It's Duck Week. Let's Talk DuckTales! Woo Hoo!
The Disney Channel has declared this week Duck Week to celebrate the return of the new DuckTales series and the highly anticipated episode featuring Lin Manuel Miranda as Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera and his alter-ego Gizmoduck!
I haven't had a chance to talk about the new DuckTales series on my blog. So, I think Duck Week is a great time to do it. DuckTales, for those not in the know, is based on the classic Disney Afternoon animated show of the same name which, in turn, was based on the works of famed Disney comic artist Carl Barks. Barks's stories revolved around the Disney ducks, focusing on Uncle Scrooge (perhaps his most important creation), Donald Duck and his three nephew Huey, Dewey and Louie. The ducks would often go off on great adventures. Barks created a great collection of supporting characters, such as the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, Magica DeSpell (among many others), that would also carry on into the shows.
In the late 80s, an animated series was developed that would become the cornerstone of the Disney Afternoon cartoon block on television. It became an instant hit and really made Scrooge and the nephews household names. The show also added to the mythos characters, including Launchpad McQuack, Webby Vanderquack and Mrs. Beakley.
Thirty years after the first series premiered, Disney rebooted the DuckTales series for the Disney Channel. Where the original animated series used designs similar to the classic Donald Duck shorts of the 1940s, the new series' designs takes its inspiration directly from the Carl Barks comics and giving the show more of a comic book look. The characters are flatter and more stylized which lend themselves to more comedic action. But, the series also captures our nostalgia for the Disney Afternoon show right out of the gate by keeping the original theme song!
The series pushes the personalities of the characters a little more than the original. Scrooge is Scroogier, Launchpad is an even bigger oaf, and Mrs. Beakley is more of a task master than stereotypical grandmother. Most notably, Huey, Dewey and Louie have not only been given their own unique personalities, but a birth order as well. The birth order is exactly as we think of their names with Huey being the oldest and Louie being the youngest. Huey is the industrious, by-the-book Junior Woodchuck. Dewey, being the middle child, is always searching to be seen and is always up for adventure. And, Louie is very laid back and chill. Their clothes accentuate their various personalities. They even have formal names - Hubert, Dewford and Llewelyn. Add to that the extremely eccentric Webby Vanderquack and you got tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales. Woo hoo.
The move to give them individual personalities and different voices has been somewhat controversial, but, I personally love it because it gives more opportunity for storytelling and easier to tell them apart. They're no longer dependent on being one unit, but stories can be told involving singular nephews. For example, in last week's episode, "The Spear of Selene!," the B-story is devoted to Webby helping Dewey solve the mystery of what happened to his mother Della. I loved this story because it highlighted Dewey as the one who needs to prove something. It was fun watching these characters play off each other. Webby and Dewey are actually my two favorite characters on the show.
The series involves Donald Duck a little more and his design is the most Carl Barks inspired placing him a black shirt and hat. Donald used to do a lot of adventuring with his Uncle Scrooge and sister Della, but something happens to Della and changes everything. Scrooge becomes more cranky and reclusive and Donald has kind of given up on life and adventuring. As I mentioned before, Dewey and Webby have made it their mission to find out what happened to Della. I love the fact that there is this underlying mystery that constantly pops up throughout the series.
I also love how they are reinterpreting the classic supporting characters. With Gyro Gearloose, they merge both the personalities of the character from both the Barks comics with the original series. The result is a quirky inventor who creates inventions often misunderstood. Gladstone Gander has always been lucky, much to Donald's chagrin, but, it turns out he might not be as lucky as he looks. The Beagle Boys are part of a bigger crime family with varying personalities. And, as we'll see with Fenton Crackshell, they've added Carbrera to his last name, making him part Cuban. I am so excited to see Gizmoduck this week and makes me even more excited for a future visit by the legendary terror that flaps in the night - Darkwing Duck!
The irreverence of this series is something, like the new Mickey Mouse shorts, that makes Disney's animated shorts feel more relevant and entertaining today. While the originals we love through nostalgia, I honestly think that, unless you were a big Disney fan, the humor and style would be less appealing to the casual viewer. I have tried to watch a few episodes recently and admit that they are a little dry. Don't get me wrong. I love the classic version. But, while the classics will always be classics, I really love what they've done with this new series. I think if they relaunched the series exactly as it was, it would just be retreading everything. These new designs and styles allow for a different kind of storytelling while still giving us a bit of the nostalgia. But, most importantly, its introducing this world to a whole new generation of Disney fans!