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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!