Judge Erich Asperschlager wishes he lived in a world where "fully clothed" meant wearing a shirt, but no pants.
Catch me in the right mood and I'll wax nostalgic about the cartoons of my youth. I'll tell you how much better things used to be in a world before pocket monsters, dragon balls, and tiny female explorers. In my day, we had real American heroes, transforming robots, and otherworldly beings who somehow mastered the universe. Sadly, time has not been kind to these animated '80s icons. Though the nostalgia DVD market is booming, it's left a long line of disappointed twenty- and thirty-somethings in its wake. The problem with most of these shows—though I was too young to know it at the time—is that they were made quickly, produced cheaply, and existed almost solely to sell related merchandise.
Maybe that's why DuckTales holds such a special place in my backwards-looking heart. From the show's premiere in 1987, it was obvious Disney was doing something different. They were pouring money and talent into DuckTales—with quality animation and voice acting, and an orchestrated soundtrack—at a time when most kids programming was seen as disposable. Based on animator Carl Banks' comic-book extension of the Disney universe, the series hit all the right notes: clever writing, pun-tastic humor, memorable characters, and Indiana Jones-style action and adventure. And unlike the majority of twenty-year-old kids cartoons on DVD, it's still fun to watch.
DuckTales follows the treasure-hunting adventures of world's wealthiest duck Scrooge McDuck, who—with the help of nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, crash-happy pilot Launchpad McQuack, and goofy inventor Gyro Gearloose—must protect his fortune, his money bin, and his lucky first dime from the scheming of rival Flintheart Glomgold, bad-news brothers the Beagle Boys, and sorceress Magica De Spell. The series' 100 episodes fall roughly into two groups: standalone stories, and serialized adventures (several of which aired originally as two-hour specials). Though most of the episodes were single half-hour stories, I remember the multi-episode arcs most fondly: stories that sent our heroes around the world, across time, and deep into space.
Like the Volume Two set, DuckTales: Volume Three is a collection of 24 out-of-original-order episodes, including two mini-series:
"Time Is Money" parts 1-2:
"Super DuckTales" parts 1-5:
If you bought the first two sets, you'll definitely want this one. If you didn't buy the first two sets, you might want this one anyway. Though some of the series' best episodes are on DuckTales: Volume One, and the series pilot "The Treasure of the Golden Suns" is on Volume Two, this set has its share of memorable episodes, including "Duck to the Future" (in which Scrooge is sent by Magica into a future where she's stolen his number one dime and used it to take control of Duckburg), the Alexandre Dumas parody "Duck in the Iron Mask," and "Ducky Horror Picture Show," guest-starring the Wolf Duck, Count Drakeula, and Quackenstein.
The set also features the excellent mini-series "Time is Money" and "Super DuckTales," which introduced classic characters Bubba the cave duck, and the blundering Fenton Crackshell and his robotic alter-ego Gizmoduck.
In "Time is Money," a worthless island Scrooge buys from Flintheart Glomgold turns out to be a shrewd investment thanks to the discovery of a diamond mine. When Glomgold hires the Beagle Boys to sabotage the island, Scrooge uses Gyro's time machine (the "Milennium Shortcut") to go back three days and prevent the attack. However, the best-laid plans of mice and ducks are no match for Launchpad, who accidentally sends them back to 1,000,000 B.C. Two or three close calls later, they make it home—with stowaways Bubba and his pet triceratops "Tootsie" in tow. Back in Duckburg, the story treads standard fish-out-of-water territory—Bubba falls in love with rock 'n' roll music and spouts off pseudo-hip catchphrases like "Get rude dude" and "Don't touch that dial"; and is there any point in asking why Mrs. Beakley takes an uncouth "neander-duck" to a formal society soiree?—before wrapping up with Scrooge's race against time to outsmart Glomgold and take possession of the priceless diamond mine.
In "Super DuckTales," Scrooge, forced to relocate his money bin, hires literal bean-counter Fenton Crackshell to keep track of his cash during the move. Unfortunately, Fenton's aptitude for counting doesn't translate into the common sense needed to keep Scrooge's fortune out of Beagle Boy hands. Desperate to redeem himself, Fenton "borrows" the robotic supersuit Gyro invented to guard Scrooge's money bin—built in part to "disarm" Gyro's failed first security system attempt (an ED-209-like robot gone rogue). Having saved the day, Fenton, disguised as crimefighter "Gizmoduck," finds himself the toast of Duckburg—and the target of a devious plan cooked up by Ma Beagle and her boys. (Oh, and there are aliens at the end.)
Unfortunately, while this set scores points for content, it loses some for presentation. The video is grainy, with a steady stream of dirt and scratches (a common problem with these animated TV sets), and the audio is nothing special. More disappointing is the complete lack of extras. Though I certainly wasn't expecting full episode commentaries, Disney could have added something.
As much as I enjoyed revisiting Duckburg, it's tough to recommend this set to adults who didn't watch the show when it first aired—despite the series' many grown-up references, including nods to films like Back to the Future and Robocop (take another look at Gizmoduck). It is, after all, primarily a kids' show, with simple storylines and one-to-grow-on morals.
If, however, you watched and loved DuckTales as a kid, chances are you'll find plenty to like about it now; if you have children, here's your chance to tell them once and for all that cartoons were too better when you were a kid (though you might want to hide that Captain N: Game Master box set first).
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2007 Erich Asperschlager; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.