Rewatching DuckTales! The show goes full Tim Burton with a visual style not seen anywhere else in the series in episode 93, “The Masked Mallard.”
Here’s what happens: At a public event, Scrooge is confronted by Lawrence Loudmouth, a controversial TV host. He argues that Scrooge’s new job creation plan is a scam to line Scrooge’s own pockets. Privately, Loudmouth admits to Scrooge that his attacks on Scrooge are all about rating, truthful or not. It gets worse back home, when Gizmoduck’s young fans believe Loudmouth’s claims that Scrooge is a greedy, rich jerk. Huey, Dewey, and Louie come home with black eyes after the other kids picked on them because of Loudmouth’s show. Scrooge sees a movie about a masked pirate saving people, and he gets an idea.
Later, the Beagle Boys are about to steal a diamond from a museum, and they’re stopped by cape-and-cowled crimefighter the Masked Mallard. At Gyro’s place, we learn the Masked Mallard is really Scrooge, and Gyro built all his crimefighting gear. In a montage, the Masked Mallard stops crime all over the city. The people love him, but Lawrence Loudmouth keeps ranting about him. When villains hold City Hall hostage (!), the Masked Mallard saves the day, except this time Scrooge’s nephews learn his secret identity. He says he plans to reveal the truth to Duckburg to prove that he’s a good person. The press conference is interrupted by Loudmouth, though, with evidence that the Masked Mallard robbed a bank.
At an art museum gala, the fake Masked Mallard steals a golden popcorn bowl (!), and he’s chased by Gizmoduck. The imposter takes him out with a rocket. Scrooge decides he must become the Masked Mallard again to find and defeat the imposter. Instead, he’s confronted again by Gizmoduck, who still think he’s the thief. Gizmoduck catches the Masked Mallard and reveals to the city that it’s really Scrooge. Scrooge escapes and becomes a fugitive.
Scrooge deduces that only Loudmouth has footage of the imposter. He investigates Loudmouth’s mansion and finds the imposter Mallard costume. Loudmouth knocks out Scrooge and ties him up atop a building. He plans to continue framing Scrooge and profiting from it. Loudmouth, dressed as the Mallard, steals some gold and then fights Gizmoduck. Gizmoduck thinks Loudmouth is Scrooge, though, so he pulls his punches. Scrooge escapes, and he joins the fight in a nearby junkyard. Loudmouth traps Gizmoduck with an electromagnet. Scrooge shows up in his Mallard costume, and the two Mallards fight. Scrooge wins, and exposes Loudmouth in front of the cops and TV reporters. Scrooge destroys the Masked Mallard costume, saying he no longer needs a mask to do good deeds.
Humbug: Is Scrooge a rich jerk or isn’t he? The inciting incident of this episode is him wanting to do good deeds, but he feels he can’t because he’s in the public eye. I don’t know what to make of it, either. Let’s call this one a mixed message.
Junior Woodchucks: The end-of-episode gag is Huey, Dewey, and Louie in their own Masked Mallard outfits, calling themselves the “Titanic Trio.”
Great gadgeteer: One of the gadgets Gyro makes for the Masked Mallard is a whistle-activated laser, which the Mallard uses to escape from being tied up at the end of the episode.
Pro rata: Fenton is at the museum gala because he loves the free food. Don’t you need an invitation to get into fancy galas?
Your move, creep: While Gizmoduck has been pretty much unstoppable in the past, in this episode a missile and then a magnet defeat him. I guess this has to happen so the Masked Mallard can swoop in and be the hero.
Foul fowls: Nobody on the internet can agree which real-life person Lawrence Loudmouth may or may not be based on. In one scene, he broadcasts while standing in front of a huge image of his own face, in a parody of Citizen Kane.
Reference row: We’ve all seen 1989’s Batman, right?
Let’s get dangerous: Several episodes of DuckTales are singled out for being concept for a potential spinoff series, usually starring Launchpad. This one, more than any other, is a proof of concept for what would soon become Darkwing Duck.
Thoughts on this viewing: Later episodes of DuckTales are often considered weaker ones, but somebody came to this one with something to prove. The animators are working overtime to capture that sense of Burton/Batman atmosphere. We saw a little bit of this in the dream sequence from “The Unbreakable Bin,” but this time it’s the entire episode. The fights and action are also impressive, with a lot of fluid movement and awesome cape-flowing-in-the-wind money shots. One of the best episodes of late-era DuckTales – if not the best.
- * * * *
Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.