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Walt Disney Home Video presents
DuckTales: Vol. One (1987)

"You know what I like the most about gold? I have a lot of it!"
- Scrooge McDuck (Alan Young)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: November 30, 2005

Stars: Peter Cullen, June Foray, Chuck McCann, Terry McGovern, Hal Smith, Alan Young
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (ducks without pants)
Run Time: Approx. 618 min.
Release Date: November 08, 2005
UPC: 786936691276
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B-C+ D

DVD Review

It's odd that I've been enjoying the recent spate of superhero movies, because I had no interest in their comic books when I was a child. For me, money was better spent in the comic shop's quarter boxes, where I discovered dozens of Disney comics from the 1960s and '70s. My favorites were always the treasure-hunting adventures starring Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck's uncle (and the creation of comic book legend Carl Barks) and a fairly minor, but memorable, character in the Disney canon. At one point, there were at least three Scrooge funnybooks being published at once, and the classic adventures are said to have inspired some of the action set pieces in the Indiana Jones films. All those stories also provided the inspiration for DuckTales, the mid-1980s cartoon that, like GummiBears and Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers, introduced updated versions of old characters to a new audience (which, I believe, included everyone I've ever met who was born between 1978 and 1984).

The series is set in the city of Duckburg, where Scrooge McDuck, the world's most fabulously wealthy waterfowl, lives with his nephews Huey, Dewy, and Louie. Leaving aside the question of how he became the world's richest duck when the best thing he can think of to do with all his money is fill a giant building with coins (I guess Duckburg doesn't have any financial consultants), many of the shows focus on either Scrooge's attempts to acquire yet more wealth, typically through some sort of complicated scheme that's sure to backfire, or a villain's attempt to raid his money bin... typically through some sort of complicated scheme that's sure to backfire.

The series expands its cast of familiar characters to include a few new ones, like dimwitted flying ace Launchpad McQuack, but you'll also see familiar heroes and villains from the comics, including nutty professor Gyro Gearloose, the Beagle Boys and Flintheart Glomgold, the world's second-richest duck, and none too happy about it.

Though the scripts are pretty formulaic, the plots are a lot more varied than on most children's programs—having a lead character with unlimited financial resources really opens up the narrative possibilities. In this DVD set, which collects the series first 27 regular episodes, the characters do everything from travel back in time to the prehistoric age, to visiting a city at the center of the earth, to battling a wicked sorceress (Magika DeSpell), to flying into outer space. Some of the stories are as memorable as the locations, too. I have a particular affection for Earthquack, in which Scrooge and Co. travel underground to search for the source of the earthquakes that have emptied all the cash from his money bin (see, I said it was a bad idea), only to discover a society of multicolored creatures roll up into balls and have wall-smashing contests for fun (they don't take to kindly to the rain of cash falling from above).

The duck-centric formula proved pretty durable—the show spawned a feature film (Treasure of the Lost Lamp, which still isn't out on DVD) and a spin-off about a crime fighter named Darkwing Duck, with Launchpad as a major character and appearances from other familiar Duckburg faces, including robotic superhero GizmoDuck, who sadly does not appear in this DVD collection.

Before watching this set, I hadn't seen the show in close to 15 years, but I'm happy to say I still quite like it (despite the beatings, my childhood apparently wasn't all bad). It isn't just nostalgia talking—I know what that feels like, having recently revisited He-Man—it still makes for genuinely entertaining children's fare, with surprisingly good animation considering the era in which it was made. Around 100 episodes were produced, enough for three of these collections, and a lot of the ones I remember liking are currently AWOL (including the pilot, a miniseries that set up all the characters and told a pretty great story about Scrooge's hunt for an ancient, booby-trapped golden city to boot), but it was nice to get a chance to see it again, and to hear that theme song one more time: "D-d-d-danger lurks behind you, there's a stranger out to find you. What to do? Just grab onto some DuckTales, woo-hoo!" Woo-hoo, indeed.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Taken from video masters, these episodes show their age. Colors are dulled a bit—the source prints look a bit grainy and dingy—and detail is a little fuzzy. Aside from some slight edge enhancement, however, the transition to DVD hasn't had any negative effects, and I suspect this is about as good as the show is ever going to look.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Episodes are presented a mono, and sound OK. The recordings are clean, with no noticeable background hiss, and dialogue is understandable, though music and sound effects are a little tinny.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 135 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Valiant, Toy Story 2
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: There are no extras, save forced trailers on Disc 1 for upcoming Disney releases. The presentation is pretty good, though—the discs are in three ThinPaks that fit into a glossy slipcover, and episodes are subtitled and broken into five chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

An entertaining extension of the Carl Barks Disney comics, DuckTales was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and it holds up well nearly 20 years later. Disney's DVD set is a little disappointing, mostly due to the absense of the five-part pilot, but I suspect it will provide a nice waddle down memory lane for many members of my generation, who, if they're anything like me, have had that accursed theme song stuck in their heads since mid-1988 (DuckTales! Woo-ooh!).


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