As a product of the 90s, I grew up on cartoons like “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” and an array of Disney creations. Shows like “Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers,” “Darkwing Duck,” and “TaleSpin” stand out as masterpieces, affording me a love of animation. One of my favorites was, and still is, “DuckTales.” Featuring a four season run and a spin-off movie “DuckTales” offered a magnificent blend of adventure, drama, and campiness. With lasers, airplanes, but no race cars (does a limo count?) the 2017 “DuckTales” series opener “Woo-oo” is a magnificent start to the show.
“Woo-oo” kicks off the 2017 “DuckTales” series in true Duckberg fashion. We meet Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo), uncle to Huey (Danny Pudi), Louie (Bobby Moynihan), and Dewey (Ben Schwartz). Since Donald Duck is heading to a job interview, he needs someone to watch the nephews. As such, he selects Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant).
Huey, Louie, and Dewey are ecstatic to finally meet the legendary Uncle Scrooge. But Scrooge doesn’t return the sentiment. Instead, he locks the kiddos in a room with a bag of marbles to play with. The resourceful nephews escape captivity, where they meet Webbigail (Kate Micucci), whose grandmother Mrs. Beakley (Toks Olagundoye) works as Scrooge’s straight-laced housekeeper. Rounding out the cast, there’s Launchpad (Beck Bennett), who continues reminding everyone that he’s a pilot.
The first series entry, “Woo-oo” carries the “Full Metal Jacket” syndrome in that it feels like two distinct episodes. The first half concentrates on setting up the direction of the series and shaping the characters. Notably, Huey, Dewey, and Louie benefit from distinct personas. Huey is the responsible sibling. Louie plays the mischievous brother. Dewey is the oft-forgotten one, with Donald and Scrooge apparently forgetting his name. But Dwesy is the most ambitious of the triplets.
However, the second half finds Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webbigail, and Launchpad embark on a mission to find the lost jewel of Atlantis. It’s here where “Woo-oo” assumes an “Indiana Jones” vibe, thankfully minus nuking the fridge.
It’s refreshing to see distinct character development so quickly in the series. From the onset, each character is posited as an individual. Moreover, like its predecessor in the original “DuckTales” series, the 2017 iteration masterfully mixes action, drama, and comedy. In the beginning, Donald arrives at McDuck’s mansion and there’s a tense moment in the driveway. This hints at a storied past between the two. Later on, a painting shows Scrooge and Donald fighting side by side, and Webbigail matter of factly explains that Donald was once Scrooge’s sidekick.
This remains one of the biggest changes. Donald Duck appears to benefit from a meatier role in the 2017 “DuckTales.” Whereas Donald was largely absent in the original version, if “Woo-oo” is any indication, he’s a prominent character. Additionally, Webbigail gets an adventuresome role which quite befits her. I like the roguish take on her character. Departures like these make the series stand on its own.
However, “DuckTales” offers plenty of nods to its original source material as well as the Disney universe. “Woo-oo” drops references to Spoonerville, St. Canard, and Cape Suzette. This seems to indicate that “Darkwing Duck,” “Goof Troop,” and “TaleSpin” are completely canon. Moreover, there’s a painting which looks as if it’s Scrooge as depicted on the cover of “DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp.” Furthermore, Flintheart Glomgold (Keith Ferguson) reprises his role as a primary antagonist.
I appreciate the ensemble cast. While Huey, Dewey, and Louie, along with Scrooge, are the most well-known characters, Donald Duck gets additional screen time. It’s apparent that Webbigail will join on the wacky adventures. Launchpad doesn’t get a major role, and instead, he’s mainly around for comic relief. That, and to remind everyone that he’s a pilot even though he’s decked out in pilot garb while acting as Scrooge’s chauffeur. Why a pilot is a chauffeur, who knows.
Voice acting is top-notch. Tennant plays the at times ornery, but genuinely good natured Scrooge brilliantly. Bobby Moynihan is a delightful as Louie, and Kate Micucci lends an eager, tough persona to Webbigail. To review “DuckTales” and not discuss the opening theme would be remiss. Lyrically, it’s the same nonsensical albeit lovable and freakishly catchy tune as the original. ASCAP award-winning pop song writer Mark Mueller composed the diddly, and also wrote the similarly ear-worm fodder theme song to “Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers.” As Gizmodo reports, the “DuckTales” theme song was written in under an hour.
I’m keen to see where “DuckTales” goes. “Woo-oo” hit me right in the childhood with a hearty dose of nostalgia. Notably, I’m quite curious about Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s parentage. At the conclusion of “Woo-oo,” Dewey uncovers a portion of a painting depicting Donald and Scrooge adventuring and exclaims “Mom?” It seems Della Duck’s whereabouts will remain a key subplot in the “DuckTales” 2017 series. To quote underground rapper Homeboy Sandman, “everything that’s showing is a sequel or a remake.” 2017’s “DuckTales” is a totally unnecessary reboot. But as opposed Michael Bay’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” flicks, “DuckTales” is unnecessary, yes, but not unwanted. Instead, it’s one of the best cartoon reboots since Nickelodeon’s 2012 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series.