Goin' back to Duckburg

Rediscovering Ducktales
By Bro
August 09, 2016
Every one of us has something or things from childhood that are precious to us. Maybe it's a video game or a game console that you had at just the right moment in your life. Maybe it's that VHS tape you watched over and over and over again. Maybe it was the epic sleepover you had. It could be anything, but the point is that it mattered to you. It wasn't just something that you did or happened to you, it's something that when you look back on, you find yourself eternally grateful to have had it in your life. This article is about one such thing for me. Let me make a brief clarification; Ducktales was not something I forgot about. But like many childhood things, years go by and you start to forget the details as you get older until the memory of it is all that's left. And that was the case for me. At least, it was until a couple years ago. The following is the story of how Ducktales was brought back to me, and in a way that goes much deeper than "Hey, I watched this show as a kid." It all began with a proper introduction to Scrooge McDuck.
But first, some personal history. I don't remember the first time I saw Ducktales, but I do remember when I was first introduced to the Disney Afternoon. My parents were having a get together, some type of Bible study or something, and I needed to be out of the way for a while. My sister had a friend over so my dad set up me in another room and went about finding me something to watch on tv. He stopped at a cartoon I hadn't seen before and I was thrown for a loop. I was still just a little guy at the time and up to that point I had seen plenty of old Disney cartoons and was very familiar with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto, Daisy...etc. But what I was viewing was completely new to me. Why the heck were Chip and Dale wearing clothes? Who was that girl mouse they were hanging out with? Why were they talking normally and not in their usual chipmunk hyper speech? And why were they in a flying machine? What the heck was going on?!
I asked most of these questions out loud and my dad only smiled, knowing he'd found me a program I'd watch. He told me to have fun and left me to my new show. As I'm sure most of you have figured out from my questions, that cartoon was Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers. It was my gateway to the Disney Afternoon, which soon became an after school staple for me. And though I certainly had love for Rescue Rangers, Talespin, Goof Troop...etc, Ducktales was always my favorite. (Talespin probably being #2.) Something about that show in particular just resonated with me the right way and my day just wasn't complete without spending time with Scrooge and his nephews. I even had a Ducktales Little Golden Book.

But, as it does for all us, time marched on. I got older, Ducktales and the rest of the Disney Afternoon went off the air, and that was it for a long time. Again, I didn't forget about it and was happy to talk about all those shows with other people who remembered it fondly. But the years became decades and all the details just sort of slipped away. Eventually all I remembered of it were Scrooge, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby, Launchpad, the Beagle Boys, and the theme song. And Gizmoduck. But all the story lines and details of their interactions and the world they lived were blanks.

So how was it brought back? I suppose it started with myself. We all change to one degree or another as we grow up. As a kid, my favorite Disney character as far as Mickey and his friends went was Goofy. I was thinking about that a few years ago and I realized that was no longer the case. I had really taken a shine to Donald. Yeah, he could be a flat-out jerk sometimes, but I there was something enduring about him and I found him easy to relate to. Thinking about him started to make think about the rest of Disney ducks, like his nephews, Prof. Ludwig Von Drake and good ole' Uncle Scrooge. Then one day I was the library, perusing around as I tend to do, and I came across this...

I was intrigued, but also wasn't sure. I walked around with it awhile I looked some more and didn't decide until I was ready to check out to bring it home with me. Boy, am I glad I did. I wouldn't dare attempt to bring to life every detail of the book here, but I will give a brief overview. Scrooge came from a poor family in Scotland. The McDuck clan had long been removed from the ancestors castle and the land it was on because of a ghost. (Which proves to be fake.) For his birthday, Scrooge's father makes him a shoeshine kit so that he can start making some money. Scrooge's first customer pays him with an American dime, which is worthless in Scotland. But Scrooge keeps it anyway to remind himself that nothing will ever be accomplished in his life without hard work. This is his infamous Lucky Dime, the first dime he ever earned. From there he travels to America to hopefully find his fortune. He goes on a series of adventures, making friends and enemies. Throughout his entire life, he is constantly fighting against different generations of the Beagle Boys. Scrooge sends money home to his family to help them, but never manages to really make any for himself. As time goes on, he gets older learns to be "tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties." It was really good, and when it was done I checked my library's website for the 2nd volume. Thankfully, they had it.

Here we find out that Scrooge finally made his fortune in the Klondike, restored his family back to Castle McDuck, used his skills learned from his world traveling adventures to amass an even bigger fortune, developed a reputation as a legend in his own right, and eventually took his sisters to a little American town called Duckburg to settle down. The richer he got though, the meaner and cheaper he gets. However, he becomes that way because he was exposed to so much dishonesty and cheating in his life that he got to a point where he only trusted himself and just assumed everybody else was lazy and wanted to take advantage of him. In the end, he is old and reconciles with his sister's son, Donald, and his 3 nephews. Then the Beagle Boys attack his money bin and Scrooge vows that he will continue his adventuring, that he feels half as old as he really is, and becomes the Scrooge McDuck we all know and love. It's an excellent read, and the book won the Eisner Award. I always liked Scrooge, but he became my favorite Disney character after reading this. The writing is smart and at times very touching. (The way the death of Scrooge's father is handled is nothing short brilliant.) Even as much as I enjoyed getting properly introduced to Scrooge, the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck led me to his original creator, Carl Barks.

The author of Life and Times, Don Rosa, created his story by pulling together bits of information from Bark' s original comics. Carl Barks didn't work directly for the Disney Corporation, but he took Donald and his nephews and created Duckburg, the Junior Woodchucks, and many other things that were all a part of Ducktales decades later. More importantly, he created Scrooge McDuck. To my knowledge, he was the first non-Disney employee to be entered into the Disney Hall of Fame. Don Rosa had several notes in his volumes about Carl Barks original stories and I wanted to read them. Once again, the local library came through for me. Fantagraphics Books has collected these stories into volumes, and I began to check them out.

These stories completely stand on their own, but I also realized the unique opportunity I had before me; I was discovering where something beloved from my child came from. Ducktales wasn't some random cartoon that was created, it had a history, a tale being retold for a new generation. This gave me a greater appreciation for the show then I could have ever had before. I was also able to see Scrooge's very first appearance.

It's not the only story in here, but Christmas on Bear Mountain is when the world was introduced to Scrooge McDuck for the very first time. And he's a far cry different from the adventuring, globe trotting, Beagle battling Scrooge we know now. Here he was a rich miser who invited Donald and his nephews over on Christmas just so he can put them through a test. If they pass, they get a present. Here's the first few pages so you can see for yourself.

If you want to know what happens, you're gonna have to read it yourself. Anyway, getting to know Scrooge and his origins was wonderful. But that was only half of how Ducktales came back to me. I now had information and a new-found love and respect for Scrooge McDuck. Then Capcom did the other half when they gave me a massive nostalgia rush in the form of Ducktales Remastered. Yes, I played Ducktales on the NES back in the day and was therefore really excited to get my hands on this. The first trailer I saw for the game was perfect.

I watched it on my 3ds and I smiled so wide I'm surprised my face didn't break. I had to play this game. I eventually downloaded it n my ps3. I have to extend my thanks and commendations to WayForward for going the extra mile when they developed it. It wasn't just a fun platformer, they got most of the voice cast from the cartoon to do the voices for the game. It was the closest I had seen of the show in years and it was like hearing old friends again. I had completely forgotten about Mrs. Beakly and Ducktworth. Yes, I loved the game. (Still waiting on Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck remastered, Capcom!) But what makes really thankful for it is that it made want to see the cartoon again. I had been re-introduced to Scrooge and I had a glimpse of the world he lived in. The time had come to go back to Duckburg. For Christmas that year, I requested the first volume of Ducktales and I received it. Just looking at the dvd cases was a rush because the cases inside the box had the same artwork as the old vhs tapes I rented from Blockbuster when I was a kid.

It took a few days, but I finally found a quiet afternoon and popped in the first disk. And I watched. And I remembered. I remembered how Magica D'Spell always tried to steal Scrooge's #1 dime. I remembered the torch Scrooge always carried for Goldie. I remembered how much I used to like Launchpad as kid. I remembered Doofus and the junior woodchuck guidebook that had information on everything in it. I remembered how much I wanted to hang out with Huey, Dewey, and Louie and share in their adventures. But more than that, I remembered how much of a good show it was. Knowing so much about Scrooge and his past, I could see how different things were worked into the show. In a way, it was like seeing it for the first time. Like all all memories though, they are made even more special when they are shared. I own all three available volumes and the movie now, and my daughter loves them. She really enjoyed the game and became curious about the show when I started to talk about the characters from it. She, like myself, hope they release a volume 4 so we can own every episode. She really likes the old cartoons, and what me and her share with Ducktales, my wife and her share with Jem and the Holograms. So it's been great all around.
I also have to point out how good the music was in Ducktales. At times, it approaches John Williams quality and really adds a whole other layer to the storytelling.

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If you listen to to this suite, once you get to around 2:48, I could just cry. Close your eyes and you can just picture riding your bike around on a sunny morning with no telling of the adventures that could await you that day.

That's pretty much it. Looking back, I can't tell you how thankful I am to have memories of this show, of the bygone era that it came from, the man who created Scrooge in the first place, and a present day to rediscover how much it truly mattered to me. I bought a Ducktales t-shirt from Target and wore it on a recent trip to Knott's Berry Farm, and received compliments on it throughout the day. Another dad there even asked me where I got it so he could get one (Oddly enough, we went to Downtown Disney at Disneyland that same evening, and I got nothing from anybody.) As I'm sure most you are aware, Disney is rebooting the show in 2017. While I hope it's good, I doubt anything can capture the magic that made those 80's cartoons so special. But only time will tell. Next time here on retrojunk, I share with you all an unexpected retro haul recently given to me by me folks. Until then, stay retro folks. Thanks for reading.
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