When DuckTales made its exuberant return to the Disney fold last fall, it was to much critical fanfare (a 30-year hiatus will put plenty of childhood obsessives in position to sound the critical trumpets), but to an awkward practical schedule: Saturday mornings, on Disney’s rad younger brother, DisneyXD. Knowing a few DuckTales-loving adults would manage to tune in regardless, I wrote a primer for the network here (and a longer love-letter to Duckburg’s metal-as-heck neighbor, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, here), but the whole business was, admittedly, a big ask for anyone over the age of twelve whose Saturday mornings might not be regularly set aside for a big block of cartoons.
Well, the Greek gods of Ithaquack heard our unspoken pleas, and deigned to move DuckTales to the big time: Disney Channel proper. Friday nights. Primetime. And better still? They hooked Lin-Manuel Miranda for a guest role as Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera (Gizmoduck), in an episode premiering this very night!
Now, DuckTales is not nearly as serialized as Star vs. the Forces of Evil (at least not yet), but its first 10 episodes have intimated that all the orphaned Duck triplets’ standalone adventures will be leading to something, so it won’t hurt anyone to go into Miranda’s episode with some backstory.
“But Alexis!” I hear you exclaim, respectfully, in your head, at your desk. “There’s not nearly enough time to binge all ten episodes on the very hand DisneyNOW app before Alexander Hamilton strolls into Duckburg!”
Very true. But Duck-fans: I’ve got you. I sacrificed my own week to rewatch all of Huey, Louie, Dewey, and Webby’s adventures, and pull together this very brief wiki of each episode. And since the whole DuckTales brand is wholesome, weirdo charm (seriously, read Jason Rhode’s paean to the franchise’s humanity for more), I’ve gone ahead and added a superlative WeRateDogs-style rating to each one for good measure.
So, go to! Gizmoduck awaits!
This one is, obviously, the big, triumphant return! Truly a double episode, the first half of the Ducks’ return to onscreen adventuring establishes that in this particular universe, all ducks but Donald (Tony Anselmo) articulate clearly when speaking, being rich is intractably dull, and familial resentment doesn’t discriminate between live action and animation. Plus, we meet the enthusiastic-but-sheltered Webby Vanderquack, Kate Micucci’s duckish avatar who self-describes correctly as “the best at fun!”; Launchpad McQuack (ultimate bro Beck Bennett); and Scrooge McDuck’s bumbling, grumbling nemesis, Flintheart Glomgold (Keith Ferguson), who traps Donald in a terrible day job as part of a grander scheme to steal the cursed treasure of Atlantis before Scrooge (David Tennant) can beat him to it. By the end of the hour, we have learned that Huey (Danny Pudi), Louie (Bobby Moynihan), and Dewey (Ben Schwartz) have distinct personalities, Webby is the best at fun, and adventures will only ever come off successfully if you trust and love your family… and have a ton, just a ton, of disposable adventuring income.
Rating: 12/10, would accept any and all rides from Launchpad McQuack.
A small but not insignificant throughline for one of Jane the Virgin’s leads is his complete unfamiliarity with public busses. Well, Raf, meet Webby! She’s just as new to the bus game as you, only she sees all the acrobatic possibilities the tiny confines of a bus offers. You could learn a thing or two, my man! As long as you’re OK walking most of the way to your destination after the bus driver kicks you and your friends off. Which Huey, Louie, and Dewey totally are! Fine, that is, both with walking, and with all of Webby’s deep, deep sheltered Indiana Jones weirdness, which first threatens to get them banned for life from their favorite kids gametime restaurant, but ultimately saves them from the maws of Ma Beagle (Margo Martindale) and her bumbling Beagle Boys, who attempt to kidnap the kids for Scrooge’s ransom but instead end up in a ball pit of DOOM.
Rating: 10/10, would dive in all ball pits Webby and her grappling hook are defending.
This is the one where Scrooge brings the triplets (and Webby) with him to work to learn that gold can only be gotten through hard work, and swimming in gold can only be gotten through weightlifting and training and, yes—even more work. We also learn, via his alarmed board director Bradford Buzzard (Marc Evan Jackson), that Scrooge spends 15 million dollars a year in magical defense (Scrooge: “Do you KNOW how many curses I have out on my head?”), and via Scrooge himself, that the first dime he ever earned was from shining shoes back in the homeland. The biggest takeaway from this episode is that Louie is always working an angle to do as little work for as much reward as possible, Dewey has a mission to find out what happened to their mom, Della, and Scrooge employs a whole building of weirdos who can’t be cut from the budget by the buzzard board because, as Scrooge brogues it, “They’re all mad as loons and if you fire them they’re definitely going to seek revenge!” True, true.
Rating: 13/10, would become so swole for a swim in Scrooge’s gold pit.
This is the one where we learn that the flat blankness of this generation’s character design makes lighting the series super cool, as this outing’s sunset opening is made crystal clear by not just the golden sky and watermelon ocean, but by the shift to a golden milk ecru on all the ducks’ otherwise white features. It is also the one where Webby, who has lived such a sheltered life that she was overwhelmed by the coolness of a public bus, meets pink-haired dirtbag teen duck Lena (Kimiko Glenn), who is so extremely cool that she is TOO cool for even the ancient Sumerian amulet she’s wearing she “found at a thrift shop” or whatever and who, surprising no one who has known a dirtbag teen, almost immediately starts cool-pressuring Webby into doing crimes. Those crimes? At a birthday party for Ma Beagle, flush with themed packs of Beagle Boys! Some of them are dressed as clowns! Some are sk8erbois! Some are mimes! It’s very creepy! ALMOST as creepy as the red-eyed shadow of Magica De Spell (Catherine Tate), who appears at Lena’s dark magic summoning, grinning with evil delight, after the rest of the ducks have gone home…
Rating: 12/10, would streak my feather-hair pink and blow up a Beagle Boys birthday party with Lena any day.
In which Huey’s Junior Woodchuck Guidebook is introduced, there’s some real gneiss schist for him to document in the tunnels beneath Duckburg’s cinema, and Lena continues to be a dirtbag teen—or, as she prefers to call it, “the mysterious rebel playing by her own rules.” Also, despite the clear supernatural shenanigans in the doubleheader pilot, the rest of the Ducks’ adventures thus far have been exquisitely mundane, and so Huey is able to believably plant his flag here as a Skeptical Scientist, thus setting himself up as the perfect foil for Webby’s enthusiastic belief in a lost terra-firmian king. Still, the kids, a paranoid Launchpad McQuack, and a judgmental Mrs. Beakley (Toks Olagundoye) are attacked by real terra-firmians. Launchpad talks himself into being a mole monster; Magica tries to talk Lena into leaving Mrs. Beakley to die, but she uses the magic of the amulet to lift the train instead; and Webby convinces Huey that the only way to know what is out there waiting for them in the dark is to find out together. As Louie, watching the whole thing with popcorn, says with a tear in his eye: Dang, it all really comes together in the third act.
Rating: 14/10, would adventure the schist out of those haunted tunnels.
SPEAKING OF SUPERNATURAL SHENANIGANS: Macaw! That is, the mysteriously luxe casino-resort of Macaw, which Donald’s preternaturally lucky Gladstone (Paul F. Tompkins) invites the family to for a vacation/to show off how great and successful and beloved and lucky and rich he is. The preternaturally unlucky Donald hates it, but joke’s on him! Gladstone is being held against his will by the supernatural Toad Liu Hai (B.D. Wong), who is bleeding him for the very preternatural luck that has made Donald so resentful their whole lives. Donald’s bad luck ends up being key to starving Toad and sending Macaw into oblivion, but as the saying goes: This is the bad place, so while Gladstone’s succumbing to the luck, easy life nearly got him killed, he still ends up taking off with random gold boat that drops into his lap in the end.
Rating: 11/10, would also trade a life of unearned ease for the respect of a loving family… probably.
This is the one in which we learn that the only thing the two richest ducks in the world hate more than each other is next-gen dubstep-loving hoodie-wearing ‘gram-obsessed new money ducks, AKA Mark Beaks (Josh Brener), AKA the CEO of Duckburg’s answer to Google, who literally grams being taken hostage by Falcon Graves (Robin Atkins-Downes), who has been hired to steal Mark’s coveted project (“I feel like this could be huge for my presence!”). Jokes on Graves, though! His hostile theft ends up being thwarted by millennial narcissism, Segways, and (spoiler) the reveal that Mark set up his own theft to generate buzz over a product that doesn’t exist. Louie gets it. Game recognizes game. Why work when you can con, man?
Rating: 13/10, would drink Mark’s minute-early almond-infused foam latte myself, just to spite him.
This is the one where the Scrooge and the boys (plus Webby and Launchpad) find the long Oz-shaped con at the heart of a yellow-bricked Egyptian tomb and use some sweet “Thriller” dance moves to fight the real vengeful mummy king that eventually appears. There is also a rebellion launched by the sight of Launchpad’s delicious pocket burrito (Scrooge: “This is the dumbest rebellion I’ve ever been a part of.”), some classic prophecy-linked Webby intensity, and yes: a pun about a pyramid scheme.
Rating: 11/10 would make dumb rebellion burritos for all the captive followers of Toth-Ra.
Another in the final sweep of expedition-themed episodes from the end of the first DisneyXD season, this one features the McDuck clan on an expedition up the never-summited Mt. Neverrest, sans any “fancy doohickery,” where they find themselves faced not with mystery and majesty, but with capitalism. I mean, what other brutal irony could Scrooge McDuck, world’s richest duck, possible Neverrest Ninny of mountaintop legend, find?! Wormholes across the mountaintop, probably! Which they do find, along with famed explorer George Mallardy’s bones, which Scrooge crows over in ugly triumph before himself learning Huey’s lesson that sometimes the bravest thing an explorer can do is walk away…preferably before collapsing the world’s tallest, most pan-dimensional mountain. But you know, take what you can get.
Rating: 13/10, would snuggle up in the accursed crevices of the naturally occuring demon-faced Bunny Rock to protect myself from Ice Fever, which is definitely real and not at all a marketing lie to sell loads of extraneous adventuring gear to Launchpad-sized dum-dums.
The one in which Donald Duck makes his ambivalently inglorious return, the mystery of the Duck brothers’ missing mom, Della, grows even more mysterious, and the whole crew officially marks their big move to Disney Channel proper. Oh, also: Greek gods, like Storcules (Chris Diamantopoulos), he of the deeply cut pectorals; Zeus (Michael Chiklis), he of the squared-off feather beard and old-man nostalgia; and, naturally, the goofball goddess Selene (Nia Vardalos), immortal BFF of the still-missing Della Duck. Add to that a grudge between Scrooge and a god, and you’ve got gold.
Rating: 12/10, would for sure hang out with the lonely Charybdis. Hey monster-dude! Hit me up.
And that’s it! Next up: Gizmoduck.
Welcome to Disney, Duck clan!
DuckTales airs on Disney Channel on Fridays at 8 p.m., and is available on the DisneyNOW app. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s guest appearance airs tonight.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult, Screener, and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go ten rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.