The best part of any Ducktales episode this fall has been the intro. The familiar music springs up (“Life is Like a Hurricane…”) and the animation quickly looks both familiar but also much sharper than the original. We see the heroes in a variety of adventures: they’re at sea battling a ghost pirate ship, then they’re in the African grasslands, then they’re fighting an animated mummy. And through it all, Scrooge McDuck is front and center, leading the charge to rescue his Number One dime before his hordes of rivals get it. Watching this, you know this show’s going to have two things: lots of globetrotting adventures and lots of Scrooge McDuck. But no! Apparently it’s all a bait and switch. Ducktales this season isn’t about treasure hunting around the world, these are the stories of bored nephews entertaining themselves on a slow afternoon. Forget globe hopping, these kids are heading for the mall. And Scrooge McDuck? He’s rarely around and frequently skips episodes entirely. If you were hoping for anything resembling the energy and the fun of the original series, you will be disappointed. Eight episodes in and we’re ready to call it: so far, Ducktales sucks.
In the episodes we’ve seen so far, we’ve had just one treasure hunt in the enormously satisfying “Escape To/From Atlantis.” I had hoped that we might get a fun adventure out of “The House of the Lucky Gander,” but the show annoyingly traps the characters in the hotel for the entire episode. Those episodes were okay, but so far most of the episodes have focused on seemingly mundane occurrences. Huey and Dewey compete for an internship at a start up company. Louie loses Scrooge’s dime in an vending machine. The kids visit an arcade. These don’t sound like adventures; these are more like the life events that occur between adventures. And these Duckburg-based episodes get really weird. Like “The Beagle Birthday Massacre,” an episode that turns into an extended The Warriors spoof as Webby and her friend try to elude the wide and surprisingly varied Beagle Boy clan on their way home. We are three episodes in to the new series and there’s an entire episode devoted to spoofing a 80’s movie that no Millennial has ever seen? Are they making a joke no one will get or just making a reference no one will understand?
Though if I had to pick one heartbreaking episode, it would be the “Terror of the Terra-firmians.” In the episode, the kids and some of the adults (but not Scrooge, once again Scrooge is completely absent) go to see a horror movie and encounter the Terrafirmians on the way home. The Terrafirmians were a fun, subterranean society in the original Ducktales, but here the group spends the entire episode mistaking them for monsters. Everything here is just annoying. Launchpad McQuack is reduced to a blubbering punchline and keeps repeatedly mistaking nephews for monsters. Huey has to learn to have faith in himself. And really fun characters from the original get squeezed uncomfortably into a weird horror story. It’s painful to see the new series fall so far short of the original, and watching an episode about exploring a subterranean society get retold as a story about exploring an abandoned subway station gets more depressing the more I think about it.
I had endless optimism about the reboot of Ducktales, but now I’m beginning to think that the remake is going the direction of the remade NES game: everyone loved the concept but the execution is missing the mark. Maybe I’m wrong. These shows still look incredible and have an amazingly talented cast doing terrific vocal work, but we need some adventures at some point. I feel like we’re watching the events that occur between the episodes of the show; maybe the reason Scrooge is absent so often is because he’s actually having adventures while his nephews hang out in Duckburg. I’m not sure why so many episodes have such lazy premises; most all of these feel like the storylines of other cartoons, not Ducktales. Honestly, with the exciting theme song and then boring, lazy plotlines, the new Ducktales feels much more like a reboot of Aqua Teen Hunger Force than the original Ducktales. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the Mooninites with show up in next week’s episode. Heck maybe they can tell me where Scrooge McDuck went.