Sunday, June 21, 2009

DVD Review: Disney’s DuckTales: Volume 3

This review was prepared in Fall 2007, but it's new to this Blog! It also serves as a reminder that we've been waiting 1.5 years or more for the final volume!

Disney’s DuckTales: Volume 3
(Released November 13, 2007 by Walt Disney Home Video)

This volume of DUCKTALES, the 1987 animated series based on the characters appearing in writer/artist Carl Barks’ series of UNCLE SCROOGE comic books, covers the “tale” end of the initial season and the two prime time specials (both later carved into five-part episodes) “Time is Money” and “Super Ducktales”. These last two introduce the soon-to-be-regular characters of “cave-kidBubba Duck and robotically armored super hero Gizmoduck, respectively. This would leave one, relatively short volume of the series left to go.

The series origin, “Treasure of the Golden Suns”, (Volume 2) and a few other early episodes like “Sphinx for the Memories”, “Where No Duck has Gone Before” and “Home Sweet Homer” (all Volume 1) excepted, I think that the best batch of shows were at this stage. After that, there was a slight decline, as the series moved further away from its comic-book foundation. Still, a number of episodes to come are more than worthwhile.
For me, standouts include the following:

All Ducks on Deck”. (Disc 2) How could this NOT be a favorite for me, as it featured the too-seldom seen Donald Duck and a surprise appearance by Mickey Mouse’s greatest comics foe; The Phantom Blot! (Even though they never meet cloak to beak!) I will never forget the utter jaw-dropping experience of coming home from work in late 1987, turning on the VCR and seeing an animated version of The Phantom Blot!
Even if the Blot’s design owed more to 1970s comic books (…complete with opening mouth and evil smile – This is a guy UNDER A CLOAK, remember?) than the more classic 1930s Floyd Gottfredson comic strip or 1960s Paul Murry comic book versions – it was A-OK with me! By this time in the run, I’d thought I’d seen ALL of DT’s tricks (…and what wonderful tricks they were!), but THIS? And Donald’s opening “tall sea-tale” sequence is just as unforgettable as the Blowhard Blot – especially for a show that almost (unjustly) ignored Donald completely!

If only Disney would release HOUSE OF MOUSE, so I could complete the Animated Blot Trilogy with the more Gottfredson-inspired (…but no less hammy) Blot seen on that series. And, Super Goof, Zeke (Big Bad) Wolf, and Pete. Disney, I want HOM too!

In Ducky Horror Picture Show” (Disc 2), the Ducks take a backseat to the antics of a bunch of funny movie-style monsters, who have chosen Duckburg for their annual convention. There were so many nice little touches like the Greyhound Skeleton on the side of the Monsters’ bus. My favorite is when the Creature from the Blue Lagoon receives his invitation to the Monsters Convention – stares at it for a beat, as the standard DUCKTALES dramatic music cue plays (…and we wonder what he’s going to do) – and unexpectedly puts on a party hat and blows a horn full of bubbles! And, appealing to this Long Islander, a reference to “Great Neck, NY”, to boot – or would that be “to BITE”! Sure, the monsters were clichéd. So what? It’s not as if they were Filmation’s The Groovy Ghoulies!

The Uncrashable Hindentanic” (Disc 1) is simply one of the flat-out FUNNIEST Duck stories ever done! More jokes per square inch, than any other! There is so much wonderful verbal humor here that it is the kind of script that one day I could only hope to remotely approach, in my capacity as a freelance scripter for the Disney Duck comic books! It was all the more amazing to me then because, less than three years prior (1984), the UNCLE SCROOGE comic books were generally devoid of humor during the final years under Whitman Publishing. A new publisher for the comics, Gladstone, had just started up in 1986 and had shown considerable (nay, phenomenal) improvement, but there was nothing like this!

Our story begins with a wager between Scrooge Mc Duck and his rival Flintheart Glomgold, and transforms into a star-studded send-up of the type of disaster films that were the specialty of producer Irwin Allen in the 1970s. Indeed, producer Allen was HIMSELF parodied as a character in this wonderful episode. A winner all the way!

Status Seekers” (Disc 1) As a comic book devotee, it’s a thrill to see the name of Carl Barks (creator of Scrooge Mc Duck, Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Golmgold, The Beagle Boys, etc.) in the credits, as the author of the original story upon which this episode is based. Yes, I freeze-framed to savor it. This was a case where the “variant material” did not drag Barks’ original story down (…as it did for previous DUCKTALES episodes “Back to the Klondike” and “Down and Out in Duckburg”), but actually enhanced it.

As with past volumes of DUCKTALES, there are no extras or commentaries. What a pity, considering the creative talent involved! Yes, there was a feature on Carl Barks as part of “Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 2 (1942-1946)”, but Barks, with his decades of comic book wonder, is the de-facto architect of DUCKTALES, and deserves mention in this context.

(2009 Update) Carl Barks and the characters he created for comic books were also prominently featured in “Donald Goes to Press” – an extra feature included on 2008’s “Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961)”, with commentary by Gemstone Archival Editor David Gerstein, Disney Comics Managing Editor Bob Foster, and others including yours truly! But, some such material STILL should have been associated with DUCKTALES!

Actor Alan Young certainly merits a feature for so superbly bringing Scrooge to Scottish-accented life! Other fine performers who were DT regulars, such as Russi Taylor, Terrence Mc Govern, Chuck Mc Cann, and June Foray, are worthy of features as well!

If “money was an object”, a sentiment Scrooge Mc Duck would ironically endorse, perhaps Disney could consider stringing together the vast number of existing DUCKTALES commercials and promos that were created during the life of the series (…some of which contained original animation, and most of which employed original vocals by the regular cast) to “manufacture” a feature. These would be fun to see.

That said, Disney’s DuckTales: Volume 3, is a set so chock-full of good times that it gets my highest recommendation on the strength of the material found therein.


Chris Barat said...


Great job! By this time, the "stiffness in the joints" that plagued a few of the early DT eps had been thoroughly worked out, and the show had fully realized its potential. I can't imagine what's keeping Disney from releasing Volume 4, but I suppose YouTube will do as a temporary patch until Disney gets wise.

Comicbookrehab said...

I guess I'll be holding on to my recordings of the later episodes until they announce vol. 4 - bad tv reception and all! Nice review.

I wouldn't mind seeing Sport Goofy: Soccermania appear as a bonus feature someday. That's almost a Ducktales episode, with a truly manic Scrooge that makes Donald look like Huckberry Hound!

Joe Torcivia said...

Agreed, enthusiastically! “Sport Goofy” SHOULD have been an extra on a DuckTales DVD set. And, so should “Scrooge McDuck and Money”.

Oh, wait… DuckTales DVD sets never HAD extras! …Never mind.

Seriously, given the turnover in executive and marketing positions at Disney, I sometimes wonder if anyone EVEN KNOWS that the last handful of episodes are still unreleased. We may NEVER get those!

Comicbookrehab said...

I forgot to add the 2 epsiodes of Raw Toonage that Scrooge appeared in...

Who knows - I read in Wikipedia that an episode of Sunny With A Chance had Wuzzles costumes featured prominantly in the background. Wuzzles costumes! The Disney vault rivals the warehouse in the Indiana Jones films!