It’s been awhile since new episodes of Disney’s rebooted DuckTales have graced our screens, but this month the hiatus ended and the series came back with a vengeance. But forget all that — I wanna talk about one specific new episode: The one that introduced the world to a duck voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also puts on a one-wheeled robot suit to fight crime.
Side note: Turns out I’m maybe slightly attracted to a cartoon duck. But to be fair, the duck has FANTASTIC hair.
So yes, this weekend DuckTales finally introduced Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera, a new spin on an old character. He’s the eager, brilliant, and unappreciated intern for Gyro Gearloose (still voiced perfectly by Jim Rash), and by the episode’s climax Fenton has summoned the experimental new Gizmoduck suit (using codeword “blathering blatherskite,” natch) and saved the day. Honestly, that alone would make this a pretty standout episode — but wait, there’s more! The episode is really about Launchpad finally getting his driver’s license (don’t ask), and ending up in a race against Mark Beaks’s new crashless robot driver, B.U.D.D.Y.
Only B.U.D.D.Y. is based on stolen technology… specifically, Gyro’s evil little lightbulb tech with a friendly fake face on top. So it’s Evil Bulb vs. Launchpad in a race to see who the best driver is, with Launchpad hoping to prove that he’s so good Scrooge won’t want to buy a fleet of B.U.D.D.Y.s to replace him. Fenton helps Launchpad learn how to drive safely — and the poor guy loses. It’s only when he’s driving dangerously, crashes and all, that he truly excels.
What he needs to do is live by his hero’s motto: “Let’s Get Dangerous”
Because Launchpad’s hero is DARKWING FRIGGIN’ DUCK. The episode begins with the biggest surprise of them all — a fake-out intro to a “Darkwing Duck” episode, featuring the superhero battling against classic foes Megavolt, Quackerjack, and The Liquidator. Launchpad is showing it to Dewey by way of introduction, and the young duck… doesn’t get the appeal.
What I’m saying is that this single episode brought not only Lin-Manuel Miranda as Gizmoduck into the fold, but it also offered a glimpse at what a reimagined Darkwing Duck might look like. And yes, I realize this show is supposed to be for kids — but for adult fans who grew up on the old Disney after-school cartoon block, this was also a real treat.
And if you’re worried that DuckTales is just relying on nostalgia and star-studded stunts to get attention, the best part of the episode is that you could strip all of that away and still be left with a great story. The humor is on point, the action cleverly plotted (the car crashing into a perfectly executed cliff jump? Amazing!), and though they could have hired anyone to play Fenton, Miranda truly nailed the fast-talking, nerdy character. He’s a really convincing cartoon! But it was Launchpad’s story, and for a character who is typically an easy punchline, is was nice to see DuckTales really invest an episode of this calibre into developing him emotionally. Jokes aside, we’re finally seeing more about what he wants: Scrooge’s approval. And maybe for Scrooge to plan him a surprise party (in or out of a supplies closet).