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You know that one Cracked internet article taking the piss out of that old Disney movie you like? That one satirical article that seems funny and clever as long as you've not actually watched the movie in ten years and only vaguely remember the plot details? That article that, if you've actually watched the subject matter as an adult, you know is just a smug, shallow, poorly researched attempt at transgression? That article that embodies what Lindsay Ellis called the "I am smarter than a 90s Disney cartoon!" trend?
That's this series in a nutshell. It's a reboot that's far more interested in trying to prove itself "smarter" than the comics and cartoons that inspired it than it is in trying to tap into the things that made those comics and cartoons work in the first place. The writers of this show may not "hate" the source material as such, but there's an inescapable feeling that they view it as quaint and passé, and that they think the only way to make it relevant today is to approach everything about it with heavy-lidded irony and sarcasm in the name of "deconstruction".
Much like those Cracked articles, this show likes to talk down its predecessors in order to make itself look smarter. Like, you know how in two or three episodes of the original show Gyro made robots who went haywire? Well, now he's squarely defined as the Guy Whose Robots Inevitably Turn Evil. Genius deconstruction.
It never gets any smarter than that. The overhauls for the other characters are very hit-and-miss at best. Glomgold, who was an interesting villain in the comics but not so much the eighties show, has been turned into a loud, shallow and unfunny parody of Bond villains. Launchpad's intelligence has been scaled so far back that I'd genuinely feel guilty for laughing at him. The nephews have been turned into smarmy kid protagonists distractingly voiced by thirty-something comedians. I'm not shedding any tears for the loss of the stereotypical classic versions of Webby and Mrs. Beakly, but I'd be lying if I said I thought their reboots were interesting characters. Webby in particular is very much a run-of-the-mill 2010s cartoon girl protagonist.
The only main characters I consistently like are Scrooge and Donald, but they (particularly Donald) very much feel like second bananas in what's supposed to be their show. The nephews and Webby take center stage most of the time, meaning we're forced to spend time with essentially completely unfamiliar and often unlikable characters.
It's an adventure show whose cynical approach to adventure leaves it devoid of any sense of wonder or excitement. I'm not a fan of the artstyle either. Once the novelty has worn off, it's just an ugly, angular drawing style with incredibly garish and bland colours. Legend of the Three Caballeros (this show's much better sister show that it ate in the womb) showed that you can still do a classic-looking show on a TV budget, so what's this show's excuse?
While I would have preferred a continuation of the original taking place in the classic universe, the pilot quickly sold me onto this reboot with top acting, really great traditional animation (though I'm not crazy about the angular style), and an exciting plot. Unfaithful though they may be to the originals, I rather like the new Glomgold and Webby, and David Tennant as Scrooge is simply GOLD. I, like most of the comic fandom, am less than pleased about the nephews being aged up and given separate personalities, but if they were going to do that either way, they pulled it off as well as they could have.
Unfortunately, the next episodes failed to fully live up to the excitement built up by the pilot. Scrooge seemingly takes a backseat to the nephews, which is probably a conscious decision, but, in my opinion, NOT a good one. Lena is all fine and good and I have no strong feelings about Mark Beaks, but what they did to Gyro is an *outrage*. The new HDL, Glomgold and arguably even Webby were all "taking classic characters into a different direction", but the only thing this new Gyro has in common with the old one is his general design and the things he invents. Jim Rash delivers a solid voice performance and the new character is written well, but he simply *isn't* Gyro, and, entertaining though he may be, this new guy they're passing off as Gyro is nowhere near as imaginative and endearing as the original.
As one other reviewer put it, the show's main flaw is certainly its approach to the "big adventure stories" that the credits and ads make the main selling points. It seems unable to take adventure *seriously*. Every adventure plot (and there have been surprisingly few so far) is self-conscious and second-degree, and while a gag or two of this sort is fine, things like the "burrito" plot point in "The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra" completely rob the plot of its gravitas and thus of most interest.
I am NOT a fan of the new theme song. This almost synthetic sound has none of the striking *character* of the original, though it still does get stuck in your head. The score as a whole is never BAD, but always a bit underwhelming — it pales in comparison to the John Williams-esque soundtrack of the original, with no memorable themes aside from the main one lifted from the original.
Let's not end on too negative a note, though. The Della Duck mystery (although it is very different from the comics' version) is a surprise addition and, I think it's fair to say even before the puzzle pieces have fully come together, a tasteful and welcome one. The frequent continuity references (including those cimenting that in this new continuity too, the Duckburg folks share a universe with St Canard, Spoonerville and Cape Suzette) are appreciated, even if some of them are a bit heavy-handed at times.
In conclusion, it could have been better, but it's still a very entertaining show with a great cast and animation and sharp, funny writing. Give it a watch.
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