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DuckTales: Volume 3

Walt Disney Television/TMS Entertainment (1987-1989), Walt Disney Home Entertainment (November 13, 2007), 3 discs, 546 mins, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Not Rated, Retail: $34.99

Storyboard:

It’s a third helping of duck adventures based on the perennially popular comic book stories of Carl Barks. This set includes two five-part epics, plus the origin of Scrooge’s Number One Dime.

The Sweatbox Review:

With this third volume of DuckTales, we find another 24 episodes of the classic TV cartoon spread evenly across three discs, concluding the series’ initial order of episodes from 1987, plus adding in what is sometimes referred to as the show’s “second season”— two 2-hour specials from 1988 and 1989 that are here broken into five episodes each. Given that this is a continuation of the same run that began in the last two DVD volumes, the quality of the stories remains quite consistent. What separates this volume from the others, however, is that these stories are largely original ones, as the writers had apparently mined most of the Carl Barks comic book stories that they wanted to do in the first four dozen episodes (although we still have the Tra-La-La episode to look forward to in the next volume, even if we shall also have to contend with the ongoing adventures of Bubba Duck and Gizmo Duck). These other stories may have lacked the same origins, but they share the same inspiration and are still plenty enjoyable— especially considering what loose adaptations many of those episodes derived from the comics actually were anyhow.

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Disc 1
Everyone loves a good time travel story, and lo and behold the DuckTales writers figured out how to give us yet another one in this opening episode of Volume 3, Duck To The Future. Magica tricks Scrooge into accepting her as a fortune teller, and uses The Sands Of Time to send him into the future to see how his empire ends up while being run by his nephews. Of course, Scrooge ends up stranded in a time where Magica has taken over his empire, and he must recapture his Number One Dime and head back to the past to set things right. The next episode sees Scrooge and his nephews encounter a Tarzan-like character known as The Phantom (apparently the writers forgot that there already was a somewhat Tarzan-like character known as The Phantom). This Jungle Duck helps Scrooge find a “silver buzzard,” and reveals himself to have ties to Mrs. Beakley.

In the first of a couple of flashback episodes on this set, Launchpad’s First Crash shows us how Scrooge and Launchpad first met. Next, we see one of my all-time favorite characters from the comics, the ridiculously lucky Gladstone Gander, appear on the show for the first time in Dime Enough For Luck, where he is tricked into teaming up with Magica deSpell to steal Scrooge’s Number One Dime. Dewey then gets the spotlight in Duck In The Iron Mask, and Scrooge uncharacteristically loses a bet to Flintheart Glomgold in The Uncrashable Hindentanic. The Status Seekers is one of the few Barks-inspired stories in this volume; Scrooge joins a snooty club, but has to sacrifice too much. Lastly for this disc, Magica returns to bring everyone’s greatest fears to life in Nothing To Fear.

Disc 2
Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. McDuck obviously owes much to Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale, though its setting in London and historical outlook make it worthy of the Barks name. Once Upon A Dime is the best example of Barks’ stories in this set, and one of the best representations in the whole series, as it cobbles together several Scrooge legends into a historical narrative given to the nephews by Scrooge concerning the origins of his Number One Dime. The tale is very reminiscent of the similar Barksian myth weaving done by Don Rosa in his superlative Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck comic series, and though I prefer the comic tale, this DuckTales effort is quite good even if it skimps on plenty of details, like Scrooge’s sister (Donald’s mom).

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Spies In Their Eyes is a dandy little episode for a couple of reasons, For one, it has the welcome return of Donald Duck, who I always felt was an unfortunate exclusion from the show, particularly when it adapted well-known comic stories which had featured him. The other fun thing about this episode is that it has Bernie Kopell in its cast, doing his Siegfried shtick from Get Smart, as he portrays a spy trying to get the better of Uncle Scrooge, Donald, the U.S. Navy, and a hypnotizing temptress named Cinnamon Teal. The next one also features Donald, and even has the animated debut of famous Mickey Mouse comic strip villain The Phantom Blot! After watching All Ducks On Deck, I couldn’t help but wonder what a great idea it would be to do a DuckTales type of show based on Mickey’s comic strip adventures. Any takers, Disney?

Ducky Horror Picture Show brings monsters to Duckburg when Scrooge unwittingly hosts a monster convention. When the monsters run loose in the town, it is up to the boys to question whether these monsters are as bad as people seem to think. Then Glittering Goldie makes a notable return when she helps the boys save Scrooge from a gold digger in Till Nephews Do Us Part. This appropriately marks the end of the show’s first season.

Disc 2 ends with the first two parts of the 1988 special Time Is Money. Part 1 (Marking Time), sees Scrooge being hornswoggled by Flintheart Glomgold over the sale of an island, forcing Scrooge to go to Gyro Gearloose for help. Gyro happens to have a time machine ready to go, and off the ducks go into the recent past… or so they planned. Instead, they end up in One Million Years B.C., where they meet a young, enthusiastic caveduck named Bubba. The ducks accomplish their mission anyways, and Bubba joins the cast despite Scrooge’s best wishes. In Part 2, The Duck Who Would Be King, the ducks continue their time trip, ending up only part-way home, where they assist a beautiful duck lady in helping her Asian kingdom to free itself of tyrannical rule. Each of the Time Is Money episodes carries its own title in the episode itself (though these titles are not identified in the packaging) and has a recap of the previous chapter.

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Disc 3
Time Is Money Parts 3, 4, and 5 concludes the extended adventure. Part 3 is subtitled Bubba Trubba, and finds the ducks back in Duckburg, where they must contend with the Beagle Boys, a vengeful Glomgold, and Bubba’s own difficulties adjusting to modern life. Ducks On The Lam (a.k.a. Gone With The Bin) sees Scrooge dealing with the effects of Bubba leading the Beagle Boys into his money bin, and the final part of this story (Ali Bubba’s Cave) features the resolution of Glomgold’s stealing of Scrooge’s properties and the fate of Bubba.

Super DuckTales Parts 1 to 5 breaks down the next DuckTales two-hour special (from 1989) into another five episodes (Liquid Assets, Frozen Assets, Full Metal Duck, The Billionaire Beagle Boys Club, and Money To Burn) . The story introduces Scrooge’s bumbling accountant Fenton Crackshell, who becomes the somewhat more reliable superhero Gizmoduck. When first hired, Fenton must assist Scrooge in preparations for moving his money bin, but his not-too-helpful behaviours include losing Scrooge’s Number One Dime. By the third part, Fenton has donned the guise of Gizmoduck, but by Part 4 he is being controlled by the Beagle Boys before assisting Scrooge against aliens in part 5. Future episodes of DuckTales would continue to include Bubba and Gizmoduck as recurring characters. It is therefore this “second season”— i.e. the two extended specials featured at the end of this set— that mark a break from the relative purity of this Barks-inspired endeavour. Still, despite the introduction of the unique characters of Bubba and Gizmo Duck, which further continued the watering down of the Barks stories that began early on with the introduction of Webigail and Mrs. Beakley, the stories continue to be of high quality, with fun scripts and fantastic adventure that is still in the Barks tradition. Those collecting the show purely out of Barks interest may wish to stop here before the caveduck and the superhero hog too much of the spotlight (though they’d be sacrificing seeing Tra-La-La adapted in the next volume), but those wishing to simply enjoy this fine television show can see in these specials that the magic and high quality of DuckTales was set to continue.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

Alright, let’s see what we’ve got here… This is Disney, so naturally there are some Sneak Peeks at start-up, including the ones for the re-christened 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, as well as Wall*E, Santa Clause 3, and a promo for Disney Movie Rewards. These are also available from the menus, along with Sneak Peeks for the new issue of Return To Neverland, Underdog (I hate to say it, but I think the trailer actually made me want to see it!), High School Musical 2, and Wish Gone Amiss.

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I go into all this detail about the previews, because I have nothing else to say here. Once again, Disney is giving Disney Afternoon fans nothing to cheer about in the special features department. This was such a landmark show for them, and yet they haven’t scrounged up a single extra. What a shame.

Case Study:

Consistency is seen in the packaging, too. A slipcase holds three clear slimcases, each holding a single-sided DVD, and all the artwork for the set contains stock images carefully manipulated to match eyelines so as to appear that the outer images (nothing interiorly) form a coherent picture. If you are sceptical of this, check out the covers for the first and third DuckTales sets, which have the same images of the nephews, but jumbled together in different arrangements (with one nephew being flipped). It’s pretty sad, really. All those starving artists out there, and Disney is recycling stock images on their packaging.

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Ink And Paint:

DuckTales has never been allowed to shine on DVD, and this set continues that unfortunate record. A company like BCI has an excuse when putting out TV series on DVD, because they are only allowed to use whatever materials are given to them by the owner of a given show; but Disney could do so much better with its own shows. Once again, DuckTales is utterly NOT remastered in any way, looking about as good as a scratchy old VHS tape. The source materials show a moderate amount of wear, with some showing off a great deal of specks and scratches, while others are cleaner. The image, though it varies substantially even sometimes during a single episode, is often seen to be in soft focus and lacking in pizzazz. Color timing is all over the place, too. While it is still possible to enjoy watching the show, the sub-par video really detracts from the experience. I should note, however, that the quality seen in the two five-part specials that close out this set is generally of much superior quality than the previous episodes, bumping up the score here a notch. Plus, the compression work, given the source materials, is really quite good. Even the fog effects in Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. McDuck are reproduced very nicely.

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Scratch Tracks:

Hello! There is a bit of good news here, as Disney has upgraded DuckTales to Stereo sound on DVD for the first time, and the results are immediately apparent. I am not sure if this DVD set simply enters an era where the show began to be broadcast in Stereo, or if Disney simply neglected to use existing Stereo mixes before, but I could tell the difference from the first episode of this set that I watched. While the audio on previous DuckTales DVDs just basically sat there, the sounds on this third volume dance around the front of my home theater. Some episodes do not benefit much, while others really shine. When the audio really gets going, like in Duck To The Future, it is easier to forget how fuzzy the image looks and get swept up into the show.

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There are no other language options, but there are English and French subtitles.

Final Cut:

If you were wondering when to stop collecting this show, I wouldn’t stop just yet. Even if you did not care for the introduction of Bubba and Gizmoduck in the final ten episodes of this set, there are a few gems prior to those stories that you would not wish to miss. Barks fans especially will want to see his origins in Once Upon A Dime, but all of the episodes that make up the show’s initial season are worthy of praise. Few shows of this era looked this good, and the scripts were top-notch (though the conclusions of the stories often came together too quickly due to the sometimes dense plots). I could see someone taking a pass on the next volume in this series, where the episodes became decidedly less focused on Scrooge and his nephews, but DuckTales fans really need to get this volume in order to finish off the show’s inaugural run of episodes.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

ducktales-v3-cover.jpg MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
SOUND TRACK
OVERALL DVD

 

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