STUDIO: Disney
MSRP: $34.99

RUNNING TIME: 618 Minutes

Hot on the heels of The Gummi Bears and The Wuzzles,
DuckTales debuted in 1987 and quickly became Disney’s most successful animated television program at the time. The series proved to be so popular that it inspired a feature film, video games and a comic adaptation. Part of the show’s appeal came from its strong characters, most of which were adapted from the Scrooge McDuck comics. Some of the characters would eventually endear themselves so much to audiences that they would make appearances in other shows such as Darkwing Duck and Quack Pack.

Disney syndicated programs didn’t air in standard television seasons. Most of the shows ran for a fixed length of 65 episodes, but DuckTales was popular enough to earn an extension to 100. Disney has included the first 27 episodes in this initial volume, but it’s Disney’s odd omission of certain episodes that makes this set a minor disappointment.

You blew my cover!

The Show

Donald Duck has traditionally been an Army duck but presumably left because he was tired of Leonard Maltin having to read disclaimers before all of his World War II era adventures. Since he wears a sailor’s hat anyway, he decides to sign up for the Navy. This means that he can no longer serve as caretaker for his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. He leaves them in the hands of Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in all of Duckberg.

To say Scrooge McDuck is obsessed with money would be an understatement. He houses his vast collection of riches in a giant safe so large he can swim in gold coins. His most precious possession is the very first dime he ever earned, lovingly preserved in a glass case. Having to take care of three kids isn’t on his list of favorite things to do, especially when they get in the way of completing business deals.

In each episode Scrooge manages to find himself in the thick of some trouble, usually involving people trying to steal his money. Scrooge tries to solve these conflicts by charging in headfirst and with his money at the forefront of his mind, but by the end he always realizes that family is more important than money and becomes a far richer person for doing so. Then he apparently forgets this lesson before the next episode begins.

Scrooge McDuck is assisted in his exploits by a wide variety of characters. Launchpad McQuack is his dimwitted personal pilot who serves as the heavy muscle when it’s needed. Gyro Gearloose is a genius inventor who Scrooge often employs to create cost saving machines. The fact that Gyro’s machines almost always backfire and cause mass destruction is a stark reminder of the folly of man’s own presumption and foreshadows the eventual robotic apocalypse where man will be forced to battle machines. Or it could just be a harmless stock cartoon plot.

Ms. Beakley wasn’t above using the Necronomicon to finish the chores a little early.

Being the richest duck in the land has made Scrooge acquire his own personal rogue’s gallery large enough to rival any superhero. Magica De Spell is a powerful witch who is out to get Scrooge’s first dime. This dime apparently contains a psychic record of every business transaction Scrooge has ever been a part of and this information will somehow enable her to rule the world once she obtains it. It would probably be easier just to hack his computer and steal his financial records, but that wouldn’t be as fun for her. The Beagle Boys are a large family of dumb criminals lead by their mother who are out to loot Scrooge’s personal vault. Their own incompetence always catches up them though and they spend a majority of their time behind bars.

The plotlines in DuckTales are obviously geared towards the children’s demographic, but that doesn’t mean that only children can enjoy it. The writing in the show is clever and contains many references and jokes that are more humorous to adults than children. It’s the type of writing that makes a film enjoyable to people of all ages. It’s similar to Pixar films, where the adults and children both enjoy different aspects of the writing but both like it all the same.

The animation in the show isn’t the most technically impressive to have been featured on television. The fact that this was one of the first shows produced by Walt Disney Television Animation definitely shows. The character designs are all very distinctive and the entire show features a colorful and vibrant look, but the actual animation can be shoddy at points. The quality of the animation doesn’t hurt the show too much and becomes almost unnoticeable after a few episodes.

First time viewers of the show may be a little lost when starting with this set because it omits the five part pilot which fully explained the show’s premise. The pilot featured significantly better animation quality as well. The absence of these episodes is somewhat confusing. It’s unknown as to whether or not these episodes will be featured in a future set or perhaps released separately as their own feature. The questionable omission of the pilot episode aside, this is a solid collection of episodes from a children’s television show that cared more about being entertaining than selling action figures, a rare find in the era it originally aired.

7.5 out of 10

After a lifetime of abuse, Donald’s ka strikes back.

The Look

The show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen. The show looks its age and a minimum of work went into restoring it for the DVD release. The transfer is somewhat muted and faded at times, but the colors in the show are so vibrant that it’s hard to notice. There are also a few very small interlacing errors in a handful of episodes. Considering the age of the program and the nature of the show’s somewhat cheap production, it looks very good and is downright excellent compared to other animated programs from the same time period that have been released on DVD.

6.0 out of 10

There’s only enough room for one gigantic butt chin in this town.

The Noise

DuckTales is presented in Dolby Digital Mono sound, the same type of audio it was originally broadcast in. The voices in the show are clear and easy to hear with the exception of Donald Duck, who is intentionally hard to decipher sometimes. The music is loud and vibrant, especially the show’s memorable theme song. There are one or two episodes where the audio seems to be out of sync with the character’s mouths not matching the dialogue at the appropriate times. It’s barely noticeable and is a very rare occurrence. In the large scheme of things it’s a minor oversight.

6.0 out of 10

Cthulhu hungers…for the buttery taste of Ritz!

The Goodies

Disney is counting on the mere existence of this set as enough to placate fans. The set features no bonus materials unless you’re willing to count a few short trailers that automatically play before the menu loads. The trailers are a mix of upcoming theatrical and home video releases including The Chronicles of Narnia and a new DVD edition of Toy Story 2. A few extras could have surely been found for an anticipated release like this one. Not anything fancy like episode commentaries, but at least some storyboards or some bumpers from The Disney Afternoon cartoon block that DuckTales became a part of.

0.5 out of 10

Less enlightened cultures imposed heavy penalties on chipmunk and duck relationships.

The Artwork

The outside artwork features Scrooge and his three nephews. The three discs are housed inside of slim cases. Each of the three cases features a color scheme from one of the nephews and is adorned with artwork and scenes from the episodes on that disc. The only places the episodes are listed are on the backs of the individual slim cases, this information is not present on the outside box. The package is as vibrant and colorful as the show’s animation and should be eye catching enough to draw the attention of shoppers cruising the DVD aisles, giving them a momentary shock of nostalgia.

7.0 out of 10

Overall: 7.5 out of 10