Rewriting History – Ducktales (First Impressions)

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I’m an eighties kid. Nostalgia runs thick through my veins. An average day is punctuated by quotes, references and snippets of theme-tunes from days long gone by. Indeed, such is the reverence for those shows placed in the pantheon of greatness that any thought to remake, reboot, or reinvent those shows of yesterday will inevitably be met with scorn and derision.

But Michael Bay probably has a lot to answer for on that count.

Disney have been smart with the lead-up to their re-imagining of their Saturday morning classic Ducktales. Along with Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Talespin and Darkwing Duck, the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his high-pitched nephews have held a very special place in the hearts of an entire generation of now thirty-somethings, and the idea of trying to modernise the show seems somewhat superfluous for what remains (both through rose-tinted and regular glasses) a masterpiece of children’s television. So how do you warm them to the idea?

Well, how about recording the iconic theme tune as sung by all the big-name stars you’ve managed to get on board?

The shock of excitement upon seeing David Tennant playing Scrooge was only stoked further by the release of the brand spanking new opening sequence, with theme sung by Felicia Barton of American Idol fame, and a shiny new animation that perfectly blends the ‘80s show with Carl Barks’ original comics to create a unique yet intoxicating style.

But the big question; did it live up to the hype, or is it another Bay-esque mess of misguided mayhem?

Within moments of settling down to the feature-length pilot (simply entitled “Woo-hoo”), I knew my inner child was to be happily sated. The animation is crisp and clean, and the voice-work is simply spot on. The adventure itself, after the obligatory initial “Scrooge begrudgingly takes on the nephews” intro, sees our heroes in search of Atlantis, seeking out its treasures and coming head-to-head with the villainous Glomgold in the process.

It’s great. It’s what’s expected. And dear lord does it raise a smile.

Tennant’s Scrooge is exactly what’s needed; cantankerous, adventurous, and yet altogether charming. Beck Bennett’s Launchpad is as daft and hilarious as ever as McDuck’s hapless pilot, and Keith Ferguson’s Glomgold is the perfect antithesis to our Highland hero. It’s also nice to be bringing Donald back into the flock, though it might be prudent to give him a little less exposition, as many of his lines tend to get lost amidst his signature quacking.

But it’s the kids that have really had the chance to shine in this modern Duckburg. In the original series, the three boys were difficult to distinguish. Indeed, even as an avid fan with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Disney, if you had asked me last week  which was which, I would have stammered in uncertainty. Here, however, we have three very distinct brothers, each with their own personality; Dani Pudi (Huey) is our Junior Woodchuck and logical thinker; Ben Schwartz’s Dewey is the adventurer in search of validation from his uncle, whilst Bobby Moynihan’s “evil triplet” Louie serves for the most comic relief of the trio. The team have done a great job in creating distinctive, individual characters that still remain true to their origins. Oh, and losing the childish squeakiness? Good choice Disney, good choice.

The greatest change, however, comes in the guise of young Webbigail Vanderquack. You remember Webby, right? That whiny little pink one that you never liked? Yeah. Prepare to have you mind changed. Kate Micucci (Gooch from Scrubs) has breathed a new life into the character, creating a Webby almost unrecognisable from her source material. She’s gutsy, brave and quick-witted, a far cry from the eighties girly-girl, and a character that younger viewers are sure to look up to.

Ducktales is a rarity; a reimagining that has breathed a whole new vitality into an old franchise that will delight old fans and new alike. If the rest of the season can live up to this promising pilot, then I can only hope that Disney will greenlight more shows. Darkwing has already been confirmed to appear at some point this season, and there have been subtle hints in episode one to Talespin and even Goof Troop existing in this universe.

So bring it on Disney, it’s time to rewrite history.

WOO-HOO!

Ducktales continues on Disney XD from September 23rd in the US, and will launch in the UK on Disney Channel and DisneyLife in early 2018. You can catch a sneak peek this Autumn.