Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: I am not an expert on DuckTales. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the original 1987 cartoon and played a little bit of the NES game. I’ve really enjoyed what I have experienced with the franchise and that theme song is easily one of the best songs ever. But I am from a generation that grew up long after the cartoon finished airing so the best perspective I can really offer on this reboot is that of a newcomer.
And let me tell you: as a newcomer, I thought this premiere was really good! I think the most immediate comparison that will come to mind for non-fans is Gravity Falls. You can definitely see the similarities even if DuckTales technically did it before Gravity Falls. You have identical siblings being forced to live with their great-uncle (no, I’m not calling Scrooge a “grunkle”) only to find that there is more to their relative than they realized and they get caught up on a crazy string of adventures that they’d never have expected. Even the reboot’s version of Webby reminds me an awful lot of Mabel, right down to her energetic personality and (eventual) possession of a grappling hook. Though in the show’s defense, this new Webby sounds like a huge improvement over the original character. These similarities might suggest what really convinced Disney to greenlight this reboot but I think for the most part, this show is off doing it’s own thing. It’s more about globe trotting and finding treasures than solving local mysteries and the tone is more adventurous than paranormal.
Everything that you would hope in a fun Disney XD show is here. DuckTales appears to rely a lot on tricking your expectations and that approach has merited a lot of laughs so far. For example, the triplets expect a crazy hectic journey to Atlantis on a high tech and armed submarine only for Scrooge to map the safest route and have his grandnephews sit with seatbelts. There are several other similar set-ups in this premiere and the punchlines almost always land. And the comedy is backed with some quirky and memorable locales and an extremely vibrant art style. There’s even a compelling mystery that hints at the rough history between Scrooge and Donald and the fate of the triplets’ mother. Hopefully that means there’s an underlying continuity throughout the show.
I personally really like the characterizations so far. I like what I’ve seen of the original DuckTales but I did think that it was a bit tricky distinguishing Huey, Dewey, and Louise even if they are wearing different colors. This reboot offers a little more distinct personalities for the triplets with Huey being the most perceptive, Dewey the most adventurous, and Louie the most mischievous. Dewey particularly gets a lot of focus in the premiere, with much of the arc centering on Dewey wanting Scrooge to acknowledge him as an adventurer and as family. The distinctions are even reflected in the character designs with each duck actually wearing different articles of clothing as opposed to the same shirt in a different color. The voice actors for the triplets also sound distinct from one another, even if all three of them sound way older than preteens. I like to think Gravity Falls has made me used to young male characters sounding older than they actually are (looking at you Dipper).
As for Scrooge, he is exactly what I had hope: an insanely rich and adventurous old duck. I particularly like this dichotomy going on where Scrooge wants to show his grandnephews the thrill of adventure but also tries to keep them out of danger (again, those seatbelts). He’s also a surprisingly interesting mentor character too as he counters the triplet’s wild imaginations with his knowledge of actual adventuring. The only thing that took some getting used to was David Tenant’s performance. And look, you really can’t go wrong with Tenant and I think he made the wise decision to not fully emulate Alan Young’s performance. It’s just David Tenant playing a duck was something I never thought I’d ever see on television. Other than that, I think he captured Scrooge’s character perfectly.
Overall, I’m sold on the new DuckTales! Disney XD has been producing some really great animated shows as of late and with DuckTales, that momentum is likely to keep going. It’ll be interesting to see if the show can stay this strong for the remainder of the first season. I’m not really sure if I’ll be blogging this show (I got plenty of anime to blog about) but I’ll definitely watch the next few episodes and if there’s a ton to talk about, I’ll definitely write a follow-up piece.