Welcome to Childhood Fact Check, where we revisit (and maybe ruin) our childhood faves. With Disney planning to bring DuckTales back to television next year, we looked back at the original to see if that could possibly be a good idea.
DuckTales chronicled the screwy adventures of Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie (neatly organized by shirt color) and their other uncle, Scrooge McDuck. There was both a television show and a feature film, from which the most enduring image is a duck diving into a pile of gold.
Whoop, found it! Scrooge diving into his money pile happens right there in the super-catchy (if nonsensical) opening theme. Listening to it, I experience a bit of deja vu, as if the knowledge of every word is somewhere in my subconscious memory.
We waste no time in establishing Scrooge McDuck’s character. In the opening minutes of the first episode, he bathes in money, refuses to help a beggar, takes all the free cheese samples, and makes his nephews walk three miles rather than take a $2 taxi ride. The majority of the plot lines go on to revolve around Scrooge’s miserliness, whether it is defending his money from thieves or hunting for more treasure. For some reason, he has a Scottish accent.
Donald has joined the Navy, which is why he’s foisted his nephews on Scrooge, who is actually their great-uncle. Fun fact I learned while googling “why don’t Huey, Dewey, and Louie have real parents?”: their full names are Huebert, Deuteronomy and Louis.
The nephews are pretty one note: They’re mischievous, but also well-meaning. There doesn’t seem to be much effort to differentiate them aside from their color coded t-shirts and hats. They function very much as a unit.
The animation style is charming old-style Disney and looks really good for a TV show. There are some good recurring villains, if you can ignore the fact that they all have heavy stereotypical accents, like the Russian-accented witch (who is otherwise a great character).
So, Duck Tales is a little fucked up. Sure, Scrooge McDuck learns some lessons about family, but only becomes maybe 1% less obsessed with wealth along the way. Early in the show, Scrooge declares he made his fortune by being “smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies. And I deserve every penny!” I am left with little doubt that Scrooge would be a Trump supporter. While the show has its fun moments, I had a hard time moving past this central theme. Seems like a terrible thing to be teaching children.
On the plus side, the dialogue is quite good, with lots of literary references. Overall, the plot lines are great screwball comedy, with plenty of adventure and wonderful animation. It’s high energy and entertaining, but my Old is showing and she’s a killjoy.
Best character name: Gyro Gearloose (the inventor) is a stand out among the many punny names.
Should an adult rewatch this? Spare your fond memories. Cherish them. Don’t crush them.
What if that adult is drunk? See above.
Should your future kids watch this? For children, DuckTales’ entertainment value is timeless. Just be sure to temper it with some lessons on sharing. On the other hand, there’s hope that the reboot will be just as fun and slightly less problematic. The animation style may even retain it’s original charm. Here’s the first concept art recently released by Disney.