Tag Archives: disney afternoon

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)

The Rescue Rangers are back, but maybe not as expected.

Nostalgia is an easy thing to market and sell, so when a piece of media comes around that’s really going hard after the nostalgia market I feel like it’s my duty to weigh-in. And when it comes to 90’s nostalgia, I am as qualified as anybody to talk about it and such is the case with the new Disney+ movie Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.

If you’re reading this, I can probably go ahead and assume that you’re familiar with the television show of the same name which premiered in the late 80s and ran into the 90s. Just in case though, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers was one of the inaugural Disney Afternoon cartoons and it starred the characters Chip and Dale from Disney’s classic collection of shorts and paired them up with some newcomers in Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper. As the theme song informed us, they basically solve the crimes and help those who are not being helped by the usual law enforcement operations out there. It didn’t really make much sense for the characters of Chip and Dale to star in such a program, but the same is easily said of the classic characters utilized in most Disney Afternoon shows. It was just a way for Disney to leverage its own intellectual property and sell shows that at least had some familiar faces in them. And it seemed to work rather well. While I will say the show Rescue Rangers doesn’t really hold-up when viewed as an adult in 2022, it’s at least quite gorgeous for a TV show and no one would question the production values. Plus that theme song is still a banger.

In this universe, Rescue Rangers was an actual show like it is in “the real world” and all of the characters were played by living, toon, actors.

It was announced some time ago that Disney wanted to bring the show to the big screen as a live-action/animation hybrid which is all the rage these days. It turned out, Disney was actually aiming a little smaller as the film was ticketed for its streaming platform Disney+ pretty early in the reveal. Unlike a lot of recent films, I do not believe this was kicked to the streaming service because of COVID. The film was written by the team of Dan McGregor and Doug Mand, two guys mostly known for their work in television. With Akiva Schaffer as director and Andy Samberg onboard as the voice of Dale, the title basically started being referred to as The Lonely Island Rescue Rangers. The third member of The Lonely Island, Jorma Taccone, is also here doing some small voice roles too. Given their presence, I found myself quite curious how this movie would turn out. It was obviously going to be a comedy, but the initial trailer also revealed it was going to set its characters in a world inhabited by toons and real people like a certain famous 80s film about a rabbit. Inviting such a comparison is almost a death sentence because how is a film in 2022 with a streaming budget going to measure up to the classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a fool’s game to try to match that film, Disney can only hope this one proves it’s worth existing.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is neither a reboot nor a sequel to the television show. It actually views the characters from the show as actors who played those roles. Early in the film we’re shown how a young Dale (Juliet Donenfield) met a young Chip (Mason Blomberg) at school and instantly became friends. From there, they became a comedy act that was eventually given its own show making these versions of the famous chipmunks quite different from the characters in the theatrical shorts. Much of the movie is set in the present and centers on Dale (Andy Samberg) as he tries to recapture his glory days after a falling out with Chip when the Rescue Rangers show came to an end.

The setting established by this film is one in which humans live side-by-side with animated characters from various mediums (and owners beyond Disney) with seemingly little in the way of conflict between the two.

It’s when we catch-up with Dale and eventually Chip (John Mulaney) that we see how this world sort of works. This isn’t a lore-heavy film like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Toons exist alongside humans and over the years toons have changed. Dale at some point got surgery to make himself look like a CG generated character, while his co-stars did not so they’re presented in a more traditional manner. Cartoon stars are basically all real and much of the film relies on that. The general plot is that Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) has gone missing and Chip and Dale fear he’s been caught in a bootlegging ring. For a toon in this world, that means he’s going to be modified surgically so that he only resembles his old self and shipped off to somewhere in Asia to star in bootleg films against his will, which sounds pretty horrifying. The rodents will work with a human police officer in Ellie (Kiki Lang) to try and find their friend before he’s presumably sent out on a boat which is expected to take roughly 48 hours making this the Chip ‘n Dale version of The Frist 48.

An older, less cute, Peter Pan is one of the film’s villains. Some feel his portrayal is in poor taste given the real world tragedy that was Bobby Driscoll who voiced Pan in the Disney film. I personally don’t think any malice was intended and feel the character works as an imagined future Peter Pan that aged out of a role not unlike many child actors.

The plot is surprisingly high stakes if you place any sort of value on the life of Monterey Jack, but despite that the film is squarely a comedy. Chip and Dale play-off of each other with Chip being the straight ‘munk and Dale the more carefree. It’s admittedly odd to hear the two voiced by actors who aren’t being pitched way up to do the squeaky voice. That is canonically revealed to be an act from the old show and just a funny voice they did. Their interplay is fine and mostly amusing, but things slow way down whenever the plot has to involve Ellie. There it becomes a poor man’s cop show where little of value takes place. Working against is the performance of Lang as Ellie because she comes off as wooden and distant. Working with actors who aren’t physically present is a skill, and maybe that’s the reason for it. The script also isn’t very interested in making her into much of a character so that’s not helping matters. Aside from the pair, the movie relies quite heavily on references to generate laughs. This means the film is a case of diminishing returns from the start as most viewers will likely be charmed by the cameos at first, but come the second hour the novelty has largely worn off. The film is definitely intended for an adult audience that grew up on the Disney Afternoon, so if you loved Rescue Rangers there’s a bit of payoff towards the film’s climax, but this film is largely a riff on that show which might rub some the wrong way.

This is the type of film that wants you to pause it frequently to try and catch all of the easter eggs in the background.

The entertainment value derived from the humor and references can only take the film so far. Unfortunately, what doesn’t add a whole lot are the visual effects. The CG characters, like Dale, look fine. Dale’s model is not on par with Disney or Pixar feature films, but I suppose he looks no better or worse than the chipmunks from the Alvin and the Chipmunks films. The 2D characters, on the other hand, mostly look pretty unimpressive. There’s no attempt at shading them to make them plausible as 3D beings, but they’re also clearly not hand-drawn. For some characters, like Gadget oddly enough, the model is too obvious and the character ends up looking like a cel-shaded model from a PlayStation 2 game. I got some real Sly Cooper vibes from Gadget and I’m not sure why it is that her model suffered the most. Maybe it’s the hair? Either way, the 2D characters just don’t impress, but we are talking about a film with a streaming budget so it’s not surprising to see. I am left to wonder if the film would be appreciably better with more money attached to it. The other aspect of the film’s production that might rub some the wrong way is the inconsistent casting choices. Tress MacNeille was allowed to reprise her role as Gadget, but few others were granted the same opportunity. Jim Cummings is in this film voicing some cameos, but for some reason was recast as Monterey Jack. Zipper was also recast to Dennis Haysbert basically for a gag, but I can’t say that bothered me too much since it fit with the choice for Chip and Dale. And I suppose there are folks out there who would have preferred them to have their chipmunk voices and I don’t know if I’m one of them. I definitely would have been fine with that approach, but I didn’t hate Mulaney and Samberg in the roles and I actually adjusted to them much easier than I expected.

The film has its moments when it comes to the brand of humor it’s going for, but mostly I found myself wishing it had a bigger budget so that it would look better than it does.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is the sort of vapid, of the moment, streaming movie designed to be digested, meme’d for a weekend, and then mostly forgotten. It doesn’t really do anything unexpected and is mostly smart to keep the running time under 2 hours and to lean heavily into nostalgia-laden jokes and cameos. How much you’re amused by the cameos and references will influence how entertained by the film you are. I would even go so far as to say, for adult viewers, you need to be familiar with the era the original Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers aired during to get much out of this. For kids, that’s probably not necessary if my own children are a reasonable barometer as they seemed to like the film quite a bit. As for me, the film was fine. It was no better or worse than I expected, though actually if I’m being fair it was better than I initially expected when I heard a Rescue Rangers movie was in development. I definitely do not want or need a sequel or reboot following this, nor do I really want to see other Disney Afternoon properties get the same treatment (unless it’s with a much bigger budget). If you go into it wanting a poor man’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that’s more interested in meme culture than celebrating classic era animation then you’ll likely not regret the hour and a half spent. If you’re expecting something more sincere or on the same technical level as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? then prepare to be disappointed.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Bronx

The good doggo has arrived!

Well, here’s something different. Bronx, the good gargoyle dog, is NECA’s fourth entry in its relatively young line of action figures based on the beloved Disney Afternoon series Gargoyles. And not only is Bronx here all on his own, he’s also got something for his buddy Goliath that collectors of this line have been begging for. Unfortunately, he also arrives as part of NECA’s Haulathon event, a gimmicky collector event taking place at Target that should be over by now. Unlike his line-mate, Demona, Bronx appears to have shipped in rather large numbers. Also unlike Demona, he was never put up for order on Target’s website so those who want him have been forced to trek to the store in hopes of catching him on a shelf. Or, you get a friend like I did in @JoePoppingOn who came through for me again with a Bronx! That’s three figures he helped me acquire so a very, hearty, “Thanks” are in order for him. Give him a follow on Twitter, especially if you’re located in the US north east.

Articulated jaws are cool.

Bronx comes in NECA’s standard Ultimates styled packaging with artwork on the front and product shots throughout. The front flap opens to reveal the figure inside and showcase the accessories, with one accessory displayed about as prominently as the actual figure. We’ll get to that, but first we need to talk about Bronx. Bronx, being more like a dog than human, is a quadruped who gets around on all fours. He’s also wingless, so at last he’s a release in this line that’s relatively easy to fit onto a shelf. He scales well with Goliath and the others when placed beside them, and because his form doesn’t showcase giant pectorals, he’s probably the most on-model release when compared with the show. NECA is obviously not going for a true on-model look with this line, so for Bronx, it’s more like a bonus for those out there who wish the company was aiming to do just that.

Yup, that’s Bronx all right.

The sculpt for Bronx is essentially what one would expect of NECA where the character is concerned. He’s a lovely shade of blue with a pale gray on his underside reserved for his lower jaw and belly. His eyes are all white and always displayed in that fashion, unlike the other gargoyles who only go all-white when trying to intimidate others. I like how the paint is applied to give them an almost glowing appearance as the white is soft on the edges and more stark in the center. His body has the usual gargoyle anatomy with spikes here and there. Not only does Bronx lack wings, he also features a far shorter tail giving him a really compact appearance. He’s all front end too with a smaller backside. He looks awesome, and even though the Bronx design from the show was never a particular favorite of mine, I find myself really liking the look of this figure because NECA just plain nailed it.

He’s a big boy.

Even though Bronx stands on all fours, he’s articulated in a very similar manner to his line-mates in some ways, but he’s also different in others. For one, Bronx has articulation at the jaw so he can open and close his mouth and look a bit more fearsome, if need be. His head is on a double ball-peg and it’s reinforced with another ball peg at the base of his massive neck so he gets terrific range looking to the side as well as up and down. He also has plenty of tilt and he’s very expressive in that area. His front legs are joined to the body via ball-hinges and he has “elbow” joints, ankle joints, and toe joints. His legs can spread out wide and kick forward and back. The torso has a rubbery overlay, indicating that NECA intends to do more figures in this style down the road, which does kill whatever torso articulation is hidden underneath that. His rear legs are affixed via ball joints just like the other gargoyles and he has knee joints that move very little as they’re always intended to be bent. Past that, his feet are done in the same fashion as the front ones with ankle hinges, rockers, and toe hinge and rocker. Because of his design, Bronx isn’t going to be super dynamic, but I think NECA did a good job here of getting articulation into this figure without sacrificing really any of the aesthetic. And I wish they’d add neck articulation to the other figures.

Check out the range on that neck!

Bronx doesn’t fly, or use weapons, or even have hands, so he doesn’t have much in the way of accessories. For Bronx, there’s really just two: a second head and a hunk of meat. The second head features a wide open mouth and is a touch more fearsome looking than the standard one. It would still feel a bit unnecessary if not for the big slab of meat he also comes with. I don’t know that I’ll really incorporate it into my own display, but the meat can fit into the mouth of the second head so he can hold it, or it can be placed at his feet. The meat looks fine and it’s painted, but at the end of the day it’s just a piece of meat.

The alternate head features a jaw that’s sculpted open.
He deserves a treat.

What collectors are really intrigued by is the last accessory: Goliath’s closed wings. Also referred to as caped wings by the fandom, these are for the Goliath figure and are posed as the character often did in the show by hooking them below his chin like a cape. This is a casual, walking around, look for Goliath and has the bonus of reducing the amount of space he takes up on a shelf. To put them on, you need to pop off the head and wings from the Goliath figure and then just drape it over the shoulders. They’re a soft, flexible, material, but still feature the same paint and detailing as the open wings. There are two pegs on the rear to slot into the figure and these basically just keep things together. Once the head is replaced, the look is complete and it’s…okay. Goliath’s body was sculpted to be in attack mode, so his head isn’t really positioned in a casual manner making it look a bit awkward. If he had a joint at the base of the neck, this could be worked with, but alas he does not. The head is also even more locked-down than before as his hair keeps him from really being able to turn his head. He can look down a little, but that’s it. Still, now that the display is four figures, the extra room is welcomed so I’m probably going to stick with this look, but what I really want are just relaxed wings.

A more studious look for the clan leader.
They do go well together.

Bronx is a terrific entry in this young line, and he might be my favorite. I’ve mentioned how the other figures are so cumbersome that they’re not very fun to mess around with, but Bronx doesn’t suffer from that at all. He’s a joy to play with and pose, and while his accessories do nothing for me, the actual figure is great. The caped wings for Goliath are certainly a welcomed addition, but I am lukewarm on the end result. It’s okay, and maybe I’ll like the look more with an Elisa to pair him with, but it seems clear to me that the figure wasn’t really sculpted with this look in mind. I think NECA is generally very good at balancing aesthetic with articulation and function, but with this line I don’t think they’ve been as successful. Hopefully we see some improvement going forward and that these extra wings which are sorely needed aren’t few and far between.

Even with Goliath’s new wings, I still feel this shelf is maxed out. Good thing the next release isn’t slated until the fall.

As mentioned before, Bronx was part of Haulathon at Target. He was up briefly on the Haulathon website, but I literally know of no one actually receiving the figure via that site as seemingly all, or most, of the orders ended up cancelled. He seems to still be shipping, so check your local stores if you’re after this one. He has since gone up for pre-order in the usual places with an expected June delivery, so while you may have to wait, you shouldn’t have to go to the secondary market to add to the clan.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Demona

Demona is here to prove Tuesday isn’t just for turtles.

When NECA launched it’s line of action figures based on Disney’s Gargoyles, it seemed to imply that Demona would be figure number 2. She was not. That honor went to Thailog, the Goliath clone, and that might have had something to do with the many factory delays and shipping woes that were impacting the entire industry. It’s a lot easier to pivot from Goliath to a figure like Thailog at the factory when almost all of the molds are the same. The other promise from NECA was that none of the Gargoyles figures were slated to be sold as exclusives. They were all general release and collectors could expect to be able to preorder them from their preferred retailer. Well, that went out the window with NECA’s Haulathon event which was split between a website for Halloween costumes and Target stores. And as you could probably have guessed at this point, Demona ended up falling into that event.

Sadly, flight stand not included.

Demona is the rogue gargoyle from the show. Goliath’s former lover, she’s basically the Magneto of the series as she has a justifiable distrust of humans, but turns that mistrust into all-out hatred. She doesn’t want to live alongside humanity, she wants to crush it. Armed with advanced weaponry, magic, and a wealth of knowledge given her extreme lifespan, she’s a formidable foe for Goliath and company and a worthy third figure in the line. Since she’s not a Goliath repaint, she’s also just the second, unique, sculpt we get to experience. With Goliath and Thailog, I had some nitpicks, but was generally satisfied with the finished product. With Demona, that’s pretty much still true, but she does introduce a new problem that I really hope isn’t one going forward.

Like Goliath, she brought reading material. Unlike Goliath, her book can actually open and close.

Demona is sold in the standard NECA Ultimates five-panel window box. It’s a bit smaller than Goliath’s since Demona is a smaller character. Not only is she shorter than her former beau, she’s more slender as she has a very feminine physique that mixes with the gargoyle anatomy. She has a big tuft of red hair that looks quite nice and the pale blue-gray of her skin lines up well with her appearance in the cartoon. Like Goliath, she’s inspired by the cartoon, but has added detail to make her look a bit more “alive.” It’s a bit less pronounced as she doesn’t need giant, rippling, muscles and it’s mostly seen in the texture added to her clothing. She basically just has a top and loincloth with the bottom piece being separate while the top appears to be part of the mold. Either that, or the torso is cut-out to fit it so it can be glued down. It’s interesting as I suspect NECA will want to reuse much of this mold for Angela at some point, but her top is different. Maybe Disney just didn’t want people sneaking a peek under Demona’s top? Which does raise the question: why do female gargoyles have breasts? They’re an egg-laying species, most of which don’t nurse their young, but they are fantastic beasts so I guess they can follow different rules.

Good luck deciphering that.

Demona has a very striking appearance, and one thing I rather like is that NECA used actual metal hoops for her earrings and her anklet. This could potentially make her more fragile, but they seem secure and fine. Her proportions look nice, and like Goliath, her wings are painted in a two-tone fashion with a purple shade used for the membrane. Also like Goliath, the wings are huge and made of ABS so there’s no give to them. They’re going to take up a lot space, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Aside from that general complaint, my only other issue with her is that her face looks just a little off. I feel like her face should be longer and more narrow. Instead, it starts off rather wide and quickly comes to a point at her chin giving her a slightly scrunched appearance. It’s not terrible or anything, but I think she could look a little better.

Your kids probably won’t like this face.

Demona comes with more stuff than we’re used to, and she even has a new feature that I wish Goliath had. And that feature is she uses faceplates instead of swapping an entire head. Bandai has been doing this for years with its figures, and I’m surprised it took NECA this long as it would have been easy to do with Goliath. Her face pops off easily and she has a screaming, red-eyed, face to go in its place. It’s appropriately unsettling, so much so that I almost don’t like looking at it, but it definitely works. Demona also has various hands including open, clawing hands, fists, a trigger-finger right hand, and a modified gripping left hand for her book or gun. She has two, giant, guns. One is a bazooka while the other is some kind of laser canon. The bazooka has a trigger and a more conventional design that’s easy to get the character to grip, while the other gun is more cumbersome with no actual trigger. I’m assuming it appeared that way in the show so I’m not faulting the toy here, just pointing it out for review. She also has her Grimorum Arcanorum which is really cool. It’s well-sculpted and the paint looks awesome as it has this distressed look to it and it can even open. It’s also sculpted to have a page torn out and that missing page will come with a future figure – a nice attention to detail.

The laser canon is a bit awkward with no actual trigger leaving Demona to wonder how she’s supposed to hold it?

The accessories are certainly appropriate, and the only thing missing is what’s missing from all of the figures so far and that’s a flight stand and additional wings. The wide open wings are essentially gliding wings so a flight stand is almost a necessity, but obviously would add cost to the figure. I’d happily take an increased cost if it meant alternate wings though. I know I sound like a broken record, but these things are too much to manage now that we have three figures.

That’s the best I could do.

Demona may be smaller than Goliath, but she essentially articulates the same. The head is on a double ball-peg, but her hair keeps her from being able to look up which is unfortunate for flying poses. NECA could have fixed that with either a second hairpiece or with a hinge in it, but chose not to. She can look down, tilt, and swivel. There’s no lower neck joint and her shoulders are ball-hinges. She can raise her arms out to the side without much trouble and has a biceps swivel, double elbows, and wrists that swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal, which is unfortunate for the trigger hand. Demona has a ball joint in the torso below her bust and a waist twist below that. Her hips are the standard ball joints and she can kick forward and back, since she doesn’t technically have an ass. There’s a twist there as well and she has single-jointed knees since the gargoyle anatomy only requires that much. The ankles are hinged and can rock a bit with another hinge at the toe that also has a rocker. The tail pegs into the rear of the figure and is bendy plus there’s a hinge at the peg. At the wings, she has hinges and they’re on pegs so they can rotate up and down and also swing out.

The rocket launcher, on the other hand, is quite easy to work with.

It’s with the wings that a new problem emerges for Demona. In many respects, I think she articulates better than Goliath as there’s less bulk to maneuver around, but what kills her is the tolerance of the wing joints. They are far too loose and are downright floppy. Her wings immediately slump to the table and posing them on their own is impossible. I’ve had to prop them up on Goliath and Thailog or just let them hit the shelf to pose her. She’s a challenge to stand, so I guess the wings help in that regard, but it’s a problem and it seems to be rather widespread. I’m going to have to try to remedy this somehow, either with super glue, tape, or something that can be added to that peg to tighten things up. It’s a problem that the figure really can’t have since the wings are so huge and it’s something NECA needs to tighten up now. I’ve refrained on trying to remedy it for the time being so that my images with this review are true to what the figure is out of the box.

I think three, winged, gargoyles is the most this shelf can handle.

Demona is a figure that is largely as expected. She looks the part well enough and has essentially the same articulation as Goliath, just with a new problem in the form of the wings. If not for that, I think I’d find her a little more entertaining than Goliath, but instead I find this figure to be rather frustrating as I try to pose it on my shelf. That’s also true of the other releases in this line as they’re so cumbersome that they’re really not a lot of fun to handle. They look pretty great when placed in a pose that looks nice, but they make you work to get there. NECA plans to include extra wings with the non-winged characters in the line, but that’s not going to do it. We really need options right out of the box, or else I think a lot of people will drop this line after a figure or two. Maybe I’m wrong, but despite this figure being overall a solid release, I’m finding my enthusiasm for this line waning which is hard to believe given how excited I was a year ago when the line was announced.

Demona was part of the Haulathon event and some stores are still receiving stock of her and she should set you back around $36. The distribution appeared poor to start, with some stores only getting one unit or none at all, but Target did make her available online so hopefully those who wanted her got her. I never found this figure in stores, so a special shout-out to @JoePoppingOn who helped me in tracking her down and the next figure in the line. The figure is also now up at various online retailers, some with a mark-up so it pays to shop around. Those figures are presently slated for a June release so hopefully that holds true and everyone who wants it can get one.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Thailog

Thailog’s coming to town.

One of last year’s biggest announcements in the world of action figures was NECA’s acquisition of the Gargoyles license. It had been decades since Gargoyles figures occupied real estate at the toy and hobby shops of America and fans of the series were eager to see what NECA had cooking. It being 2021 though, collectors were forced to be patient as delays seemed to impact the roll out of product. NECA had indicated they had multiple figures sculpted and ready to go, and a teaser video following the Goliath announcement depicted the nefarious Demona. It was later in the year that NECA would show off Thailog, the villainous Goliath clone, which seemed to suggest he would follow Demona. Instead, he leap-frogged her, sneaking out to some stores in December with a wider release following in 2022.

I don’t know what NECA’s original slot for Thailog was in the grand scheme, but I don’t think he was supposed to be the line’s second release. Being a Goliath clone, Thailog is essentially the same figure as Goliath with only minor differences. That’s not an issue as why should NECA do anything different with the sculpt for a character that is a literal duplicate of another? It’s just that most companies don’t like to dip into repaints right away with a new line, but if the factory was running behind, it may have made sense to go right from Goliath to Thailog since the same molds are in use, nothing needs to be tested, and the machines don’t need to be refitted with the molds of another. That’s what I think happened, but I have no inside information, it’s just a theory that makes sense. Either way, Demona is still coming (along with a bunch of others) and right now we have two figures released that look pretty similar to each other.

He’s Goliath with a smile. Oh, and he’s evil.

Since Thailog is basically the same as Goliath, there’s not going to be a lot to talk about here. The sculpt is identical excepting the face. Goliath came with two portraits: stern and angry. Thailog has just the one and it’s a mischievous, sinister, grin. Aside from that, he comes in the same window box with character specific artwork and product shots on it. The massive wings that came with Goliath are here as well, along with the bendy tail. Even the loincloth is the same.

And he’s also packin’ heat.

Where Thailog is different from Goliath is primarily in the deco. His skin is a dark blue-gray that almost looks black under certain lighting conditions. The hair is a silver-white with some black dry-brushing added for effect. Portions of the body are shaded with black as well and the loincloth he wears is a light blue. The wings are basically all one color as opposed to Goliath who has black membranes with a purple bone structure. His eyes are also red, which just makes it all the more obvious that he’s a bad guy. He’s a cool looking character and if you like the sculpt for Goliath you’ll like it here as well.

These two take up a lot of real estate.

The good news, all of the good details Goliath embodied are captured here, but that also means the not-so-good aspects of Goliath are also still present. The biggest criticism that has arisen from this line definitely concerns the wings. They’re huge and they’re a hard plastic so there’s not much that can be done with them. Either they take up a ton of real estate going out to the side, or you can angle them back and distribute some of that behind the figure. Either way, it’s a lot, and it’s a position that really only works for gliding poses. Standing on a shelf is not really what they’re made to do, but NECA doesn’t include a flight stand so you’ll have to buy your own or try to hang these suckers from the ceiling. I don’t know what the solution is, NECA is planning on including caped wings for Goliath with Bronx, but we need some more options. At least a more casual, standing, pose for the wings. My assumption is they looked at articulated wings during the development stage and either ruled them out for aesthetic reasons or cost ones, but it’s something that should be considered, at least. The other drawback to these wings is they peg in under Thailog’s hair which restricts the movement of the head. His head is tilted down a bit and he can’t just look straight ahead, which is kind of annoying. Turn his head too far and you’ll probably knock a wing out of the socket. The hair either needs to have room for the wing joint sculpted into it, or it needs a hinge. It’s disappointing that this couldn’t be addressed following the release of Goliath.

These beasts have a fair amount of articulation, but the wings and unique gargoyle anatomy are definitely restricting when it comes to dynamic poses.

The other area Thailog gets to differentiate himself from Goliath is with his accessories. He comes with a similar assortment of hands: open hands and fists. Like Goliath, he has a fifth hand and for Thailog it’s a traditional gripping hand as opposed to Goliath’s clawed grip. That’s because Thailog has two accessories he needs to be able to properly grip in the form of a briefcase and gun. The briefcase is rather cool as it’s a matte black with metallic accents. It snaps open and inside is a bunch of sculpted money and a set of keys. Nothing is removable, but it also doesn’t need to be. Thailog can either grip the handle with his gripping hand, or you can just dangle it off of a claw on the open hands which you will probably want to do because his other accessory needs to be gripped.

This dude’s loaded!

Thailog comes with his own sidearm. It’s a smallish handgun, but it fires a cannister or missile. I assume it’s from the show, but I haven’t seen the episode featuring Thailog in awhile. It’s simple, but it looks fine, and NECA has a little something up its sleeve with it. The cannister at the end actually pegs in and can be removed and replaced with a blast effect. It’s pretty big stretching to nearly ten inches and pegs into the barrel of the gun. There’s a sculpted plume of smoke at the barrel with some sharp blasts behind it. When the cloud ends there’s just a long cylinder with another smoke trail wrapping around it before it ends in another blast. It’s there the cannister can be reattached to complete the illusion of the gun firing. It’s very well painted and looks fantastic. It’s also a rigid plastic that is somewhat light, but it’s still a lot for the figure to handle. I find his wrist and elbow need to be positioned carefully or else the gun will start to droop. NECA didn’t include a little stand with this one like it did the Turtles in Time Baxter to help support the blast effect, but so far it’s holding up all right. I do worry that overtime his arm will start to droop, but I guess that’s tomorrow’s problem. It is an impressive display piece though, and it’s one I expect to see NECA make use of again either in this line or another.

Because the figure didn’t already occupy enough space with the wings. At least this effect piece is undeniably cool though.

That’s basically it though. I don’t feel the need to rundown the articulation on this guy since it’s the same as it was with Goliath. I will say there are no stuck joints with this figure and most of them feel fine. There is some looseness in the right arm and right foot so I’m finding it hard to get Thailog into the proper standing pose for his breed as the right foot tends to want to drop all the way to the surface. Stands and his tail can help, but I might have to go with a flying pose to mitigate this, which I don’t really want to do as I think the gun effect works better with a standing pose, and I definitely want to make use of that. I will add his articulation isn’t great for a gun wielding character. He doesn’t have a butterfly joint in the shoulder and his pectorals prevent him from bringing the gun out in front of him where I’d like to position it. And the wings interfere with the head so I can’t get him to hold the gun out to the side while looking down his arm. Again, this stems from this figure being Goliath who has no need for guns so such poses didn’t have to be considered, but hopefully Demona is better equipped to wield a firearm than Thailog.

This is a bit of a short review, but it’s also the type of release that most know what they’re in for. If you’re all-in on this line, you’re getting Thailog. If you liked the Goliath figure, then you’re probably getting Thailog. Some more casual fans will probably pass on this one as Thailog wasn’t a huge character in the show and there will also be some hoping for an armored version from NECA that they’d rather have. I liked Goliath when he came out, so naturally, I like Thailog, but some of the issues with Goliath I was willing to overlook due to excitement for a new license are a bit harder to overlook here. There’s room for improvement and it starts with those wings so hopefully NECA is listening to the fans and has something up its sleeve. Currently, Thailog is shipping to Target stores and should be available at specialty as well. Demona and Bronx are tentatively scheduled to release sometime in March, but no solicitations have gone up as of this writing so take that news with a grain of salt. 2022 should be a pretty big year for Gargoyles, and I’m definitely eager to see more!


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Goliath

2021’s most anticipated figure release is here!

It was nearly 6 months ago that NECA unveiled one of its newest licenses for 2021: Gargoyles! I was incredibly pumped at the time to see that NECA had acquired Gargoyles because the license had so much potential. The show was basically a cult hit in the 90s often characterized as Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series, but Gargoyles truly was its own thing. Rooted in Shakespearian lore with a fantastic backstory, the time-displaced clan of mythical creatures found themselves the protectors of New York City from enemies both current and from the past. And if you’re going to start a line of action figures based on Gargoyles, well, who else are you going to start with other than Goliath?

When NECA unveiled the license acquisition they showed off Goliath with it. The midnight post on Twitter showcased the fearsome creature and the direction the line would head. He was available to preorder the next day with a July release date attached, which slipped to August, to September. That’s 2021 for you, but after a really not so long wait all things considered, I’ve finally managed to secure a Goliath action figure from my local Target.

He lives again!

Goliath is a big boy and he comes in a big box. The Ultimates styled packaging from NECA is bigger than even the Chrome Dome box. It has less to do with the figure’s height and everything to do with those wings. The front of the box features some artwork of Goliath which I believe is stock as it looks rather familiar while product shots can be found on the back and interior. The back also has a bio of the series that surprisingly is not the same as the narration from Keith David that was attached to the second season’s intro, though it’s in the same vein.

That’s a lot of man…stone beef.

The packaging is fine, but what I’m after is that figure inside. Freeing Goliath from his confines is rather painless as there is not an abundance of ties on him. Once out he’ll need to have his tail and wings attached. Figuring out how tall he is isn’t straight-forward since gargoyles have unique lower, leg, anatomy. With his knees bent in his natural standing posture he’s about seven and a half inches tall. His anatomy is sculpted in a more realistic manner than the cartoon. His flesh features veins and thick muscles. It’s cast in a very light shade of purple, almost gray, with a darker purple paint wash over it to really bring out the musculature. The wash is used more liberally on the face to darken around the eyes and lips. His default expression is a stern one with visible pupils that definitely reads as “Goliath.” The belt and loincloth he wears are cast in a soft plastic so they’re quite flexible. The only place the wash isn’t visible is on the tail which is done in a rubber material so that it can bend. It looks rather plain in comparison to the rest of the figure, but it’s always going to be behind him so it’s not something I take issue with. The finer painted details, like the eyes and claws, are all clean. Overall, this is a striking figure in-hand.

I think most will be happy with the scale here.
The wings can go really wide, or really deep, with nothing in between.

Let’s talk about those wings though, for a second. They’re huge! They measure 20.5″ from tip to tip when spread out so this guy will need a big shelf. They’re made of a very rigid plastic, likely ABS, and painted purple and black. The membrane inside the wings is well-sculpted and the detail shows in natural light. Even though the plastic is a bit lighter than some others, they still add considerable weight to the figure and, combine that with their size, will just be a constant battle when posing the figure. In terms of making wings that look good, I’m not sure NECA could have done much better. Bendy wings would have probably too resembled one of those Halloween store rubber bats, and fabric wings would have clashed with the looks of the rest of the figure. What people will miss with these though, is just an alternative. They’re great for dramatic posing, but not for casual or even hand-to-hand combat poses. Goliath could use some partially folded wings, though what I see most requested are the folded, “cape,” styled wings the character would often sport with the two claws at the peak of the wings crossed under his chin and clasped together. NECA likely knows this, but didn’t want to jack up the cost too high on a new IP. Hopefully, something like that follows in the future, and when it does, may I suggest they use the same material that they used for the cape on Shadow Master Super Shredder?

Disc stands help with posing.

Okay, wing talk is complete, for now, so let’s talk articulation. Goliath’s head sits on a ball-peg. It’s not a particularly large ball though, and he doesn’t have articulation at the base of the neck. Combine that with his long, sculpted, hair and wings and you end up with a head that can’t do much. He can look forward and straight down okay and there’s a little tilt too. Rotation is a challenge due to the hair which will interfere with the wings, but if you work at it you can get him to look to either side. It just may require removing a wing, turning the head, and reinserting it. At the shoulder we have ball-hinges and he can almost raise his arms to a horizontal position. The shape, and slope, of his shoulders prevents him from raising his arms out to the side any higher, but he can rotate forward and back just fine. Past that is the biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows which all work fine. The hands peg in and feature hinges, though the right hand on my figure is very loose. The hand hasn’t fallen out, but it takes minimal effort to do so. In the diaphragm is a ball-joint that gives the figure some tilt and rotation. He can even crunch forward a decent amount. There’s a waist twist below that and the new styled double-ball leg joints sit below that.

He can make a scary fist.

In the legs, things get interesting. Goliath has the usual thigh twist, but below that is a single-hinged knee. It can bend back to about 90 degrees, but it can also swivel. It looks to just peg in to the thigh, and I like how the knee cap is sculpted over it. At the ankle, we get the usual hinge and rocker and then beyond that is a toe hinge. Gargoyles have interesting anatomy in that they basically stand on their toes. There’s some slight twist, or rocker, action to the toes, but I can’t tell if that’s intentional or just some play in the joint. They need to be tight though, and they pretty much are, though nothing was overtight on my figure. At the tail, there’s a peg and a hinge so you can move that thing all over the place. It can kind of help with getting the figure to stand, though it’s not really strong enough to help out as much as I’d like. The wings peg into the figure’s back and they’re actually hidden a bit by the hair, which is nice. They can rotate and also feature a hinge that’s ratcheted. It makes an awfully scary noise when positioning it, but they seem fine. Because they’re wide open, there isn’t a whole lot of versatility to them, but at least you have some options, particularly if you go with a flying pose.

If you prefer, you can have your Goliath be studious.

Achieving such a pose though has proven to be a challenge. Standing Goliath is not easy. There’s just enough looseness to his thighs and knees that the weight of his wings pulls him back and the tail doesn’t help out much. I did have some success using two NECA disc stands as each foot has a peg hole. What I hoped to use though was a flight stand. I only have tried two, a SHF stand and a NECA one, and neither worked. The SHF stand features a crotch piece which just doesn’t fit Goliath while the NECA one was rather frustrating because there’s very little range in the actual “grabber” piece. I at least got him into that one, but he looked stupid. What I didn’t try was the stand that came with the video game Baxter, but since Goliath can’t look straight ahead for a true flying pose (technically, gliding, as Goliath would remind me) I didn’t bother. I have a MAFEX stand and a Bring Arts one, but I feel both won’t be able to handle the weight. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something that works, or hang the figure from the ceiling with fishing line or something.

Clearly, the book is a prop to make him look smart because no one is reading that.

Goliath, likely owing to his size and NECA’s desire to keep the price down as much as possible, comes with just a handful of accessories. He comes packaged with two, open, style-posed hands that he can swap for fists. There’s also another left hand that’s more of a gripping hand which works well for his included book. There’s no title on the book, but it appears to match the one he read on werewolves from the series. He also has a jalapeno pepper, which is basically an in-joke for fans. Lastly, there’s a second head. When I first saw this figure unveiled, I figured NECA would go with a faceplate system to change expressions, but he actually has a whole, new, head. The hair is the same, but the face is a more fearsome, yelling, expression with blank eyes. I think, given the limited wing options, I’ll display Goliath with this face instead of the calm one, but both look great. The alternate head is well-painted and well-sculpted with each individual tooth brought out.

Snack time!

The accessory count is low, but Goliath isn’t really a character screaming for a lot of accessories. The optional left hand works just fine with the included book and pepper and he can be positioned with it in a fairly convincing manner, should you wish. He’s a bit limited in terms of more fearsome posing. Take the picture on the front of the box, that crouched pose isn’t really one he can do. He also can’t do the on-all-fours pose the gargoyles sometimes assume in the show. At the very least, he would need some neck articulation to pull that off. This isn’t terribly surprising though as NECA always prioritizes the aesthetics of their figures over posing. And I’m largely in agreement with that approach, though I do think they can do better here. I would like to see them figure out how to get a true gliding pose as well. They could possibly do so with neck articulation, or with different hair-shapes or even a hinge in the hair.

I look forward to getting some friends for this guy, and some foes.

Goliath is a good first effort from NECA for Gargoyles. I don’t think he’s quite the homerun that I had hoped he would be, but I think some of that will be addressed in time. The limited wings makes him feel like he’s not really an “Ultimate” edition of the character, but if I’m right and that’s a product of NECA keeping costs down, then maybe that will change in the future. NECA indicated the response to Goliath was beyond their expectations so the fanbase is there and I’m willing to bet its willing to spend a bit more to get more. The only real issue is, with costs soaring across the industry, will NECA be comfortable charging $40 or $50 for a figure in this line? That remains to be seen. For now, we’ve only seen the next two releases: Demona and Thailog. Both appear to have one set of wings so it may be awhile before we see something else. Finding a home for this line is going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m ready to welcome. I’m all-in on Gargoyles, so NECA, keep ’em coming!


NECA has acquired the Gargoyles License!

He lives….again! Check out NECA’s Twitter page for more images!

It was announced one week ago in a post timed for midnight on the east coat that toy maker NECA had acquired the licensing rights to produce action figures based on the Disney Afternoon classic Gargoyles! NECA had begun teasing a new intellectual property had been acquired back in January and the only clues provided were that it was a 90s property enjoyed by kids that had yet to experience a revival of any kind. This had heads spinning, including my own, and I nearly made a blog post on the subject itself. The reason I did not is because it started to become apparent that it was indeed Gargoyles. That wasn’t due to anything NECA said, but what it didn’t say as fans tossed ideas at the company’s official Twitter account and the Gargoyles suggestions were left untouched. Gargoyles just also made sense for NECA, who originally made a name for itself in the collector space with its horror themed releases. While not horror, Gargoyles is certainly horror adjacent with its gothic imagery and fright-inducing main cast. It also fit the description provided by NECA perfectly as no one has attempted a modern toyline, even though there’s an obvious fanbase hungry for more, and because there just weren’t a lot of other options. The best non-Gargoyles thing I could come up with was Captain Planet, a certainly remembered franchise, but one I’m not sure has a rabid fanbase. Though with NECA’s recent Defenders of the Earth toyline selling out I suppose it’s hard to figure out just what doesn’t have a fanbase eager for modern toys these days?

The Twitter announcement came with some delightful images of the line’s first figure: Goliath. For Goliath, and likely the line as a whole, NECA took the basic cartoon aesthetic and applied some artistic licensing in bringing the figure to life. He is far more detailed than the character model from the show with realistic (though exaggerated) musculature and textures to his skin and claws. He looks really cool, but it’s understandable that some fans were left wishing he better matched-up with the animated version, since that’s the look most remember. NECA’s approach does remind me of classic toy lines which were often more detailed than the cartoon source for the simple reason that cartoons have to dial down the details in order to keep costs down. This figure, which I’m judging based off pre-release images, looks like Goliath to me so I’m fine with the approach. Should the line find success it wouldn’t shock me to see NECA double-dip and add a toony line, especially as it pumps out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures at a tremendous pace potentially hastening the end of that line.

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And the early returns suggest the line is off to a fantastic start. Preorders opened up the day of the announcement at all of the usual online spaces. They sold well enough that NECA sent out a press release to its retail partners saying it needed to cut-off preorders earlier than expected and set a date for that to take place of April 2nd. It’s possible fans will be able to order Goliath figures past that date as that is the date for retailers to get their orders in. If a retailer like Big Bad Toy Store sees Goliath selling well, it might submit a higher order on that day than what it’s sold, especially since large retailers rarely submit an exact order. It does mean that once places start closing orders following April 2nd, Goliath will be unobtainable until the figure’s official release expected sometime in July. NECA has stated the figure will be sold, and I quote, everywhere so there should be no shortages of places to go toy hunting, but I for one definitely prefer to secure an order early rather than later.

And Goliath will not be the only figure from Gargoyles the company releases. NECA has yet to show off any other figures, but has stated there are five finished and more in development. The company hopes to reveal a new one each month and stagger the release in the same fashion. That means if Goliath is coming our way in July, then figure number two should follow in August, and so on until all five are out. And that certainly has fans speculating who will be among the five to follow in Goliath’s footsteps. The Manhattan Clan from the show included fellow gargoyles Brooklyn, Hudson, Lexington, Broadway, and Bronx. That’s five right there, but I’d be quite shocked if rogue Demona is not part of the initial launch. I’ll even go so far as to say I’ll be surprised if she isn’t number two behind Goliath. There are certainly plenty of other characters for NECA to turn to such as ally Elisa Maza and villains like Xanatos, MacBeth, and The Pack. It’s possible NECA will try to offset the development costs of the tooling intensive gargoyles with humanoid characters that might lend themselves well to parts reuse, either with each other or from other NECA lines.

We can probably expect the original Manhattan Clan to come to plastic, and more!

All that is to say this line could have serious legs. There are a lot of characters from Gargoyles to mine and I suspect NECA will be eager to do some of the clone characters, like Thailog, since they’re just redecos. The tooling in this line looks like it could be costly, but Goliath is being solicited for the extremely reasonable price of $33 in most places. That price gets you an 8″ tall gargoyle with a 16″ wingspan. He has multiple face portraits and extra hands to go along with a book accessory and the ever important jalapeno. The part where NECA will save some money does rest with the accessories as most of these characters require little to none. Hudson brandished a sword while Demona often had some heavy artillery, but the rest were just gargoyles armed with tooth and claw. I am supremely excited for this line though and I just wanted to share that with the world before the preorders close. Fans of Gargoyles have been waiting for something like this for a long time and hopefully it’s the start of a revival of sorts. If it only leads to an extensive toyline though, I’ll be plenty satisfied.

If you want a Goliath figure of your very own, here is a non-exhaustive list of some places where you can do just that (I receive no compensation from these websites if you do choose to order from one of them):

Big Bad Toy Store

Dorkside ToysLowest price of $30, not sure what the shipping charge is.

Entertainment Earth


DuckTales (2017) – “The Last Adventure!”

Original air date March 15, 2021

The return of DuckTales came at a really good time in my life. When it was announced, I had just become a dad not that long ago and even had another kid on the way (a bit earlier than planned) and it seemed like the kind of show that would lineup well with my family when it premiered in 2017. I had grown up with The Disney Afternoon and the pre-Disney Afternoon shows, like DuckTales, and they were a formative experience for me. While DuckTales was never my favorite show, it was still appointment viewing and my sister and I watched it daily and stayed with it into the Disney Afternoon days through the release of the movie in 1990. Leading up to the premiere, I purchased the original series on DVD and would most often turn to it to amuse my kids on long car rides. We had a DVD player for the car, and for awhile it was the only show my son thought was available to him in the car. I can still remember his little voice saying “Go in the car, watch DuckTales!” The first thing he watched on YouTube, was the DuckTales intro and when the new intro was unveiled on YouTube it became a nightly ritual for him to sit at the table, eat his dessert (usually M&Ms), and sing along to the video.

Grab some tissues and get ready to say “good bye.”

When the show finally premiered in August of 2017 I had it in my head that this would be a show I could watch with my children and we would all enjoy it. Things didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. My son was only 2 and my daughter was still a month shy of her first birthday. They loved the song, but the episodes themselves were a bit hard to reach. The premiere, “Woo-oo!,” was a brief hit in my household with my son requesting to watch it quite often for a period of a few weeks. As he often did, he would latch onto a piece of media, consume it over and over for a period of time, and then move on. And move on he did. Eventually, they got older and to the point where they could sit and watch it with me and sort of enjoy it. My son seemed to like it more than my daughter, who remained way more into the opening song than the rest of the show, but at least it provided for a bit of quiet time on a Monday evening.

Webby gets to be the star in this one, which is only fair since they use her birthday party as a cover for their FOWL trap.

Even though they didn’t grab onto DuckTales like I had hoped, I’m still going to miss those Monday evening viewings for DuckTales just aired its grand finale last night. Appropriately titled “The Last Adventure!,” the finale truly was a grand undertaking as it spanned 90 minutes of broadcast space. It is my understanding that it will be broken up into three separate episodes with three distinct titles in the future, but as a finale it was pretty special. We knew DuckTales was not coming back for a fourth season as the news broke before the end of 2020. The creators of the show, Frank Angones and Matt Youngblood, were at least informed by the network that the show was ending after three seasons with enough advance notice that they could plan for a true ending. This is in stark contrast to the Disney Afternoon shows of old which were almost cynically constructed to air over and over in syndication with no apparent end. Viewers like finales though. We may hate to see a treasured program end, but if it’s got to, we want some closure. And DuckTales has always approached story telling in a big way. This is not the Disney Afternoon of old where the vast majority of episodes are just one-off, self-contained, stories that anyone can just drop in and out of. This show has arcs, it has continuity. It’s not to the point where it’s unapproachable for a newcomer, but it’s very rewarding for those who take it all in. Had it been denied a true finale, that would have been a television tragedy. Instead, viewers of DuckTales were treated to one of the best television finales in recent memory, and maybe even history!

Donald and the boys have one last adventure in them!

“The Last Adventure!” is centered around the nefarious organization, FOWL, and Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) and his family have laid a trap for the organization to finally put a stop to it. It’s been somewhat simmering in the background for a few episodes, so it’s great to get back into this plot for the finale especially knowing that we’re going to spend 90 minutes on it. Naturally, the trap laid out by Scrooge and the gang isn’t much of a success, because we need this thing to carry on for awhile. The show introduces two new characters in the process, May (Riki Lindhome) and June (Noël Wells), who should be familiar to longtime duck fans or viewers of The Legend of the Three Caballeros. They’re really the only new characters as the rest of the show is going to be devoted to essentially bringing everyone back. Most just show up for a cameo or to hang out in the background of a shot, but it’s pretty cool to see everyone back. And chances are, if you think someone was missing they were probably there and you just missed them.

Della gets to play the audience surrogate this time as she declares she doesn’t want their adventures to end! There’s a lot of meta stuff in this one.

The theme of the episode is going to be that family is the greatest adventure of all. Della (Paget Brewster) is going to find out early in the episode that her brother Donald (Tony Anselmo) is planning on running off with his new love Daisy (Tress MacNeille) after their business is concluded and she is not happy about it. That’s our first little taste of family, while the rest is largely reserved for the character Webby Vanderquack (Kate Micucci) and how she fits into this eclectic clan.

Webby giving one of many lessons on family in this one.

Centering the finale partially on Webby is a brilliant choice. In the original series, Webby was basically everyone’s least favorite character. She was there because someone felt there needed to be a girl equivalent to Huey, Dewey, and Louie, which is fine. Unfortunately, she was made this annoying, baby-like, character and it was borderline offensive that someone thought this was the right choice for a character that young girls were supposed to relate to and enjoy. It felt like she was put upon the viewers, and viewers generally don’t like that. For the reboot, Webby was turned into the audience surrogate. She’s the outsider within the McDuck family and is constantly in awe of Scrooge and his exploits. When Della Duck has her emotional return, the camera pans to Webby to show her overcome with emotion and sobbing uncontrollably because the show knew that’s what we were doing! This Webby is fully embraced by the other characters in the show and she’s a ball of energy and insight and this show quickly became one that was largely about Scrooge and his nephews as well as his surrogate niece.

Despite being the finale, this one does make time for some new faces.

That is how I will remember DuckTales. It’s a show about Scrooge McDuck, but it’s mostly told through the children of the show. It was able to take time for other things as well, and the Della Duck plot was definitely one of the most rewarding the show touched upon. It was rewarding almost to a fault as once she was brought into the fold, Della kind of just slipped into the background. The show probably could have done more with her and Donald, as it felt like that was held back initially, but then never truly paid off. This finale rectifies that to a degree, but if the show had one missed opportunity it was in not doing more with the duck siblings.

The only thing missing is a, “DuckTales! Assemble!”

That may be a criticism of DuckTales on the whole, but it’s not applicable for the finale. FOWL’s plan will be revealed and it’s appropriately silly, but not to the point where the cast can’t take it seriously. There’s also quite a bit of fan service and pretty much every classic Disney Afternoon show gets a call-out of some kind. Favorite characters get their moment to shine, all the while the show practically beats us over the head with its theme of family being the greatest adventure. And when it’s starting to get too corny, the show basically calls itself out via one of the characters which is a good laugh-out-loud moment. A show centered around a family of adventuring ducks should get ample opportunity to get a little Full House at times. And it is truly impressive how such a massive cast of secondary characters were brought back into the fold so well. The episode doesn’t lag at all, even with it being triple the runtime of a normal episode. It makes me wonder what this team could do with an actual feature-length project set in this world.

So long and thanks for the memories, McDuck family!

Ultimately, DuckTales may not have been exactly the show I had hoped it would be for me and my family. My kids did sit and watch this one with me, but once 8 o’clock hit they checked out. In our house, 8 o’clock means tablet time and the kids get 30 minutes to do whatever they want on their tablets before we read a book and go to bed. And right when the clock struck 8, my son asked for his tablet (sigh). It wasn’t a total loss though for we got a late start to the show because it takes my kids forever to eat dinner, so at 8:30 their tablets went off and I gave them a choice of book then bed, or DuckTales then bed, and they chose DuckTales. We watched the last 20 minutes or so as a family and they were pretty into it, for what it’s worth. As for me, while the show didn’t become appointment viewing for my kids like I had hoped, it very much was everything I could have hoped a new version of DuckTales would be. The finale was fantastic, and I am not the sort who is prone to hyperbole in the moment, but this really was one of the best television finales I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. It was funny, exciting, full of action, and packed with plenty of emotional moments as well. The show set out to solve some mysteries and rewrite history, and boy did it ever deliver!


Dec. 23 – Missing in Action Christmas Specials

disney afternoon christmas

The closest the original DuckTales got to Christmas was this TV spot.

When you do an annual advent calendar-styled countdown of Christmas programming, you start to realize the brands you can rely on and what you cannot. It can be a challenge to find 25 worthy topics, so in order to prevent a time crunch every fall I keep a list of specials I can source from. Throughout the year if I stumble across one I’ll add it to the list. Sometimes I’ll think I’ve found something only to find out it was a misleading title such as the episode “It’s a Thunderful Life” of the not well-remembered The Terrible Thunder Lizards program. And then there are times when I’ll find a special and I’ll view it, only to find there’s nothing to talk about. It’s not good, nor is it really bad, it’s just bland and forgettable.

Inevitably, I’ll take a look at my list at various times throughout the year and I’ll be surprised at an absence. I’ll then seek out the special I think I’m looking for only to be reminded that, “Oh yeah, that show never had a Christmas episode.” One of my top offenders each year was DuckTales. The original run for that show ran for over 100 episodes and never broached the subject of Christmas, even though Scrooge McDuck debuted in a Christmas comic book! Disney was new to television with that series and also new to syndication. Television stations typically don’t like syndicated programs to feature seasonal episodes since they don’t want to have to worry about when the episode airs. Who wants to see a Christmas episode in May? It’s an overblown issue though, which is probably why many syndicated shows would toss that aside and go with whatever stories they wanted to tell. The new version of DuckTales rectified this problem, as we saw way back on December first, which is why I’ve decided not to include the 87 version in this post.

In the spirit of this phenomenon, as it were, I want to highlight the cartoons that decided against doing a Christmas episode. These are the shows I’m most surprised by, and some of them have tripped me up more than once. I’ve looked through the episode list for these programs repeatedly looking for key words like Santa, Christmas, presents, or even snow. Alas, I guess when it came to Christmas and these shows, it just wasn’t meant to be.

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Despite their numerous rescues, the Rescue Rangers never saved Christmas.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Hot on the heels of DuckTales came Chip ‘n Dale:  Rescue Rangers. This show took the comedic duo who harassed Donald Duck and Pluto on numerous occasions and gave them their own show where they solved crimes a d helped those in need – quite a turn for the former mischief makers. They were paired with some newcomers in the inventor mouse Gadget and the cheese-obsessed Monterey Jack. Zipper the fly completed the group and they were often tasked with solving crimes or rescuing someone. The show was another direct-to-syndication affair with a 65 episode order that premiered in the fall of 1989. And like DuckTales, there was no Christmas episode for these adventurers even though one practically would have wrote itself. The diminutive heroes often found themselves helping kids, so helping a kid get on Santa’s good side could have been a plot. Or having the Rescue Rangers just plain save Christmas from a Grinch-like villain would have worked fine. Seeing the Rangers ride around in Santa’s sleigh would have been a great and festive way to end an episode. Pretty much all of the Disney Afternoon programs that followed would get a Christmas special. The only one off the top of my head I think did not is Gargoyles. I also don’t think many of the shows based on film properties (e.g. – Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Timon and Pumba) had Christmas episodes either. Alas, we’ll just have to make due with the classic Disney shorts Toy Tinkers and Pluto’s Christmas Tree if we want to see the chipmunks in action around the holidays.

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There is a ton of TMNT Christmas merch out there, but surprisingly no television special to go with it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a marketing bonanza in the late 80s and into the early 90s. The show basically existed because Playmates needed it to in order to sell toys, which is how many cartoons from that era came about. And it was a great vehicle to do so as the Turtles often had new vehicles and inventions to make use of and there was always a new mutant to battle who could quickly become an action figure. That merchandizing tie-in aspect of the show makes it a bit of a surprise it didn’t bring along Christmas, the time of year when more toys are sold than at any other point. Playmates could have been handed holiday versions of the Turtles and other characters in which they’re wearing festive sweaters or are even decked out like Santa and his elves. There could have been a mutated reindeer friend for the Turtles, maybe one with a radioactive, glowing, red, nose! A sleigh that is rocket-propelled and drops bombs or a gnarly snowboard for Mikey to hit the slopes with. Plus, there was a Christmas story all ready to go in the comics in the form of the Michaelangelo one-shot issue from Mirage in which Mikey busts up an illegal toy-smuggling ring. That episode would be adapted for the 2003 cartoon and titled “The Christmas Aliens,” but it amazes me it took over 15 years for that to happen.

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Yes, it would be silly and possibly stupid to have Goku face-off with Santa, but I bet it would be a lot of fun!

Dragon Ball

One of the longest running anime ever has produced hundred of hours of television, and not once has Christmas been relied upon to drive an episode. Dragon Ball and its many iterations has been entertaining kids and adults since the mid 1980s. It’s known as much for its action as it is for its silly and sometimes juvenile sense of humor. It’s that aspect of it that seems to make it ripe for a Christmas special. An ignorant Goku could have been introduced to the concept of Christmas by one of his friends and found the custom confusing. He could have ended up giving weird gifts, or doing something selfless and noble, either would be in-character. I think a somewhat comedically dark ending with Goku out in the wilderness seeing Santa and blasting him with a Kamehameha could have been entertaining too. Maybe the episode ends with him roasting a reindeer after Santa fled in panic with Goku clueless over what he had just done. These are all more Dragon Ball-styled plots. A Dragon Ball Z or Dragon Ball Super plot would obviously involve Goku challenging Santa to a fight. Santa would either be super powerful, or super not with Goku accidentally really hurting him in a slapstick kind of way. Maybe following such an injury, Goku has to take over as Santa for a night which has comedic potential as well, so much so that I’ve basically talked myself into wanting this. And it all ends with Oolong getting a stocking full of women’s underwear on Christmas morning. Now that’s a sentimental sort of ending.

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Goofy has experienced Christmas via Mickey and Goof Troop, but he never got to star in a holiday short of his very own.

Goofy

In the 90s, Goofy received his own show. It was basically an animated sitcom, and it put Goofy in the role of a single father. Goof Troop was a surprisingly poignant show and a different take on the character than what we were used to seeing. Goofy had shown a domesticated side on occasion in his old shorts, but nothing really like this. Goof Troop received it’s own Christmas special, and the characters returned in the same role for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas years later with a different Christmas outing. That’s good that Goofy got multiple looks at it because he was the lone holdout back in the days of the cartoon short to not have a Christmas episode. Donald Duck received Toy Tinkers, while Mickey and Pluto both got to star in Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but Goofy got nothing. That’s why when packages of cartoons were shown with Mickey’s Christmas Carol on television the Goofy short often shown was The Art of Skiing, a quality short for sure, but not a Christmas one. Goofy comically trying to setup a tree or decorate a house seems like a great way to use his brand of physical comedy. It could have even been in the form of one of his classic “How to” shorts such as “How to Prepare for the Holidays.” Goofy playing Santa, Goofy cooking a turkey, Goofy wrapping gifts – it’s almost too easy! Maybe that’s why it never happened?

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This show was just a commercial for Nintendo products so it’s surprising that they didn’t add in the wonder of Christmas at any point.

Captain N: The Game Master

Captain N was possibly the only show more cynical than Masters of the Universe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came to hawking merchandise. It was basically an animated commercial for Nintendo as the main character, Kevin, sported a Nintendo controller as a belt buckle and armed himself with a zapper. His allies in the show were all stars of their own video games like Kid Icarus and Simon Belmont and they even made the Game Boy a character later on. Maybe the showrunners felt that doing a Christmas episode would be too on the nose, but I think it would have fit the mold just fine. Imagine all of the Nintendo products that could have been piled under that cartoon tree. I’m not saying it would have been good, as this show is pretty terrible to revisit, but it may have at least featured some ironic humor. At the very least, we could have seen Dracula’s castle covered in snow or found out if a Game Boy can function during a blizzard.


Dec. 20 – Lilo & Stitch: The Series – Topper: Experiment 025

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“Topper” originally aired December 5, 2003.

Last year, I fell down a bit of a Lilo & Stitch rabbit hole when it came time to do this list. I first researched the animated series known as Lilo & Stitch: The Series and its Christmas special “Topper: Experiment 025.” I ended up reading about the expanded lore the universe established in 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and that was how I found out that there was an anime based on the series. That lead to my post last year about the anime’s Christmas special, in the process basically forgetting about the episode I originally had intended on talking about.

Well, this year I’m here to right that which is wrong. Not that I regret doing that post or anything, but this is the one I intended to run with. Following the success of the movie, Lilo & Stitch became a brand Disney felt it could not ignore. As it had done with film properties before, Disney turned to television. An animated series was commissioned and it arrived quite quickly to airwaves beginning in 2003 as part of the current block of Disney programming. This was essentially the waning days of the once treasured Disney Afternoon and I don’t think that branding was even in use at the time. Considering I was off to college and would not even see the film the show was based on for quite some time, I completely missed out on this show. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a thing.

Like many Disney Afternoon shows that preceded it, Lilo & Stitch got to take a stab at the old Christmas special thing. From what I understand, this show followed a format where a new experiment was unveiled basically every episode. As you may recall from the film, Stitch is experiment number 626 implying that there are 625 additional experiments out there for the show to explore. Interestingly, had the show run long enough to highlight all 625 experiments it still wouldn’t have as many episodes as The Simpsons currently boasts. Anyways, the show ran for two seasons spanning 67 episodes which is a rather solid run. There was a tie-in film as well, simply called Stitch!, and as far as I know the other Lilo & Stitch sequels adopted the show as canon as well. There’s a pretty large chunk of media based on this franchise I’ve never really touched, despite my liking the original film quite a bit, so maybe this will get me interested in all of that. Or, maybe it won’t.

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It’s time for the alien who loves destruction to learn all about the holiday that destroys bank accounts.

This episode is all about Stitch’s first Christmas on Earth. Following the events of the film, the aliens Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) and Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) have moved in with the sisters Nani (Tia Carrere) and Lilo (Daveigh Chase) as well as the main attraction himself, Stitch (Chris Sanders). Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson) is still out there making life harder for Stitch and he’s got some pals as well: the seemingly always hungry Experiment 625 (Rob Paulsen) and the nefarious rival of Jumba, Dr. Hamsterviel (not present in this episode).

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Present hunting has more rules than you would think.

When the episode begins, Stitch and Lilo are eating breakfast while Lilo gives Stitch the info on Christmas. She instructs him to sneak off with her and as they tiptoe through the house they attract the attention of Nani. Nani instructs Lilo not to go looking for Christmas presents and she agrees to do so, but that’s a lie. She leads Stitch to the attic and tells him it’s Nani’s job as the older sister to buy the presents, and her job as the younger sister to find them. Nani has hidden them in the same spot as last year, in a chest in the attic (how predictable), and Lilo shows them to Stitch. She also informs him she’s hoping for a shrunken head this year as a gift, and adds that she tried to make one herself but her friend wasn’t cooperative. It’s nice to see Lilo still has a bit of darkness to her. Stitch wants to dig right into the presents, but Lilo stops him and says he can never open a Christmas present before Christmas. She may be a little naughty by snooping, but Lilo has a code she lives by.

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Never let an alien decorate your Christmas tree.

Lilo then leads Stitch to the living room to soak in some of that Christmas magic via the tree. There they find Pleakley has decorated the tree with what he thinks are traditional spherical objects. Rather than actual ornaments, the tree is covered in balls and clocks and things like that. Lilo points out that he’s a bit confused, but Pleakley isn’t dissuaded and rather adamant about his holiday knowledge. He then informs them he was about to place the perfect topper on the tree, the three-holed orb, which to us earthlings is known as a bowling ball. When Pleakley places the bowling ball on the tree it collapses. Since this is Hawaii, I’m going to assume they go with artificial trees, but any Hawaiians reading this correct me if I’m wrong.

Lilo is dismayed that the tree is ruined and Nani comes running in to survey the damage. She mentions this is the third one this year and informs Lilo she can’t afford a fourth. Lilo wants her to fix it right now, but she’s got to get to work. Lilo despairs momentarily about not having a tree for Christmas, but she gets over it rather quickly and informs Stitch if he wants to learn more about Christmas they need to go to the most festive place around:  the mall.

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Experiment 625 loves food and Christmas. He’s not your typical villain.

Elsewhere, 625 is enjoying a sandwich while wearing a festive Santa hat when Gantu comes in. Gantu has apparently received a major reduction in size between shows as he’s now just merely large as opposed to colossal. He has another experiment orb labeled 025 and he intends to give it to Hamsterviel. In staying with the spirit of the season, 625 encourages him to gift it to their unseen boss and Gantu surprisingly goes along with the suggestion.

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That’s a surefire way to get on the naughty list.

At the mall, Lilo is showing Stitch around which includes a trip to see Santa. Stitch hops on his lap and whispers into his ear and Santa recoils in horror informing Stitch he is truly naughty. Stitch then snatches his beard and tries to wish everyone a traditional Hawaiian holiday greeting, mele kalikimaka, but butchers the words. Lilo is also angry with him for swiping Santa’s beard and so is Santa.

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If the beard-swiping didn’t do the job, then stealing presents will definitely make sure Stitch is on the naughty list.

Stitch then notices something at the gift wrapping table. A woman is wrapping what is undoubtedly the capsule for experiment 025. Stitch races over to snatch the gift, which only makes Lilo angrier. She scolds him for going after presents that aren’t his, but when Stitch rips it open he just finds a toy inside. He starts grabbing all of the other presents and then bolts leaving Lilo to clean up after him. She explains it’s his first Christmas and he’s a bit excited. She departs and then Gantu shows up dressed as Santa to claim the gift he had wrapped. The woman informs him there was an accident, and when he inquires further he finds out it was a destructive blue dog that caused the problem. He then makes a festive holiday threat towards Stitch about making him a part of Christmas past.

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This Santa leaves behind nothing but screams and tears.

Stitch then goes on a montage. He is so determined to get that experiment capsule that he sports a Santa hat and steals all of the presents on the island. The montage is set to a barely recognizable rock n’ roll version of “Jingle Bells” and is sprinkled with some humorous moments. All the while, Lilo is giving chase and unable to catch up with Stitch who is always one step ahead.

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The Grinch would be quite impressed with Stitch’s holiday thievery.

She eventually winds up back at her home where Stitch has locked himself in the attic. Jumba is angry with Stitch for not sharing any of the presents he’s acquired, but he’s having no luck getting through the attic door. Lilo informs him there’s another way, and as the two disappear off camera Stitch peers out of the hatch to check for them. Jumba’s hands then appear behind him to grab him and the door slams shut leaving us to imagine how the confrontation is going as the camera shakes and a big commotion is overheard. Jumba eventually falls out of the attic, but before he did he somehow got Stitch into a capsule. Lilo scolds him once more, but is then taken aback by how full the attic is with presents.

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Stitch needs some quiet time.

Things are moved back into the living room where Pleakley has taken it upon himself to be the family’s new Christmas tree. He’s basically background noise as Lilo and Jumba try to figure out what is up with Stitch. The capsule he’s been locked in is completely sound proof so they can’t hear his protests as Jumba wonders if maybe his bad programming is returning. They take things to Jumba’s lab where he’s able to use some scanner to read Stitch’s thoughts. They’re mostly food-related and there’s also an image of a toilet bowl and we get a mild pee joke. Jumba then finds the image of Stitch seeing the experiment orb being placed in the gift and Lilo realizes why he was taking all of the presents. Before they can do anything about it though, a loud noise comes from the house and we see the roof has a huge hole blown through it. Gantu’s ship is shown flying away with a comically large sack of gifts on it as he belts out a “Ho ho ho.”

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Something always breaks around the house near the holidays. Never fails.

With the presents stolen, Lilo and Stitch head out after Gantu leaving Pleakley and Jumba to repair the damage to the house. Jumba actually gets the whole roof framed before he and Pleakley decide they need to fix Pleakley’s tree costume by going to the mall. Well, Pleakley makes that declaration and Jumba is mostly just along for the ride. I hope they remembered to put a tarp over the house in case it rains.

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I enjoy a good bit of holiday bondage.

Lilo and Stitch arrive at Gantu’s spaceship lair where 625 is presently trying to enjoy a nice Christmas nap. He comes outside in order to quiet them down and is oblivious to their presence. There’s some slapstick involved as Stitch gets squished by the ship’s ramp. Eventually, they gain access and 625 doesn’t even put up a fight. Stitch wraps him up in Christmas lights while Lilo looks for the gift, but it’s gone. 625 then informs them that Gantu took the sack of presents back to the mall.

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I have to give these guys credit, they really get into the holiday spirit with their clothing.

For the second time this episode, our setting shifts to the mall where Pleakley and Jumba roam in elf costumes that do little to hide their alien heritage. They soon see Gantu once again dressed as Santa. It seems Gantu doesn’t know which gift is the one he had wrapped and he needs the help of the gift wrapper in figuring it out. She finds it immediately and hands it back to him. Jumba and Pleakley call 625’s spaceship and inform Lilo what’s happened, adding they initially mistook him for Santa, but it’s really Gantu!

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This is the kind of chaos one expects out of Stitch.

Lilo and Stitch arrive at the mall and find Pleakley and Jumba in a stand-off with Gantu. They’re not very good at this though and Gantu simply spins and fires at the pair. Since this is a Disney television show, his weapon is nonlethal and just contains a big net. Stitch goes after him stealing the gift, which he tosses to Lilo, before the two tangle. Nani is also there as she was looking to buy Lilo her shrunken head when she sees Gantu and Stitch go flying past her in Santa’s sleigh. They crash, and Lilo tosses a duffel bag with the experiment orb gift inside it to Stitch and tells him to go. Stitch races up a giant Christmas tree and Gantu gives chase by climbing it. He’s bombarded with ornaments, but eventually he reaches Stitch and the two end up falling from the tree.

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That certainly looks like a bad place to be.

Gantu dusts himself off, and with Stitch no where to be seen, he retrieves his gift and prepares to step on Lilo. He pauses in mid stomp when she accuses him of ruining Christmas. He seems actually hurt by this, and Lilo ends up discovering this all happened because Gantu was trying to give someone a Christmas gift. Lilo then feels bad as she realizes Christmas is about giving presents, not receiving them as Stitch returns to her side just in time for a hug.

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It takes eyes like that to get a Christmas present out of a gigantic alien.

A little girl takes notice of Gantu and his Santa costume and asks if he has a present for her. He says no, but her eyes well up with tears which gets to Gantu. He then hands over the gift intended for Hamsterviel and the girl opens it to find the experiment orb inside. Jumba takes it from her remarking that he remembers this one. Experiment 025 was intended to be a beacon for an alien armada and he seems to suggest it’s hardly destructive. Lilo takes the orb and places it in a fountain, as apparently water is needed to bring the experiment out. And from it emerges a little being that resembles a star. Lilo dubs him Topper (she’s really forced the other little girl out of the picture) and says she knows a great spot for him.

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Stitch caused all of that trouble to keep the world free from this adorable little guy.

Topper then takes his place atop Pleakley, who has a much improved Christmas tree costume. He glows brightly pleasing everyone around them. Gantu has also found a higher purpose as kids have lined up beside him thinking he’s Santa. As each one approaches he gives them one of the gifts Stitch had taken earlier. Lilo informs us that Ohana is the best gift of all, and Stitch tries to wish everyone mele kalikimaka, but he messes it up again. We then see in space that Topper’s beacon effect is working well as a bunch of spaceships hover in Earth’s orbit.  One voice wonders what the beacon is for, while another informs him it doesn’t matter because they have fruit cake down there.

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I wonder if this little guy just gets shoved in the attic with the other decorations when the holiday is over.

And that ends this one. In trying to teach Stitch about Christmas, Lilo comes to understand the holiday better herself. It’s about the giving, folks. All the while, the aliens around her also learn about the holiday and even the villainous Gantu finds it infectious, though he wants to play it off as if it’s annoyingly infectious. It’s rather fast paced and even though it features a plot contrivance I usually find anxiety inducing, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the dynamic of Stitch acting in good faith and the others not understanding him. Though, I also found that whole ordeal confusing since Stitch revealed he could talk just fine in the movie. I guess it’s just more convenient and more entertaining to basically return him to an almost mute character who just makes funny noises. Likewise, someone must have decided that Gantu needed to be smaller in order to work in this show as he’s no where near as big as he was in the film.

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We need that group shot to go out on.

I did not expect this show to resemble the visuals from the film other than in basic character designs. And it does not. Though I still expected it to look better than this. This show is very flat and the character models really lack texture. There’s an early scene of Jumba wearing a big purple coat that has almost no shading of any kind on it and it’s really ugly looking. The backgrounds are drab too and lack the lushness of the feature. Again, I wasn’t expecting feature quality animation, but this is below the standards of other Disney Afternoon shows.

What surprised me though, in a good way, was that Disney was able to return the excellent voice cast of the film basically in its entirety. Maybe there are some secondary characters who have new voices that aren’t in this episode, but all of the characters here have their respective voice intact. It’s a rarity to pull off such a feat, but it helps that Disney didn’t go with a big time celebrity cast for the film to begin with. Tia Carrere was probably the biggest “name” from that film, but she had basically transitioned to television anyways at this stage in her career. Rob Paulsen was also added and he provides several voices in this one which only adds to the show’s quality in the sound department.

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These two are responsible for much of the episode’s humor and they are a pretty fun pairing.

This episode could have taken things in a more melancholy direction given that Lilo and Nani both lost their parents some time ago. This could have been framed as their first Christmas without them, but the show decided to keep things light and funny. Pleakley was the most entertaining part of the show for me. He’s become an archetype Disney fans should be familiar with as it’s similar to what Scuttle from The Little Mermaid represents or Owl from Winnie the Pooh. He’s a know-it-all that really knows nothing, and his misunderstanding of the holidays are fodder for a few jokes (like a good visual gag early on with eggnog). There’s nothing particularly ambitious about the Christmas lesson to be taught here, and Lilo figuring it out isn’t quite convincing, but at least there’s some groundwork laid by pointing out that she does posses a code of sorts in her approach to gifts. It would have been a harder sell if she was a ravenous present monster like Stitch. I suppose this one is fine, and if you just want more of these very likable characters because you enjoyed the film then there’s something here to enjoy.

If you want to watch this episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series then I have good news as it just got a lot easier. With the launch of Disney+ in November this episode, as well as the entire series, became easy to stream though it will cost you seven bucks a month to do so. This one wasn’t put out on DVD, so streaming is your only option. I wouldn’t sign up for Disney+ just to watch this show, but I am a subscriber for many other reasons so obviously I think it’s worth it. Since my kids enjoy the film, I’ll likely watch this with them too this year since we can as I’ll be on the hunt for every Christmas special on that network.


Dec. 1 – DuckTales – “Last Christmas!”

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Original air date December 1, 2018

It’s that time of year once again! Every day goods are a little pricier, egg nog is invading the dairy case at every grocery store, and red and green versions of every candy in existence flourish in the seasonal section of department stores. Yes, it is Christmas time and it would be obnoxious if it weren’t temporary. Does it come too soon? Maybe, but here the season officially starts now and lasts through the holiday.

Welcome to The Christmas Spot! If this is your first time here then let me tell you what you’re in for. Every day through Christmas, we’ll be spotlighting a Christmas special or holiday themed something advent calendar style. Will we talk about a good special? A poor one? Something in between? We’re quality agnostic, which is a damn fine motto. The only thing this site won’t touch are those made for TV Hallmark movies that are basically shown year-round now. I have no interest in them, plus I like to stick to things that are a half-hour format or less to keep things tidy. After all, this is no small task to find time in my day-to-day life to make 25 blog entries in 25 days for the sheer joy of it. So I encourage you to start your day right here. And if one blog entry isn’t enough, well then may I recommend our Christmas archive? It’s a great companion to that first cup of coffee in the morning, or that first visit to the restroom – don’t forget the peppermint scented toilet paper!

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The opening credits get a festive makeover as well.

This year, we’re kicking things off with a relatively new entry to the world of Christmas specials. DuckTales has been around for quite some time. The original run included 101 episodes, but strangely no Christmas one. This is surprising because future Disney Afternoon shows would often feature one. Plus, the star of DuckTales is one Scrooge McDuck. Not only does Scrooge share a name with another individual associated with Christmas, but the character actually debuted in a Donald Duck Christmas story which we covered for last year’s countdown. Well, the new version of DuckTales launched in 2017 would rectify that, though not in its first season.

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We get to learn about Donald’s enthusiasm for Christmas, Scrooge’s hatred of Santa, and that Launchpad is actually Jewish.

“Last Christmas!” premiered, appropriately enough, last Christmas (December 1, 2018 to be exact) and was a late scratch from that year’s list. See, I don’t actually have time to make a post every day for this thing. What really happens is I keep a master list of any and all Christmas specials I know of. Then I arbitrarily pick and choose which to cover each year, and I make posts in my down time and schedule them to go up when they need to. Did that ruin the magic for you? Hopefully not, as this is actually a fun way to get a little dose of Christmas spirit throughout the year. I’m also the type of person that keeps a Christmas countdown going all year long. Anyway, when I found out there would be a DuckTales Christmas special it was pretty late in the game. I almost squeezed it in, but decided maybe it would be best to save it for 2019. A year’s removal would allow me to better put it in perspective. Is it the type of special that deserves to be revisited year after year? Well, this is where we find out.

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Scrooge is predictably grumpy around the holidays.

When DuckTales made its return in 2017 it wasn’t without some controversy within the fanbase. That’s because Disney made the call to recast all of the characters from the original run with new actors all voicing these characters for the first time. This is different from what Disney usually does with its classic characters where a voice actor is paired with a character or characters and serves in that role basically for life. It’s something though that has apparently fallen out of favor with Disney in the past few years. There are currently two(!) voice actors for Mickey Mouse right now, and probably my most popular post ever concerned the handling of Donald’s Duck’s voice when veteran Tony Anselmo was recast for the pre-school show Mickey and the Roadster Racers. When I wrote that I wasn’t aware that Anselmo had the role actually taken from him, as opposed to passing on it. Thankfully, he was returned to voice Donald in DuckTales, but he’s basically the only member of the main cast to return. Alan Young obviously could not return as Scrooge (R.I.P.), but Russi Taylor was basically not allowed to return as the voices of Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

And that’s what makes “Last Christmas!” so special, in a way. Maybe Disney was right to recast the roles of the nephews as now they are individual characters as opposed to a hive-mind, basically. I think they could have all shared the same voice still, but I guess I’ve made my peace with the series concerning this. Still, that doesn’t help Russi Taylor at all, but this episode allowed her to return in a pretty creative fashion. And we have the magic of Christmas to thank for that!

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Webby is a talented trimmer of trees.

This episode opens with a little extra Christmas spice. I love it when holiday episodes do stuff like this. The lyrics are changed slightly to reference the holiday (“Life is like a candy cane,”) and they’re sung by a Frank Sinatra sound-a-like (could not find a credit, so apologies) and accompanied by snowflakes and happy Christmas scenery. The episode then opens at Scrooge’s mansion where Donald (Anselmo) is looking resplendent in a Christmas sweater as he decorates Scrooge’s lawn. Scrooge (David Tennant) then appears on the front step to admonish Donald for covering his lawn with those “inflatable abominations.” Donald points out that Scrooge has the perfect piece of property for a festive Christmas display, but soon sees the error of his ways when Scrooge points out that he also has a pilot who mistakes Christmas lights for runway lights.

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Webby, just waiting for Scrooge to say “Bah! Humbug!” and he will not disappoint.

Scrooge leaves Donald to apparently suffer an awful fate as Launchpad approaches. Inside, Webby (Kate Micucci) is swinging around a massive Christmas tree dressed as a reindeer as she trims the tree while Huey (Danny Pudi) supervises decked in a stocking cap – I so love the holiday attire. Scrooge storms around looking grumpy while Louie (Bobby Moynihan) makes out his Christmas list which begins with an apology to Santa. Mrs. Beakley (Toks Olagundoye) gives Scrooge the rundown of decorations and the night’s schedule (which includes a reading of Christmas on Bear Mountain) which Scrooge suffers through. He then scolds everyone from a balcony before destroying a polar bear dressed in a Santa costume decoration before retreating to his room. Scrooge apparently has some kind of vendetta against Santa.

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There’s a scene like this in most Christmas specials.

Alone in his own room, Dewey (Ben Schwartz) is reading by the light of the Christmas star in a classic “Christmas Wish” setting. He’s looking a little down and Donald takes notice from the hallway, but sports a curious smile. Dewey is clearly missing the mother he never met, but is roused from his room by an odd sound. He approaches a green-lit door cautiously, unsure of what’s behind, and given this is the home of Scrooge McDuck any manner of spook or spirit could be in there just waiting to curse him for all eternity!

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These aren’t the spirits you’re accustomed to seeing.

When Dewey opens the door he does indeed find some mythical creatures, but not in a setting he was expecting. Three ghost-like bodies surround Scrooge. Dewey assumes the worst, but comes to find out they’re not here for any nefarious purpose. They’re cheering Scrooge on, who’s sporting a mistletoe headband, as he chugs what appears to be egg nog. It’s from a carton, so I guess that’s all the censors required to make it appear like this is an alcohol free activity. Scrooge quickly explains to Dewey these ghosts are actually his friends and they visit him every Christmas Eve. They’re also familiar to anyone who’s seen a Dickens adaptation. There’s a mute Grim Reaper like ghost that’s obviously the Ghost of Christmas Future and a chubby pig who is the Ghost of Christmas Present (Bill Fagerbakke). He’s dressed in attire that is almost identical to Willy the Giant’s from the best version of A Christmas Carol – Mickey’s Christmas Carol. And the third ghost is even more reminiscent of that classic short as he’s a little cricket in a suit, an obvious homage to Jiminy Cricket.

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Past is quite obviously an homage to Jiminy Cricket.

The ghosts explain that one year they confused this Scrooge with another who shares a name with him, but finding this one more fun, they now visit him every year for a good time. Scrooge then explains his whole hating Christmas thing is just an act to keep people away around the holidays so he’s free to spend his evening with these old chaps (the Santa hating thing isn’t an act though, he really detests that jolly old elf). This, he explains, is his one night to cut loose and have fun and it’s especially true of this Christmas now that he has Dewey and his brothers to look after.

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Time for a journey into the Past.

Dewey seems pretty confused, but surprisingly receptive to the story. With that business out of the way, the group decides it’s time to take a trip through time courtesy of the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jack McBrayer) in search of some holiday fun. Scrooge grabs onto him just as his predecessor did 35 years earlier and the cricket even pops open a tiny umbrella and the four fly out of the window and soar over Duckburg. The scenery begins to change as they journey back in time, but the setting surprisingly does not as the ghost leads them right back to Scrooge’s mansion. Only now they’re in the past and will be attending Scrooge’s first big Christmas party at his home. Scrooge likes the idea and he acknowledges his past self as they enter the premises, his past self saluting back without question (apparently he’s expected this).

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Scrooge’s home on Christmas. Note the painting on the wall appearing to depict Scrooge’s first appearance from Christmas on Bear Mountain.

Inside, Scrooge’s home is filled with guests and assorted easter eggs for those with keen eyes. They soon spot a young Mrs. Beakley on the dance floor and Present takes an immediate liking to her. Unfortunately for him, she’s more interested in Future and hauls him out onto the floor. Scrooge tries to make merry himself, but a still alive Duckworth (David Kaye) mistakes him for his younger self and scolds him for trying to act so juvenile in front of many potential business partners. He escorts him to a group of buzzards who are essentially the opposite of fun.

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Scrooge is not really enjoying himself.

Eventually, Scrooge notices Goldie making an entrance and his demeanor perks up. Before he can confront her though he’s accosted by a potential partner who wants to show him some cube he’s got. He makes references about a job that’s another easter egg, this time a reference to a Carl Barks story, but Scrooge pays him no mind. Then another interruption occurs when Grandpappy Beagle (Eric Bauza) barges in with the lesser-known members of the Beagle Boys. They’re here to rob everyone, and Scrooge is officially over this whole thing.

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That would be Grandpappy Beagle and his Beagle Boys.

Informing Past that his idea was a dud, the chipper cricket informs Scrooge he has a better idea. The two depart, apparently leaving Present and Future behind, and end up in a much more quiet setting. It’s a campsite in the woods, and Scrooge recognizes it as his first Christmas in Duckburg, before he was rich. He seems quite nostalgic as he takes a seat on a log beside a roaring campfire and looks contented, until he’s not. Declaring this is boring, he wants to go elsewhere, but Past has other ideas.

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Past takes Scrooge to an even earlier Christmas – his first in Duckburg.

Past chooses this moment to make his heel turn. He apparently doesn’t like this once a year arrangement with Scrooge and wants to spend the whole year having fun with him. His job of showing bad people their past transgressions has apparently worn on him. Scrooge doesn’t want to remain here though, so he goes on the offensive. The two have a spirited sword fight of sorts; Scrooge wielding his cane and Past his umbrella. The two tire themselves out and collapse in the snow, both apparently enjoying this little sparring contest. Scrooge expresses a desire to do it again and suggests they travel back in time the five minutes or so needed to do it over. Past is thrilled by this suggestion and enthusiastic, but when he goes to do the deed he realizes he lost track of his umbrella.

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Got your umbrella.

Scrooge gives him a sly look and produces the diminutive object. He pops it open and with a flash of green light he vanishes, leaving Past sitting there on the log all by himself. He’s cheerful, and assumes Scrooge is just messing with him. As he sits there though the camera zooms out and Scrooge never reappears.

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Dewey was not going to allow Scrooge to go on some Christmas adventure without him.

We then jump back to the future, but 11 minutes in the past. Time travel can be confusing. The important thing to know is we’re back to when Scrooge and the spirits left the mansion. Only now we can see they had a stow-away. Dewey grabbed ahold of Future’s robes as they flew out, but wasn’t able to hold on for very long. He falls down into a snowbank below. Looking up, he sees the mansion and bemoans he’s still in the same boring place, but then notes the “when” may have changed. Congratulating himself on his expert time travel pun, he runs off into the house.

Dewey is obviously interested in finding out how far back in time he’s gone, because if he’s gone back far enough then someone very important to him may be located in this mansion. He races to what I assume is his room in the present and finds, as he describes it, some emo kid.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you adolescent Donald!

The emo kid is wearing a flannel shirt over a black t-shirt with a Nirvana-like logo while strumming a bass guitar. He sings a rather drab song that’s humorous to anyone who remembers grunge and it soon becomes obvious who this kid is. It’s a young Donald Duck, and he’s voiced by none other than Russi Taylor! He appears to be about Dewey’s age, and is annoyed that Dewey has interrupted his playing. He angrily grabs him by the collar and demands to know how much he heard and also demands to know if it was any good. Dewey lies and says it is, makes up a story about being a long removed cousin, then moves on to more pressing matters – where is Donald’s sister, Della?

Donald informs Dewey that Della is where she always is – out back setting a trap for Santa. When Dewey asks why Donald isn’t with her he explains he’s too old for that stuff and thinks Christmas is stupid, a far cry from the holiday obsessed Donald he’ll become. He tells Dewey he can’t go out to look for her because he was close to a breakthrough with his song. Dewey informs him he was not, and cheerily grabs the bass and hops out the window forcing Donald to follow with a “What’s the big idea?”

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Donald doesn’t understand why Della brought so much food and such a large tent. He’ll soon find out why.

Out back, they find a family-sized tent that’s collapsed and the trees are covered with a red goop. Dewey is alarmed, but Donald just views the scene as a sign of Della’s incompetence. He tastes the red goop splattered on the tree and informs the disgusted Dewey it’s just jelly (“What would you have done if it wasn’t?”) before moving on to inspect the tent. He determines Della gave up at trying to put it together and then attempts to fix it, but has just as much luck as his sister. Dewey notices some tracks in the snow clearly belonging to Della, and some that do not. They decide to investigate, but unknown to them some ominous glowing green eyes are watching from the bushes.

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Huey isn’t the only Junior Woodchuck.

As Dewey and Donald trace Della’s steps, Donald is whacked with seemingly every branch Dewey pushes aside. The creature stalking them soon reveals itself as a large, goat-like being:  the Wendigo. Dewey and Donald are forced to run as the creature chases them, and they wind up right in one of Della’s traps.

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Captured by Della Duck.

Now suspended upside down in a large net, Dewey and Donald are greeted by Della who scolds them for ruining her Santa trap. She wants to trap the red guy as a present for Scrooge and now will have to reset it. Donald demands she release them, calling her “Dumbella” as in Dumb Della, but it’s also a reference to her original name. She demands Donald apologize before she sets the two free, even though they can hear the roars of the Wendigo approaching. Donald apologizes for the insult, but it’s not enough. He then lists other things he’s sorry about, like using her toothbrush to clean his combat boots, things Della wasn’t even aware of. Donald is frustrated that his apologies aren’t good enough, forcing Dewey to point out the obvious:  the giant tent, the vast assortment of snacks, Della just wanted to spend Christmas with her brother on her Santa stake-out but he blew her off. Della is angry with Donald for just wanting to sit alone in his room on Christmas rather than spend time with his family, forcing Dewey to also realize he’s guilty of the same back in his own time. Donald acknowledges that Dewey is right and apologizes to Della for not wanting to spend time with her on Christmas and she in turn lets them out.

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Now that the duck siblings have made up, they can turn their attention to more pressing matters.

At this point though, the Wendigo is on top of them. When they ask him what he wants, he roars back with a “When did go?! Scrooge?!” prompting all three to deadpan “Of course.” Donald and Della, demonstrating they’re used to this sort of thing, jump the beast and start wrestling with it while Dewey looks on. They’re tossed from the creature and Della comes to land beside Dewey. She looks at the remnants of the net from earlier and gives Dewey a knowing look. Meanwhile, Donald too is thrown from the monster causing the bass strapped to his back to break. He looks at his beloved instrument and goes into a classic Donald rage. He attacks the Wendigo, and the opening created by his offense allows Dewey and Della to wrap the beast up in the net.

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Problem solved.

The three ducklings drag the beast back to the front steps of the mansion. The whole time Donald and Della maintain a posture that this is all ordinary to them. When Della finally asks just who Dewey is, all he can do is respond with a big, awkward, hug. He almost lets on that he’s her son, but recovers and maintains his story about being a long distant cousin. Della sees right through it and states “You’re a relative from the future.” Dewey tries to deny it, but Della assures him this is only the fourth weirdest thing to happen to them on Christmas. Donald also expresses knowing the whole time he wasn’t who he said he was. Dewey then comes clean about being a relative from the future, but doesn’t elaborate further, and tells Della he should warn her about her future and she refuses to hear him out. The two then head into the house to fetch their uncle leaving Dewey alone with the Wendigo.

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Dewey can’t stop himself from giving his some-day mom a hug.

This is apparently not a good thing, as the beast soon breaks free from its restraints. It looms menacingly over Dewey, but before it can attack Scrooge appears from the sky and gets the drop on him. He pogos off of the beast’s head, just like the Nintendo game, knocking it out. Past and Future then appear and Dewey questions how he found him. Scrooge says he was heading back to retrieve those two when he saw Dewey below. Dewey gives him a hug and tells him he just wants to go home. Scrooge gives him a smile and tells him he just has something to do first.

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Scrooge is always ready to make a save.

They then turn their attention to the Wendigo, which turns to stone and crumbles. From its head emerges a sad looking Past. Scrooge explains, repeating an explanation Della gave earlier, that a Wendigo is a lost soul driven mad by despair. When he left Past back at the campsite, it forced the spirit to just sit and wait for Scrooge to come back, but he never did. Past went crazy every Christmas looking for Scrooge, until he showed up now. He then says he has a Christmas present to deliver and returns Past’s umbrella to him. He then cheers up, and taking hold of the umbrella the group is whisked away back to the future – I mean present.

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The true identity of the Wendigo is revealed.

Everyone is now where they’re supposed to be – gathered around a grand piano in Scrooge’s living room. Launchpad (Beck Bennett) is manning the ivories wearing a blue Hanukkah sweater. The ghosts are hanging around too to join in on the fun. Dewey, now ready to make merry with his family, sees his uncle Donald and gives him a big hug. Donald lets on that he’s been waiting for this for many years, but before Dewey can confirm he’s referring back to Dewey’s trip into the past, he’s pulled away by his brothers into the celebration. We’re also treated to a cut-away of young Della and Donald exchanging Christmas gifts and we see that’s how Donald got his festive Christmas sweater and likely why Christmas came to mean so much to him. While the gang butchers The Twelve Days of Christmas, we also get to see Mrs. Beakley give Future a rather suggestive glance.

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It’s time to celebrate!

As the celebration wraps up, we’re then taken to a much quieter setting. On the moon, Della Duck looks longingly at Earth and at a picture of Scrooge, Donald, herself, and the eggs she left behind. With tears welling in her eyes, she wishes her boys a merry Christmas then resumes work on her spaceship vowing to return to them soon.

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Young Della and Donald exchanging gifts.

“Last Christmas!” is a tremendously fun ride of a Christmas special and a great way to kick things off this year. Time travel stories are often a blast and the show really has fun with it via numerous puns and by introducing a paradox of sorts. Past’s motivations for trying to trap Scrooge with him in the past is a bit rushed, but the results are so entertaining that it doesn’t matter much. It’s a fun twist to put on the Scrooge character, and I’m quite happy to see the writers elected to acknowledge the character’s connection to A Christmas Carol by turning the concept on its head as it would have been supremely disappointing if the show had just done a conventional re-telling.

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Donald and Dewey’s embrace at the end is a nice callback to the look Donald featured at the start of the episode when he was looking in on Dewey.

The first half of the episode is pretty fun, but the second half is where the show finds its emotional core. Dewey going back in time to meet his mother for the first time, but also a younger version of his uncle Donald, was quite sweet. Through their relationship he comes to understand his own with his family. It’s simple, but so effective here as the characters feel so honest, even though they’re cartoon ducks. Russi Taylor being given the role of young Donald is genius and I practically cried when I first heard her voice. It almost takes away from the humorous visual of young Donald. It also makes so much sense that I’m disappointed with myself for never thinking of it on my own. Even though this is a young version of Donald, it puts Ms. Taylor in rather exclusive company as being one of the few to officially voice Donald Duck for a Disney production. A well-deserved honor. It’s sadly all the more poignant too since we lost Taylor to cancer in 2019. Thankfully, we have hours upon hours of her voice to enjoy and to help keep her memory alive for generations to come.

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Della wishing her boys a merry Christmas is the episode’s last effort at inducing tears in its viewers. It’s probably successful.

This episode should also be commended for naturally fitting into the DuckTales continuity. Often holiday specials are a departure from a show’s narrative, sometimes they even feel non-canon. This one is special because it contains Dewey’s first interaction with his mother, even if she is just a child. It also brings the adult version in at the end to remind viewers she’s still out there, and in just a few episodes after this one she’ll finally return to Scrooge and her boys.

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“Last Christmas!” is heartwarming and fun without coming across as cheesy or conventional. Best of all, it doesn’t count if you’re playing Whamageddon! this year.

“Last Christmas!” is one of the best, new, Christmas specials I’ve been exposed to. Not only does it tell a fun and inventive story, it looks fantastic as well and is a supremely rewarding experience for those familiar with the original show and comics. I very much appreciate the obvious nods to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and the meticulous way the episode is crafted. So much of the resolution is hinted at early on, which is a must for any story dealing with time travel. Hopefully the writers of DuckTales return to time travel in future episodes as they appear to have a talent for handling it.

If you want to catch this excellent episode of DuckTales then keep an eye on the Disney Channel. I’m sure it will be shown more than once and may even be On Demand for certain cable subscribers. It’s also available for purchase via streaming platforms and on Disney Plus. Being a relatively new Christmas special in a still-running show, it should be easy to track down. And if this write-up didn’t make it clear enough, you absolutely should track it down this Christmas and every Christmas yet to come.

In one final act of nostalgic bliss, the ending credits are done up in the same style as Mickey’s Christmas Carol.


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