Season 3 of DuckTales. I am figuratively exploding from excitement. I usually don’t like reboots of things that I like but DuckTales has exceeded my expectations. Though I don’t approve of all the “updates” I’ve been able to roll with them, and all of the original characters are amazing. Episode 1, “Challenge of the Senior Junior Woodchucks” focuses on one of those characters, Violet Apollonia Sabrewing. I’ve loved Violet from the start. Her straight-duck (is she a duck? She may be more of a stork. Or maybe a Sandpiper) routine is great for a show full of wacky characters. I especially like how she calls Huey, Dewey and Louie by their full government names and gets away with it. The triplets normally hate being called by their full names.
It is revealed that Violet has two dads, a gay couple, which somehow eluded me until the last scene, even though Lena calls Violet her “sister from a couple misters.” They’re present throughout the episode cheering Violet on. This is a big deal for a Disney Afternoon cartoon, and a welcome one. DuckTales does a lot of things you don’t expect, and normalizing gay relationships is another example. The brilliance (and challenge) of DuckTales is that a lot is going on at any one time, and it’s easy to miss a reference or joke. This feature is what makes the show highly re-watchable though.
Huey and Violet are vying for the honor and privilege of becoming a Senior Woodchuck, a challenge somehow officiated by Launchpad. Huey’s real challenge, however, is functioning without his Junior Woodchuck Guidebook which, as we;ve seen so far, is his security blanket. We’ve seen that Huey does not function well in chaos and has what can only be called panic attacks when he doesn’t have structure. His anxiety is doubled by the fact that Violet is kicking his butt in every challenge, and that becoming the Senior Woodchuck is the biggest goal he’s ever had in his life. All this anxiety causes Huey to challenge his core beliefs and have a brief psychotic episode in which an anthropomorphic Junior Woodchuck Guidebook (call him JW) appears to him as a guide. Yes this is still a kids show.
Meanwhile, Scrooge and family are chasing the legacy of Isabella Finch, founder of the junior Woodchucks and childhood hero of ol’ Scroogy himself. This B plot is where we get our Dewey fix. Because this show has a Dew-ty to give us as much Dewey as possible. While following Finch’s map (which Scrooge sharply spots at the beginning of the episode) they are hounded and harassed by an annoying, flamboyant singing and dancing blue bird that Dewey of course becomes immediate friends with. Also Donald has a fanny pack.
As the challenges become tougher and more dangerous (life-threatening in fact) Huey abandons all of his principles in order to win, stating “I don’t have time for rules!” This shows just how far afield his mind has gone. JW then abandons him, probably a subconscious recognition that he’s left his morals behind. Again, kid’s show. Violet however, being unfailingly Violet, continues to succeed by staying true to herself.
In the end Huey learns that failure is not the end, it’s part of becoming better, a lesson many of us would do well to learn. The bird they’ve been chasing is revealed to be the Tittertwill Bird of Knowledge, descended from the personal pet of Finch. Scrooge’s treasure hunt reveals a book of future plotlines basically, which is pretty cool. Finally, we get another glimpse of F.O.W.L. original enemy of Darkwing Duck. This is very exciting because without dangerous and weirdly sexy Magica DeSpell, the show needed another big bad, and F.O.W.L. fills those shoes.
Season 3 is off to a great start!
JWC lines of the show: “I’m cold and terrified, sure feels like an adventure to me.” – Louie
“So let’s rewrite history!” – Dewey
JWC trivia: JW is voiced by Stephen Root, of NewsRadio fame. He’s been in other stuff but I really like NewsRadio.
The Tittertwill appear a couple of times in Disney Lore. There was an animatronic Tri-Crested Tittertwill at the Camp Woodchuck attraction in Disneyland Japan. It also appears in some of the Junior Woodchuck comics.
Violet Apollonia Sabrewing. Violet = Purple. Apollonia, co-star of Purple Rain? Violet is one big walking Prince reference, and I love her for it.
Coolest detail: After JW burns up in Huey’s imagination he reappears at the end of the episode glowing blue, like a Force ghost.