Ducktales Volume Two
© Disney
Noell Wolfgram Evans · December 27, 2006 | Elevating a character from a supporting role to a starring one or taking a character from one medium to another can be a tricky proposition. There's no guarantee that what made the character popular in one incarnation (or at least popular enough to warrant more exposure) will translate to another. What usually happens is that either the character becomes homogenized or their traits are hyper-realized to a point that they no longer resemble their original self.

When the transfer goes right and all involved stay true to the character, exciting and entertaining things can happen. One example of this can be found in Disney's Ducktales—the late '80s television series that followed the adventures of Uncle Scrooge, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Ducktales Volume Two—a three-disc DVD set featuring nineteen episodes of the second season (plus the pilot—which was inexplicably omitted from the Volume One set) has just been released on DVD.

The Ducktales series was Disney's first foray into the realm of producing an animated syndicated series. It was also the first time that these characters were asked to carry a story outside of the comics. They had appeared in animated form before, but as support to Donald (in the case of Huey, Dewey and Louie) or as a "teacher" (Scrooge appeared in a 1967 extended short explaining the history and importance of money). Their full potential as fully realized, independent animated characters, however, had yet to be tested. But the Ducktales creative team was undaunted for they saw what these characters were capable of in the comics and felt confident they could tap into that.

Ducktales Volume Two
Animation production by TMS Entertainment
Distributed by Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2006
Originally aired in 1987
667 minutes

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While so many other series from this time period exist today solely based on their camp potential or as time capsules a viewer returns to to revisit their youth, Ducktales lasts because it really holds up to repeated viewings. And that has nothing to do with the animation, which is what you'd expect from the high end of 1980s afternoon television, and everything to do with the stories. (Though part of the credit has to go to a very strong voice cast that included Alan Young, June Foray and Russi Taylor.)

Those stories would send the boys, Uncle Scrooge and his niece Webby (and it's a testament to the strength of the stories that even the introduction of the "cute little girl" could not derail the show) to the far reaches of the globe on a quest for some fabulous treasure or to save one of Uncle Scrooge's businesses. It's like a cross between Indiana Jones and a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom special mashed up with MacGyver.

The various directors of the series knew exactly what to do with these stories too, pacing them like old movie serials. The result was a slowly moving, often episodic story that wasn't pressured and did what it needed to do. It's a sharp contrast to so many other shows that start, tell and wrap up a story in a sprinting eleven minutes, with an eye more toward the clock than what the character would or should do. Unlike DuckTales, these shows seem to create an ending to have an ending, rather than allow a somewhat natural (or at least seemingly natural) ending to occur.

On the ducks' adventures, trouble usually occurs and the group must work together to set things right. (Although it is never as maudlin as it may sound.) That's one of the things that makes this series work so well. There aren't any superhuman powers or ultra-fantastic inventions (actually there are, but they usually go haywire). Instead there's some great character interaction and ingenuity.

Granted, these traits and many of the stories were taken, in whole or in part, from the comic book work of Carl Barks. But because they were taken and re-created so faithfully it's like you get to see your imagination brought to life.

DVD Features: 4:3 aspect ratio; English audio track; Region 1.
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