Since we’re celebrating The Disney Afternoon around here, you better believe Scrooge McDuck deserves his own mini-documentary! Get a glimpse of all the crazy places Uncle Scrooge has popped up throughout the last several decades…
SERIOUS QUESTION: Has Scrooge McDuck had bigger success in more mediums than Mickey Mouse? Other than the preschool/pajama department, I think I could argue that he has. I mean, I wear my love for the irascible ol’ duck on my sleeve, but he’s something of a cultural touchstone for people of my generation for reasons far beyond cartoons alone. We recently gushed all over The Disney Afternoon on Laser Time (with Tad Stones, one of its creators!) but I sincerely can’t think of pop culture character from the late 80s/early 90s who had a mega-successful TV show, a great full-length movie, and a wonderfully timeless video game. And even before all of that, Scrooge starred in theatrical shorts, and before that still he was one of the most recognizable comic book characters throughout the entire goddamned planet.
Scrooge is literally everything
Scrooge McDuck has been toys, bed sheets, he’s a character you can hug in Disney parks. Just about anything a fictional cartoon character can do, Scrooge has done it and done it well. Sure, there are a handful of cartoon character who can check most or all of those boxes, but none of them can claim to have done it as successfully, and furthermore, as timelessly as Scrooge. And even if they can, how many of them have a show returning in 2017?! (Bring up Care Bears in the comments and you’re getting punched.)
So how did a character who’s defining traits are greediness and old age end up becoming one of our most enduring figures, throughout numerous decades and across multiple mediums? Well, I personally believe a lot of it has to do with how well almost everything that involves Scrooge has held up throughout the years, and that’s something we sought to highlight and explore in this mini-DUCKumentary focused on the man of the hour. WATCH!
Admittedly, there are a billion other factors to Scrooge’s miraculous longevity. He’s got a great visual design (Folks love them some cartoon ducks!) The people behind his appearances, Carl Barks, Don Rosa, Capcom, etc., deserve a ton of credit as well. However, I think I could still make a convincing case that having one of the best video games a TV toon has ever received might have a lot more to do with making him beloved by my generation and the ones that followed. I mean, we all loved shit like He-Man, Danger Mouse, and Tiny Toons too. But their resurrections and second-shots have ranged from hit-or-miss to nonexistent, nor have we ever seen the internet collectively wet themselves at a teaser trailer the way DuckTales has done on multiple occasions. See if the charm still works on you by watching the intro!
If we’re being honest, Disney hasn’t done a stellar job of keeping the DuckTales TV show visible throughout the last decade or so (mind you, that complaint is relative to how goddamn well Disney preserves and continually represents its theatrical animation for generations old and new). Shows from a similar time period still run in syndication on TV, yet nothing from the Disney Afternoon, not even on the dozens of channels Disney owns outright. There are barebones, incomplete standard-def DVD sets out there, but the show neither airs anywhere nor is available on any streaming service. Yes, you can purchase them on iTunes and other on demand services, but a paywall of $1.99 an episode is a tough sell to media-soaked 30-year-olds, and furthermore, downright undiscoverable for kids who would enjoy it the most.
Although I can certainly talk all day about how well DuckTales as a series holds up, and have done many times, I absolutely understand the competitive and financial reasons it hasn’t been showcased throughout the years. My point isn’t to take Disney to task for the treatment of the show, my point is this: When it comes to championing the legacy of DuckTales, the game has done a much better job than the TV show.
Kids of my generation didn’t have a lot of home media options back in the day. At best, there’d be a trio of VHS tapes featuring two episodes, three if you were lucky, but nothing comprehensive. If we wanted to scratch the DuckTales itch at any point during the 23 and a half hours a day when the show wasn’t airing, we didn’t have anything to watch, but we could fire up the Capcom game. And Manbabies like myself who never throw anything away have had that option pop in their 1989 NES cart ever since.
But a Minecraft-obsessed kid curious about great 8-bit games will also inevitably be pointed to DuckTales (then undoubtedly to a shady ass rom site.) Aspiring audiophiles getting into timeless video game music will eventually find DuckTales, because it’s home to some of the greatest VGM ever scored. A teenager looking to build a retro game collection will come across DuckTales, or seek out the Disney Afternoon holy grail, DuckTales 2. (Which, BTW, I’m elated to see officially released again for the first time in almost a quarter century. The original DuckTales holds up so goddamn well, and due to the sequel’s scarcity, the thought of a player finding out a bigger, more enhanced edition is finally accessible practically brings me to tears.)
Whether it’s due to trading, the collector’s market, emulation or listicles, gamers took up the mantle of championing DuckTales legacy, and IMO, they deserve a majority of the credit for maintaining its awareness in the zeitgiest throughout the last three decades. It’s just one of those beautiful, organic pop culture phenomenons I never expected to see or live through. And it’s nice to see that fandom has culminated in an official rerelease, via The Disney Afternoon Collection, a lovely little miracle unto itself, and treated with the grace and care few games from that era receive nowadays. It should go without saying that The Disney Afternoon ended up being incredibly important to me, and thanks to being available on PS4, Xbone and Steam means Scrooge, Darkwing Duck, Baloo and the Rescue Rangers have never been more accessible. Should a nostalgic old bitch like me want to replay their favorite games, or maybe a kid wants to discover them for the first time, it’s now as easy as firing up your preferred game box and you’re off and running. It’s well optimized, beautifully preserved, and has a lovely little museum mode with a bunch of unearthed art from one of my favorite periods in animation history. I could plug The Disney Afternoon all day for free, but just do yourself a favor and check the collection out. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got shit to pogo…