand, is not a self-dramatizing superhero who insists on believing his own hype, but a roleplaying fanboy merely imitating a TV character that he hero-worships. New Drake's occasional displays of Original Drake’s traits, like his dislike of Gizmoduck, feel oddly out of place, since there’s no real reason for this humbler, more aspirational version of Drake to be jealous of another superhero. As with New Fenton, New Drake may be a “nicer” and less egotistical character, but he’s also a much less interesting one. Also, as with New Fenton, New Drake feels like a superhero fan’s wish-fulfillment fantasy (in this case, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could cosplay as a superhero and use all my nerd knowhow to save the day”) than an actual parody of superhero characters, which the original was.

Angones’ reboot of the Darkwing characters also jettisoned another key aspect of the original series—i.e., Drake’s relationship with Gosalyn, which in the original show was used both for humor (Drake’s efforts to juggle crimefighting with the equally difficult task of parenting a rambunctious tomboy) and for occasional touches of genuine sentiment. That’s all gone in New Ducktales, with Gosalyn becoming a grim, capable Action Girl with zero quirks or personality, instead of an adventurous and mischievous kid, and being given a missing parental figure to look for in the future, instead of being an orphan who forms a new familial bond with Drake. This Drake and Gosalyn aren’t the odd but tightly-knit family unit they were on the original series; they’re merely a crimefighter and his sidekick, who have little in common other than the fact that they fought the same villain and have no real reason to team up long-term other than the fact that they were a team in the original show. Original Gosalyn was an integral part of the original Darkwing series; here, she felt like a bland afterthought who was put in because someone was checking off a list of characters from that series. It didn’t help New Webby had already coopted Gosalyn’s rowdiness and wackiness (and taken it to new and off-putting heights) long before New Gosalyn debuted.

As for the rest of the original Darkwing cast, none of them fared much better than Drake or Gosalyn. I've already covered Steelbeak and FOWL. Quackerjack and Megavolt both came off like their old selves (thanks in part to the voice work), but were reduced to being mere action-scene punching bags (and, of course, serving as nostalgia bait). Liquidator, on the other hand, was not only underused, but lost his established voice and his one defining gimmick—the amusing flow of advertising slogans that he used to communicate with—to become just a henchman with visually flashy powers. Bushroot fared the worst of the “Fearsome Four,” though, being radically changed from a hapless, lovable misfit into a screeching, inhuman monster. There was some speculation that Angones went this route because Bushroot’s voice actor, Tino Insana, has passed away, but it appears to have been driven merely by more of Angones’ self-indulgence and fondness for imitating superhero comics. From Angones’ Tumblr:

Commenter: So what’s the story behind bush root design for the “LET’S GET DANGEROUS” special?

Angones: The story is that the “Twin Beaks” episode of Darkwing Duck absolutely traumatized me as a kid and it felt like a fun opportunity to play with that version of his design. Also liked the idea of him being a bit more primal/elemental, like Swamp Thing, a man trapped inside a monster.

Groan. The whole joke of Original Bushroot was that, in spite of his monstrous plant form, he was a mild-mannered, neurotic goofball—a spoof of creepy superhero-comic characters like Swamp Thing. Angones, as with so many other superhero-spoof elements of his source material (Gizmoduck, Darwking, FOWL), missed the joke entirely here, because superhero tropes are about the only things he takes seriously (as opposed to myths, treasure-hunting, etc.)

Taurus Bulba, like Gosalyn, was so radically altered—from a suave, cunning, but physically overbearing master criminal to a hypocritically jovial and hucksterish mad scientist--that he felt like he was only in New Ducktales because he was in the original Darkwing pilot; there was no reason to simply not create a new mad-scientist villain here other than the desire to call back to the original show (especially since Bulba’s Russian accent was eliminated, destroying the clever literary in-joke contained in his name).

As for Negaduck, I think the whole elaborate attempt to give him an origin story (and a rather tragic one at that) entirely missed the point of the character. The original version, with his outrageous nastiness, was a great spoof of the over-the-top, evil-for-evil’s-sake villains so prevalent in 1990s comic books (the modern Joker being the most egregious example). Having him be a good guy (or at least a guy with some good qualities) gone wrong, and giving him more mundane personal motives for his insane villainy, as opposed to a perversely pure devotion to wreaking havoc, made him a less effective parody and a less entertaining character.

Negaduck’s “arc” on this show also felt like all setup and no payoff; we never saw him again after he morphed into his familiar self. The same was really true of all the Darkwing plot elements on New Ducktales: the Fearsome Four were pulled out of another dimension, then sent right back to it; Drake and Gosalyn met and teamed up, but then never really worked in tandem again. The Darkwing characters (not counting Launchpad) also had next to no impact on the overall story arc of New Ducktales; they felt like they were merely marking time until they got a show of their own. I definitely got the impression, as others on this thread have suggested, that Angones expected to spin off a Darkwing reboot from New Ducktales, only to be blindsided when the Rogen reboot was announced instead.

Although I don’t expect the Rogen reboot to amount to much, a spinoff of Angones’ version of Darkwing would definitely not have been very interesting either, based on the uninspired way he handled the character and his universe on New Ducktales. He appears to have liked the original Darkwing show not because it was a funny cartoon spoof of superheroes, but simply because it was a cartoon with superheroes. As J.R.R. Tolkien once pointed out, there's a distinction between being a great admirer of something and being a perceptive admirer. Angones may have liked Original Darkwing, but he didn't really have much of an understanding of what made Darkwing and his world fun.


"I think that making Darkwing Duck an actor is a neat way to address his theatrical behavior, but yeah I don't think the direction they went for works out overall if the plan the whole time was to set up a reboot. It'd risk making it way too self-aware. Especially since they insisted on making most of the Fearsome Five just television characters.

As for Negaduck, I think it's for the best we never saw how would he have ended up. Going from How Steelbeak and F.O.W.L. were handled I'm sure he would've been handled in the same disrespect (which is key for Negaduck since his character depended on how he was Darkwing if he was always in "Let's Get Dangerous" mode at the expense of having any reliable friends/family)."


#5.—Disney Afternoon Guest Stars

B. Spinning in the Wrong Direction

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I have a high opinion of Talespin; in fact, as much as I like Original Ducktales, I would call Talespin the best of the Disney Afternoon shows. At its best, Talespin was not only funny, colorful and adventurous, with a great exotic/period setting, but was also able to venture into emotional depths unexplored by Original Ducktales or Darkwing Duck. In episodes such as “The Old Man and the Sea Duck,” “Bygones,” “Her Chance to Dream,” “Stormy Weather,” and the four-part pilot “Plunder and Lightning”, the show was repeatedly able to deliver genuinely stirring, sad, heart-warming, or bittersweet moments, without making the sentiment seem forced or contrived, which was not always the case on other Disney Afternoon shows. The man behind Talespin, Jymn Magon, was, not surprisingly, a big Barks fan; while the show was quite different from any of Barks’ comics, it echoed Barks in the way it was able to make its characters feel human, without sacrificing their comic and cartoony qualities.

The two most fondly-remembered original characters from Talespin are definitely Kit Cloudkicker and Don Karnage, so it’s not surprising that Angones chose to use those two in New Ducktales. Nothing in his use of either character, however, indicated that he had any idea of why they were popular. I’ve already discussed how he made Don Karnage merely stupid instead of crazily cunning; his handling of Kit was even worse, since, in “Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker,” it felt like he not only misunderstood the character but deliberately went out of his way to deconstruct him--much like the handling of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars sequels.

The real Kit Cloudkicker, as seen on Talespin, was a remarkably successful take on a character type that can easily become obnoxious—the scrappy, street-smart, but lonely orphan who forms a familial bond with the adult protagonist. One of the keys to the success of Original Kit as a character was the absolute seriousness of his devotion to becoming a flyer; instead of being depicted as too “cool” to really care about anything, he was instead shown as earnest and driven when studying aviation or acting as Baloo’s navigator, and awestruck but highly capable whenever he got the chance to actually fly a plane. Original Kit was also consistently depicted as more impetuous but also more savvy in some ways than the easy-going Baloo; for example, in the pilot episode, it’s Kit who warns Baloo about letting unpaid bills pile up, and who realizes that Baloo’s plane is going to be repossessed before Baloo himself does. He respected Baloo, but was also aware of his flaws and could even get resentful of him on occasion, as in the two-parter “A Bad Reflection on You” when, because of an attempt by Shere Khan to con Baloo into undertaking a dangerous mission, the older bear keeps getting sole credit for heroic exploits in which Kit played an equal part.

So, of course Angones chose to not only ignore but contradict all previous depictions of the character--in order to show New Kit as a terrible pilot who really only became a flyer because he felt it was “expected” of him, and as a brainless slob who lazily lets his own bills pile up and loses his business as a result. He even has him claim to be “really bad at math”—which either feels like a deliberate mockery of the original character’s depiction as a skilled navigator, or colossal ignorance of what a navigator actually does (hint: math plays a huge part in it). Essentially, he gave Kit all of Baloo’s flaws of laziness and sloppiness, but denied him any of Baloo’s ace-level flying skills, caginess, or laid-back sense of humor.

Angones defended this depiction of Kit by harping on the fact that he was “raised” by Baloo and thus naturally would become like him. Like Angones’ absurd insistence that Huey, Dewey and Louie’s “birth order” defined their personalities (as Matilda has frequently pointed out, it simply doesn’t work that way with twins or triplets), or like his depiction of Lena as a “normal” teenager despite her status as a magical construct, this defense betrays an apparent ignorance of how human personalities actually develop. Aside from the fact that many children grow up to be very different from their parents, biological or adopted, Kit was supposed to be twelve years old when he first met up with Baloo; a child’s personality is already well on its way to being formed by that age, and it’s ludicrous to suggest that all of Kit’s personality traits somehow disappeared and were replaced by Baloo’s, or that his deep-rooted devotion to piloting arose from mere uncomprehending filial loyalty (Baloo didn’t get Kit interested in flying, as Angones appeared to think—it was Kit’s interest in flying that first drew him to Baloo in the Talespin pilot episode).

So, in summary, Angones took a youthful hero with the talent and the aspiration to do great things, and turned him into a pathetic, washed-up “sidekick” who had to learn that he would never amount to much, and whose only real function was to help ram home a banal and questionable moral (stick to what you’re “good” at) and serve as a foil to highlight the superior awesomeness of the insufferable duo of Della and Dewey. Any character could have played this part, and it’s genuinely insulting to Talespin’s many fans to use Kit for such a nostalgic bait-and-switch, exploiting fondness for the character while simultaneously doing him terrible disservice. A few hours’ Internet search would have given Angones an idea of what the Kit character meant to Talespin fans, and the essence of his real personality. This four-minute music video, for example, gives a better snapshot of the real Kit than all the reams of dialogue featured in "Lost Cargo."

Angones fortunately made very little use of Molly Cunningham (and none at all of the other Talespin characters), but still managed to get her all wrong during her brief time on screen. Molly on Talespin was adventurous and mischievous, but sweet-natured and genuinely fond of Kit, with whom she had a convincing sibling-like relationship; having her show up at the end of “Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker” to take financial advantage of Kit, and effectively flaunt her greater success in his face, depressingly diminishes her character. Also, if Angones had actually engaged with the original show, he should have realized that there would have been no need for her to take possession of the Sea Duck at the end—her mother, Rebecca, was the owner of both “Higher for Hire” and the Sea Duck on the original show; it would have made much more sense for Molly, not Kit, to be the new owner of the plane and the business in any continuation of Talespin. Either Angones was unaware that Rebecca owned Higher for Hire (which is quite possible, since “Lost Cargo” refers to Baloo as the business’s founder), or he thought that having Molly manage her own cargo business was an insufficiently "kickass" thing for a female character to do (remember, in Angones’ world, women have to be outrageously reckless daredevils, before they can be taken seriously).

If Angones had wanted to intelligently revisit the Talespin characters in a “many years later” scenario, and give Kit a dramatic, learning-a-lesson “arc,” the way to do it would have been to depict Kit as having abandoned cargo-freighting and Higher for Hire to become a successful hot-shot pilot, only to become dissatisfied with his exciting but rootless lifestyle and ultimately reunite with Molly at Higher for Hire, choosing the family business over fame and fortune. Alternatively, he could be shown as having stayed put in Cape Suzette to work for Higher for Hire, while secretly chafing over having passed up the chance to become a famous flyer (much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life), only to ultimately realize the value of sticking with the family business. Stories like these would have fit Angones’ professed theme of “family”, while also doing justice to the Talespin characters—but they would have also required Angones to take his sentimental rhetoric seriously, and engage with the source material he claimed to be paying homage to, two things that he and his crew regularly showed themselves unable or unwilling to do.


"I don't think Angones noticed that Danger Woman was a radio character. Not just Molly's persona. Her growing up to call herself that is like a little girl who grew up on the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman to call herself WW as a stuntwoman."

That's a good additional point, which, like the confusion about the ownership/founding of Higher for Hire, shows how little Angones knew about the Talespin characters; in the real world, New Molly would be getting a cease-and-desist order from her universe's version of Warner Brothers in short order if she tried to use the Danger Woman name for her aerial show.

"I don't even know how Molly would have absolute rule over the company unless Rebecca willed it to her. And after everything she and Baloo went through I don't see how she wouldn't let Kit have just as big of a share since he was more or less her and Baloo's son."

The way "Lost Cargo" presented it, it appeared that Kit was the sole owner of Higher for Hire and had gotten hopelessly in debt to the bank; Molly talked as if she had bought the business through the bank and had never owned any interest in it up till then (this was an imitation of the Talespin pilot, where Rebecca acquired the "pink slip" for Baloo's plane after buying it through the bank). This made no sense unless you assume, as Angones appears to have done, that Higher for Hire was Baloo's business handed down to Kit, instead of Rebecca's business, which would logically have been handed down to Molly as well as Kit; there would have been no need for her to buy it from Kit's debtors.


#5.—Disney Afternoon Guest Stars

C. Goofproof

I never really got into Goof Troop; as a kid, I was only interested in the adventure-oriented Disney Afternoon offerings, while as an adult I find that I prefer animated comedy in the theatrical cartoon-short format rather than as an imitation of live-action sitcoms. Still, it had its good points, chief among them the Goofy-Pete dynamic (Jim Cummings' Pete voice-acting was hilarious, and I wish he'd been given the chance to voice a Gottfredson-based Pete at some point).

Compared to Original Ducktales, Talespin, and Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop survived a "homage" from the Angones crew more or less unscathed. The New Ducktales crew doesn't really deserve much credit for this. Goofy is almost writer-proof, being a very hard character to get completely wrong; even in Fallberg's bland Mickey serials and Lockman's dashed-off backup stories from Donald Duck, some of his entertainingly off-the-wall personality manages to come through. Also, I'm sure that Disney's executives are much more protective of him than they are of characters like Gyro Gearloose, Glittering Goldie, Steelbeak, or Kit Cloudkicker, so it's not surprising that he retained his usual voice and a recognizable version of his established personality.

Having Goofy play the Wise Fool and provide Donald with eccentric but helpful advice felt entirely in-character for him. However, the advice, in the context of New Ducktales' dysfunctional universe, came off as horribly inapposite for Donald (i.e., he should let his family keep making him miserable by risking their lives and his), which I don't think was the idea. Also, the mechanism for introducing Goofy was ridiculously contrived, and ultimately wound up making no sense other than on a breaking-the-fourth-wall level.

This is as good a place as any to mention Angones' attempted spoof of Quack Pack, since it was combined with his Goof Troop homage; like most Duck fans, I think Quack Pack was dreadful, and bitterly regret that Jymn Magon's "Duck Daze" pitch was rejected. However, Angones' crew really couldn't satirize Quack Pack with any bite, since many of that show's mistakes--the resolute refusal to take sci-fi/fantasy elements seriously, the individualized and obnoxious Nephews, the off-puttingly snarky sense of humor--were mirrored in New Ducktales. The lame one-liners and other bits parodying Quack Pack and "bad" sitcoms in general were hardly distinguishable from New Ducktales' usual hollow sense of humor, aside from having their lameness more deliberately highlighted.

D. The Rest of the Afternoon

The Rescue Rangers were fortunate to be relegated to non-speaking cameos, which allowed them to retain a degree of dignity and even made their appearances more successful in evoking a nostalgic thrill than most of the other Disney Afternoon guest shots; I admit to feeling a momentary wave of amusement and excitement when their theme music (the best of the Disney Afternoon themes, I would say) began playing as they executed their first rescue in "You Only Crash Twice"--even though I was aware, on a rational level, that I was falling for nostalgia bait and that the the versions of the Rescue Rangers on this show would have been disappointing if given any further exposure. Making them lab animals given sentience by a ray destroys the central, delightful gimmick of their series--the idea of an entire universe of intelligent animals who can communicate with each other and who maintain their own society outside of the knowledge of humanity (much like the Basil of Baker Street books and Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill stories, two childhood favorites of mine). Their new origins effectively foreclosed the existence of such a society, and without it the Rescue Rangers would have lost most of the things that made them interesting.

If you're bound and determined to tie the Gummi Bears' medieval-fantasy universe into the world of the Ducks, then I will admit that making Gummiberry Juice a MacGuffin for the heroes and villains to fight over is a pretty clever way of doing it. Still, the references to the Gummis were bound to seem like a rather bizarre non sequiturs to anyone who's not familiar with the original series, as were the various dialogue references to the theme song ("Mass destruction that's beyond compare!"). The shout-outs really served no purpose beyond (to paraphrase GeoX) pointing and saying "look, here's a reference to a thing you liked!" In a show less heavily drenched with casual supernaturalism, it could have been a fun twist to have some guardian Gummis step out of the shadows towards the end to make sure their ancient potion was removed from FOWL's hands--but given New Ducktales' uniformly dreadful handling of mythic elements, it's just as well their usage of the Gummis didn't go beyond a few in-jokes.

As for the Wuzzles, their reimagining was probably the most desperate and absurd attempt at exploiting nostalgia of all of Angones' Disney Afternoon references. Anyone who was a fan of that mild-mannered show was hardly going to enjoy seeing "realistic", monstrous versions of its characters, and the references would be uninteresting or meaningless to people who didn't like or weren't familiar with the series.

That concludes my coverage of the Disney Afternoon; I'm going to take one post to cover a few additional New Ducktales characters who didn't fit conveniently into any other category, and then move on to discussing in-depth several of the recurring issues I've touched on in these character entries (like the treatment of the supernatural).


"I haven't much to add on the Blot - I've gotten to a point where I can trust what you say on Angones' tumblr. I'd be interested in seeing a source on that comment about the "blotting out phantoms" comment, but... ugh. Really?"

I dug up the specific Blot quote from Angones' Tumblr:

Commenter: Is the Blot in DuckTales still called the Phantom Blot?

Angones: Yes, but because he seeks to blot out phantoms.

By the way, good to see you commenting again, Alquackskey; your input is always great to read.


#6—Trading on Unearned Goodwill

I was going to do a short entry covering several minor miscellaneous characters, but realized that the points that I wanted to make about them fit well with the larger point of this section.

I’ve already touched on this theme at several points in my dissections of the characters, but I want to develop it at more length: Namely, New Ducktales’ ubiquitous references to Barks, Rosa, and the Disney Afternoon—the type of shout-outs which have come to be known as “Easter Eggs”, which I have also referred to as “Nostalgia Bait,” and which, by any name, caused pervasive problems for New Ducktales on several levels.

A. Bootless Reboot, Useless Boost

The first problem with the incessant Easter-egging was that it betrayed an embarrassing lack of confidence in New Ducktales’ self-avowed “different direction” (to quote the Disney employee who told Terry McGovern that McGovern wouldn’t be returning to his Launchpad role). Angones and company recast the voices of characters like Launchpad, Don Karnage, Steelbeak, and Darkwing, despite their voice actors still being active, and made major, often comprehensive, changes to almost every character whom they adapted from another source—as we’ve been discussing in the preceding pages of this thread. In other words, they behaved like people who have set out to Boldly Reimagine ™ an established franchise, with new, alternative takes on the characters.

However, due either to a justified lack of confidence in their own poorly conceived new ideas (which I’ve analyzed in depth in the preceding pages), or to a cynical desire to capitalize on the nostalgia of comics fans and Disney Afternoon devotees, or (most likely) a combination of both, Angones and his crew also took every opportunity to link their rebooted characters to their radically different original versions, in the process reminding us of the superiority of the original versions. The new Gyro, though an entirely different character from the Gyro of the comics or Original Ducktales, reviews a list of inventions created by the Original Ducktales Gyro. The new Ludwig, though placed in an entirely new context and role, still recites a ditty from his original animated appearance. The new Kit Cloudkicker’s background is filled in by a video crowded with visual allusions to the original Talespin opening credits. The new Nephews are shown in a “photograph” that mirrors the classic Barks “inner tube” cover/painting. New Scrooge is referred to by titles drawn from Rosa’s Life and Times chapters. I could go on listing examples for twenty more paragraphs, since every episode had at least one such “Easter egg,” and usually many more than one.

Angones’ Tumblr page and other interactions with fans were also peppered with the same cynical and/or insecure efforts to siphon off the goodwill of the original characters and use it to boost the unappealing reboot versions, by claiming that they were logical extensions of the original versions—resulting in bizarre and unbelievable assertions--like the comment about Original Gyro’s alleged “dark and deadpan” moments, the insistence that the new Steelbeak was just learning the ropes and was on his way towards becoming the original version of the character, the description of the new Blot as being partly based on the original Gottfredson Blot, or the claim that Don Karnage was a descendant of the original one and that there was a great unused pitch which would have explained what happened to the earlier Karnage and to Baloo. Even when Angones admitted that he had taken a character in an entirely unprecedented direction, he tried to pretend that he did so because of carefully considered analysis of the weaknesses of the original version, rather than admitting that he just chose to throw out the old character in order to mimic some other franchise’s characters—the prime example being the nonsense about how the need to eliminate Goldie’s “pining” for Scrooge necessitated turning her into an immortal version of Catwoman.

By trying to have it both ways—i.e., play around with radically revised versions of the characters while simultaneously capitalizing on the appeal of the old ones—Angones invited constant comparisons with the older versions that would have been disconcerting, and would have made the new versions hard to judge on their own merits, even if the new versions had been more interesting. Given the marked inferiority of the rebooted characters, the Easter-egging provided no boost and instead served as a truly painful reminder of how much better the old ones were—engendering that much more resentment of the various alterations.

B. Ah, Barks!

Besides painfully demonstrating the shallowness and wrongheadedness of the new versions of the Ducks and the other characters, the constant parade of Easter eggs felt more than a little insulting to devoted fans of the old versions--it created the impression that Angones thought such fans could be dazzled into admiration of New Ducktales through a barrage of extensive but surface-level references.

Bits like Bradford’s rattling-off of place-names from Rosa’s stories in “Great Dime Chase,” the references to things like Plain Awful, Tralla La and bottle caps, “Duke Baloney,” the Solego Circuit, and “Danger Woman,” the appropriation of the Nephews’ introductory letter from their debut strip for Donald and Della in “The First Adventure”, the cameos by characters named Jones, Yellow Beak, Hazel, etc.--all of these felt frustratingly hollow, since in each case the reference had little or nothing to do with the character, place or story ostensibly being referenced. Anyone familiar enough with the source material to recognize this name-dropping was also likely to be fond enough of the source material to want to see it translated more intelligently and accurately to the screen.

Angones appeared to think, however, that the fan audiences he was trying to attract would be so dazzled by name-recognition that they’d be unable to note the hollowness of the nostalgia bait. It made me think of the famous MASH “Ah, Bach!” scene, where Radar tries to make a success of a date with a classical music enthusiast by using that single phrase as an all-purpose exclamation. If Angones really thought that effectively saying “Ah, Barks!” was going to deflect fan backlash against the show’s many wrong-headed creative choices, he must have had a low opinion of Duck fans.

That said, I suspect that the hollow Easter eggs were only partly targeted towards the preexisting fan community, whether fans of the Duck comics or the Disney Afternoon; they also were clearly being used to create an illusion of lore-mastery for New Ducktales fans unfamiliar with the comics, the type who might Google “Plain Awful” or “Yellow Beak” out of curiosity, find that the names came from the comics, and admiringly exclaim “Wow, the New Ducktales guys know so much about these old comics!” without investigating further. Still, these same fledgling fans would have been equally or even more impressed if there’d been some substance behind the references—and old-school fans wouldn’t have been as alienated, which sounds like a win for everyone except the Angones crew, who would have had to dive more deeply into their source material instead of skimming along the top, something they were repeatedly adverse to doing.

C. Was That Supposed to be a Joke?

I know there were some on this forum who found some of Angones’ many references, such as Jones, the “Barksian Modulator,” and Duke Baloney, amusing on a meta-level. However, I question the advisability of humor that is so meta that it takes a paragraph of analysis to get the in-joke and that is simply not funny on a simple, non-meta level. Also, I found the “jokes” in each of these cases to be more than a little tenuous.

For example, as GeoX pointed out on his blog, the “Barksian Modulator” didn’t work as a commentary on the differences between the cartoon Donald and the comics Donald, since it not only gave Donald a new voice but also changed him from a hapless clown to a hard-boiled tough guy who had little in common with either cartoon-Donald or comics-Donald. Even worse, unless you were amused by the attempted meta-joke, the Modulator scene was not at all funny and was in fact downright frustrating and distasteful, with the other characters’ inability to understand Donald becoming unbelievably exaggerated and with the gadget getting forcibly rammed into his throat.

The same is true of the appearance by “Jones.” Here, apparently the meta-joke was supposed to be that, while Original Jones was a source of anger to Donald, New Jones is Donald’s counselor and is helping him manage his anger. However, this represents the sacrifice of a tried-and-true, often very funny old joke for a weaker new one; the mild meta-humor of making Jones Donald’s anger management counselor doesn’t supply half of the laughs that an old-fashioned, entirely non-meta backyard battle between Donald and Jones could have (particularly since such antics are so well-suited to animation). Furthermore, the Jones-as-counselor joke isn’t funny on any level other than a meta one; to someone who doesn’t know the comics history of Jones, giving Donald anger issues that require a counselor (and are based in supposed insecurity about his voice, to boot) just succeeds in making this show’s mocked and downtrodden version of Donald seem that much more depressing and unhappy.

As for “Duke Baloney,” I suppose the use of the name was intended as a in-joke alluding to the fact that the Duke of Baloni was the comics’ second-richest duck before Glomgold appropriated the title—but, again, this mild joke was not nearly as much fun as introducing the Duke himself could have been; I like the idea of adding a genteel, aristocratic, old-money richnik to Scrooge’s list of rivals (I can picture him finding Scrooge and Glomgold’s penny-pinching unbearably bourgeois and regarding Rockerduck’s ostentatiousness as annoyingly vulgar).

The focus on obscure in-jokes is hardly unique to Angones; it’s one of the mainstays of modern Internet “nerd” culture--just take a look at the videos of HISHE (How It Should Have Ended, which rely heavily on obscure cross-references and allusions). Such humor can be funny at times, but it works better for pure parodies like the HISHE videos; in a supposed adventure series, like New Ducktales, where you’re supposed to be actually engaging with the narrative and characters, meta-humor pulls you out of the proceedings in a way that genuine character-based humor does not.

D. Short Cuts to Sentiment

The New Ducktales crew not only relied on preexisting goodwill to impress and amuse their audiences, but to move them as well. So many of the attempts at creating Drama and Emotion (TM) only really worked if the characters were viewed as their original selves—which the many changes to the characters made it impossible to do.

For example, we were regularly reminded of Donald’s paternal devotion to the Nephews—but we only occasionally saw him interact with them; the boys spent the vast majority of times tagging along with Scrooge or with one of the other various adult characters. Angones and company appeared to expect viewers to mentally import the long-established familial relationship between Donald and the Nephews from the comics into New Ducktales, saving the showrunners the trouble of actually taking time to show them interacting regularly as a family—but these versions of Donald and the Nephews were too different from their prior comic-book and animated selves to really give them the emotional benefit of their prior history.

An even better example is one that Lieju pointed in the comments section on GeoX’s blog—i.e., the supposedly heart-wrenching flashbacks in “Last Crash of the Sunchaser” which show Scrooge emptying his bin in a futile search for Della. If this were the Barks or Rosa Scrooge, who has a genuine emotional attachment to his fortune, the scene might have some weight—but Angones repeatedly told us that New Scrooge is all about being the World’s Coolest Adventurer, not being the World’s Richest Duck (except insofar as it augments his coolness). Thus, unless we can mentally substitute Original Scrooge for New Scrooge (which is very hard to do, given the divergence between the characters), the scene just doesn’t have the impact it was supposed to.

The same was true of the various Disney Afternoon characters, as I’ve already analyzed—for example, we’re supposed to feel a lump in the throat when New Kit Cloudkicker yells “Spin it!” or reunites with Molly Cunningham, but that lump is meaningless once it’s been established that this version of the character has nothing to do with the one we actually care about. We’re supposed to laugh at Darkwing Duck’s criticisms of Gizmoduck because we know the characters’ history—even though these characters don’t actually have that same history.

E. Playing to an Uncomprehended Audience

At least Scrooge, Donald, and other established characters had lots of genuine goodwill to exploit. The show’s attempt to build an enormous mystery around Della and derive high emotion from her return was even more misjudged, since it appears to have been based on an entirely mistaken notion of What the Fans Want and a belief in nonexistent emotional investment in the “return” of the character. Angones and company acted as if they believed that the “disappearance” of Della was a riddle that had gnawed at the minds of Duck comics fans for years, and appeared to think that its resolution would thrill those fans—who, in actuality, may have engaged in speculation about Della, but who were also aware that Della really couldn’t come back without disrupting the comics’ established universe.

Angones’ misjudgment of What the Fans Want extended to misreading their negative emotions as well; his Tumblr proclamation that he expected “collective hatred” for making Bubba the first of the McDuck line was comically tone-deaf; he didn’t seem to understand that no one hated the caveduck himself on Original Ducktales, but simply resented the fact that a one-joke gimmick character was turned into a needless regular (keeping Bubba as a one-episode guest star was one of the very few positive changes Angones made to his source material). Similarly, Angones appeared to think that all Original Ducktales viewers shared his loathing for Doofus and would get a laugh out of his demonization and dehumanizing of the character, when most viewers either would have preferred to see him simply improved or dropped.

Ultimately, all the efforts of the New Ducktales to amuse, move, or otherwise play to the built-in audience for their source material betrayed a fundamental ignorance of both audience and source material. Although the show was repeatedly sold as being created by fans for fans, it felt more like the work of a bunch of superhero fans trying, on the fly, to master just enough of the idiom of Disney funny-animal fans to hold their interest—much like a traveling salesman trying to make a pitch in a foreign language that he’s only had a one-week crash course in.


"I love the connection you make to Radar's "Ah, Bach!" Spot on. Also, I would very much like to have someone write a comics story featuring the real Duke of Baloni as you imagine him. What would the old-money aristocrat make of Scrooge's habit of swimming in his cash? Not vulgar, because he doesn't do it for show; but childish?"

I think the Duke of Baloni could be put to very funny use to highlight just how childlike and eccentric Scrooge's relationship to his wealth really is, by "normal" billionaire standards. You could do a nice humorous short story, kind of akin in spirit to Barks' "Fun? What's That?" or "The Fabulous Tycoon," with the two characters--have the Duke showing Scrooge around the Duke's castle (of course he'd have a family castle), and use a series of gags to demonstrate how the Duke's money helps him to afford the "finer things"--good clothes, classy cuisine, an art collection, high-level social events, gentlemanly sports like polo or fencing, and all the other things you'd expect an old-money aristocrat to be interested in. Scrooge can be perplexed or bored by all of this. Then, have Scrooge invite the Duke to see how he lives, and have the Duke be flabbergasted by the fact that Scrooge isn't interested in any of the perks of money but rather finds joy in the opportunity to play with his money, like a little kid building castles out of coins.

"Blofeld (or shall I say, "Bro-feld") or Palpatine (or shall I say, "Grandpa Palpatine")?"

"They missed a stitch by not revealing Bradford as Scrooge's long-lost relative, you say?"

Well, they came awful close to the Grandpa Palpatine revelation by having Bradford be the one responsible for Webby's creation. I suppose we're lucky they didn't also make him the Nephews' father while they were at it.


#7—Gods and Monsters

Like the preceding analysis of New Ducktales’ Easter eggs and nostalgia bait, this section is intended as an in-depth examination of an issue that I’ve often touched on in passing in my previous posts--namely, New Ducktales’ heavy reliance on supernatural characters and plot devices, to a much greater extent than either the comics or Original Ducktales, and its simultaneous insistence on trivializing and undermining its supernatural elements. In doing so, the show not only destroyed any sense of mystery, terror or wonder that could have been minded from the supernatural story elements, but also made it impossible to regard the Ducks as relatable humans.

A. Things Not Found Within Recorded Time—Actually, They’re in the Garage

As an extremely overimaginative kid with an embarrassing dread of the supernatural, I remember taking great comfort in Barks’ habit of rationalizing away the paranormal elements at the end of stories like “The Flying Dutchman,” and also remember being quite disturbed by Original Ducktales’ “Sphinx for the Memories” with its ghost/possession plot and its rampaging mummy, and by “Raiders of the Lost Harp” with its scarily unstoppable giant minotaur. My reaction was "Things like that just don't happen in the Ducks' world!"

As a less skittish adult, however, both of those episodes rank among my all-time favorite Original Ducktales adventures, and I think that they also provide excellent examples of just how to handle supernatural and mythological plot elements in a Duck context. The mythopoeia and the scary stuff are balanced with humor (the enchanted harp in “Raiders” rebuking people for “fibbing”, the ghostly pharaoh being called “The Garbled One”), but are presented with proper gravitas when appropriate (the terrifying awakening of the minotaur in “Raiders”, the surprisingly moving exit of the Garbled One and the mummy’s ghost in “Sphinx”, to name two examples). There was always a sense that these ancient mysteries and menaces are a Big Deal, and represent something outside our normal experience and the normal experience of the Ducks.

That sense is entirely lost in New Ducktales. The tone of this series’ attitude towards legendary marvels and terrors was established in the pilot, when we find that Scrooge keeps a pirate ghost, a headless man-horse, and a Chinese dragon in his garage alongside garden hoses and old magazines. The characters’ utter familiarity with the supernatural only increased in later episodes; when the lead character’s parents are Druidically cursed with eternal life, his butler is a ghost, his R&D lab employs a headless man-horse, and the lead character himself has become magically immortal, the paranormal becomes the dull normal, and there’s no more chance to feel awe or fear as the characters encounter the ancient and the uncanny. As Young Donald and Della say in the “Last Christmas” episode, when confronted with a time-traveling relative and a Wendigo, “We’re the Duck family—this is only like the fourth weirdest thing that’s happened to us on Christmas.”

It didn’t have to be this way; the showrunners could have had Scrooge refer to some strange magical adventures in his past on occasion (there’s dialogue to that effect in the above-mentioned “Raiders of the Lost Harp”) and show both recognition and alarm (the more so because of the recognition) when supernatural menaces return, rather than have him banter smugly with pirate ghosts bent on beheading him. Similarly, they could have had Webby fascinated by arcane legends but reacting with believable surprise, awe and dread when the legends come alive, rather than depicting her as an unbelievably deranged fangirl who not only expects to encounter the supernatural at every turn but revels in the encounter, no matter how dangerous (like her absurdly delighted reaction to the revival of Toth-Ra).

Even when the New Ducktales characters do react with actual fear to supernatural menaces, it’s always on a simple “Wak, I could get killed!” level—there’s no sense that any of the fear emanates simply from the overpowering uncanniness of the menace itself. As C. S. Lewis said, in commenting on H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, “What really matters in this story is the idea of being attacked by something utterly ‘outside.’ . . . If the Martian invaders are merely dangerous—if we once become mainly concerned with the fact that they can kill us—why, a burglar or a bacillus can do as much.” To New Scrooge and his crew, the gods and monsters on this show might as well be burglars, given how little of a sense of “outside” fear and awe they evoke.

B. Who is to Awe when the Gods Themselves are Dragged Into the Awfulness?

It’s not just the Ducks’ reaction to supernatural and mythic figures that kills any sense of fear or wonder on New Ducktales—it’s the relentlessly deflating presentation of the figures themselves. Here, instead of echoing the best of Original Ducktales' supernatural/mythic episodes, Angones seemed to be channeling some of the worst--episodes like "Ducky Horror Picture Show" and "Ducktales Valentine" which used classic gods and monsters as vehicles for sub-par sitcom shenanigans.

The most ubiquitous example of Angones' own deflating depiction of supernatural characters was, of course, Manny the Headless Man-Horse. He’s a supposed harbinger of the Apocalypse—but he really just wants to work in a lab and live a “normal” life, and his most dramatic moment--his out-of-left-field, nostalgia-baiting transformation into a Gargoyle--is immediately verbally undercut (“I live again! Again.”).

The guest-star supernatural characters fare just as poorly for the most part. About the only mythological guest stars who sort of worked were the Kelpies, in the "Missing Links of Moorshire" episode; despite being in part a pop-culture parody that is bound to date indifferently, they retained enough of the mischievous lethality of their mythic originals that they felt like a respectable humorous take on those originals rather than a dully obvious deconstruction or “subversion.” Perhaps their being more obscure than some of the other mythological figures had something to do with this; even the parody-obsessed Angones couldn't mock something that his audiences were unlikely to be familiar with.

The same can’t be said for the other folklore guest stars, all of whom were aggressively diminished or mocked in one way or another. Classic Halloween bogeys like werewolves, witches, and vampires (in “The Trickening”) are turned from fearsome creatures of the night into petty candy-snatching curmudgeons—while, like Magica, they’re simultaneously made far too dark, being shown as quite ready to eat the kids before changing gears for an affable sitcom-style “lessons learned” finale. The use of “Witch Hazel” as one of these off-putting quasi-villains was particularly absurd and rather ironic, given how the original, June-Foray-voiced version of the character managed to be at once a classic-style Halloween witch and a funny and likable character, as opposed to these dull and off-putting would-be parodies.

As for the mythological gods, turning Ragnarok into a pro-wrestling match and the World Serpent into an anthropomorphic wrestling champ was puerile and anti-mythic enough, but the treatment of the Greek pantheon was even more deflating—the gods are a very modern-seeming sitcom-style family (chatty and quick-witted daughter, lovably naïve and oafish son, egotistical and inept dad) with no gravitas at all. The handling of Zeus was particularly one-note and particularly revealing; the King of the Gods is not only reduced to being a selfish bumbler, but he’s shown as being primarily driven by resentment and envy of a mere mortal—Scrooge, of course—and earns no more respect from the showrunners than, say, Glomgold does. I can’t think of a more emphatic way to say “Those old mythical characters were lame; see how cool our new mythic figures are by comparison.”

C. Powers and Abilities Far Beyond Those of Mortal Ducks

The discussion of Zeus and his family brings me to the other big problem with this show’s depiction of the supernatural as simply part of the everyday—namely, the fact that doing so effectively dehumanizes the Ducks. Even were their personalities less one-note and obnoxious, the Ducks of New Ducktales would have been barred from achieving any level of human relatability, due to the superhuman circles in which they move.

As discussed in prior entries, original Barks Ducks--the Everyduck Donald, the smart, brave, but recognizably childlike Nephews, even the eccentric Scrooge--were all very human and relatable figures. By contrast, this Scrooge is an immortal who travels through time with the Ghosts of Christmas, casually bests Zeus in games, and engages in annual wrestling contests to save the world from destruction. Even the put-upon Donald is best buds with Hercules ("Storkules") himself and, as a kid, thinks nothing of fighting monsters or meeting time-travelers. As for the Nephews (and Webby), they “audition” for the role of new gods, and only give up that destiny because they realize in effect that they’re already god-tier awesome as they are. These are superbeings who we can (theoretically) look up to, not humans we can identify with, and without some feeling of the protagonists’ mortality, it’s hard to get involved in their adventures (even if those adventures had been better-written).

Tolkien, after the success of The Hobbit, could not sell The Silmarillion, with its gods, elves, and superhuman mortal warriors, to his publisher, who asked for more Hobbits—resulting in The Lord of the Rings. The very human Hobbits in that novel provided a sort of gateway to the more powerful elves and heroes, giving human readers someone to identify with and go adventuring with in Tolkien’s mythopoeic world. The very human Ducks, if brought into a fantasy world, should provide similar identification for the audience—as Erickson and Cavazzano did in the Tolkien-pastiche “World of the Dragonlords,” or as Rosa did in his Kalevala story. They shouldn’t be treated as superhumans themselves, the equals or superiors of the mythic beings they encounter.


How would you (or others here) compare the treatment of the ancient pantheons in DT '17, Legend of the Three Caballeros (World Tree Caballeros!), and Barks' Mythic Mystery? While I respect Barks' usual approach of (as you put it) rationalizing away the paranormal, I think Mythic Mystery is a very weak story, because the burden of the plot is that the ancient gods Warn't No Thang. As for LTC, overall I feel it did far better than DT '17 at conveying a sense of awe and adventure along with the humor, in part because it didn't have the snarky, cooler-than-thou attitude. I'm not particularly fond of the gods in World Tree Caballeros, but even in that episode the world tree itself was pretty awesome, and negotiating it felt like a wholehearted adventure.

I'd agree that Mythic Mystery is a bit of a disappointment, in that its gods are thoroughly demystified by means of quasi-scientific explanations that really aren't any more believable (and is a good deal less interesting) than a mythological explanation would have been. I think the famous missing splash panel would have helped a bit, since I think it might have made the satire of Earth, and not the debunking of Valhalla, the most memorable point of the story.

On the Three Caballeros' World Tree episode, and on that show's handling of the supernatural in general: I have my reservations about making Donald, Jose, and Panchito's primary reason for teaming up to be fighting wizards and monsters and meeting mythological legends, rather than have them engage in a wider range of adventures, which would allow occasional supernatural exploits to feel more special. That said, the show did do a much better job of handling mythology in ways that were amusing without being utterly destructive of the spirit of the original myth. Charon running a creepy cruise line to the underworld was my absolute favorite; it riffed on the myth without subverting it and landed a nice satirical punch on modern materialism and consumerism. I thought that the rusticated Olympians, along with the comical platitude-spouting King Arthur, were some of the least successful mythological depictions on the series, but even those characters got to recapture former greatness and engage in heroic derring-do in their episodes' respective climaxes; you never got the sense, as you did with Angones' Zeus, that the writers despised these characters or were out to intentionally insult them.

Incidentally, the Disney Wiki claims, albeit with no source to back it up, that the gods in "World Tree Caballeros" were originally slated to be the Norse pantheon, but that someone within the Disney corporate leviathan asked for a switch to avoid diluting the Marvel Thor brand. That would make some sense, since the World Tree belongs to Norse and not to Classical mythology, and there would be a much stronger joke in the idea that the gods had given up war to become gardeners, since the Norse pantheon was always much more pugnacious than the Graeco-Roman one. It would also explain why Apollo pops up without explanation in the follow-up episode to drop the Caballeros off; I would assume that the three gods in the original script would have been Odin, Thor, and Freya, and that it would have been Thor in the chariot at the beginning of the next episode. This could also explain why Angones avoided using Thor and most of the other big names of Norse mythology in his "Rumble for Ragnarok" episode (although I think Disney's attempt to call dibs on centuries-old legendary heroes is ridiculous, I am nevertheless grateful for it in this one instance if it kept Angones from trashing yet more mythological characters).

I agree about the look of the World Tree--and the look of most "Legend of the Three Caballeros" in general--as being much better than most of the allegedly fantastical settings in New Ducktales. I'll be touching on this in more depth soon; I want to do a separate section on New Ducktales' animation and visuals, and intend to do some comparing-and-contrasting with Caballeros, Original Ducktales, and the classic-era Disney animation.

I find this very interesting, and like you, I find that it makes more sense of the episode to put the Norse gods in proximity to the World Tree and to have them swear off warring. I will view the episode through this filter next time I watch it, and I believe I'll like it better. Definitely more on point to have the Norse gods give up war; that makes it more than just a joke of how the old gods have gotten old. And yes, it must have been meant to be Thor's chariot at the beginning of the next episode! I suppose there would be some question of how Xandra knew the Norse gods.... POST 21

#8—Family is the Greatest Adventure

This will be my last entry on the storytelling aspects of New Ducktales (I plan to follow it with entries on animation and voice work, and then a short epilogue). I think it’s appropriate to conclude an overview of the show’s writing by addressing its handling of its two professed central themes, Adventure and Family.

A. Expected Journeys

Angones and his crew, beginning with the original New Ducktales “First Look” teaser (“Uncharted territories! Bold new discoveries!”), hawked the show’s adventurousness for all it was worth. However, just as the supernatural elements of the series were ruined by being made utterly mundane, the showrunners also foreclosed the possibility of any genuinely exciting Barks-style treasure hunts by treating adventuring as basically the entire Duck family’s principal pastime rather than true trips off the beaten path. Where normal families would go on hikes or a trip to the zoo, the Ducks jaunt off to foreign lands or mystical alternate dimensions—which, just like their easy familiarity with the supernatural world, makes them a lot less relatable, as well as making adventure seem utterly mundane.

In Barks, by contrast, even Scrooge doesn’t usually plan and organize treasure-seeking expeditions from the ground up (as previously discussed in this thread); in “Mines of King Solomon” and “Seven Cities of Cibola,” probably the two quintessential Barks treasure-hunt stories, he stumbles onto the trail of fabled lost treasures while engaged in more ordinary business ventures. “The Philosopher’s Stone” is one of the only Barks treasure-hunt stories where Scrooge, right from the beginning, has a clear idea of exactly what he’s looking for when he sets out on his quest—and even there, the story is filled with unpredictability and changes of scene as the Ducks chase new clues around the map (“Call the wild goose! We’re on our way again!”)

It’s the unpredictability factor that makes for the best treasure hunts, expeditions, and quests—the puzzling clues that lead adventurous but ordinary people to odd and dangerous places and encounters with ancient or outlandish folk, the feeling that “still round the corner there may wait a new door or a secret gate.” The Original Ducktales pilot, “Treasure of the Golden Suns” also had a touch of this element, with small clues gradually snowballing into revelations of the extent of the treasure Scrooge is searching, and the history of that treasure. I think the single best term to describe this quality of adventurous unpredictability is Tolkien’s phrase “Unexpected Journey;” most of the foundational adventure stories of modern Western literature—King Solomon’s Mines, Treasure Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Lost World—possess it to some degree or another.

However, there are almost no Unexpected Journeys in New Ducktales, and little real sense of exploring uncharted territory, solving ancient riddles, or encountering unknown civilizations. Angones’ Scrooge has been everywhere and seen everything, and has some kind of past connection with nearly every strange or exotic place visited or referenced in the course of the show, from Mount Neverrest to the mystical realm of “Goathoo.” Even when the Ducks encounter something that’s not old news to Scrooge, any sense of discovery is destroyed by the Angones crew’s unwillingness or inability to even try to imagine what ancient or alien worlds might really be like. Atlantis, in the pilot episode, is just a generic booby-trapped lost city set for the characters to clown around in while establishing their “personalities”; the “Living Mummies of Toth-Ra” are embarrassing ninnies defined by an obsession with burritos, and are denied any of the dignity given to similar time-frozen ancient Egyptians in Barks’ “Mummy’s Ring” and Original Ducktales’ “Sphinx for the Memories;” the Moonlanders, as noted in previous posts, are a bunch of sitcom suburbanites led by a couple of escapees from a superhero comic.

All that said, and as much as I dislike Angones’ Della, I will admit that “Whatever Happened to Della Duck” was one of the few episodes that actually took classic-style adventure somewhat seriously—by taking a traditional subcategory of unexpected journey, the “quest to survive in a strange and hostile environment” saga that used to be known as a “Robinsonade”, and developing it at some length, instead of treating it like a careless toss-off or completely subverting it. I would give Angones a lot more credit for Della’s Crusoe-like adventure, however, if The Martian hadn’t come out in 2015; the video diaries in “Whatever Happened…” in particular made it fairly clear that Angones, in crafting Della’s space-Robinsonade, wasn’t really trying to approach a classic adventure trope with greater seriousness than usual, but merely engaging in another knock-off of a recent popular movie (just as he repeatedly homaged/ripped-off the Marvel movies). And, in any case, Angones couldn’t even carry the Robinsonade for a full episode without bringing in the Moonlanders and thus escaping back to the comfort of more modern tropes.

Ultimately, for all New Ducktales’ yammering about “adventure is in [the Ducks’] blood”, and its attempt to frame its Ultimate Showdown as a clash between the philosophies of Adventure and Unadventurousness, one never got the sense that any of the writers were really interested in exploration, discovery, undiscovered wonders, or the treasures of the past for their own sake, but instead were only interested in such things in so far as they could be used as a vehicle for jokes, action setpieces, pop-culture riffs--and character interactions, which leads into the next section.

B. Duck Family Values

New Ducktales regularly made perfunctory use of journeys and quests simply in order to have an excuse to have the members of the Duck family bounce off of each other, as in “Last Crash of the Sunchaser” or “Golden Armory of Cornelius Coot”; the latter actually did have some good historical-treasure-hunt elements, but was finally smothered by the heavy-handed “Webby wants to be awesome like Della” character-based subplot.

This continual use of adventure simply to throw the characters together would perhaps be more excusable if those characters were more appealing or if their family dynamic was more believable. I’ve devoted the first six sections of this dissection to analyzing just why those characters were unappealing and their dynamic unbelievable, so I won’t belabor my points too much further here. Suffice it to say that the sentimental and dramatic things we were told about the Duck family in this show were continually belied by what we were really shown.

We were supposed to believe that Donald and Beakley were defined by their protectiveness of the Nephews and Webby, respectively, but saw those kids spend most of their time with Scrooge instead of with these supposed parental figures, and the alleged family bonds were only allowed to surface when it was time to manufacture sentiment or drama. We were asked to empathize with Della as a loving parent separated from her kids, and get misty-eyed about her lonely little Moon lullaby—but were shown a reckless narcissist who abandoned those kids for a life-risking joyride. We were supposed to believe that Launchpad was simple but noble, someone that conventionally smarter characters could learn a few things from, but were shown someone so unfathomably dumb that he could only be considered a grave danger to himself and others. We were asked to regard Scrooge and Goldie as a charming on-again-off-again romantic pair of daring equals, but were shown a toxic relationship between an honest man and a pathologically selfish, greedy, and treacherous woman. We were shown what was supposed to be a tragic family rift between Scrooge, Donald and the Nephews, but which actually came off as a ridiculously contrived conflict. We were told much about the glories of Clan McDuck, but were shown a squabbling, cartoonish, dysfunctional collection of sitcom kinfolks.

Above all, we were told, ad nauseum, that all these characters, and others, had a deep familial love for each other—but their interactions were almost always marked by insults, mockery, bickering, lying, and one-upmanship that was obviously supposed to be hip, cool and funny, but instead came off as off-putting and unpleasant. Barks’ character interactions could of course be quite sharply cynical, but his cynicism was a darkly humorous commentary on the flaws of human nature; he also knew the highs and lows of his characters, and of human nature, so well that he could also effortlessly and convincingly switch from cynicism to sentiment without mawkishness or awkwardness.

New Ducktales, on the other hand, had such a consistently glib, snarky and surface-level take on its characters that it couldn’t transition to sentiment or point a moral without feeling very insincere, even though it tried to give at least one character some “lesson” or other moment of “growth” in nearly every episode. These lessons (like Louie’s supposed schooling in humility in “Richest Duck in the World,” the jaw-droppingly stupid “Everyone needs to pay more attention to Dewey” arc in “Sky Pirates in the Sky”, or Scrooge’s apology to his rogue’s gallery in “Life and Crimes of Scrooge McDuck”) came off as more painful and forced than even the most clumsy moments in Original Ducktales--where exercises in sentiment sometimes felt like heavy-handed underlining of the show’s theme, but never felt like attempts to introduce themes entirely antithetical to the show’s overall tone.

The sheer dissonance between New Ducktales’ overall tone (with its “humorously” abrasive character interactions and wonder-stale protagonists) and its harped-on theme of Family Adventure! (TM) is so strong throughout the show’s run that my reaction to Huey’s climactic proclamation of the Moral of the Show—“Family is the Greatest Adventure of All!”—is pretty much that of Bradford’s: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” No matter how dramatically it's pronounced, that moral doesn’t really jibe with anything that we’ve actually seen over the course of the show's three seasons.


#9—Visuals and Voices

A. Look at Me, I’m Animating!

The animation on New Ducktales has won praise from Pan, Scrooge MacDuck, and other posters on these boards, and I’ll admit that it’s skilled on a technical level; movements and facial expressions are fluid and well-timed, and there are some impressive special effects at times (like all the shadow-Magica stuff in the first-season climax). However, to me the success of animation isn’t measured solely by the animators’ virtuosity in making the drawings move; the drawings themselves have to be visually interesting and appealing--and above all, have to be able to convince of the reality of the world that the animators are trying to present. New Ducktales’ animation was simply too self-consciously stylized to ever convince me that the characters and settings of New Ducktales were real on any level; the drawings simply called too much attention to themselves to ever allow a viewer to forget that they were only drawings.

The sketchiness and angularity of the character designs was the show’s most pervasively disruptive visual element. So much detail was removed from beaks and feathers that the established characters often wound up looking like first drafts or fan art, and the rounded and compact Disney Duck designs that have been around as long as the characters have were abandoned in favor of blockier and more elongated versions that looked distractingly unreal. Compare New Ducktales’ recreation of the famous “Sea Monster Ate My Ice Cream” bit from Original Ducktales with the bit itself; the Scrooge in the original scene has a weight and mass that lends dynamism to the cartoony antics, while the stretched and flattened new version looks like a weightless video-game graphic.



Despite the claims of some of the show’s personnel that the new character designs owe something to Milt Kahl, that simply isn’t the case; Kahl did draw the Ducks’ beaks with less definition for television in the 1960s, but there the resemblance ends. Below is an image of Donald (with Ludwig) from a 1961 Walt Disney Presents episode, “Inside Donald Duck,” worked on by Kahl, then a New Ducktales image of Donald (with Scrooge), then another shot from the 1961 TV episode, then a shot of Donald from a 1950 theatrical cartoon, “Hook, Lion and Sinker”. As you can see, the 1960s TV Ducks aren’t as slick-looking as the 1950 theatrical Duck, but both the 1960s and 1950 Duck have much more commonality (and are much more enjoyable to look at) than the 2017 Duck. Look at the feathers, the brow, the hands, the jacket.





Donald, Scrooge, the Nephews, and the other established characters were particularly visually distracting, since their looks were not only over-stylized but also jarringly inferior to their classic designs. Although the show’s all-new characters were spared such comparisons, they also were too flatly stylized to look like fully realized cartoon beings. For example, the minor villain Falcon Graves (who could have and should have been used for more than just an exasperated foil to Mark Beaks) had some visual potential as an intimidating heavy, but lacked the real sense of force and power that a more grounded and less abstract art style could have given him. One of the images below is of Graves in New Ducktales, and one is a piece of fan art which actually has a lot more vigor and life than the “official” art from the show; if you were shown these images without any prior familiarity with New Ducktales and told that one was the work of professional TV animators and the other was tribute art by a fan, which would you be more likely to identify as the professional work?



The locales through which the New Ducktales characters moved were, for the most part, equally flat. Compare (below) “Ithaquack” as seen in “Spear of Selene” and the earlier Ithaquack from Original Ducktales’ “Home Sweet Homer;” the new version is just a blockily impressionistic drawing of an island—an effective piece of draftsmanship, but not a picture that generates any interest in the locale it portrays. The old version, on the other hand, effectively evokes a sense of mythological romance, mystery, and grandeur; even a comparison of the clouds in the two pictures immediately underscores the difference.



The abstract scenery designs of New Ducktales worked well enough in some instances—for example, the stone circle in “Missing Links of Moorshire,” which Matilda referenced a few pages backs; the sharp and blocky look is appropriately jarring and disorienting for the mystical Celtic realm. That said, a more full-blooded and traditional art style could have achieved the same result just as well, and could have upped the eerie atmosphere quotient; compare and contrast a “Moorshire” shot with a too-brief throwaway shot from the Legends of the Three Caballeros episode “Stonehenge Your Bets”; one looks merely weird, the other looks dramatically spooky:



The minimalistic, flattening artistic approach was also in evidence in the depiction of less preternatural locations. The screen grabs below juxtapose the Original Ducktales Duckburg with the New Ducktales Duckburg, and the original Higher for Hire landing stage from Talespin with the New Ducktales version. In both instances, the older image uses light, colors, shadows, depth, and well-defined drawing to visually pull you into an imaginary world, while the less graded color schemes, flatter lighting, shallower perspectives, and more sketchy drawing of the new image leaves you standing outside the show’s world, looking at a well-executed drawing that remains just that.





I do realize that the classic Disney animation approach was so dominant for decades that many modern animators make a point of reacting against it and going off in as different an artistic direction as possible. However, there’s a reason that the classic Disney character designs, colors, lighting effects, and other visual achievements—pioneered by greats like Frank Thomas, Mary Blair, Milt Kahl, and many others—have been dominant for so long: namely, they’re just plain good—attractive, arresting, and imaginatively stimulating.

I also know that the classic Disney look can’t be recaptured fully on a TV budget, but “Legend of the Three Caballeros” was nevertheless able to utilize it to very good effect. I realize that the computer process “ToonBoom” was used to actually animate that series, as opposed to traditional hand-drawn animation—but, although I know many hardline animation buffs will disagree, for me the process is less important than the result. ToonBoom may be more mechanical and deny individual animators the opportunity to express themselves and put more of a personal stamp on things—but if it allows for the delivery of traditional-looking Disney animation on a TV budget, I’m all for it. It’s a lot more fun to look at appealing characters and interesting backgrounds, even if they don’t move with theatrical-level fluidity, than it is to look at more expressively animated but uglier and flatter characters and backgrounds.

New Ducktales’ animators may be technically skilled (and they obviously enjoyed demonstrating their skill), but that skill was repeatedly, and unfortunately, used in support of self-consciously stylized flourishes which emphasized the unreality of the Ducks’ world, rather than making the characters, their world, and their adventures more visually engaging—which is the real first duty of an animator.


#9—Visuals and Voices

B. Talking Points

One of the first principles of good cartoon voice acting is to give a character a unique set of vocal quirks which both complement and enhance the character’s personality, and which make the character immediately recognizable and inherently amusing. Most of the famous theatrical cartoon characters (Mickey, Donald and Goofy; Bugs and Daffy; Popeye; Woody Woodpecker), as well as the best-remembered early TV toons (Yogi Bear; Ludwig Von Drake; Boris and Natasha; Bullwinkle) had iconic voices like this (I know it’s a mixed metaphor to call a voice “iconic,” but I can’t come up with a better term). Even people who cannot recall the details of any specific cartoon involving one of these characters have a good idea of what they sound like. The Disney Afternoon followed in this tradition—the original voices for characters like Launchpad, Don Karnage, Wildcat (Baloo’s oddball mechanic on Talespin), Darkwing, and Gosalyn, among others, were not only ideally suited to their personalities but were very distinctive and immediately funny.

Few of the voice cast members of New Ducktales, on the other hand, made much effort towards establishing amusing and unique voices for their characters, or towards recapturing their characters’ preestablished voices. Instead, they relied primarily on rapid-fire and incessant talking, and frequent screaming or shouting, in order to convey “humor”, and wound up sounding largely interchangeable. The voices of the Nephews are a prime example, and one of the most persistently jarring ones, given their prominence in the show. I do realize that, at 72, Russi Taylor was probably not willing to take on a starring role in an ongoing series. However, instead of trying to recreate her quirky, quacky, boyishly mischievous voices for the new HD&L, or hiring new actors capable of conveying a comparable combination of duckiness and boyishness, the showrunners relied on actors with basically non-quirky voices who sounded nothing like ducks or small boys, and who desperately tried to compensate for their essentially bland voices by non-stop strident yammering—which, despite the Nephews’ ill-conceived individualized “character traits”, made them frequently hard to tell apart vocally. Kate Micucci's Webby voice, for obvious reasons, could at least be distinguished from that of the boys in terms of pitch, but suffered from the same problem of relying on shrillness and incessant talking to make an essentially ordinary adult female voice sound like the voice of a little girl.

The same was true of a lot of the voice work for the “adult” characters. For example, if you had me listen to the New Ducktales voices for Gyro, Gladstone, Fenton, Fethry, and Mark Beaks, one after the other, without anything in the dialogue to give me a clue, I’d have to listen carefully to each voice before I could put a name to it—some are more enthusiastic, some more irritable, some more irritating, but all are high-pitched, fast-talking, given to shouting, and have few distinctively “cartoony” characteristics to make them stand out from the general cacophony. I can understand why actors with limited cartoon voice-acting credits, like Jim Rash and Paul Tompkins (Gyro and Gladstone), or no significant cartoon voice experience at all, like Lin-Manuel Miranda (Fenton), were not able to create particularly memorable voices for their characters, but I was rather surprised that Tom Kenny, a cartoon veteran capable of doing much more eccentric voice work, did not create a more distinctive voice for Fethry. I have to wonder if Angones and company actively prevented any of the voice work from getting too individualized, for fear it would be too jarring to the show’s vocal “house style” of interchangeable noisiness.

Certainly, the treatment of the show’s most idiosyncratic and memorable voice—i.e., Donald—encourages such suspicions. Tony Anselmo was one of the only really seasoned voice actors allowed to play a regular role on New Ducktales--but only nominally, since Donald, as we’ve already discussed, was repeatedly sidelined. Anselmo himself, as he described in the convention panel video linked earlier in this thread, was also sidelined, being denied any input into the writing for the character—whom he’d only been voicing for thirty years. Adding insult to injury, whenever the showrunners wanted us to take Donald “seriously”, Anselmo was replaced with a celebrity “face” actor with a much more generic voice. Anselmo’s mention of how the writers kept begging him to deliver dialogue “as written” is also highly indicative of the showrunners’ lack of respect or understanding for the distinct craft of voice-acting; the voice actor isn’t merely a utensil for the writers, but a key player in bringing a character to life—Daws Butler, for example, developed and refined his Yogi Bear voice from cartoon to cartoon, and developed and refined the character’s personality right along with it.

The New Ducktales treatment of other veteran voice actors strengthens my impression that Angones and company really wanted to keep exclusive control of characterizations by limiting appearances by actors whose vocal takes on the characters were likely to take on too strong a life of their own. Kenny’s Fethry was a guest star only. Terry McGovern was not even asked back to voice Launchpad, even though his inimitable vocal mixture of coolness and cluelessness defined the character (the new actor, in keeping with the Flanderized writing for New Launchpad, just sounded clueless without the cool factor). Jim Cummings was only given one extended guest spot as “Jim Starling,” and was denied the opportunity to re-voice Don Karnage or the “real” Darkwing, both of whom were his own vocal creations. Corey Burton and Tress McNeile were allowed to reprise their established characters, and acquitted themselves well in limited screen time, but I suspect this was a call by Disney, and not by Angones—who, I am sure, would have recast not only Ludwig and Daisy, but Donald as well, if he had been allowed to.

Rob Paulsen, another accomplished voice-acting veteran, was relegated to a minor recurring role (as Gibbous the Moonlander) which barely required him to exercise his considerable talent, and, like Cummings, was not allowed to re-voice a character whose voice he created—i.e., Steelbeak (who was instead handed to yet another celebrity with no real cartoon credentials). Russi Taylor was given a meatier guest-shot/cameo, but could also have been put to better use; although, as mentioned, I wouldn’t have expected her to reprise the Nephews, she would have been a highly appropriate choice for Della (albeit a better version of Della—I wouldn’t have wanted her to voice the show’s actual train-wreck version of the character), and would have been able to make her sound quacky enough to be believable as Donald’s twin sister—unlike Paget Brewster, whose repeated yelling was unable to compensate for her basically non-comic voice and made her Della merely annoying.

All that said, I’m sure that a major part of the New Ducktales showrunners’ reasons for marginalizing the cartoon voice-acting pros, in favor of celebrity players better known for movies, television, standup, and the like, was simply the desire to cash in on the celebrities’ “names” and social media presence. That’s more of a commentary on the sad state of the modern animation industry than anything else; Original Ducktales’ voice cast, in which Alan Young was the only actor with any kind of “name” value, would never get a show green-lit nowadays. Still, I think that the Angones crew also liked using celebs with no preconceived idea of the characters and little experience in developing funny-animal cartoon voices, since that undoubtedly made it easier to get them to follow the showrunners’ direction and fall in line with the jokey, self-indulgent tone of the show’s writing.

In fairness, some of the celebs actually did try to deliver genuine characterizations; Catherine Tate’s manic Magica was a respectable stab at the character—or would have been if the writing of the character hadn’t been so dreadful. David Tennant, though his voice was too young and jaunty for Scrooge, without any of the childlike and excitable qualities that Alan Young brought to the part, still managed to give old McDuck a distinctively gruff and sarcastic voice that departed somewhat from Tennant’s normal delivery. Lin-Manuel Miranda, although his Fenton voice was bland compared to Hamilton Camp’s original, at least put plenty of earnest gusto into the role, and made his frequent shouting seem less desperate than that of many of the other voice actors. As a general rule, I think that the cast members with some stage training—whether in Britain or on Broadway—had a better understanding of how to act with a voice alone, since vocal projection is such a key part of the theater. On the other hand, performers like Jim Rash, Danny Pudi (Huey), Bobby Moynihan (Louie), Ben Schwartz (Dewey), and Adam Pally (Kit Cloudkicker), whose primary experience was in television or other non-theatrical venues, appeared to simply equate “vocal projection” with “talking fast and loud,” which had a rather wearying effect. However, stage training didn’t prevent Giancarlo Esposito from making a hammy mess of the Phantom Blot; considering what he’s capable of in the way of sly bravura villainy, his gratingly bombastic performance was one of the biggest voice-acting disappointments in a show full of them.

Overall, the vocals of New Ducktales generally complimented both the writing—showy, but without substance—and also matched with the art style—attention-getting, but not terribly pleasant, as well as disconnected from any facsimile of reality. One never got the impression that one was listening to a bunch of adventurous ducks and other humanized critters conversing with each other, but rather to a bunch of humans talking loudly while cartoony pictures played on the screen.


#10—The Road (to Duckburg) Not Taken

Many of the folks who have defended New Ducktales, here and elsewhere, have taken the position that the show has to be separated from fond memories of the comics or nostalgia for the Disney Afternoon in order to be fairly evaluated. The Disney Ducks have been part of my life since an early age, so I’m as vulnerable to a charge of nostalgic bias as anyone. As a kid, I learned to read on Gladstone I’s comics, acted out my own Duck adventures with vinyl figurines, watched Original Ducktales whenever I could, saw Treasure of the Lost Lamp on the big screen, and paid for subscriptions to Gladstone II’s titles with my own pocket money. I obviously have an enormous emotional attachment to these characters and their world.

However, I have carefully tried to put emotion aside in this dissection, and have attempted to treat this analysis like I would treat the analysis section of one of my briefs for court; I didn’t want my critique to be dismissed as an example of the impassioned but often unreasonable Fan Outrage that rages in so many corners of the Internet. I’ve tried to demonstrate how New Ducktales, even taken on its own terms as a “reboot”, possessed many fatal flaws, chief among them tonal inconsistency, continually self-deflating writing, and poorly drawn characterizations.

That said, I think it is highly relevant to compare the things New Ducktales did wrong with the things that its predecessors did right. New Ducktales didn’t develop in a pure vacuum, but was instead an attempt to build on the work of others, and thus can’t be evaluated in a pure vacuum, independent of that earlier work. As noted earlier in this analysis, Angones and his crew eagerly attempted to exploit the nostalgia of Duck comic fans and Disney Afternoon devotees at every turn, so it’s entirely fair for those fans to take some notice of how little New Ducktales resembled its source material, and to express deep disappointment at how poor a job the show did of capturing the appeal of that source material.

In the end, it’s disappointment at a great opportunity lost that I feel even more strongly than my irritation at the continually wrongheaded creative choices on display in the show. Original Ducktales aired in the days when producers were only vaguely aware, if at all, of the huge grown-up following for Barks’ comics, and were more likely to assume that the primary audience for the show was children. Hence, although the original show was of much higher quality than almost any TV cartoon since the early 1960s, it almost never achieved the levels of dual appeal to both kids and adults that Barks’ comics did.

Angones and company, on the other hand, launched their show in the Internet age, and were obviously very much aware of the many ardent grown-up Duck fans out there. However, they made no serious effort to intelligently adapt the source material which gave rise to that community, even though they were happy to exploit the community’s devotion through constant name-dropping and allusions. Instead, they devoted their energies to selecting bits and pieces of their source material at random and tossing them into an unwieldy stew largely composed of elements from animated superhero series (like Bruce Timm’s DC shows), animated sitcoms (like The Simpsons), and popular live-action movies (like the Marvel films and the Harry Potter series). The Duck components of that stew were so smothered in a broth of generic pop-culture pastiche that the essence of the source material was utterly lost, much more so than on Original Ducktales, which, though simplified in comparison to Barks, always felt like it was about recognizable versions of the same Ducks that he wrote about.

I suppose it makes some sense from a cautious, purely businesslike standpoint to simply pattern a show after other recent successes rather than try to give a series its own feel and tone, but it’s enormously disappointing from a creative point of view—and, I would argue, ultimately short-sighted, even from a financial standpoint. The original Duck comics achieved worldwide fame because of the unique genius of Barks’ world, and whatever successes Original Ducktales achieved were derived from its efforts to adapt that world. A new adaptation that built on the same world, but with greater knowledge of its enormous appeal to audiences of all ages, could have become a gem among modern cartoon shows, with staying power—and money-making power—far beyond that of its contemporaries. Instead, it became just another product, indistinguishable from dozens of animated and live-action peers. Angones and company missed the turn to Duckburg almost as soon as they started out on their journey, and never bothered to pick up the road map.

This is my final entry in this series; my thanks to Alquackskey, Matilda, That Duckfan, Aldwayne, Mousemaestro, Farmspirit, the KKM, and everyone else who has contributed comments and replies in the course of this thread; you have all helped me to sharpen and focus my own thoughts on this subject. I never intended this analysis to be extensive as it became, but I simply felt like there were many points about this series, and its interaction with its source material, that needed to be made--and realized that I might as well take the time to make them.

(At this point, as mentioned, the initial analysis essay was over. However, discussion continued, with rebuttals by someone more appreciative of the show. I might mirror those in a separate page, as I do find them insightful but perhaps a bit muddled to include here.)