'Ducktales' Review: Rewriting Some History, With Lots More Mystery

Being a kid of the '90s, I discovered Ducktales near the end of its popularity. Though my Disney Afternoon interest leaned more towards Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers or Gargoyles, it was always obvious that there was something special about Ducktales. With Indiana Jones style adventure and the humor of the McDuck crew, Scrooge and his family never lost their sparkle.

But since I didn't really get to experience Ducktales in its heyday, I was excited to check out the new reboot on Disney XD. And with a promising cast (including Doctor Who's David Tennant as our favorite billionaire duck) and some very interesting character designs, this seemed like one very promising project.

For those of you new to what the heck Ducktales even is, here's the basic gist. Based on the Uncle Scrooge and Duck-related comics by cartoonist Carl Banks, the original series told the story of Scrooge McDuck (the wealthiest duck in the world) and his grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie as go on grand adventures, usually revolving around ancient artifacts. Every episode would introduce new or reoccurring villains (including favorites like the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, and Scrooge's rival, Flintheart Glomgold), all the while expanding on the crazy missions of our four leads (plus housekeeper Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter, Webby.)

With its premiere in 1987, Ducktales became a hit for Disney. Lasting a total of four seasons and spanning 100 episodes, this was the series that proved Disney could be a hit in the animated TV department. Eventually, its popularity gave way to both a spin-off series Darkwing Duck (co-starring Scrooge's pilot, Launchpad McQuack, as one of the lead characters) and a theatrical film, DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Add in the video games and other merchandise, and it's clear why Disney would have an interest in bringing Ducktales back to TV screens (both digital and otherwise) in 2017.

Flash forward to this weekend, and we have arrived at the premiere of the new Ducktales. Does it live up to the legacy of the original? Can Scrooge still swim through all his gold? And how does the theme song sound?


This new Ducktales opens with a very modern family. Donald Duck (who appears quite a bit in these two premiere episodes) is heading to an interview for a new job. In the midst of his preparation, nephew's Huey, Dewey and Louie are trying their best to help...but in typical fashion, they're creating more trouble than anything else.

This is where the concept of "Family is nothing but trouble" (a line later said by Scrooge) begins to take shape. It leaves a question for the audience as to what "trouble" the cast is speaking to. This is just one of the more thoughtful concepts that already makes this new Ducktales much more engaging than its predecessor.


Once our three younger heroes meet our much older one, we begin to see that 2017's Scrooge is closer to Charles Foster Kane than the original series' Scrooge ever was. His mansion is dark, isolated, and lonely – with the fragments of past adventures covering the walls left and right. The legends of a once adventurous Scrooge are captured in both paintings and in the imaginations of Huey, Dewey and Louie – especially the swimming in his own treasure (a fact OG Ducktales fans know to be true.) But one painting (much like one inside the Beast's West Wing in Beauty and the Beast) leaves a lot more questions than answers, especially one particular section that is revealed towards the end of the premiere.

In fact, much like the mysteries that are spoken of in the theme song, this Ducktales is all about leaving audiences guessing the next move, especially when it comes to the past of certain characters. Could this be what leads us down the path to discovering other Disney Afternoon protagonists in some sort of connected animated universe? Who knows at this point, but if the news of Darkwing Duck being added to the mix is an indication, I wouldn't be surprised that the people at Disney TV Animation have some sort of interesting plan.


Similarly not a surprise is the excellent quality of both the animation and writing. Though recent Disney series (such as Tangled and Elena) have yet to disappoint in either department, its good to know that Ducktales seems to be continuing the trend. Directors John Aoshima and Dana Terrace, along with writers Francisco Angones and Matt Youngberg, have thus far done an impressive job of redefining what a Disney TV can be while also paying proper respects to the adventures that have come before. With playful nods to the past ("I'm a pilot" Launchpad keeps reminding Scrooge), some hilarious adult humor ("Lying is the responsible thing to do" says Louie)  to the cute random bits of character development (like a much matured Webby wishing to try a hamburger for the first time), the new creative team understands what makes these characters and their world so appealing.

This sort of praise should also be given to the voice cast, who take on the legacy of the original series head on, while also giving these characters the modern vocal flavor they deserve.

David Tennant is an inspired choice for Scrooge, though he takes a bit of getting used to for old school fans (R.I.P. Alan Young). He brings an electricity and sass to a role that needed a new angle. This is a Scrooge who has been through animated hell and back again, and his performance shows it, particularly when comparing Scrooge at the beginning of the premiere to his transformation into full action mode, you can tell Tennant is having a blast by putting himself in this billionaire's webbed feet.


Our three younger lads are also brought to life by great actors and even though they clearly sound like adults playing kids, they sell their parts with ease. Ben Schwartz has an adorable, stubborn nature as Dewey and Danny Pudi is just as charming as Huey. But the real stand out among the three is Bobby Moynihan as Louie, who sells every line delivery like a true pro, and likely will become my favorite character of the series. He's a smart talker, with gold and treasures on the brain, which will either make him a great companion or a big pile of frustration for Scrooge.

But with any reboot, there is a cause for concern, and when it comes to this series, I have only but one fear: please don't make it too modern, or more importantly, don't become 1998's Quackpack . In that series, the nephews were too cool and trendy for their stupid uncle, and all suffered from not having one humble bone in their bodies. Fortunately this new Ducktales doesn't seem to be headed in that direction, but with the inclusion of Photoshop and smart phones in the script, I'm hoping the series avoids being hip for the sake of being hip, a common trend amongst modern kids shows. What made the original Ducktales popular was its timeless nature and this revival hopefully will continue to do the same.


Though the original Ducktales offered viewers thrills and fun in every episode, there's something to be said about a reboot that knows how to pay homage to the show's legacy while also putting a new spin on the concept. There's adventure around every corner, a laugh that is always earned, and it keeps audiences of all ages on the edge of their seat. And for a show that is attempting to write some new Disney history, I can't wait to see how these ducks solve all of their new mysteries.

Ducktales airs on DisneyXD, with new episodes starting September 23.