D-d-d-danger! Watch behind you! It’s another current reboot of a late 80’s / early 90’s fan favorite. It’s easy to imagine a modern feature length live action or CG Ducktales totally missing the point, maybe having a Jason Statham voiced Scrooge McDuck swim through his money bin to the brain meltingly stupid tune of Kanye West’s “Power”. Luckily the new Disney XD series, the hour long pilot of which popped up on the channel this past weekend, is literally and figuratively much better than that, showing both a genuine love, understanding and reverence of the source material while also bringing the IP into the present day without resorting to any instantly dated Dreamworks-style pop culture reference garbage.
The 2017 ‘Tales immediately won me over with its art style, employing a Lichtenstein-esque, Kirby dots look to hearken back to the classic Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge comics where the Ducktales concept originally got its start. I can’t remember another long form animated series adopting this kind of visual style before and the fact that it not only looks great but pays tribute to the franchise’s origins is definitely the right start for this reboot.
Things escalate quickly in the pilot episode, another good sign, as Scrooge is tasked with looking after a Huey, Dewey and Louie that he isn’t quite familiar with yet, while their Uncle Donald Duck attends a job interview. Locked away and left to their own devices, of course the boys see fit to explore their great Uncle’s labyrinthine abode and encounter the 2017 version of Webby, still the niece of Scrooge’s maid Mrs. Beakley but here a bit older and wiser, nerding out over Scrooge and Donald’s apparent treasure hunting past as she and the boys happen upon the mansion’s trophy room.
As the cursed statues in the room begin to awaken due to the kids’ shenanigans, Scrooge enters the scene and finds his lust for adventure reinvigorated by his young charges, and one trademark plane crash and mystical dragon fight later, we’re off to the lost city of Atlantis! Of course Scrooge’s rival (that *other* Scottish billionaire) Flintheart Glomgold is also in pursuit, and he just happens to be Donald’s new employer…
2017 Flinty’s on that “Alpha Bison” / “Wind Waker Ganondorf” diet.
If anything is immediately jarring about the new series it’s the nephews’ voices, which initially come off just a tad too snarky, sarcastic and detached, a far cry from the OG voices’ “aw shucks” genuine charm. NBC comedy ringers Danny Pudi (Community), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) and Bobby Moynahan (SNL) acquit themselves well over the course of the hour-long premiere though, creating a believable scenario of their initial skepticism melting away after being taken under Scrooge’s “wing”. Great from the first frame is Kate Micucci’s Webigail, and even though he doesn’t get much to do here, I’m dying to hear more of Beck Bennett’s delightfully dim Launchpad.
The biggest news to come out of this series’ casting was nerd god David Tenant as Scrooge McDuck, and I’m happy to report that he doesn’t disappoint, bringing enough of the classic Alan Young interpretation to the role while also adding his own trademark spark to the performance. As with the nephews, it’s initially off putting, even distracting to hear such a “different” Scrooge. Tenant totally makes it his own though, and by the time he said he was “tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties” I was sold completely.
In-jokes and Easter eggs abound that I won’t spoil here, after all, Disney XD just put the hour long premiere up on YouTube so you can definitely see for yourself, and judge for yourself as well if this is a worthwhile endeavor or not. I was definitely on the more skeptical side about this one and as I happened upon it on TV yesterday afternoon, nursing a head cold and a hangover, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the ridiculous proposition of a 2017 version of Ducktales. With stalwart concepts like Gizmoduck and Darkwing Duck already confirmed for the reboot, and more genius casting on the way (Margo Martindale as Ma Beagle is pretty much perfect), I’ll definitely have my DVR grabbing onto some Ducktales when the regular half hour episodes launch September 23rd on Disney XD.