You can go home again, if that home is a mansion in Duckburg.
The new DuckTales premiered Saturday — all Saturday — on Disney XD, and the animated treasure hunts and derring-do exploits of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews are as satisfying as ever for children of the ’80s and ’90s. For Generation Z, there’s plenty to savor as well, as even while dipping into the characters’ rich comic book roots the series clearly also has drawn inspiration from more recent mystery-driven, meta-story fare on TV like Disney’s own Gravity Falls.
As if there were any doubt, David Tennant is perfectly cast as Scrooge, and here he lets his Scottish flag fly as he never could on Doctor Who. The rest of the cast pulls together as a remarkably tight ensemble, whether feathered friend or fiend alike. The theme of family runs strong through the premiere episode, and the voice cast sells it. (And Scrooge is as tough a sell as there ever was.)
While the original DuckTales sidelined Donald Duck for most of its episodes by shipping him off to the Navy, it looks like he will be a bigger part of the flock’s life this time around. But there’s still baggage: Something happened 10 years previous to drive a wedge between him and Uncle Scrooge (the Spear of Selene, perhaps?), and to convince Scrooge that “family is nothing but trouble.” When Dewey finds a framed picture of Donald and Scrooge fighting pirates, and spies an unidentified Duck-woman in the corner, he gasps in wonder: “Mom?”
This, of course, hints at what must be the new series’ ongoing thread: What happened to the triplets’ mother, Donald’s sister Dumbella, sometimes Della or Thelma — and why does Donald raise his sister’s sons, anyway?
In old comics and cartoons, the whereabouts of the boys’ mother has been waved off or explained away in varying levels of detail — including sending her into space as an astronaut when female space travelers of any species were unheard of. But it looks like DuckTales is finally going to tackle the question beak-on.
Some other observations about DuckTales’ reboot:
- Huey, Louie and Dewey are now very much distinct personalities, whereas in the old series they were essentially identical save for their shirt colors.
- Mrs. Beakley was never one to be trifled with — the new version of the character extends her badassery, moving her beyond matronly into majordomo territory.
- Who needs triplets? Webby is girl power cubed, with a formidable geek streak.
- Launchpad McQuack is goofy (mixed metaphor?) as ever. But he takes a while to get off the ground.
- Where is Duckworth, the butler?
UPDATE: You can now watch the premiere on YouTube.
DuckTales begins weekly adventures Sept. 23 on Disney XD, marking the 30th anniversary of the original series’ premiere. Even after nearly a whole day of having the hourlong premiere, “Woo-oo!”, on in the background, I’ll be counting the days like Scrooge counts his coins.