I’m serious, kids. If there was a museum of television reboots, Ducktales would have an entire wing dedicated to it. This show… it’s simply amazing. It doesn’t require a nostalgic bond, it is witty and clever, tells interesting stories without heavy-handed morality, and respects its audience enough to catch the lessons without cramming them down your gullet. Ducktales is, by all rights, the perfect reboot… taking everything that didn’t work in the old show and chucking it out the window, and taking everything that did work and dialing it up to eleven.
Let me put it to you this way: Thirty years ago when the last episode of classic Ducktales aired, if you were to tell me that there would be a newer, better version and that Dofus and Webby were going to be the best characters… Well, I probably would have slapped you for the heresy.
The show returned for its third season this week and, based on the first two episodes, it has not lost a step and, if you ask me, is better than ever.
“Challenge of the Senior Junior Woodchucks” finds Huey and Violet (Webby’s friend from last season) competing against each other for the title of Senior Junior Woodchuck in a race through a island forest as Scrooge and the others hunt down the lost treasure of the Junior Woodchuck’s founder.
I have to hand it to this episode. Despite the lesson being somewhat spoon-fed during the last few minutes, the idea that it is not only okay to fail, but failure is essential to grow as a person is an unusually hard pill for a show aimed at children, but it is exactly the kind of lesson that needs to be aimed at children. You know what? Yes… You need to fail in life to grow. I like that sentiment.
Buried in the overly overt narrative was a secondary theme about rules… how they are necessary and, almost hypocritically, how they are not always necessary.
While Dewey and his trusty Junior Woodchuck Guidebook has rules and regulations for every situation, but the moment that the guide is taken from him and he finds himself in a situation where he is not the best, Dewey forgoes the rules he knows by heart to his own personal and moral peril. Seeing someone as level headed as Dewey become obsessive and reckless is, as I said, a sour pill but it’s a failure that we as an audience need to see for the little guy to come out a better person at the end.
Conversely, to grow as a person, Scrooge had to learn that rules and maps are not absolutes and that it’s okay to go off the trail. I wish this lesson would have unfolded for Scrooge a little more organically, but given the light and hilarious nature of the B-plot, I suppose it fit.
I’m a fan of representation in the LGBT+ community, but it did feel very insincere on the show’s part to introduce Violet’s fathers the way they did with them both wearing “I’m with dad” T-shirts with arrows pointing at each other. I had no problem with the dads being in the episode, but the shirts… I don’t know… just seemed like the show unnecessarily patting itself on the back for being progressive when I think not calling special attention to these glorified background characters would have been much more effective.
“Quack Pack” was definitely the crown jewel of the two episodes, taking place in a strange otherworldly dimension where the DuckTales characters are characters on a corny sitcom named “Quack Pack” complete with single sets and a laugh track.
This episode was a masterpiece. A wild, silly, surreal ride that not only delivered a nostalgic overload with the classic DuckTales costumes and the wonderful cameo from Goofy and the Genie from the old DuckTales movie, but delivered a story that unfolded naturally with one character becoming self-aware and the entire episode evolving into a meta-adventure complete with a disturbing live studio audience of grotesque smiling monstrosities.
I loved, loved, loved, loved this episode. I think that it could be one of the best that DuckTales has ever come up with. The idea that the entire situation was birthed from Donald’s secret desire to have a normal family without adventures and danger was both logical and saddening. I love Donald Duck in this series and it is seriously the most characterization he’s gotten in his 90-ish years of existence. He’s just done with everything… he’s so very tired and it shows in his frustrations and his anger. Who would have thought that Donald Duck would be this psychologically examined in any medium, much less a DuckTales reboot?
I would also just love to point out that Goofy was a true highlight of the episode. I love the rebooted Mickey Mouse cartoons, but hate what they’ve done to the Goofster. Here, he’s back to his normal, lovable self and drops a ton of Goof Troop references that I simply enjoyed so darned much.
With the third season, DuckTales is just as — if not more — sharp as ever. There is absolutely no reason this series should be as good as it is, but it is and I love it.