Rewatching DuckTales! Watching episodes in order, we can see several tropes being repeated. One of these is giant sea monsters, which have appeared in multiple previous episodes, and here’s another one in episode 40, “Merit-Time Adventure.”
Here’s what happens: One of ships in Scrooge’s fleet is destroyed by a sea monster. While Scrooge meets with the Coast Guard about the incident, his nephews, Webby, and Doofus are visiting the nearby docks to get a sailing merit badge, with Launchpad as their Woodchuck leader. Scrooge then spots a truck carrying some of his lost cargo. It’s been salvaged by Dogface Pete (played by go-to Disney villain Pete), and he got it all legally from the bottom of the ocean under salvage laws.
That night, the sea monster attacks another ship, and Scrooge and company witness it first-hand. Scrooge disguises himself as a grizzled old sailor to investigate Pete’s operation. His cover is blown when the sea monster attacks both him and Pete. The monster carries Scrooge out to sea. The next morning, the kids investigate while the coast guard docks all boats. The kids convince Launchpad to break the rules, as they all go to sea to try catch the monster with sea biscuits.
Scrooge wakes up in a chamber filled with all his and Pete’s stolen cargo. He discovers that Captain Quackenbill, who was sailing one of Scrooge’s own ships, is the one behind the sea monster attacks. Quackenbill is training the monster to go after Scrooge’s nephews. Pete shows up for the rescue, handing Scrooge a harpoon. Diving under the water, Scrooge discovers that the sea monster is really a sea monster-shaped submarine piloted by Quackenbill. After a lot of fighting, Scrooge nabs Quackenbill and hands him over the Coast Guard while Webby earns a merit badge.
Humbug: When disguised as one of Pete’s crew, Scrooge tries and fails to ride a bicycle. He says that of all the skills he’s learned over the years, riding a bicycle isn’t one of them.
Junior Woodchucks: In the last episode, “Working for Scales,” when Scrooge appears dead, the nephews fear he’s gone forever. In this one, when Scrooge appears to have died, their attitude is just, “We’ve got to find out what happened to him.”
Fasten your seatbelts: When he falls overboard, Launchpad says he can’t swim. But back in episode 5, “Too Much of a Gold Thing,” we saw him swimming when he fought that snake. Maybe he was just panicking.
Maid and maiden: Webby joins the Junior Woodchucks in this episode, and she pretty much has the main character arc in this one. She does all the reading while the boys goof off, and therefore she’s the one who saves the day at the end.
Do the doo: When Doofus refuses to leave Launchpad’s side during the sea monster fight, Launchpad says, “You may be a fool, Doofus, but you’re a loyal one.” To which Doofus replies, “That’s the nicest thing you ever said to me.”
Foul fowls: This is episode is written as a whodunit, so we don’t get to know much about Quakenbill. The whole fake sea monster plot is to scare away salvagers from the ocean floor, so he can get all that sweet salvage himself.
Reference row: This is the third of four appearances of Pete in DuckTales. Strange but true, Pete is Disney’s oldest continuing character, predating Mickey Mouse by three years (!). His first appearance was in 1925’s Alice Solves the Puzzle. He’s been a favorite of Disney animators over the years, so even when he’s not a main character he tends to show up in backgrounds. He’s still at it, currently a playable character in the Disney Magic Kingdoms mobile game.
Thoughts on this viewing: Here’s the thing – we just did a phony sea monster storyline a mere two episodes before this one! If we’re to view DuckTales as a single work, then we have to conclude that fake sea monsters are a relatively common thing in this world. Beyond that, this does have a lot of that fun Indiana Jones-type adventure, and it plays fair with the mystery plot. So it’s a well made episode but loses big points for lack of originality.
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