Well, let’s see. I just watched The Tale of Tales. And there’s some controversy over one of the characters in the new Beauty and the Beast movie being gay . . . Honestly, none of that seems like much fun to write about right now.
I know. Why don’t we wallow in unabashed nostalgia instead?
I don’t know how many of you follow the world of TV animation these days, but if you have been then you know that Disney XD has a new Duck Tales series in the works. They even released a new trailer for it. Duck Tales is a cartoon series inspired by the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic books by artist Carl Barks. The cartoon and comics follow Scrooge McDuck, the richest and possibly greediest duck in the world, and his great-nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie and other assorted characters as they travel around the world hunting for treasure and getting into all sorts of adventures. I used to watch the original Duck Tales cartoon from the late ‘80s when I was a kid. It’s safe to say I’m hyped for the new one. As I mentioned in my “Me and the Mouse” post from way back when, I actually have more nostalgia for Disney’s animated TV shows than for their animated movies.
|Carl Barks: The Good Duck Artist|
So, why am I talking about Duck Tales here and now? Well, the thing is that it’s a pretty common practice in cartoons from the ‘80s and early ‘90s and even today to have a fairy tale themed episode in which the characters take on the roles of fairy tale characters. It’s a common enough thing that I’m surprised I haven’t found a TV Tropes page about it. Most of the time, the inspiration will be “Cinderella” but it’s not unheard of for other popular tales to be used and sometimes they even do mash-ups of various stories. I remember that Alvin and the Chipmunks had a “Cinderella” one. Muppet Babies had one based on “Sleeping Beauty” that was heavily inspired by the Disney film. Rocko’s Modern Life had one that was a mash-up of various fairy tales. And of course, Duck Tales had one.
I know what you’re going to ask now: Is he really going to do a whole post about one episode from a cartoon that’s over twenty years old? Yes. Yes I am. Perhaps we’ll come up with some interesting thoughts or discoveries along the way.
The episode “Scroogerello” (Season 1, Episode 47) starts with Scrooge and his nephews eating breakfast. Scrooge though, is rather the worse for wear as he seems to have a bad cold. Scrooge’s family and servants notice this and after much hemming and hawing manage to get Scrooge to go back to bed.
Scrooge, however, is still pissed and he’s taking it out on the servants. Especially after the nanny/housekeeper Mrs. Beakley threatens to throw away some of his precious money if he doesn’t stay in bed and the butler Duckworth tries to feed him some cod liver oil. It’s at this point that little Webbigail comes in with a conspicuously heavy bowl of soup and proceeds to accidentally spill it in Scrooge’s lap. Webby then proceeds to try and make Scrooge feel better by reading him a story, so she proceeds to tell him the story of “Cinderella” as Scrooge drifts into a fevered sleep.
Now, as Scrooge dreams, what we get is a gender-flipped version of “Cinderella”. At least, for the most part (more on that a little later). Naturally, all the roles are played by Duck Tales characters. It starts with Scrooge in the part of Cinderella or rather Scroogerello. Scroogerello’s wicked step-brothers are played by the Beagle Boys (Big-Time, Burger and Bugle, if you want to get specific) and his step-father is his arch-nemesis Flintheart Glomgold. As is expected, Scroogerello gets the usual Cinderella treatment, having to work like a dog for his step-family. While Scroogerello is gathering water, he overhears his step-family plotting to attend Princess Goldie’s ball so they can get their hands on all her money. Realizing they’re being overheard, the Beagle Brothers grab Scroogerello and throw him in the basement, where it seems they’ve thrown everyone who’s angered them. This includes three Junior Woodchucks (Huey, Dewey and Louie) who were selling cookies and Glomgold’s old butler (Duckworth) who was locked away for trying to give his employer cod liver oil (“Subconscious guilt delivery for Scrooge!”) Soon, who shows up but Mrs. Beakley playing the Fairy Godmother and Webby as the Fairy Godchild-in-Training. From here, the “Cinderella” story plays out pretty much as expected with some small changes. The boys take the roles of the mice/chauffeurs and their boxes of cookies take the form of the coach/limo. And Scrooge is dressed up in a golden tuxedo and magic top hat. Naturally, he goes to the ball and Princess Goldie falls for him.
Now, this is where the story goes off the rails. You see, rather than deal with any competition, the Beagle Boys and Glomgold decide to just kidnap the princess. What follows is a chase that ends abruptly at midnight, a trek through some woods and an encounter with Prince Lilypad McQuack (Launchpad McQuack in a Frog Prince riff). This is roughly the place where the fairy tale riff gives itself over much more to the brand of high-spirited comedy adventure that Duck Tales is more known for. There are magic spells that get tossed around and transformations that happen. Probably the stand-out in all this is Princess Goldie. The princess here is played by Scrooge’s old flame from his Klondike days Glittering Goldie. Throughout the first part of the episode, she was prone to giving a sly commentary on all the guests at her ball. In the second part, we find out that she’s a princess who’s more than capable of taking care of herself but willing played the damsel-in-distress to some degree so that Scroogerello could rescue her.
And then, it turns into a “Cinderella” spoof again.
No, really. Scroogerello decides he doesn’t want Goldie to see him looking like a peasant and hides from her. Then, Webby gives Goldie the magic top hat that will only fit on Scroogerello’s head and proceeds to try it on every head in the kingdom. It goes pretty much as you’d expect except that the Beagle Boys show up again at the end to take Scroogerello with them to be their servant again. That’s where Scrooge wakes up, though. And he apologizes to his servants. I think that’s supposed to be the take-away, that he’s learned to appreciate his servants after having to play one in his dream. I’m not sure that works as well as it should, though. We only see Scroogerello being made to work for a few minutes at the beginning of the story. And it’s easy to forget about all that after it goes off book and turns from Scrooge’s regular fairy tale fever dream into even more of a fairy tale fever dream.
It wasn’t a terrible episode, but it wasn’t great either. It’s definitely one of Duck Tales’ weaker offerings. But part of that is because there are so many fairy tales that would fit better as Duck Tales episodes than “Cinderella” would. Both “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” come to mind right away. But it’s probably hard to resist playing on the familiarity of possibly the most famous folk tale in all of creation. If you want to see the episode for yourself, someone did upload it onto YouTube but the quality’s better on the volume 2 DVD. I'd suggest tracking that (and the rest of the series) either to buy or at your local library.
While maybe not much, writing about this episode has made me reflect on the various fairy tale episodes of cartoons I’ve encountered since my own youth. For example, I realize now that a whole lot of them use the plot device of someone hearing a story while sick in bed (Rocko’s Modern Life, Dexter’s Laboratory, Muppet Babies and this episode of Duck Tales are the first that come to mind). Also, a number use the plot device of someone dreaming the story. Will the new Duck Tales have a fairy tale episode? Who knows?
If you want some far more scholarly insight into fairy tales on TV, including children’s cartoons, you may want to check out VisualizingWonder. It’s a blog and online database entirely devoted to fairy tales on TV.
That’s it for this swim in the nostalgia pool. Fairy Tale Geek signing off.