DuckTales, Family, and the Surprisingly Insightful Deathtrap

This review contains spoilers for Woo-oo!, the pilot for the 2017 reboot of DuckTales. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s on YouTube for free (as of the publishing of this article); click the video to the right and see it for yourself.

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The new DuckTales is here, and it’s a masterclass on how to reboot a series. The plot is tight: all of the story beats interlock like gears, nothing is useless in the story. The characters and their interactions are incredibly believable (partly because of the writing, but mostly because of the voice acting). The art style is beautiful and a great homage to the comics. But mostly, it’s so exciting to me because they get the tone right.

Most of my nostalgia around DuckTales surrounds the video game, and reruns to a lesser extent. I was only two when the series began, and five when it ended, but the incredibly difficult Nintendo game stayed in my NES for quite a long time as I tried valiantly to beat the Transylvania level. And, in addition to frankly phenomenal music for an 8-bit system, the game featured something I hadn’t really experienced yet in video games, something core to the TV show both then and now: Scrooge didn’t do it all on his own. Huey, Dewey, and Louie were along for the ride in most of the levels. Launchpad McQuack helped out regularly. Even Mrs. Beakley and Webby were in the picture. This massive adventure Scrooge went on wasn’t a solo romp. It was a family adventure.

Used to be a big deal?!

Woo-oo! introduces us to its six major characters in about eight minutes: Donald, Louie, Huey, Dewey, Scrooge, and Webby (in that order). It also does a really good job of showing how none of them are really happy.

  • Donald isn’t happy with his unemployment. He desperately wants to be a good guardian to his nephews, to keep them safe against the d-d-d-danger that lurks behind them, and to provide for them; something he can’t do it without a job. He also doesn’t want to get Scrooge involved in his family’s life, but circumstances (and the nephews) force his hand.
  • Louie isn’t happy with the fact that the nephews never get to do anything fun. He wants to have a good time, and the marbles just aren’t going to cut it. Race cars, lasers, and aeroplanes are probably more his style.
  • Huey feels a need to learn, to know, to discover new things; to solve a mystery, or rewrite history. But among his brothers, with his overprotective Uncle Donald, in boring ol’ Duckburg, there’s nothing new to discover.
  • Dewey is tired of being bored. He tries to hotwire the houseboat for a joyride to Cape Suzette (of TaleSpin fame), just to get a fleeting glimpse of adventure, to be able to tell tales of derring-do, bad and good luck tales.
  • Scrooge has all of the frustrations that his nephews have, put together; he wants fun (or as he puts it, “trouble”), discovery, and adventure. He’s a has-been with dreams of being an “am-now.” But he’s locked in to running his company, no longer a globe-trotting adventurer but a washed-up tycooon who thinks he’s headed for the final curtain.
  • Webby wants a lot of the same things that the Nephews want, not pony tails or cotton tails; but her deepest desire is for friendship and companionship.

We can certainly relate to at least some of the desires the characters had: things they wanted, things they wanted to get back, things they wanted to avoid. For most of us, there’s at least one person in the show whose desires we empathize with. And maybe for most of us, we feel like we don’t have anyone with us to see those desires. We feel abandoned.

Alone, they were frustrated by the distance between who they were and who they wanted to be.

But then they met.

I can’t keep track of ALL your sworn enemies!

The DuckTales team doesn’t come together until the kids accidentally release multiple ancient evils upon the unsuspecting city of Duckburg (I’m sure that sort of thing happens to you all the time).

The kids thrill at the way Scrooge defeats the ghostly Captain Peghook (the scourge of the River Styx), the sentient blade Deus Ex-calibur (a sword which doesn’t rest until it kills its target), and The Headless Man-Horse (whose name is pretty self-explanatory). But when Pixiu (the gold-eating dragon) is released, the group becomes a team.

Scrooge distracts the dragon from his money bin, the kids hatch a scheme to help him defeat it, and together they save the money bin and the city from the final ancient evil. It’s the kick Scrooge needed to get back into the adventuring game, and the moment that brings them together as a team.

The unthinkable threat that draws them together in the show is a physical threat: a mystical dragon flying through the skies above them, searching out something to devour. For those of us who don’t live in Duckburg, life is not as much of a duck blur (though it can sometimes still be like a hurricane); but there is a stranger out to find you.

In Numbers 32, God gives His people a warning: if you commit treason against Me, “be sure your sin will find you out.” The things you do that usurp God’s rule over your life, that ignore His greatness and glory…the wrath of God will be poured out on you for that. God rescues us from that threat, an act we watch with wonder alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ; His victory brings us to Him, and it also brings us closer to one another. And together we work to rescue others, to save the lives of everyone we can.

With other Christians, we become a team known as “the Church.” But we become more than a team. We become a family. And, you guys? Our family is awesome.

Family truly is the greatest adventure of—Oh no, the ground

As the Atlantis adventure unfolds, the DuckTales crew grows; soon, it’s not just a team, it’s a family with a shared goal who came together in the face of a terrible danger. Reunited with Donald, they work together with a shared purpose: to protect and help one another, binding each other up in search of treasure. Along the way, they also learn to trust one another through a surprisingly insightful deathtrap.

In the end, they become “heirs,” of a sort: not to inherit wealth when Scrooge dies, but to know him and participate with him in his adventure, discovery, and wealth.

As Christians, we have an inheritance like that! We’re a family, brothers and sisters in Christ; and the Bible calls us “heirs,” but we’re not just getting His estate. We also share in His task, His adventure, and His joy on Earth together.

We get to adventure with one another, alongside the greatest adventurer in the universe, forever!

Following Christ is the most amazing adventure imaginable.

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Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture!

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