There was a moment in Saturday’s DuckTales premiere that spoke to me. Donald Duck is all dressed up and sitting in a lobby, waiting for a job interview. He’s got pages in his hands (an application, or a resume? who knows!), and he attempts to staple them. The stapler doesn’t work, so he gets agitated, in that uniquely Donald Duck fashion. You know, with the angry quacking and the arm-flailing. And eventually he gets so worked up that he manages to staple himself to the wall.
I felt like Donald Duck all weekend. Just jumping on chairs, flapping my arms and frantically quacking into the ether. I am a useless volcano of rage.
Point is, I needed the return of DuckTales more than I realized. And while a fucking cartoon is nothing compared to the racism and domestic terrorism we witnessed over the weekend, I’m still going to thank the Disney corporate overlords for giving us something to balm our bruised souls. We’d been waiting for months, and it came at the perfect time.
So what’s the verdict? Is the reboot everything fans of the original could have hoped for, or was it just riding the wave of the insane voice cast? It’s both! Look, there was no way the cast would be a letdown, unless they all decided to record their lines after getting their wisdom teeth removed. David Tennant doesn’t just leverage his natural Scottish accent as Scrooge McDuck, he practically purrs. And let’s be honest - the man has a knack for injecting charm into the role of an old wandering adventurer. Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, and Bobby Moynihan bring their own distinct shades to Huey, Dewey, and Louie - and for once you won’t have to rely on their shirt colors to tell them apart. Kate Micucci helps transform Webby into the surprise backbone of the group: capable, intelligent, completely earnest, and a little awkward. And while Toks Olagundoye and Beck Bennett don’t get as much time to shine as Mrs. Beakley and Launchpad McQuack, respectively, they are already positioned to be the perfect comedic foils: Beakley for her no-nonsense dedication (and insistence that she is NOT Scrooge’s secretary), and Launchpad for his optimistic claims that he is a pilot (despite never seeming to drive anything terribly well).
However, these may not be the exact characters you remember from the old days. Scrooge is still capable of some nastiness, but so far he doesn’t seem to be driven by his iconic need to accumulate more gold for his Money Bin. This time around, his goal is simply to reclaim the adrenaline-fueled adventures of his youth — and if treasure just happens to fall into his lap along the way, well at least he knows where to store it. Donald Duck is poised to be more of a permanent fixture in the proceedings, as he moves into Scrooge’s mansion along with the boys by the end of the premiere. He also may prove to be the voice of reason (?!?!?!), provided you can understand what he’s saying. In fact, the whole family dynamic looks like it will be deepened and explored, thanks to core mystery surrounding the past adventures that Scrooge shared with Donald and his sister (the mother of Huey, Dewey, and Louie), which led to some sort of falling out. And, presumably, may explain why Donald is now in charge of his nephews.
Considering the show was always about a rascally set of triplets who go off to stay with their rich great-uncle, the best change may simply be the effort the writers have invested in making the boys stand out from each other. Sure, the voice talent helps, but the actors are really just perfectly cast for the distinct roles they play. Pudi’s Huey is the by-the-books Boy Scout, who is always prepared. Schwartz’s Dewey is being set up as the mini-Scrooge, all gung-ho derring-do. And Moynihan’s Louie, despite being tagged by his brothers as the evil one, seems like the easygoing optimist of the crew. Together they are troublemakers, but they aren’t one indistinguishable unit. And the premiere lays out just why the family is coming together — basically, to give the boys the chance to learn how to get themselves OUT of trouble from their great-uncle Scrooge.
The plot of the premiere covers the introductions and then gives us a taste of the sort of adventures we’ll be able to expect when the series returns next month — namely, they go to Atlantis. And it features the sorts of humor and hijinx you’d expect, while also establishing the characters and their world. What surprised me was that, as a person who grew up watching the original cartoon, I was primed to enjoy this show — but it still went above and beyond to make me care about this ITERATION of the show. It wasn’t just the comfort of returning to a long lost element of my youth. It was the joy of discovering something new that felt like home.
Look, don’t get me wrong — this is absolutely a children’s cartoon. It’s not exactly Mad Men, or Proust, or even Hamilton (where were you, Lin-Manuel?!). And yet, I am an adult who will definitely be watching this cartoon for the foreseeable future. Because I have zero shame.