What Capcom's DuckTales remake taught me about inner childhood and existentialism

DuckTales Remastered Screenshot - ducktales remastered

DuckTales was an enormous part of my childhood. I know you’re probably thinking, “Hey, me too!” but you’re wrong. While whatever love I’m sure you had for the series is probably valid, it’s a tiny spark when compared the blazing forest fire of my own. What I had was an obsession, and it probably wasn’t healthy.

I remember running home from school to catch the television series every day, filling piles and piles of VHS tapes with episodes I recorded off TV, and watching those tapes until they barely worked anymore. I also remember eating ungodly amounts of Mott’s applesauce because there was a series of lids that had DuckTales character portraits on them. The lids were randomized and hidden inside cardboard boxes, so whichever lids you ended up getting would be a total crapshoot. I collected every damn one, and I hate Mott’s applesauce to this day because of what they made me do for those. I was like the crack addict of the elementary school playground, red-eyed and wild, begging my peers to let me dig through their lunch boxes.

This obsession lasted through junior high, when I started collecting the comic books by Carl Barks and Don Rosa, the only two men whose works I would comfortably call “Scrooge McDuck canon.”

Scrooge McDuck

My passion admittedly waned in high school, but was re-established in college when my literature major forced me to read the works of Mark Twain and Jack London, authors who the life story of Scrooge McDuck was heavily influenced by. By then, however, I knew better than to express this love publically in order to not spend my college years sad and alone. It was a secret I had only confided with a very few close friends, though I had to be a little more honest about it when I started buying DuckTales DVDs at Best Buy.

I could keep going, but I’m sure you’re probably willing to admit by now that your DuckTales fandom pales in comparison to my lifelong obsession.

So I probably don’t even have to mention that my eyes watered a bit when Capcom released the trailer of their HD remake of the classic DuckTales NES game, which will include brand new animation and the original voice cast from the TV series. It’s a project that’s very near and dear to my heart, and if Capcom screws this one up, I could very well be pulling a Milton Waddams on their offices.

So the very first thing I did when I had a minute of free time at E3 was make a beeline for Capcom’s booth, which included a lovely shrine to Disney’s loveable duck family. I was like a man possessed. In fact, at one point, I remember grumpily explaining the duck family tree to some stupid bystander who couldn’t figure out how Huey, Dewey, and Louie were related to Scrooge. I won’t go into that now, but don’t tempt me, or I’ll lay it all out for you in the comments section, you ignorant fool.

DuckTales

Admittedly, my perspective on the game is going to be drastically different from that of normal people, but I’m fine with that. For the “normals,” just let me say that the controls feel incredibly smooth, the ducks animate brilliantly, and the voice work is (mostly) spot-on. I have no complaints that apply to you.

But for the few people in the world whose passion reaches levels close to my own – who probably don’t actually exist – here are some words of warning:

First of all, while all the ducks look absolutely perfect, the Beagle Boys are drawn in the “New Disney” style as opposed to the classic 80s Disney style of the original cartoon. Yes, the heads are too big and the torsos are too short and wide. The first time I saw a Beagle on screen, I felt like I had been stabbed in the chest.

Secondly, the characters’ mouths don’t move when they talk. It seems so odd to me that Capcom or WayForward would painstakingly reassemble the cast of a cartoon that’s over 25 years old, then get stingy on the tiny effort it would take to animate some cartoon beaks.

Now, I admit that my last nitpick, while totally valid, is completely unfair. See, Alan Young, who did Scrooge McDuck’s voice through the 1980s, is back for one last round of work. This guy is 94, so the fact that he agreed to do this at all is pretty incredible. This is very well the man’s swansong, and I admire the hell out of his commitment to this project.

The problem, and this is no one’s fault but Father Time’s, is that he sounds like he’s aging. The very essence of Scrooge McDuck’s character is that he’s this old codger who, despite his age, has the energy to go on Indiana Jones-type adventures like raiding tombs and unearthing buried artifacts. His charisma was unmatched in the 80s cartoon; the Scrooge McDuck of Capcom’s game just sounds tired. It’s a subtle nuance buried deep under that classic McDuck Scottish accent, but it’s there. The truest of duck fans will hear it.

DuckTales

And I hate to point this out. I know it makes me one of the most awful people on the planet. But it’s true. Listening to Scrooge talk made me sad. It served to remind me that there are actual human beings behind the magic of a thing that pretty much defined my childhood, and those humans can get old and die. And with them dies a big chunk of that magic.

Now, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Young. I wish I knew some magic spell that could make the guy live forever. But I live in a real world where I have to use the word “magic” metaphorically rather than literally.

And that makes me feel so powerless, and the world feel like such a damn miserable place. My inner child, that stupid little kid eating disgusting amounts of Mott’s applesauce on the playground, stands face-to-face with the very adult reality that all of the things you love must eventually fade out of existence.

So I walked away from Capcom’s booth at E3 with this sense of emptiness that I desperately wanted to try to fill by re-watching the cartoon and re-reading my embarrassingly large collection of Carl Barks comic books. But I knew that wouldn’t be enough. Not anymore.

Capcom’s DuckTales remake is the very last true DuckTales product we’ll ever see on our television screens. That probably doesn’t fill your soul with existential despondence like it does mine, but, as we've already established, you’re simply not the sort of DuckTales fan that I am.

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Josh Wirtanen
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