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DuckTales on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3

DuckTales: Volume 1 DVD Review

Buy the DuckTales: Volume 1 DVD from Amazon.com DuckTales: Volume 1 (1987)
Show & DVD Details

Supervising Producer: Fred Wolf / Associate Producer: Tom Ruzicka

Regular Directors: Alan Zaslove, Steve Clark, David Block

Regular Writers: Michael Keyes, Anthony Adams, Ken Koonce, David Wiemers, Richard Merwin / Story Editors: Tedd Anasti, Patsy Cameron / Story: Carl Barks

Regular Voice Cast: Russi Taylor (Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby), Alan Young (Scrooge McDuck), Terry McGovern (Launchpad McQuack, Babyface Beagle), Hal Smith (Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold), Chuck McCann (Duckworth, Burger Beagle, Bouncer Beagle), Joan Gerber (Mrs. Beakley, Webra Walters), Brian Cummings (Doofus), June Foray (Magica De Spell, Ma Beagle), Peter Cullen (Bankjob Beagle), Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Gino Conforti (Benzino Gasolini), Tress MacNeille (Circe, Queen Ariel), Charles Adler (Filler Brushbill), Brock Peters (Druid Chief), Rob Paulsen (Robin Lurch), Frank Welker (Assorted)

Running Time: 615 Minutes (27 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
DVD Release Date: November 8, 2005
Original Airdates: September 21, 1987 - October 27, 1987
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $34.99 $20.00
Cardboard box with three clear slim keepcases

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

A star () denotes my ten favorite episodes from this Volume 1 collection.

Scrooge gets dirty with Sharkey the great Pete look-alike over the "Pearl of Wisdom." Maybe the glowing hound just wants some weiners. Launchpad McQuack, Civil War hero.

DISC 3

19. "Top Duck" (22:47) (Originally aired October 15, 1987)
Launchpad has been embarrassed enough to avoided his family for years, but his skilled high-flyer parents and sister are in town for the McX Air Show, making Launchpad as nervous as ever. Also present for the festivities are everyone's favorite Italian caricature Benzino Gasolini and the Beagle Boys, whose sights are, as always, set on Scrooge's money bin.

20. "Pearl of Wisdom" (22:45) (Originally aired October 16, 1987)
Scrooge and the shrewd smuggler Sharkey (the great Pete look-alike) both head for the isolated Banana Island
where the possession of a magical pearl at sunlight promises to grant them the power of infinite wisdom. Setting them back is the fact that Webby is using the pearl as a Masher for a marbles tournament.

21. "The Curse of Castle McDuck" (22:46) (Originally aired October 19, 1987)
Scrooge takes his nephews to visit his family's old home in Scotland, where everyone seems to run off upon hearing the name "McDuck." It turns out the ancestral home is haunted by a glowing dog and some seemingly ghastly hooded druids.

22. "Launchpad's Civil War" (22:47) (Originally aired October 20, 1987)
Launchpad is excited when he is asked to play his great-great grandfather Rhubarb McQuack in a civil war re-enactment. His spirit is slightly soured by learning that his ancestor was not so heroic and that the fellow performers are expecting to embarrass the clumsy pilot.

23. "Sweet Duck of Youth" (22:47) (Originally aired October 21, 1987)
After being treated to a surprise birthday party, Scrooge underscores his vitality by taking Launchpad and the boys down for an expedition...in search of Ponce De Loon's Fountain of Youth.

Scrooge is befuddled by the Terra-Firmians in "Earth Quack." Huey, Louie, Dewey, Scrooge, and Homer reach the shore in "Home Sweet Homer." The Bermuda Triangle doesn't look like a lot of fun unless you're just wacky about seaweed.

24. "Earth Quack" (22:46) (Originally aired October 22, 1987)
Upon learning that his money bin is located directly above a fault line, Scrooge and the nephews tunnel underground to discover the Terra-Fermians, round-ish beings who pass the time by rolling around and, in turn, causing earthquakes above.

25. "Home Sweet Homer" (22:46) (Originally aired October 23, 1987)
While out at sea searching for the lost city of Ithaquack, an errant storm from the evil sorceress Circe puts Scrooge and his nephews back at the start of the 11th Century B.C. They meet Homer, the nephew of Ulysses, and try to reunite him with Queen Ariel in the face of Circe's pig-transforming spells.

26. "Bermuda Triangle Tangle" (22:46) (Originally aired October 26, 1987)
After one of Scrooge's ships vanishes in the Bermuda Triangle for the third time in two years, his nephews and he travel down there to check things out. They discover a hopeless, seaweed-sustained community of castaways led by the brutish and sarcastic Captain Bounty.

27. "Micro Ducks From Outer Space" (22:45) (Originally aired October 27, 1987)
Scrooge is glad to hear that Gyro has made contact with intergalactic beings, chiefly because they plan to take an overload of wheat off his hands. Defying excited expectations, the aliens are actually quite miniscule compared to Scrooge and his nephews. With their handy molecular manipulator, however, the aliens are able to change the size of the wheat as well as their currency (jewels) to carry off the trade. Upon leaving, they forget their molecular manipulator, and before you can say "Wayne Szalinski", Scrooge, his nephews and Webby are tiny specks who look up to ants and have trouble treading an ordinary rug. It should be pointed out that their pint-sized adventures to be restored predate the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids theatrical release by nearly two full years.

Scrooge, the nephews, and their oddball friend peer into the Fountain of Youth. Using a matchbook for a raft? Honey, I Shrunk the Ducks!

VIDEO and AUDIO

"DuckTales" is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 or, as it's widely known, "fullscreen." Everything about this DVD release suggests that a minimum of effort when into it. It's a pleasant surprise then that "DuckTales" looks as well as it does,
which is considerably better than the concurrently-released and slightly younger series "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" and "Avonlea." To be sure, the picture quality leaves room for improvement, but the element remains fairly clean. Individual intrusions are limited to the rare and easy-to-miss artifacts.

Even though the visuals are of a higher caliber than the majority of 1980s television cartoons, you won't mistake them for theatrical animation. They never possess the sharpness or clarity of a modern-day cartoon either. While they do not cry out for scholarly scrutiny the way a Pixar production or big screen, big budget Disney flick might, the backgrounds are rather well-defined and character design remains consistent and commendable. As was often the case for '80s television cartoons, the show's color palette often calls upon loud, bright colors, from Launchpad's front tuft of orange hair to Scrooge and his nephews' wardrobes of indigo, blue, red, and green. At times, they can seem excessively blooming or on the verge of bleeding. Other times, they look a little washed out or overly yellow. By and large, though, they hold up okay and remain faithful to the original broadcasts.

Typically, the higher resolution of DVD makes it easy to proclaim that a television show looks better on disc than it did in reruns. I'm not sure if that is the case for "DuckTales", for the transfer really doesn't seem to reflect particular remastering or pains taken in the name of consistency and excellence. Keeping in mind the show's origins (ambitious though they may be, but still never designed for 35 millimeter exhibitions) and age, it's not reasonable to expect perfection but I have no doubt more care (and less compression) could have resulted in more pleasing picture quality. Still, by comparison to this week's other releases, "DuckTales" fares quite well. Without actually seeing the widely-available complete series bootleg DVDs, I have no doubt this official release blows them away, and it obviously ousts the alternative (Disney's early '90s episode compilations or homemade VHS recordings) as well, even with almost 3 hours of video per disc and less-than-ideal attention.

Scrooge commences plans to deal with Magica's multiplied shadows. Funny things are afoot in the old Castle McDuck.

In the audio department, these DVDs boast simply a two-channel Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack, which matches the episodes' original broadcasts in the days when TV had yet to widely embrace stereo sound. While some may clamor for Dolby Surround or even 5.1 remixes, I don't see much point in that and I'd rather have any effort go into securing vintage bonus materials or creating new ones. The center-based soundtrack seems sufficient and hardly any difficulty arises on account of the disc's mastering. Muffled or tough-to-understand dialogue is rare and seems more a fault of the audio sessions or original recordings. Dynamics are not the most consistent from episode to episode, but they generally remain stable within each show, with the 1-minute opening theme song perhaps coming in at a slightly higher level.

Monaural soundtracks generally don't leave me with much to say and little distinguishes from how one vaguely remembers the show originally aired. Still, this stands out above most mono mixes since the content is not as old as films usually stuck with 1-channel mix and there's quite a bit of life, from slightly-dated suspense music cues to the apt selection of Foley effects. One last thing worth mentioning is that I detected a slight issue of the soundtrack not matching the picture on a single episode ("Robot Robbers"). While certain lines may not have always been perfectly synched, a portion of that episode stood out as consistently being a second or less off. As usual, your mileage (that is, how much you notice it, if at all) may vary.

Disc 2's main menu. The first of Disc 2's two Episode Selection menu pages. A look at the cardboard box and clear slim keepcases.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are plenty of bonus features which one can conceive of that would have interested ardent fans and those with fond memories alike. From TV ads to commercial break bumpers, from the original Disney Afternoon opening to audio commentaries with the creative talent or voice cast, it's not likely Disney or the DVD producers would have had to stretch too far to provide something of supplemental (and or nostalgic) value to the DVD. The theater-bound featurette short "Sport Goofy in Soccermania", which has oddly never seen the light of home video in the United States (despite appearing on DVD overseas), would have been an apt and relevant inclusion. It wound up airing on television just months before "DuckTales" launched, starring the same central quartet of white ducks along with some supporting characters from the forthcoming series. Even a trailer for DuckTales: The Movie would have been welcome. As it is, the DVD lays a big goose egg in the extras department, providing twenty-seven episodes and nothing else beyond the expected norms in DVD navigation and packaging.

You'll find no episode guide, no coupons, no booklet or insert of any kind,
no context at all for the series or selected shows of this 3-disc set. In an move unusual for a half-hour Disney series, the cardboard box holds not a Digipak, but three clear slim keepcases. The front artwork on these is recycled from old VHS compilations of the show, while each case (and disc inside) assumes the color scheme of one of the three boys: blue for Dewey, green for Louie, and red for Huey. The back of each keepcase contains an episode list and paragraph summary unique to that disc.

The 4 x 3 menus feature no animation, but their still imagery (culled from the opening credits, stock artwork, and sometimes a mix of the two) is accompanied by an instrumental excerpt of the theme song. Each disc's main menu is equipped with a Play All button (it's actually simply labeled "Play") that will run through all of the episodes on the disc, if you can handle roughly 3 hours of the show in one sitting. Each episode is divided into five chapter stops, which makes for easy access within a show and a convenient way to skip the beginning or end credits, but there are understandably no individual chapter menus for each episode.

The standard offering of Disney Sneak Peeks play at the start of only Disc 1, and oddly, they are not accessible from the menu. The seven minutes of previews promote The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Valiant, Toy Story 2: Special Edition, and Kermit's 50th Anniversary reissues of four Muppet movies.

What to do? Just grab onto some "DuckTales"! Wooo-ooo!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"DuckTales" holds up as one of the best cartoon television shows created by Disney or any other studio. The writing and animation go far beyond what is often expected from a mass-produced series and nearly twenty years since first airing, the show still offers much entertainment for a wide audience. Those who took to the show with regular afternoon viewings in the late 1980s and early 1990s will be delighted to revisit it and discover the magic they remember from their childhood remains largely potent. Likewise, young viewers (who were not around to enjoy the show while syndicated on network TV or basic cable) should find these clever tales of adventure and mystery filled with appeal. "DuckTales" is a much preferred alternative to most family-friendly offerings currently on the air, and one first-generation audience members would be wise to share with their offspring.

Disney's long-awaited DVD treatment of the series disappoints in some ways. The complete and utter lack of bonus features represents a missed opportunity to reflect on and honor the show, while the absence of the five-part pilot is baffling and hopefully to be addressed in a future set. Still, the twenty-seven episodes of this Volume 1 collection appear to be intact, presented in proper order and with sufficient picture and sound. With the low list price, you're getting over ten hours of quality programming for only slightly more than the cost of a new movie on disc; such a route works best for the customer, be they completist or casual fan. In spite of its seemingly thrifty nature, this Volume 1 DVD should please most and make for a great holiday gift.

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DuckTales on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed November 8, 2005.