The New DuckTales Is A Perfect Example Of How Today's Cartoons Are The Best They Have Ever Been

Disney XD's revitalised and rebooted DuckTales is a testament to the staying power of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. It's also a grand showing of how far animation in general has come since 1987.

All images: Disney XD

Comparing the TV movie that serves as the pilot for the new DuckTales to the first few episodes in the 1987 run is an interesting exercise, since the new show lifts the essentials from that story, while still being different enough in the details to be engaging. Scrooge still takes on the role of watching Huey, Dewey and Louie very reluctantly. They still take to adventuring with gusto. Even a number of the same old villains from the first arc pop up again.

What has changed a lot is the characterisation. The new show has synthesised the original show with some bits of the comics, while still coming up with its own version of the characters. Mrs Beakley has gone from her more standard matronly character to a deadpan badarse, for example. Webby has gone from just being "the girl" to someone who is such a fan of Scrooge's that she's memorised all his adventures and has spent a fair bit of her life preparing to go on adventures. She's still very upbeat, but it comes from a place rooted in knowledge. (Launchpad McQuack has regressed to being even weirder than his original incarnation, and he's so out there it's kind of amazing.) The biggest changes, however, come in the form of Scrooge McDuck and the nephews.

If you've followed Scrooge McDuck from comic book to 1987 cartoon through to now, you'd know that the character has undergone a fair amount of softening. The character's original introduction was as Donald's miserly uncle. The 1987 show gave him a hidden heart of gold where his family was concerned but retained Scrooge's nasty distaste for the poor.

The new reboot has softened Scrooge even more. There are jokes in the original show's first episode that make it nearly impossible for a modern audience to like him -- one of first bits of dialogue is about how the poor don't deserve anything. The new show focuses a lot more on Scrooge's history as an adventurer who has let his passion fall by the wayside, even as he hoards a truly staggering number of dangerous artefacts in his home.

While Scrooge still keeps track of all his money, the cruelty of the original Scrooge is downplayed -- thankfully. There's also a deeper, more interesting rift between Donald Duck and his uncle that the show uses to its advantage. (Donald just kind of drops the kids off at Scrooge's because he joined he Navy in the original; Donald's reasons are a lot more fleshed out and tied to the main story in the new show.)

Part of the joke of Huey, Dewey and Louie was that they were identical and the only thing that separated them was the colour of their hats and shirts. That's extremely not the case in the new show. From the design alone, you can see more work has been made to distinguish the brothers.

Making Huey a planner, Dewey a middle child, and Louie a gung-ho adventurer not only gives them distinct personalities, but also opens up the sibling dynamic in a lot more interesting ways.

DuckTales does all that and still has room for a Scrooge who is "smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies" and, of course, does a swan dive into a vault filled with gold. The things no one wanted to change -- such as the theme song -- remain intact, while the things that have changed only add to the show.

Is the 2017 DuckTales as transcendent a piece of animation as, say, Steven Universe or Avatar? No. It's aimed a very young audience with an added number of references and Easter eggs for the parents who watched the original show to enjoy. But it's an extremely smart update that knows exactly what to keep and what to change.

And most of all, the new DuckTales is emblematic of the larger trend of children's animation getting more serialised and more emotionally honest. It's mostly still made up of jokes and good, fun action, but adopting some of the newer animation trends has made this DuckTales even better than it was before.


Comments

    You're using "Softened" in a positive way, but I see that softening of edges the very thing that would remove all the character from the show. I don't NEED my characters to be perfect paragons of goodness.

    In fact, keeping Scrooge as a lower class hating and mean zillionaire is actually a far better lesson for kids than having him appear less challenging. Kids learning that sometimes their family members have bad ideas and views, but that they still have redeeming qualities, allows them to develop a more rounded and empathetic worldview that the current young left-wing generation (of which I am a part) clearly missed out on.

      Not only this, but this was the ENTIRE point of Huey, Dewey, Lewey and Webbie. When the kids all came to live with Uncle Scrooge, he was a cantankerous bastard.

      During the course of the original cartoons, Scrooge actually *did* evolve, he *did* soften. Anyone who watched the original series as a kid can attest to the fact Scrooge got nicer as the seasons went by. He was still grumpy, but he got 'less' grumpy and mean as it went by as the kids brought out his heart. This was their purpose, to regain his humanity, to make him feel his humanity (duckanity?) again after so long avoiding it.

      This having it from the getgo, kinda removes the necessity for them in that way.

        I think that these changes would probably the scratch the itch of someone who refers to Steven Universe as "transcendent" though.

          Yeah, we're not hitting a very high bar here. Let's flitter back to the 90s where animation REALLY hit its high point.

          Duck Tales, Darkwing Duck, Talespin, Batman Animated Series, Tiny Toons, Superman Animated Series, goddamn GARGOYLES... all of those classics and more. That was the animation peak imho.

            I'd so love a BluRay release of those classics. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret getting the DuckTales DVDs and and others but the image quality really suffers as Disney kept stuffing seven, even eight, episodes on each disk.

            Needless to say, some scenes are a blocky mess due to the compression.

            I honestly feel the production costs of the new series is just a waste and it could have been better spent remastering the old cartoons for a new generation rather than butcher something to make it fit in the current day.

            I think, similar to music, everyone's peak lines up pretty neatly with their age bracket (same goes for music, the amount of ancient dudes in Meatloaf music video comments sections saying all music sucks now is staggering). For me, I loved shows like Rocko's Modern Life, Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Angry Beavers, etc.

            Hell, it's crazy to think that there's a generation of people out there now that never really watched Simpsons, arguably the king of animated tv shows, a show that truly earned the term "transcendent". Its decline directly lines up with the start of Futurama (clearly where Groening's passion went), but during its peak? Untouchable.

              Simpsons is a funny one. I'd argue the first decade is transcendent. The next is bizarre, and the third is derivative. However, BARTHOOD, is possibly one of the best episodes ever made, clocking in in the third decade...

                I haven't seen it, but reading the synopsis and seeing that it "parodies" (ie. rides on the coattails) Boyhood doesn't give me hope. The problem with Simpsons, something that was foreshadowed in many of their earlier seasons by their own jokes, is that they lost their identity chasing what was "cool". The Poochie episode is damn near prophetic.

                The show started to decline when there were obvious celebrity cameos vs. restrained ones. Look at the Stonecutters episode (I only just realised that was Patrick Stewart, no joke. Like, yesterday.) vs. the episode where Homer is hanging out with Alec Baldwin or Mel Gibson. Abstract wackiness overwhelmed the soul of the show. I remember a writer saying something like "A show that once ended its episodes with Marge and Homer riding off into the sunset on a bicycle now ends with Homer shooting a tranquilliser dart into her neck."

                  Funny thing is, Barthood was exceptional. It eschewed the goofy nature of Simpsons jokes and went with a slightly more serious tone. It returned to the old 'moral lesson' Simpsons of the first half dozen seasons, took on a realistic approach of following Bart and co. from Barts early years through to his mid twenties and really was exceptional. I really recommend it. It isn't part of 'simpsons canon' apparently, and it's all the better for it. Plus, Homers painted as a Dad again, rather than as a fucking imbecile.

                  @weresmurf Damn dude sorry to say I just watched it cause I wanted to give it a chance based on what you said and it sucked. I think the line here is telling:

                  It eschewed the goofy nature of Simpsons jokes and went with a slightly more serious tone.

                  I don't know what seasons you watched but seasons 1-8 were never about goofy jokes, that's strictly a season 12 onwards thing. The best episodes of the show always had a serious undertone. They were jokes that told us something about ourselves or society or family. They weren't Maggie and the Unibrow Baby kissing as some sort of... well to be honest I don't know what the joke there was. What the hell was that El Barto line there at the end as well?

                  I'm not being stubborn, I'd love for The Simpsons to be good again. But every time I give a new episode a go on the recommendation of someone who promises me "this one's different" or "the new season is actually pretty good", i'm always left scratching my head trying to guess what's supposed to be a joke and what's supposed to be general dialogue. To put Barthood up there with the best episode of this long dead show seems almost sacrilegious.

        There's one thing you missed.

        Scrooge basically found that even with his money bin, he wasn't rich until he had his nephews.

        Sure he's likely to chase a coin down a drain but he's more than willing to give up his number one dime if it means saving the kids.

          Bazinga, nailed it. Infact there were MANY times he had to display this very lesson weren't there :)

            The best example is when Magica had a storm cloud over the manson that caused nightmares.

            From memory, Scrooge was being chased by bill collectors and when he tried to get out of paying the bills which scared him, they decided to try and take his nephews away.

            You could pretty much guess what happened.

    Disagree. Original didn't have characters with square heads. This infatuation with 8-bit stuff has gone too far.

      Right?!
      It took me a while to figure out why there's just something "off" about the new designs that just looks wrong. It's the square heads. (In the original, Huey, Dewie, Louie and Webby all had perfect spheres for noggins.)
      Square heads just... eurgh.

    Gimme Darkwing Dark reboot kthxbye.

      They just announced Darkwings part of it.

        They did?

        Eh, not sure how I feel about that. Darkwing never appeared in the original Duck Tales and the show wasn't a spinoff from Duck Tales either, despite the fact Launchpad was in it. Not really sure if Darkwing fits the Duck Tales vibe at all...that show was always intended for a slightly older audience.

          Not just Launchpad, Fenton Crackshell/GizmoDuck too. Also Launchpad directly referred to Scrooge and having worked for him. Seemed pretty spinoff to me :P

            Yeah it is a bit weird in that way...yes they shared some characters (Launchpad was just the most obvious one) but the two shows did exist in effectively separate universes, the creators themselves have actually confirmed that.

              WhitePointer I don't know where you are getting your (incorrect) information from, but it was confirmed YEARS ago, back when Darkwing Duck first came out in 1991 that it took place in the same universe as Ducktales. Villains from Ducktales even APPEARED on Darkwing Duck. Most notably Magica De Spell, who teamed up with Negaduck in order to kidnap Launchpad so she could blackmail him in order *TO GET SCROOGE'S LUCKY DIME*. Here is a link to a page confirming this episode. http://darkwingduck.wikia.com/wiki/Magica_De_Spell. The creators definitely confirmed it was the same universe. But even if they hadn't it should be common sense since the they shared characters.

    You must be kidding. I found the new DuckTales horrid. There's no comedy.. the voice acting is just horrendous and the animation itself appears cheap, rushed, and heartless. This article seems written by someone who doesn't really recall the original series. There was a reason older cartoons are considered classics.... they were outstanding. This new work is, at best, mediocre.

    Anyone born in the 80's that grew up with the original and even saw Ducktales Treasure of the lost lamp in theaters will hate the reboot, and not just because of nostalgia. My kids love the reboot but I feel as though the people behind the reboot were trying to hard to make it stand on its on without the original. Honestly the reboot should have been a reboot not a reimagined "hey this style of comedy and animation are popular right now" so we will go with this. The bottom line is they alienated a built in audience of adults who grew up with it had kids and were excite to watch it with them, until the first 15minutes passed and I wanted to chuck the remote at the tv while screaming THEY BLEW IT UP, Damn the.

    I'm glad I'm not only here who prefers original DuckTales over this re-smelly-boot. Even more I prefer QuackPack, Mickey Mouse Works, House of Mouse and Mickey and Roadster Racers.
    In fact, couldn't DuckTales reboot work with original visual look and character layout and if it was made in Toon City Animation? Just asking?

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