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Which Original Duck Tales Episodes Are Must Watch?

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elementary my dear baxter
Ooookay, so here's the thing. Despite the fact that I will never "grow out" of watching cartoons I simply cannot go back to most 80's and early 90's cartoons. They tend to just age too poorly. So I'm not going to watch all hundred-ish episodes of the original Duck Tales.

BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT

Here's the thing. I watched that five part time travel series with Bubba Duck and the diamond mind like a hundred gajillion times as a kid because time travel is awesome and caveman duck funny and the shit with the lasers and the exploding diamond mind at the end was fucking sweet as shit. My parents recorded it for me when it aired as like a TV movie thing.

So I just finished rewatching those five episodes and man the 80's were different. The very concept of Scrooge McDuck is so hard to swallow these days but I'll be damned if he doesn't manage to be likeable. And even though Bubba is this shoehorned in marketable gimmick character that TOTALLY FUCKING WORKED ON ME AS A KID I was nevertheless caught up in the more emotional beats of the story. While also being acutely aware that the dramatic climax of this story involved whether or not the ridiculously rich old duck we like will get a little bit richer than the ridiculously rich old duck we don't like.

Anyhow it's over now. I got that bit of nostalgia out of my system. I can stop. It's fine. I mean, I'll just read a few episode descriptions though and see if there's anything that catches my-

60. Spies In Their Eyes

The Navy accuses Seaman Donald Duck of espionage and high treason.


Ok well I guess this is what I'm doing today.

TL;DR: I guess I'm going to watch a bunch of Duck Tales episodes. Hello Talking Time would you like to recommend some of your favorites to me?
 

Sprite

(He/Him/His)
I think "Much Ado About Scrooge" is the show at its best, with goofy characters, a neat locale, a fun mystery, a big ol' chase scene, and an ending with Scrooge at his Scroogiest.

Also, this is tangentially related, but watch TaleSpin! Of all the Disney Afternoon shows it does the best job of matching the energy of old adventure comics.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
Also only as an adult do I realize how many mannerisms Scrooge shares with common with Donald when losing his temper. The flailing fists and stomping, the nonsensical slew of insults, the occasional freakish rage strength.

I'm assuming it's this attention to little details and characterizations that make old Disney cartoons hit different.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
Also, this is tangentially related, but watch TaleSpin! Of all the Disney Afternoon shows it does the best job of matching the energy of old adventure comics.
The thought had crossed my mind. That plane was fuckin sweet. I remember even less of it than I do Duck Tales but I also watched it super regularly.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
Oh also, other things I realized I need to talk about:

1. What is Launchpad? Why is he so proud of being a bad pilot? Why does Scrooge continually hire him?

2. Hello welcome to my Ted Talk: Why When Gyro Gearloose Is Explaining How Removing Bubba From The Timeline Could Cause Time Space Contiuum Problems What The Actual Events of The Show Then Go On To Display As Consequences Would Be More Accurately Described As Chaos Theory But Jurassic Park Wasn't Out Yet I Guess

3. Part II: Why It Probably Didn't Matter That Scrooge Removed Bubba From The Timeline As It's Implied Bubba Was About to Be Killed By A Dinosaur and Tootsie Would Likely Have Perished Without A Caretaker Man This Got Dark I Have To Go Lie Down

4. Ok so Scrooge buys an island from Glomgold that he secretly knows has a diamond mine on it but because the contract states he only owns the westernmost island Glomgold blows up part of the island so only a small useless piece of it is now furthest to the west. Then while traveling through time Scrooge marks the cave with dollar signs that apparently, in the future, mean the diamond mind belongs to him and this is apparently backed up by Duckburg property law. But apparently the contract about him buying the island from Glomgold still applies and Glomgold gets to take the diamond mind back if he doesn't pay the other 10 million he owes? All cuz Scrooge didn't bring his good hat to the inital negotiations? I thought that contract was only for the shitty westernmost island and the whole POINT of the time travel marking the cave shenanigans was to imperialistically claim the diamond mine and override any ownership Glomgold ever could have had? And why don't the Beagle Boys just shoot Scrooge and take the diamonds at the end? It would give the whole thing a real Uncut Gems kind of payoff. Jeez, get with it cartoon writers!
 
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MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Scrooge is a ludicrously rich 1% duck who's so cheap he gives his nephews a $1 weekly allowance. It does not surprise me that he would keep on an incompetent buffoon who gets the job done decently enough but who's not quite smart enough to do things like ask for more money for his services as his regular pilot.
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
2. Hello welcome to my Ted Talk: Why When Gyro Gearloose Is Explaining How Removing Bubba From The Timeline Could Cause Time Space Contiuum Problems What The Actual Events of The Show Then Go On To Display As Consequences Would Be More Accurately Described As Chaos Theory But Jurassic Park Wasn't Out Yet I Guess

That whole bit is biting on A Sound of Thunder, a Ray Bradbury short story from 1952. Chaos theory itself has its origins in 1800s, but really came into its own around the middle of the 20th century, which probably had a significant impact on Ray Bradbury writing the previously mentioned short story wherein a person steps on a butterfly during a time travel expedition, and, spoilers, now Hitler is president. A lot of people think this is the origin of "the butterfly effect", which is central to chaos theory, but that phrase was actually coined in the 60's by a meteorologist (Edward Lorenz) in reference to a butterfly flapping its wings and setting off a hurricane across the globe. The butterfly effect still applies to A Sound of Thunder/Ducktales, though, as the example of a butterfly or caveduck's death impacting timelines is appropriate to cite in reference to time travel stories. In short, while Jurassic Park did popularize chaos theory, it did exist in the 80s, and it is on the writers of this children's cartoon story to have done the research and properly feed Gyro Gearloose scientific statements.

Also, in the original timeline, Tootsie clearly would have become a Darkwing-esque dark hero forever fighting other dinosaurs in an effort to avenge her long-lost Bubba.

Thank you for your time.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
Ok so I watched the episode where Donald gets court martialed.

It opens with the Disney+ warning about insensitive portrayals of cultures. OH BOY HERE WE GOOOOOO. I imagine there's probably a number of episodes that have this warning.

So it turns out Scrooge McDuck, in addition to being a wealth hoarding imperialist, is also a weapons manufacturer trying to sell a new kind of advanced submarine to the Navy, which is doing a test run in Singapore and Donald is a member of the crew.

Among the many, many very caricatured asian animal people in the background is a dragon ducklady who can hypnotize others with her eyes. Because she's being ambiguously blackmailed for some kind of shady past by a bizarrely enthusiastic about his job german pig spy, she hypnotizes Donald to steal an important component from the sub and bring it to the spy so he can sell it to probably the duck world analog of the commies. But the spy very very pointlessly doublecrosses her with fake documents causing her to team up with Scrooge and then he tries to steal the sub during broad daylight during Donald's court martial so it ends up not being too much of a thang to clear his name and save the day.

Also the only punishment of Donald being tried and convicted for high treason is he gets kicked out of the military which is played as an extremely sad moment but it also literally lasts five seconds because Scrooge shows up immediately to exonerate him.

Not the gritty military courtroom drama I was hoping for unfortunately.

Also at one point Louie very casually sells classified state secrets to some schmuck in a spy cantina for $50 so I guess it's only illegal to commit treason if you're enlisted.
 
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elementary my dear baxter
That whole bit is biting on A Sound of Thunder, a Ray Bradbury short story from 1952. Chaos theory itself has its origins in 1800s, but really came into its own around the middle of the 20th century, which probably had a significant impact on Ray Bradbury writing the previously mentioned short story wherein a person steps on a butterfly during a time travel expedition, and, spoilers, now Hitler is president. A lot of people think this is the origin of "the butterfly effect", which is central to chaos theory, but that phrase was actually coined in the 60's by a meteorologist (Edward Lorenz) in reference to a butterfly flapping its wings and setting off a hurricane across the globe. The butterfly effect still applies to A Sound of Thunder/Ducktales, though, as the example of a butterfly or caveduck's death impacting timelines is appropriate to cite in reference to time travel stories. In short, while Jurassic Park did popularize chaos theory, it did exist in the 80s, and it is on the writers of this children's cartoon story to have done the research and properly feed Gyro Gearloose scientific statements.

Also, in the original timeline, Tootsie clearly would have become a Darkwing-esque dark hero forever fighting other dinosaurs in an effort to avenge her long-lost Bubba.

Thank you for your time.
That's the thing right? There is no equivalent of Hitler being president when Scrooge comes back with Bubba. Despite Gyro's concerns there doesn't seem to have been any timeline disruption from his absence whatsoever. There's just some really loopy logic about how somehow this will cause Scrooge to lose his fortune, which kind of sorta happens because of Bubba's antics but also because of Glomgold and the Beagle Boys deliberately sabotaging him. So to use the Jurassic Park Chaos Theory metaphor, Bubba is the dinosaurs, while Glomgold is Dodgson/Biosyn and the Beagle Boys are Dennis Nedry.

So while I can see how the writers maybe read and were inspired by the Bradbury story, I think they missed the point of it in a way that say, the Simpsons Halloween episode with Homer and the time traveling toaster did not.

Thanks for listening.
 
If you want a spy episode of DuckTales, this is what I would suggest.


It's full of 0% military drama and 100% silliness, with Launchpad stumbling into the job of a secret agent. Espionage tropes will be satirized, bad puns will be made, and a villain played by Odo from Deep Space Nine will be foiled. It's a first season episode that feels very much like a second season episode, when there was less emphasis on the story and more on zany slapstick comedy.

If you're looking for more character building, Blue Collar Scrooge is the way to go.


Scrooge McDuck gets so much amnesia, and lives the life of an everyman while developing a crush for Fenton Crackshell's mother. He becomes a bit more relatable than he had in the past, and the episode demonstrates that there's more to the character than immense wealth and miserly cheapness.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
I have long maintained that the only Ducktales episodes worth revisiting are "the five-part pilot movie plus your two favourite episodes from when you were a kid." Anyway I have the whole run on my hard drive so fuck me I guess.
 

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
I have long maintained that the only Ducktales episodes worth revisiting are "the five-part pilot movie plus your two favourite episodes from when you were a kid." Anyway I have the whole run on my hard drive so fuck me I guess.
The Treasure of the Golden Suns five-part pilot miniseries absolutely sports the best-looking animation of original DuckTales, but I would add that the first season's episodes are also pretty high quality overall.

Send in the Clones is the first Magica DeSpell episode and is nearly as lavishly animated as the pilot, plus it also features the Beagle Boys. Magica's Shadow War is obviously another one focused around the witchy woman, this time sending her own shadow to do the dirty work of stealing this show's favorite macguffin, Scrooge's Number One Dime.

Master of the Djinni is interesting in that Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp more or less rehashes its plot (except the genie in this ep is way more of a dick). Earth Quack is a classic Carl Barks yarn remade for TV, and I love the squishy spheroid design of the Terries. And of course I have to mention Return to the Klondike, where Scrooge hooks up again with his old (totally badass) girlfriend Glittering Goldie.

Oh, and the four-part miniseries Catch as Cash Can is a must-watch, if only for the amazing scene in Part 2: A Whale of a Bad Time where Scrooge completely and utterly loses his shit after his entire fortune gets sent to the bottom of the ocean.

TL;DR: The first season of DT is the longest and full of good stuff, while later seasons are much more uneven.
 

Ghost from Spelunker

BAG
(They/Him)
I remember The Golden Goose 2-parter freaking me out as a kid, but I haven't seen it since it first came out. How does that hold up? Maybe just watch part two where the Golden Death spreads across the entire planet and for the thrilling conclusion.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
I've watched the first three episodes of S1's five part opener so far. I should note that as a kid I did watch the shit out of the show on the reg so it's not like this is all brand new to me but at the same time it's been close to three decades since I've actually sat down and watched any of it so I have very very few clear memories

So it was neat to see how there actually is a bit of serialized building up of the world and characters at the start. The first episode really shows Scrooge being a stingy selfish jerk who wants nothing to do with his newly acquired grandnephews, and establishes his very sudden changes of heart as soon as a bit of nostalgia hits him. Episode 2 then shows off how brave and adventurous he becomes when he's got a treasure hunt to pursue. And then we get to see Donald again in episode 3 which I wasn't expecting. Annnnnnnd... we get to see how Scrooge is more than happy to make a deal with a selfish conquistador who is using superstition to control a group of south american natives. Oof. At least in Season 2 he gets angry when the people of Toupee are being ripped off by their corrupt vizier and has Bubba return their treasures, so he learns to be a little more culturally heroic.

Also, I'm pretty sure this 5-parter has the bit with the Sirens in it, which is the thing I remember most clearly from way back in the day as it was one of the most terrifying fucking scenes I had ever seen in an animated show. Between them and that cave beast from the S2 five-parter I am retroactively impressed at how the animators did not hold back in putting some seriously freaky monsters in the show.
 

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elementary my dear baxter
Ok this 5-parter did not have the bit with the sirens, so I guess I'll have to just figure out which one that is and watch it next.

But seeing as I just finished episode 5 I need to now scream my thoughts at the internet.

The diversion to Antarctica was interesting. I always keep expecting a little more than this show gives me, which may not be fair, but I was expecting this episode to be an opportunity for the boys to discover Scrooge's adventurous side as they see how he's managed to survive in the antarctic wilderness. Instead it was just a lot of running from strange penguins with a bizarre policy of stealing the clothes and locking up of anyone who enters their world. And then Webby gets canceled for wearing penguinface. The fact that she got Scrooge his map by making a replica with her crayons however is not only really fucking clever, but also adorable as hell so big ups on the writing there.

Then the finale in the valley of the golden sun was pretty great. Especially when the animation suddenly jumps to movie quality during the climactic confrontation between Scrooge and Capitan, who I was expecting to have some kind of Pirates of the Caribbean-esque curse associated with the gold but no he's just obsessed with it and too stubborn to die. It's a shame the animation bump only lasted a couple of minutes but it was really great to see nonetheless.

Also I have to give Launchpad some credit because it was actually super brilliant how he stopped the plane from going over the waterfall and nobody appreciated it, but I do Launchpad. That was a big king moment.

What was interesting is that they had a clear message going on about the destructive nature of greed and obsession with obtaining vast fortunes, and yet the way they went about it was kinda funky. Like, instead of just doing some kind of humanizing story where Scrooge's innate greet and tunnel-visioned pursuit of wealth could be challenged, they externalize his behavior as "Gold Fever," a condition that afflicts him rather than his behavior being born out of true character flaws. Was it that the writers were uncomfortable portraying Scrooge being flawed enough to actually put himself and his family in danger in pursuit of wealth? Or is it some kind of classic Carl Banks lore that the writers were giving a shout out to? Or did the animators have to disguise their anti-capitalist message in clumsy metaphor so that Michael Eisner wouldn't set off their exploding collars?

These are mysteries for the ages.
 

Mr. Sensible

Pitch and Putt Duffer
Good observations all around. DuckTales definitely glosses over some of Scrooge's greediness that was such a defining trait in his comic-based adventures, and it seems perfectly natural to assume that Disney execs had a hand in softening Scrooge for television.

As a kid, I was also disappointed that Skittles the penguin never came back for another episode. I love the Antarctic penguins' faux-British accents, and it would've been fun for Webby to have a female friend she could hang with off-and-on instead of the triplets.
 
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