Rewatching DuckTales! It’s the season one finale! Episode 65, “Til Nephews Do Us Part,” is famous for having tons of cameos of characters from past episodes. But does it work a conclusion to everything the show has done up to this point?
What’s all this, then? How is 65 episodes a season? The way these syndicated Monday-through-Friday cartoons worked is that they were produced as a 65-episode package and sent out to affiliates all over the country to air as they saw fit. The 65 episodes was just enough for 13 weeks, allowing the networks to air the entire season beginning to end four times in one year. This was standard for TV animation in the 80s, but the distribution of DuckTales is about to get really weird after this.
Here’s what happens: Huey, Dewey and Louie are excited to join Scrooge on expedition to find the lost relics of Malaysia. The relics are on protected land, however, so Scrooge plots to buy the land. This puts him in negotiations with rival millionaire Millionara Vanderbucks. She doesn’t accept his offer, but she does invite him to dinner. Scrooge is smitten, losing interest in his search for the relics. As the two continue to hit it off, the kids grow mistrustful of Millionara. When she’s alone, Millionara monologues about how the romance is a ruse, and she’s really after Scrooge’s fortune.
Scrooge proposes to Millionara (a “merger” as he calls it), and then the nephews and Webby overhear Millionara talking about her scheme. Millionara also plans to send the kids away to school and to fire Mrs. Beakely, so she has Scrooge all to herself. Everybody convinces Scrooge to resume his quest for the lost relics. Scrooge sees this as an opportunity for a wedding gift for Millionara, while the boys use the adventure to pull pranks on Millionara and split up the couple. The pranks backfire, putting Millionara in danger. Scrooge rescues her heroically, and their bond grows stronger.
All of Duckburg shows up for the big wedding. There are some subplots about the Beagle Boys sneaking into the wedding, and best man Donald Duck dropping the ring down a sewer grate and chasing after it. Just before saying “I do,” it finally dawns on Scrooge that Millionara is only after him for his money. Then Scrooge’s ex, Glittering Goldie, shows up with a shotgun. Jealous, she chases Scrooge out of the wedding.
Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his family is more important than his fortune. This season finale goes against that in a big way. Every other line of dialogue is some joke about how rich he is. The big wedding takes place in a bank instead of a church, the bouquets are dollar bills instead of flower, and so on. There’s some talk about the nephews not wanting to be split up, but act 3 of the episode is all about saving Scrooge’s money, and not his family.
Junior woodchucks: One of the nephews’ pranks is switch Millionara’s mosquito repellent with a mosquito attractor. How is that a thing?
Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad joins everyone for the search for the relics (which they never find) and later uses his helicopter to dump rice all over the outside of the wedding.
Maid and maiden: Millionara threatens to send Webby to finishing school, to which Webby responds “I don’t want to be finished!” That’s an interesting glimpse into her character.
In the Navy: This is Donald Duck’s final appearance in DuckTales. As the mid-80s became the late-80s, Disney was picking up steam on a lot of new animated content that would become the big Disney Renaissance, so perhaps Donald was considered too valuable of an IP for daytime TV.
Great gadgeteer: Gyro shows up at the wedding with a rice-throwing machine. It throws the rice in Donald’s face, which is what causes Donald to lose Scrooge’s ring.
Fowl fouls: Little is known about Millionara, and her only motivation is pure greed. At one point, she’s described as the “world’s wealthiest woman,” which makes me wonder why Scrooge has never heard of her before this.
Down in Duckburg: Cameos! Knowing this was the last episode of the season (or ever?) the animators went nuts filling the background at the wedding with characters from past episodes. This includes main characters like Doofus, Glomgold, and Magica, semi-regular characters like Gladstone Gander and the guys from the Explorers Club, and tons of one-off characters from previous episodes. The Disney Wiki has the whole list if you want to bother.
Reference row: Millionara Vanderbucks is of course a parody of the Vanderbilt family, once America’s wealthiest family. After making a fortune in railroads, the Vanderbilts got even richer with a number of other businesses. They famously lived in a group of mansions along Fifth Street in Manhattan. While there are still a lot of Vanderbilts around today, their empire isn’t what it once was. In terms of DuckTales, remember that Webby’s last name is Vanderquack. Distant relatives?
Thoughts on this viewing: Because of all the cameos, I’m assuming this was always intended to the season one wrap-up. But it’s all just corny jokes, without any of the character themes or sense of adventure that the best DuckTales episodes have to offer. If the series had ended here, that would’ve been a disappointment. The good news is, there’s more DuckTales to come, with new characters, a spinoff in the works, and even a movie!
Next: Clan of the cave duck.
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